Way back in 2008 you will recall the world almost came to a standstill. The banks had been rolling around in the trough, gorged themselves, and the rest is well recorded. Mrs.Monkey was a casualty of the banking crisis and finding herself jobless decided that now was the time, in her late 30’s, to take that Gap Year which had eluded her all her career driven days.
Nothing less than a spell volunteering would suffice, amongst other things, and so accompanied by, as luck would have it, a British Indian girl from London, she found herself spending 4 months in a rural village called B.Kothakota in deepest Andhra Pradesh, working in the local schools. Thus began our love affair with India.
India is a beguiling mistress. It is a vast country whose regions all have their own character and often their own language. (Of 300 recognised regional languages 24 have at least a million speakers.) It has a secular constitution and though the debate surrounding religion in politics rages, the various “isms” are subsumed to the greater good of a collective “Indianism” – a passion Indians have for their country, proudly proclaimed each school morning by millions of Indian children. It’s population currently stands at 1.2 billion.
However, India undeniably, has huge problems. According to The World Bank, India accounts for a third of the World’s poor, with almost half of the country’s under 5’s being classified as malnourished. Corruption in politics and bureaucracy is endemic. The introduction of the RTI, The Right to Information Act, by the Indian Government is an acknowledgement empowering the individual to challenge the grinding processes that weigh India down so heavily.
We have often reflected on why we love India so much, given it’s seemingly insurmountable problems. In conversation the best allusion I can use is that I liken India to the experience of looking into a child’s kaleidoscope. You can stare at it for hours and it will always fascinate you if you turn the wheel once in a while.
A British Indian friend of ours is rightly proud of his country but is unafraid to acknowledge that in India you will find “the best and the worst of human nature” .
Sitting over dinner one night in a restaurant in New Delhi we were discussing our love for the place. Why is India under our skin ? It was late and the warm night buzzed with mosquitoes, and we idly watch the night owls wander by. Traffic honks incessantly regardless of the hour. Our first instinct was to feel safe. That may seem odd given recent news. But Indian youth culture is not fueled by alcohol and the prevalent assumption in the UK that you are not having a good time if you are not throwing up on a Friday night.
the bustle of the place,
India makes us feel alive.
We cannot come here and not be energised. (I write this having returned home exhausted, my senses pulverised, strangely missing the adrenalin.)
And though when you come here you must park your preconceptions and accept India for what it is, without doubt we have met some of the kindest people here you could ever hope to meet.
If you were to visit India, you will find yourself, at some point at least, outside your comfort zone. But life is for living, isn’t it – and all life is here.