As an Indian and like most I would believe there are many things I would think and grieve for every day. Everything from pollution to pitiable state of roads and infrastructure, lack of proper medical facilities, bureaucracy at every level of existence and many more issues that a common man faces each day of survival
Yet with all these issues, the last two weeks drew me more close to this country in a peculiar manner. I enjoyed the company of two ladies from two corners of this globe visiting India for the first time on a business visit. Most guests visiting our country for the first time have inhibitions and pre conceived notions of what India would look like. I do not blame them for believing India is all about poverty, impoverished kids, congested roads, poor public transport system among others.
My first meeting with them left me with no different feeling. They seemed hesitant to try many things here, unsure of people they would meet, recollecting their experiences with whatever they saw already. Somehow it all sounded too similar to other expats I have known who are careful of what they eat, the water they use for brushing their teeth, who find sparkling water more hygienic, many who found Indian food spicy owing to the chilies used while cooking. There are many such pre conceived notions of what India is all about, things they should do and things they should avoid. Unfortunately that’s what most media portray India as and perceptions get built on experiences from people who may have never made it to our shores before
Amazingly the Indian gut allows using tap water to feed and cook food for millions daily. I adored the beauty a salwar could bring out from people who were so comfortable in short dresses all life. Calling any food spicy was more to describe the variety of spices used in a complex preparation.
Changing their perception was important and my friends were receptive to many such occasions. After all our food was still healthier than an array raw meat and fish served around the globe in various forms. They were visiting a country which was one of the fastest growing economies today and hosted by Ahmedabad, which has been put on the global map by Modi government for the pace of its development and rich culture. India was still one of those countries where citizens did not need firearms to be safe while walking on streets or have children being gunned down while in schools. It wasn’t surprising to see that development of a country for many is limited to better roads, public places, cleaner air, better infrastructure etc. Yet most made way to Indian shores in search of knowledge, spirituality, peace and a better life. India has probably surpassed many cultures by being developed through its culture, history and spirituality. Development for Indians is possibly evident through developed minds employed in most coveted jobs, mastery in chess, multi skilled in various tasks or a spiritual awakening pursued by many
What transpired over the next two weeks possibly changed the way they looked towards India. The hotel completely outdid their expectations. The staff was excellent with their service, warmth and friendliness. Indian food in most meals left them wanting to try more each day. A leisure day from our busy schedule helped visit city streets full of warm and smiling people. Unlike many global cities I know, people and children on the street were excited to see them and not wanting to steal or fleece them. The temple elephant strolling in the middle of the road of a busy market place never seemed unusual just like those various cows which were our citizens using the streets. In a way this coexistence and sharing of space with those animals does not lower our level in society. A visit to Sabarmati ashram followed and held our guests and myself in total admiration of what a single man could achieve in a non violent way. A single day packed ample experiences and memories for our guests here
Having spent time with them made me realize why it was so important not to have a pre-conceived notion or a perception towards any community. These can close your mind and heart to all the good things waiting to be experienced.
The curries they devoured, the kids they met, and the peace they felt in the Ashram only makes the Indian Me believe, India has much more to offer then a dirty street or a poor beggar. There still is our rich culture, a history of episodes and struggle, mystic things and spiritual experiences, and a confident generation of people who are investing their time in learning, excelling and preparing for a developed India of tomorrow