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Thursday, October 23, 2008


Anticipating India

As a young art student in Australia I learned of the erotic sculptures in places such as Khajuraho. My mind boggled. How liberated those Indian people must be to accept such eroticism as part of their culture. Are Indian women all so voluptuous and sexy as this I wondered.

In the 1960s and later many of my contemporaries made a pilgrimage to India in search of enlightenment from one of the gurus that seemed to abound there. Are all Indians enlightened I wondered.

India was the home of Gandhi my greatest political hero and Siddhartha Gotama my greatest spiritual hero. With such as these for inspiration surely the Indian people hold lofty principles.

Throughout my life India has held a mystique, drawing me but from time to time I would also hear the negative side.

'India enlightened?' he chuffed. 'I found most of the people in India to be miserable. On the other hand in Africa where people are just as poor or poorer everyone smiles. If happiness is a sign of enlightenment, you'll find more of it in Africa.'

'In India they shit in the street' she told me. Not just she, I've heard several reports of that.

'If you catch a train in India don't ever leave sight of your bag. Someone will steal it.' Yeah? Don't some of those train trips last for three days? If I'm travelling alone how do I go to the toilet?

'I booked a tour,' my friend told me. 'It did not live up to the hype I heard from the travel agent so I returned to confront him. "I did not lie to you" he said. "Not lie, then what do you call it?" "I was making business." ' I've heard many such stories. Indians, I am told, will say anything they like—complete total bullshit—and they justify it as 'making business'. Yeah? I'd heard Indians were spiritual people. How about making karma?

For many years now I have been travelling in Asia and so far I've managed to avoid India. So far I haven't had to confront the paradox. I have lived and travelled in many countries in east and south-east Asia. I've lived amongst the poor. I have seen the beggars and the filth. Am I prepared for India yet? 'Nothing prepares you for India,' another traveller told me.

I'm biting the bullet. Today I leave Bangkok and will arrive in Delhi on Friday. Watch this space.

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