Sometimes, when you’re tired or homesick or hungry or hot, it’s easy to overlook the beauty of India. All you notice is what’s different, what’s wrong: You might fixate on the lack of central heating or air, or the garbage everywhere you walk, or the touts and vendors who won’t leave you alone, or how careful you have to be about everything you eat and drink. The sheer press of humanity gets exhausting, and there are moments when nothing seems right, nothing seems enjoyable, nothing seems worth that 17-hour plane ride.
But then something will catch you by surprise: The saffron robes of a sadhu. A little girl sheepishly smiling at you from behind the folds of her mother’s sari. Marigolds placed in offering outside a shop. The smell of fresh naan. The clapping and singing of puja at a local temple. Stacks of red and orange and blue and yellow and green and purple quilts coloring the streetside. Two old men sitting side-by-side, silently reading the paper together. A new friend. The sun warming the back of your neck.
In that moment, what is wrong disappears, and you remember again why you are transfixed by this place. Even the beauty, though–both strange and familiar–can overwhelm. The jostle of a billion people can blind your American eyes to it, but when you see those details that make you gasp with pleasure and surprise, and then you look up from your narrow obsession with personal comfort to this pretty magical place, you remember: There is so much that is beautiful here.
While living in Mexico, I joked that speaking Spanish forced me to be far more Zen about life: Since I could only speak in the present tense, I was forced to just live in that present tense.
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