I have been living in India since July 2019 under the New Colombo Plan.
Recently I was called home due to #COVID19 but plan to return to India 2021.
India is a country that seems to contradict itself. In my opinion this is largely due to a diversity that is utterly astounding. India has a population of 1.3 billion people, with the main religion being Hinduism (practiced by 80% of the population) yet Buddhism, Christianity, Sikhism, Islam are also still practiced by hundreds of millions of people.
India is a land filled with deserts, snow covered mountains, cities, villages, hill stations, oceans and more! In one part of the country there can be snow, another part a sweltering desert and then in another state, dense jungles with tigers. Within India there are 22 major languages spoken and over 720 dialects. Hopefully this overview begins to paint a small picture of the diversity that India holds and perhaps challenges some of the perceptions you previously had.
Top Left: 'Hawa Mahal' Jaipur, Rajasthan
Top Right: 'The Ganges' Rishikesh, India
Bottom Left: Varanasi, India
Bottom Right: Mussoorie, India
Another aspect of India that I did not expect was the ‘Indian hospitality.’ Upon arriving to India, I was told by a friend that there is a saying in Hindi, which when translated means that “A guest is like god.” At the time I did not understand the depth that this saying has or the practical form it would take in my life. Within weeks of arriving in India, I had been invited to countless dinners, home stays, religious Hindu celebrations, a wedding and even a two year old’s birthday party! This was only the beginning, as of today (March 29th 2019), I have been invited to 6 Indian weddings (performed a dance on stage at one of them) and have been welcomed and invited into the homes of people I have only just met on countless occasions, it has become a norm. I stayed with newly made friends over celebrations that hold the significance of Christmas and was invited to live at a friend's family home as COVID19 brought all of India to a standstill.
Whitney and I dancing at Nimalan and Tanya's Wedding.
One of the best examples of how great Indian hospitality is, was at a wedding I attended in Rajasthan.
Indian weddings are large affairs.
Weddings usually have hundreds of people attending, multiple events and functions occurring over multiple days and even over multiple cities! Wedding attendees traditionally never pay a cent, with food, accommodation and transport being covered.
The Rajasthani wedding that I attended at the end of last year had approximately 400 people there, was held over 3 days and traveled between two cities (Jodhpur and Jaipur, 369km away from each other). I was the only foreigner there and was very sick. When I got back to Delhi post the wedding, I found out that I had contracted dengue, which is a mosquito born tropical disease. If you want to hear more about what it is like to contract dengue and be in an Indian hospital for five days click here.
In one of the main events of the wedding, I was able to escort the bride, (my friend’s sister who I had never met until the day of the wedding) down the aisle. I then stood alongside the mother of the bride and held her hand as she cried watching her eldest daughter get married to the love of her life.
It is moments like these and countless more that have completely changed the way I view hospitality and what it means to truly welcome someone into your home and life. Imagine if we truly welcomed people into our homes and lives and treated our guests like how we treat our gods.
Left: The beautiful bride, Yamini Right: Vaishnavi and I at her sister's wedding
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