Should We Stay, or Should We Go Now?
That is the question.
After the rather bizarre Holi Day attack we posted about yesterday, Thomas and I have spent the last 24 hours seriously debating whether it is time to pack up and leave India, or whether we should keep going.
I find it rather ironic that we only recently posted our April Fool’s Day joke that India had pushed us to the limits, and that we had decided to flee the country. And here we are, not long afterwards, actually debating whether the joke should become reality.
Thomas, who has a welt on the back of his head, has seriously been affected by the attack. It was so unexpected, so unclear, that he was afraid to leave the hotel well into the next day. He is angry at India and fearful of what we do not understand about this country – which is a lot!
Clearly, the world is full of problems, and an attack such as yesterday’s could have happened anywhere. But the number of occurrences and the frequency with which they occur is quite unique to this country. We weren’t the only people to have bad experiences yesterday. Several Western girls had paint thrown in their eyes only to be groped or have their modest jewelry ripped from their ears or necks. Rumors of acid or chemicals (rather than paint) being thrown at tourists in other cities reveal a disdain for foreigners hidden within what is often represented as an all-loving, all-embracing culture. Police seem to dismiss such incidents as Holi Day fun.
Earlier this year, a 15-year old British girl was raped and murdered in Goa. The police quickly announced that the girl, whose body was covered in extreme bruises, had drowned and the crime was covered up. Seeing the condition of her daughter’s body, the girl’s mother immediately moved to challenge the cause of death. Even after it was revealed that the police had attempted to cover up the murder, much media coverage and many Indians chose to focus on how easy western women were, almost deserving of the crime. To add insult to injury, many assumed a foreigner had killed her and, almost instantaneously, Indian suspects were cleared of the crime. It is very clear that Indians see westerners as very different creatures and dehumanization of foreigners is clearly a cause for many of these problems.
In the two months we have been here, we have bumped up against many of these realities: shocking filth, extreme lack of education, corruption, damaging superstition, severe sexism, dehumanization of foreigners and lower-caste Indians, suicide, apathy, fundamentalism, nationalism, anti-foreign sentiment… too many realities for such a short time. What’s more, it often seems that Indians are in love with their own disfunction, often embracing what is so abhorrent to outsiders.
But we have decided to stay.
Why? Because elements of India remind us very much of another country that many travelers love to hate – Ethiopia. Our adventures in the country also felt like an extreme case of emotional bungee-jumping, bouncing from high to low within seconds. But, with time and patience, we grew to love the country and consider it one of our most priceless travel experiences. Let’s hope India has more to offer than what we have experienced so far.