I’m only a few days away from going back to India where I will be staying until Christmas (at least). Before going back there though, I would like to take the time to write about my first trip to India and evaluate some of things that I have learned.
When I first arrived in India last January, I thought I would be staying for 3 months, and already it seemed like a long time. As it turned out, I ended up extending my stay by an extra two months and all of it went by so fast. So many things happened while I was there. I met Prachi on the second day only of my trip and fell in love; I changed my plans for my future entirely, and now, I somehow feel that India will always be a part of me, a country that wasn’t even part of the picture last year. How life can be surprising sometimes!
But what exactly did I learn in India? What challenges did I face and what should I expect from my second trip in India. Here is what:
Prejudice – in the End We are All One
Like I mentioned in my previous post, I went to India with a lot of preconceived ideas about who I thought Indians were and unsurprisingly a lot of it turned out to be wrong. My Western ego was all pumped up and what I got in return is a huge slap in my face, and you know what? It feels good!
India is a country where poverty is still quite visible yes, but what I realized is that characterizing India as poor is just an over simplistic view that is simply wrong! While countries in the West have been stagnating over the last decade, India on the contrary, is booming and on the verge of becoming a real superpower. I have been very impressed by the dynamism of cities like Pune or Bangalore that are quickly catching up; everything that we have in the West is there and more. But also in terms of culture and values. In the West we have abandoned a lot of the old rituals and practices, in exchange for more individualism and competition. Indians, and even the poorer ones, seem to be more secure and accepting of their conditions, while in the West we are never really satisfied unless we get this or that.
Prejudices are common. I see it everywhere I go in the West, and this is a real problem our civilisation is facing. We humans always end up thinking we are better than others. This does not only prevent us from reaching out, but most importantly it inhibits us from being open, to learn from others and to apply that knowledge to move forward as a society. In the end we are all the same, we are all one.
Secularism and India
Secularism. That is another thing that is the focus of a lot of debates in the World these days. My country France is often characterized as being secular but after seeing how India is, I started doubting that. In France everyone is allowed to practice any religion as long as it is done at home, hidden to “respect” others. Well, Indians see it differently; people with so many different backgrounds and cultures live side by side and everyone is allowed to practice their religions openly. For example, while in France a woman wearing a simple Muslim headscarf would generate a lot of negative attention, in India the same person would go unnoticed. Many people freely display religious signs publicly and this doesn’t seem to bother anyone. What I think is that by putting restrictions, in France, we end up encouraging this practice and open the gates to exclusion and extremism in the worst cases. So what does secularism really mean? The debate is open.
A Yogic Life
It is astonishing to see that such an ancient practice like Yoga still remains so relevant today. Most scriptures were written thousands of years ago and it seems as if human’s troubles have not changed. Personally I didn’t think Yoga was so powerful. India showed me its power and how so many people could benefit from it.
It has been a year now since I have started practicing Yoga and I know that this is it for me. I will continue to do regular exercises on the side, but I think that no other form of exercises works on so many levels. I believe the popularity of Yoga will boom in the future. In a world where materialism and stress have become the norm, Yoga can really help people to see the truth about what really matters and how to reach a more stable and peaceful life.
My goal for my next trip is to establish a strong routine of practicing Yoga regularly, tailored to my own needs. Becoming more aware of my own body and state of mind and find what works best for me. If I can do that for myself, then I’ll be able to find what is best for others.
A daily practice of Yoga no matter what will become my new saying. What I have realized is that Yoga needs to be practiced daily and to really see the change it is necessary to move towards a Yogic life that is also concerned with things health, nutrition and spirituality.
Finding more about myself
People say going to India can be tough. I don’t think it has only to do with cultural shock or even poverty though. I believe India is a mirror; by just being there people are somehow forced to confront their reflection in the mirror, and sometimes the experience can be overwhelming.
I have reconsidered everything that I had planned for my future, not only in terms of career choice, but also about what I believed in. I realized that whatever I had planned would not have led me to happiness but instead to evident dissatisfaction.
India has shown me what I need to work on to improve myself and become a more stable and peaceful person. We would love to hear about your experience in India and whether it has also transformed you in any ways. Namaste!