Into the Deep End of India – Reflections

If you are looking for the start of this series of posts about India, go to the beginning here.

Otherwise, just continue on to the conclusion of this journey, described below.. and then work your way backwards in time going down the chronological list.  Each blog post stands on its own, so feel to also pick and choose by title / location.

Some of What I learned from my journey through India included:

  • Having traveled to 37 some odd countries and still counting, Indian People are, and not just a small margin, but a huge margin, the friendliest people I have ever met.
  • Although I had a long time love affair with Thai food, and getting pretty deep into the cuisine by learning enough to be able to teach Thai Cooking, I must say that the depth and breadth of Indian curries far exceeds the range offer in Thai Cuisine. Thai cuisine has elements of both Chinese cuisine, and Indian cuisine, as evidenced geographically as well because it is in the middle of those two cultures.   In my mind at least, Indian cuisine is a purer, more unique form.
  • India is the 9th most polluted country in the world right now, that is simply a fact. I agree based on the framework of my personal experiences, that India has challenges in regards to water cleanliness, disposal of wastes, and that it need not be so if there was sufficient education.  I also recognize that it will require a significant cultural shift, particularly at the bottom to lower middle classes.  Most certainly the higher end middle and upper classes recognize and lament the problem, but in as many ways they are just as much the problem, since they are more likely to be using products for which the adoption of western packaging methods certainly exacerbates the recycling issue.  In the past purely organic packaging methods were the norm, and in fact there are still remnants of that tradition to be seen – as you can find places where meals are served on banana leaves etc., and as the following photo of a mattress being packaged up in Kolkata demonstrates.  Personally, I believe Indians are the “original” re-cyclers, given the last point on their history of organic packaging, the age of their culture, that they are masters at both keeping things running, as well as recycling high value material like metals (parts of machinery, appliances especially).  In fact, the concept of recycling is even built in to a number of religions practiced in the sub-continent.
  • Life, at least photographically will be a bit boring after India. Being over there is a non-stop assault on all your senses, so being there and being lucky enough to just concentrate on just one sense at a time, in this case vision, has become my current form of meditation actually. The fact that I also get to capture it through digital photography and share it to anyone interested in it via the internet is like reaching Nirvana in some respects.  And to balance out that spiritual view of photography, here is a social media link to a collection of photographs purported to be from India, and are in part, but also from other places like Turkey perhaps to name one. Some are not particularly tasteful, but almost all are quite hilarious as they capture our common human nature.
  • I have great sadness for the street animals inside India’s cities, but I take some comfort from both the number of areas that are parks and preserves, and in fact how wildlife is managed in those areas.. to the extent at least that I was able to observe.
  • India is a great place to experience, but perhaps a bad place to learn about it.. I recommend you just jump in and experience it – perhaps like jumping into the Ganges at Varanasi, but maybe not quite that adventurous in terms of seriously challenging your immune system.. What I suggest is that at least initially, not to worry so much about the history and details, its too much to comprehend and mentally file away at one time anyways.. better to enrich your memories with sensations you must be over there to experience, and then follow up on the history, facts and figures starting with those that particularly made unique or lasting impressions.. and thereby rewire yourself and your understanding, as well as defining your own historical narrative by using a number of sources.
  • India changed me in many ways, but one obvious change was my comfort zone for approaching and photographing people increased considerably – although I certainly defer when someone indicates they don’t want to be photographed.  I make a point to show them what I have shot, and also, ask if they have an email address that I can forward copies to them.  Of course, in India, people were literally jumping into my face to get their photo taken, that’s certainly not the norm for other countries.