Sunday, February 03, 2008

An Argentine who sees India through her heart

During my endless (and exasperating...) declaratory campaign about my passion for Latin America, I come across Latin Americans who are equally passionate about India. Some of them are followers of Indian Gurus ( such as Sai baba) or spiritual groups (such as Hare Krishna). For them it is a matter of faith. The other day I came across someone who does not belong to either of the groups but whose eyes dance while talking about India.

She is Fabiana ( Fay), a young, smart, ambitious and enterprising person from Rosario. She is the chief of her own business consultancy company. She has been to India many times and to many parts including Coimbatore! She is a friend of the embassy and has been helping Indian delegations voluntarily. Now she wants to take a business delegation to India.
I have just received her write-up on India, which she has sent with a note saying she lifted the " passionate" from my emails to say she is "passionate about India ". She describes in the article below what made her passionate about India.


India is not a country but a continent. From North to South, from East to West people are different. Languages, dialects, food, customs are different. The way they dress; and the country itself is different from many others I have explored. It is a place that somehow gets into you. Love it or hate it, you can never ignore India.

I read somewhere that poverty can bring you down, bureaucracy tries the patience of even a Hindu saint and the most experienced travellers find themselves at the end of their tempers at some point in India. Yet if you ask me, it’s all worth it. Basically India is what you want it to be. If it is history you are looking forward to re-live, you will have come to the right place, there is a profusion of temples, palaces, forts, and abandoned city ruins in the middle of the desert- and they all have their tales to tell. If it is art, music or crafts … it will be just your kind of place. If it is Ayurvedic (or traditional) medicine, pharmaceuticals, IT, automobile, or agro-business etc. …. you name it … they do it! And they do it well. But, undoubtedly its biggest treasure, in my opinion, is its people. Their wide smile, their ”Namaste” or “Vanakam” when they greet you- some people say this greeting means the divinity in me greets the divinity in you.

So this combination of people, history, arts, medicine, together with its current bustling economy make of India not just a place to simply “visit”. These factors will all contribute to making a totally different experience, an assault on your senses, a place you will never forget.
The smells are definitely strong and diverse, spices, incense sticks- especially those in Mysore- made of sandalwood burning in the countless temples you will visit or come by, the variety of flowers and specially the jasmine flowers carefully woven into long threads that are worn by women on their heads after visiting the temples. And, yes of course there is the smell of dirt, but if you are smart enough, and you “see” the struggle of this country to fight the dust, the garbage that accumulates because of the over population of its cities, because of the simple fact that they are over a billion people, you will be able to enjoy all the other things, and not just be a prisoner of pre conceptions, like "I don’t know if I will be able to cope with the dirt of India", “There’s so much poverty”, typical clich├ęs that I have heard so much, and humbly tried to fight with all my heart since I first visited India for the first time 10 years ago.

The sense of touch is stimulated by the rich silks of the saris, the embroidered garments and brocades, the softness of the hands of the people who greet you from the bottom of their souls ... caresses to the heart I still go to when I need comfort.

The taste of Indian cuisine is also varied and delicious. There are considerable variations from North to South. Curry (which is a blend of almost 25 freshly grounded spices) produces masalas or mixes. The most well known flavours come from chillies, cloves, coriander, cardamom, cumin, and bay leaves, and several seeds that will surely captivate your palate. It is such a long list that would take pages to describe. And no fears, I won’t! But I have to mention the “breads” are also incredible a big favourite with us foreigners.

The hearing- probably most influenced by the traffic noise and its diversity in means of transportation that range from simple rickshaws, old white Ambbys (Ambassador cars), big old bikes that glide their away in dusty, sleepy streets of small cities ... and now the newest models, including the now newly released Nano (the cheapest car in the world). Then there is the chanting at the temples, the OM (really pronounced aum, some people assure if the universe had a sound this would be it!)

The sight, probably the most shocked of the sense you will experience, include the fact that you’ll see elephants, camels, holy cows, goats and other animals wandering free amidst all the vehicles, and in the middle of this chaos (an organised chaos I must say) there’s peace. Maybe the one that springs from the heart of the inhabitants of a land of religious tolerance. The colors of the saris the women wear, from bright yellow, to turquoise, fuchsia, red and green, the turbans worn by the men in the Rajasthan, the gold bracelets, the earrings, the faces of the kids that jump around you …

But besides the senses of sight, smell, touch and hearing, it is your spirit what will probably benefit more from the daily lessons of compassion, love and tolerance I personally have experienced almost on a daily basis in this beautiful country. It is a world so exotic to us; so marvellous that can instantly take you back to your childhood; to a time of fantasy and endless surprise, or to the future with all the developments that this republic is experiencing now. I hope you feel someday that it is worth taking the risk of “seeing poverty, and dirt” …but here is my tip, if you see India through your heart, I assure you, you will never regret having visited it! And like me, you will never stop going back!
(Your Honorary Consul of India in Rosario) Unquote