Impressions and Comparisons
Updated: Jan 10
Before I left for India, my dad's coworker and friend, Amit, who had lived in Bangalore for years, wished me a good trip. He told me this: "India is many countries in one. You will find many religions, cultures, languages, traditions, festivals, food, landscape, history, colors, entertainment, and so on. In spite of these various differences, and in spite of various challenges of politics, corruption, caste, income brackets – it somehow works. It even works pretty well, there is still democracy, freedom, respect of core values, and people are happy and making the best." He then said something that has been in my head since I read his parting email: that I would love India, but only if I didn't compare it to Canada or the United States. India is in itself a new world, and it wouldn't do to try and compare it to the familiar.
I've been trying my hardest to keep this in mind as I work through my first week in India, and for the most part, I feel that I've managed fairly well.
My impression of India has thus far been wholly positive: the organized chaos of driving, traffic, and crossing the street is a rush of adrenaline and entertainment, the food is new and exciting every meal, and the history I've already seen is a new style and age I've never experienced before. In talking to friends and family back home, I have told them how happy I am to have the chance to have this be my reality for a few months. But how much of these impressions are in reality comparisons to what I was living before? How long before I get tired of all this "new" and my "impressions" become negative?
Thus, in this first week, I have been questioning impressions vs comparisons. Just because impressions are positive, does not mean they are void of unwanted comparisons. So far, I have put it down to this: most of my life has been lived in North America. There are customs and cultures that have been drilled into me my whole life. The ones that have been most impactful will stay with me and cloud how I view the rest of the world, no matter how hard I try to remain open minded.
The most noticeable comparison (for myself at least) I keep making is with the dogs in India.
Every dog I see I compare to what I would see in the States: wild dogs? No, they aren't common. And none are neutered. I've seen a single golden retriever, and a total of two long haired dogs. The dogs here are all dirty, skinny, and I'm not allowed to touch them. What?? No touching dogs? My whole life I've grown up surrounded by "man's best friend", but here these dogs are to be avoided. I have avoided them out of fear of disease or bites, and this adds to the guilt of comparing them at all because their condition isn't their fault. So how do I not compare their lives here to what I know is possible?
It's only week one. I know that eventually I will get better at separating or putting together my life in India and my life in the States. I'm focusing on being aware that I'm comparing, and when I notice I do, reminded myself that right now, I need to focus only on the experience. Impressions are ok, good or bad, and so are comparisons, as long as they're done in the correct mindset. Therefore, I am trying to accept that I will compare, accept that I can compare without damaging my experience and happiness here. Most of all, accept that the reality of India is what is happening here, and wishing things were different won't change anything, so instead I should channel my comparisons into being an analysis of what I value and can control.
Here's to another ten weeks of growth, balance, and health!!