December 22, 2012

Riding Roller Coasters in India

Of all the forms of transportation we've hopped on and off in India - taxis, auto rickshaws, bicycle rickshaws, canoes, trains, busses, airplanes, ferries - the most consistent mode of movement we've ridden is a roller coaster. We ride it every single day.

And while I would be hesitant to ride any actual roller coasters I found in India, we've basically accepted the inevitable emotional roller coaster we board each and every day just by being here.

We can go from loving, to hating, to loving India again, all in less than 60 seconds sometimes. It can happen so quickly that it makes your head spin. In one moment, we can be grinning fools, congratulating each other on our fantastic lives and this amazing adventure we're on. And then we'll have a bicycle rickshaw ride in the middle of Delhi that is terrifying, or we'll get pestered relentlessly by a sarong sales girl, or the electricity will go off in our 33 degree room in McLeod Ganj, or a blind man and his young daughter will follow us through a village, begging, and we'll look at each other and ask, "What the hell are we doing here?" 

The same people who are achingly kind to us in one second are overly aggressive vendors the next second. A bus trip will take us through a fantastic countryside landscape of spice fields and waterfalls and then through a shanty town of extremely impoverished townspeople. The same food we crave and devour at midday, we're cursing in the afternoon. The same day we write a post applauding the train service in India, we're handed the worst train ride ever.

We love India. It's an incredible place. But it is extremely difficult. The poverty is gut-wrenching every time you encounter it. The landscape is often ruined with garbage. It smells like burning trash, and food scraps, and urine, and frying food, and poop, and livestock, and stagnant water. The electricity goes out all the time. There are no systems in place for things that feel like common sense. There are too many people and not enough money/homes/trains/water/food. 

But the people are kind and welcoming. The culture is fascinating and diverse. We face a new adventure each day on our roller coaster, and we finish each day with a feeling of accomplishment. It can sometimes feel intimidating or overwhelming just to think about facing India in the mornings, in the same way you are filled with anxiety and excitement as a roller coaster slowly climbs the tracks to the apex of the ride and you know the next moments will be scary, but thrilling. And when the roller coaster stops, most of us will remember the ride with a smile and think of it as a happy memory - and I have no doubt Tom and I will look back on our Indian roller coaster in the same way.

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