A Summer in India

Winnie Law Assistant English Teacher, KITANO Senior High School,
Village children we met on our trek
through the Indian Himalayas

During the past summer holiday, I spent almost four weeks immersed in a totally different culture from my own or Japan's. I decided to travel around India because I wanted to experience a new culture devoid of Western influences. Also, I wanted to breakdown any of my preconceptions of India being only a poor country.

The day I arrived in Delhi, I was immediately engulfed by the new sights and smells. I can understand why people returning home would have a bad impression of India if they've only been to Delhi for a short time. Delhi is swarming with auto-rickshaws (which releases enormous amounts of gas exhaust) so the streets are congested and you're constantly on your toes avoiding crazy rickshaw drivers. At the shopping streets (bazaars), shopkeepers are forever trying to sell you something at prices way above local prices. In the main tourist areas, people are continuously pestering you to go to the city's "tourist office." I must admit, I was turned-off by Delhi and swore to never return. However, at the end of my trip, I came back to Delhi for my return flight home and to my surprise, I felt at ease and enjoyed my last two days in Delhi! I knew that Delhi didn't change in the last three weeks. In fact, it was I who have changed. It dawned on me that the reason some people who leave with a bad feeling towards India is because they just didn't stay long enough to fully appreciate and become accustomed to the diverse Indian lifestyle. Yes, admittedly, the first few days I missed the Japanese courtesy and efficiency. However, as time went on, I adjusted myself to the more abrupt and straightforward nature of Indians and the very, very slow (or shall I say relaxed?) service at banks, post offices...etc. The lifestyle of India is very laid-back. It was actually refreshing to me to not have the latest technology to "get things done."

Before I arrived in India, people warned me to not get cheated in India. Of course, in big cities there are always people trying to cheat you of money. This is universal isn't it? Once I was out of the big cities in India, I had the opportunity experience the "real" India. Surprisingly enough, each region we traveled to differed drastically in dialect, clothing and food along with landscape. One of the highlights for me was trekking in the Himalaya Mountains. Besides the extraordinary scenery, the people of the mountain provinces were exceptionally friendly.

I feel that because I spent a fairly longer time in India, I felt more at home and got used to cows on the street or sometimes the "dirtiness." I did witness how poor India was in some respects. For example, one can encounter beggars anywhere in India. But I also saw the richness of India as well in its people, food, history...etc. After my arrival back to Japan, I went through yet another culture shock. I had spent so much time away from Japan that when I returned, everything seemed new to me again. Coming from a country whose culture and characteristic contrast so much with Japan, I was fully aware of the fast-paced, modern surroundings around me. I was also able to appreciate more the positive aspects of Japan, but at the same time, I missed certain things about India. I realize now that one culture is not better than another, but is only unique from others. And that is the beauty of it all.

wilaw7 A market seller in Manali Last Update : Oct.23,1999