To be an Indian is to be a paradox. And that’s a good thing. Maybe not. I’m not quite sure. We’ll find out (eventually). I say this because even after spending more than two arduous decades in India, I discover something new, every day. I remember reading somewhere, during the course of my undergrad studies, that Indians are quite adaptable. The reason was given by the author, a historian I presume, that because India occupied such a geographical location on the world map that people have become used to extremities. Extremities of weather, terrain, environment, and even life. So, when I say that India is a land of more than a billion paradoxes, I’m supported by historians, economists, sociologists, anthropologists, and philosophers.
In India, I found a race of mortals living upon the Earth, but not adhering to it, inhabiting cities, but not being fixed to them, possessing everything, but possessed by nothing. – Apollonius of Tyana
Sometimes, it’s tough to write what you feel, and at other times words flow freely. I claim no expertise on the subject of India. I merely transcribe what I see, I feel, and I intuit. India has never been easy to understand, Indians even less so. Modern India is a combination of both a tradition which is older than history itself and people who are the product of multiple ages. One of my favourite quotes by an amazing author, William Dalrymple, perfectly expresses what I mean when he says the following:
“All the different ages of man were represented in the people of the city. Different millennia co-existed side by side. Minds set in different ages walked the same pavements, drank the same water, returned to the same dust.”
William Dalrymple, City of Djinns (9)
I come from a small town. I migrated to Delhi many long years ago. Although I’ve travelled almost all over India (I’ve Govt. of India to thank for that), I still have much to see, much to learn. But I can say, confidently, that one doesn’t need to whiten their hairs or spend decades to understand something (although I’ve done both). Sometimes a mere moment is enough. Armed with the rebelliousness, the confidence, and the vast knowledge which are a staple of my generation, I offer the quirks and nuisances of Modern India. My perspective might be perfectly objective at one moment and completely subjective another. I don’t see a problem with either. My education has taught me something wonderful, that sometimes there are no definite answers. I hope all of you realize the same.
Tombs of Emperors stand beside traffic junctions, forgotten fortresses command suburbs, the titles of lost dynasties are woven into the vernacular, if only as street names.
– Jan Morris