When I first came to India my first impression was – well, let´s say not that amazing. Today, I can only laugh about how quick I was to judge this beautiful country at the start. After spending three months in the country, this place will forever stay in my heart. I can truly say that no other country has yet had such a significant impact on myself.
But let´s start from the very first step I set into India. I started my journey without many expectations. I wanted to let India come to me. Of course, I had a certain imagine in my mind created by the press and the media in my country, but this image just couldn´t live up to what India really is. To experience it, you need to go there yourself. You can never experience such diversity, such wisdom and on the other side of the coin, such suffering, hunger, poverty, if you don´t see it with your own eyes. Seeing rich and poor living right next to each other, watching people driving their Harley right next to children living on the streets, not even bothered to look at them. It´s a country of contrast as I already experienced on my first day.
The first place I visited was Rishikesh, the worlds capital of yoga. To go there, I had to take a flight from Delhi to Dehradun, up in the north. So, Delhi, this massive, huge city was the first place I encountered in India. Suddenly, everything was different, everything was new. I didn´t feel quite comfortable at the airport with literally every Indian man staring at me. But well, I was the only white woman around. So, I was a real attraction. At this point in time I would have loved nothing more than just to be invisible. The starring, the whispered comments was all too much for me. Soon, I would get used to it and not even notice it anymore – but not quite yet.
Then I had to change terminal – which also proved to be a challenge. At first, I couldn’t even figure out which bus I was supposed to take. When I asked at the info desk about it, I was told “the red one”. Well. There were a few red buses. Used to European structure and order I was completely lost in Indian chaos. However, I just decided to wait and asked every bus driver I came across. Later rather than sooner I finally got into the right one and off it went to my terminal.
The first Indian bus was also an experience. I still remember holding onto my stuff tightly in the crammed bus which was almost jumping over the bumpy road. I was still used to pampered European standards – everything running smoothly with people already complaining about a tiny road bump. But India is not Europa and Indian roads require Indian buses. Buses which are huge trucks with big wheels, sometimes run down but hey, they still worked.
On the way to the terminal, I experienced the contrast of India for the first time. We drove from a huge, modern, clean airport to slums with kids selling lemonade on the streets. I was shocked how rich and poor exists so close to each other without like two different worlds side by side.
A scary, crazy taxi ride
From Delhi I flew on to Dehradun where I was picked up by a taxi which brought me to my yoga school. The ride there was… let’s say…interesting. I didn’t feel very safe I have to say. There where no lights on the streets and it was already very dark. My taxi driver kept driving like we were on a race and he simply had to win it – whatever the cost. He kept overtaking every car that was too slow – even when he couldn´t see much. That was the only thing I didn´t get used my whole trip. The way Indian drivers drive. Which is very scary sometimes – and also the same with buses, most of the times.
Anyways, finally at the hostel, at my yoga teacher school, then met a lot of lovely people, got deeper into yoga and spent an amazing month. More about this wonderful experience will be found in my next blog post.
Doubting my choices
Even though I was surrounded by amazing people and felt at home at the school instantly, it still took me a while to get used to Rishikesh – and India in general. I should maybe mention at this point, that I´ve never been to Asia before, I had not even a reference of what to expect. This culture was just slammed over my head and I needed some time to adjust. The first few days I didn´t really feel the need of going out of the yoga school much. We were living right next to a very busy street, it was loud and noisy and scared little me was not at all used to having to pay that much attention to traffic. At least the cows didn´t fear as much as I did. The enjoyed their lives standing in the middle of the road, with everyone else driving around them. Traffic in India is a real chaos – there´s no rules- you just watch out for yourself. And you never driver over a cow. The streets were also dirtier than I was used to, with trash piling up at the side of the road. The very first few days I seriously asked myself Was it a good idea to come here? Will I handle this experience?
Falling in love with India
So, what changed then? A lot. I discovered how to see beauty in the dirt, in all the colours and shapes of India. In all the little shops with their owners, friendly – but also very eager to sell you something, in the river Ganges, in all the dogs and cows on the streets. I just love it now. And I got inspired from a really good friend of mine. Sometimes, the right people are just there at the right time. Especially from one friend I adopted the happy attitude towards everything, simply smiling along and seeing the beauty and magic in every little detail. Soon I couldn´t hold myself back any longer. Once I realised how much this country has to offer, I simply fell in love with it
This experience made me realise how quick I was to judge; how easy it actually is to dislike something if you don´t give it time. Don´t let yourself be fooled with first impressions. We judge in everyday life – over and over again, day after day. Which is okay. It is – to some extent – natural as we need some structure in our lives. However, being aware of your judgement is important. Once you become aware of your own biases this changes everything. You become open to new ideas, new points of views. Sometimes, it takes a while until real beauty unravels. Sometimes, you need a change of perspective. A little light. Or a good friend at your side who shows you the way.