The country’s new tourism slogan is Incredible India. I’ve seen it in travel magazine ads and on TV for the past couple of years. It wasn’t until I visited that I truly got it.
These days we tend to define incredible as something we really like; That cake was incredible. But actually, I think India’s tourism slogan is closer to the original definition of incredible – so extraordinary as to seem impossible.
Because India does seem impossible; the contrasts are truly hard to believe.
The smells – One moment you are holding your nose from the overwhelming odour of sewer; the next you are inhaling the scent of the flowering trees overhead.
The colours – You walk along a street clouded by pollution and dust, feeling hot and dishevelled, and suddenly a pair of women in brilliantly coloured, immaculately clean saris walk by, utterly unfazed by the dirt and chaos around them.
The sounds – There is constant noise: horns honking, chanting from the temples, bells ringing, birds singing, planes landing. And yet, even in a city as chaotic as Bangalore, there are pockets of silence and tranquillity.
The tastes – spicy, sweet, tangy, bitter, refreshing – sometimes all in one meal.
The construction – It’s everywhere: new modern buildings, roads torn up, a new metro system going in. But the construction techniques are ancient, mostly done by hand and hard hard work.
And through it all, you can never escape the contrast of wealth and poverty. In India, it’s not hidden away, or swept under the rug, as in many western countries. It assaults you wherever you look.
I can understand why outsiders desperately want to solve India’s problems. But I can also see why the only possible solutions must be internal.
You can’t control India. You can’t make her adhere to your schedule or cooperate with your plans. You can’t discover her; she reveals herself to you in her own good time – sometimes long after you have left.
You love her or you hate her – sometimes both at the same time. But never are you ambivalent.
She is incredible – hard to believe, difficult to understand and next to impossible to describe in mere words.
Over the coming days I promise, I will have some factual destination posts on India – Bangalore, Goa, Kerala and Lepakshi. Please stay tuned while I continue to process my thoughts (and my photos).
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