You’ve seen that ad right? With shorts of an elephant washing herself with a beautiful spout of Ganga water and impersonating Gods in Kerala laughing about something hilarious and all the crazy Holi colors being strewn about by a foreigner having a great time in the midst of many, many happy brown people.
It’s enticing. It makes India look like a grand old time. It’s not. I mean, it is, but not if you actually live here.
This was somewhat the premise upon which I decided to move to India 4 years ago. I had grown up in a land faraway, telling people I was Indian, while only having visited the place in short spades of ‘holidays’. Holidays I can vaguely recollect as having been shepherded from house to house, trying to follow a language I thought I knew, being kissed and hugged and fed to degrees I had never been too keen to experience. I have slightly stronger recollections of all the washrooms I visited.
I kept seeing these ads and wondering exactly which country I was visiting, and which country they were visiting. But I’ve never been all that compelled by a potentially fun experience. I’ve always been more compelled by a potentially challenging one.
It wasn’t until I was in college when I started reading statistics about poverty, and actually caring about them. Getting affected by them in a way I can only describe as gravitational. I say gravitational because it was this combination of a directional and magnetic pull that kept me fixated on one thing: changing it.
I got a lucky break with Microsoft, found a mentor and guiding light, and traded my gravity defying air pumps for a pair of chappals. Ever since then, the force has only gotten stronger.
My version of the Incredible India ad is slightly different. It involves a lot of kids laughing at me, Indian aunties clucking their tongues at me, rickshaw wallahs making me laugh and then cry, a few unforgettable nights of conversations, wine, music, and candlelight, and then all of those shorts from the original ad.
So yes, India is incredible. India is full of adventure, just like the ad suggests. The ad leaves out a large portion of her incredibleness, though; the challenging parts of India.
That’s the part that I came here for. That’s the part I continue to live here for.