Why are We Going Back to India?
Well, after another epic battle at the Indian consulate, otherwise known as the palace of ass-scratching ineptitude, we finally managed to get our third Indian visa, which will allow us to stay for four more months.
After the nightmarish first visa last January and the power-tripping saga to get our second visa in July, we thought we knew what we were in for in Kandy. Oh India, you have such lows awaiting your visitors – even before they enter the country.
This time, the 8 day process tested our every ounce of anger management skills and ass kissing ability. A showcase for the highly refined art of non-thinking, the nightmare started with a six and a half hour battle of the wills at mobbed windows and ended with me lying through my teeth (with cheesy saccharine smile) to get the extra month we needed.
So if India is so trying, so disfunctional, so much work, why are we going back? Why would we put ourselves through the wringer for a country that is plagued by pollution, corruption, and mind-numbing bureaucracy? a country where it took us five hours to buy an entry ticket for a national park? a country where we turned on our hotel room air cooler and a snake blew out? a country where we experienced the violence and disfunction of the Mumbai attack first hand? Why would we leave the beaches and Buddas of Sri Lanka to plunge back into the chaos?
Because India is monumental.
India is the most religiously diverse country on the planet. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and tribal religions. This place is an anthropologist’s (and theologian’s) dream.
That diversity means that, architecturally, India leaves all other countries in the dust. Where else can you see Tibetan monasteries, Rajasthani desert palaces, ornate Jain and Hindu temples, tribal totems, Keralan wood palaces as well as soaring Mughal mosques and mausoleums? Add to that Dutch, Portuguese, French and British colonial treasures and you got yourself one serious architectural heritage.
Visitors move from the stone ages, to the middle ages, to modern times within a single country taking in the tribes of Orissa or Nagaland, the burning ghats of Varanasi, or air-conditioned malls with modern cineplexes. Not enough? How about scouring the colorful markets for a new sari, exotic oils, fresh spices, Kashmiri silk carpets, Gujarati silver braclets, or tribal brass sculpture?
Culture not your thing? More of a nature person? The country has Asian one-horned rhinos, red pandas, hyenas, Gangetic river dolphins, leopards, wild Asian elephants, more monkeys than you can shake a stick at, sloth bears, and, of course, tigers. Need birds? You’ve got hornbills, parakeets, flamingos, eagles, griffons, vultures, spoonbills… absolutely books full of birds.
That not enough? It has tropical jungle, the Himalayas, dune seas, coral reefs, glaciers, grasslands, mangrove swamps, and outrageous monolithic stone outcrops. India is definitely towards the top of the list for natural heritage.
You can trek through the snow in Ladakh in the morning, hop on a plane and spend the evening on a tropical beach in Goa. Go snorkeling in the Andamans and the next day track tigers on elephant-back in Assam. And all these experiences at bargain-basement prices
So for those of you who are wondering why are retuning to India, there’s your answer. This place is a hell of a lot of trouble. But, sometimes, it’s almost worth it.