Currently, I am reading Anika Landsteiner’s first book ‘Gehen um zu bleiben’, where she talks about her travel experiences and how they have shaped her. And she is talking about India, too. Her words resonated in me, we have made similar experiences and have made similar conclusions. A lot of fellow travelers, as she explains, either love or hate India (for various reasons), but she propagates amore nuanced pictures with shades of grey in between. And I am 100% with her on this since I am always reminding people to look at all kind of things in a more graduated way.
However, in India I, myself, am also always torn between love and hate, or I’d rather say fascination and disgust. This feeling can change within seconds – in India I can be deeply in awe for a second, and feeling completely repulsed in another.
I do admire this complexity – but to me, it makes traveling in India more exhausting than any other country I have been so far. My feelings change so quickly in this subcontinent, that, after my last trip to India, I felt so utterly exhausted by the country and the people that I even told myself to never set foot on the Indian subcontinent again. Even back then I knew that I would never go through with it, however, it is only know, about three years later, that my thoughts are again revolving around India. Propelled by stories as Anika’s I have started looking through old pictures from Rajasthan, Varanasi and Kerala and now, with some distance, I only see beauty in there.
When browsing through my pictures from my Indian adventures in 2011 and 2014, I come across a lot of smiling faces, beautiful people, impressive temples and shrines, all the amazing architectural feasts of the Maharadja empire, the picturesque Taj Mahal, great curries and even better garlic naan (I had so much garlic naan that my skin started to smell funny…). I spent time at beautiful beaches in Kerala and had a few relaxing days in the tea county of Munnar. I witnessed cremation ceremonies along the ghats in Varanasi and went horse riding on sandy river shores. I spent hours watching the Hindus perform their rituals of faith in their temples, I visited Sikh temples and was offered food as everyone else was. When traveling by train, the locals made sure we were comfortable, guided us to our bunk beds and offered us tea for refreshment. I shared a lot of cups of chai on the streets, sometimes ending in a round of 18 game, sometimes in a little tour around town. I still relish from all those beautiful encounters.
However, I still remember the constant hassle on the street, the pushy street vendors, the aggressive taxi drivers, the futile bureaucracy of the Indian train system, the dirt, the plastic, the smell, the heat. These things are never covered on my pictures, but were still omnipresent at the time. But slowly, their effect is fading, and I am slowly longing for the mind-blowing craziness and beauty that India represents.
So, on this rainy day, I wanted to share a few pictures from my last trip to India in 2014 that I have never shared, a little ode to this fascinating country and its fascinating people.