Waking up in India
On July 3rd I decided I’d go to India.
On the morning of July 6th, I found myself waking up to the heavy rains of monsoon in Mumbai, India.
Often, there’s a little voice in our heads that tells us to do something. My usual reaction is to listen and understand where it’s coming from.
It was this little voice that had been telling me to go to India.
In the first four days of my trip, I was more physically uncomfortable than I had been in the past six years of my life. Everything from the weather, pollution, food, and traveling had taken a toll on my health.
It was a healthy dose of reality that not everyone has the quality of life I do.
After the initial shock, my body adapted to the environment. Although I never felt 100% comfortable, it became more bearable with time.
There are a few things I distinctly remember from the trip:
- A shock of not being a minority when I noticed the sheer amount of people that looked like me.
- Being humbled by the fact that I’m the son of a farmer who lived in a small village in Gujarat.
- The realization that the standard of living truly is different in a developed country.
- Great technological products transcend borders because people don’t change. (cultural nuances do)
- Nature is timeless.
- I’m only here for another 70 years.
- More people than I thought don’t have access to clean drinking water/air, shelter, food, and a stable internet connection. These people aren’t just ‘one of the numbers’ in the statistics.
These things seem obvious when reading but there was an overwhelming feeling of gratitude that went through me as I experienced them. I’m very privileged, and it’s too easy to forget that.
The socioeconomic differences in class are very apparent in India. I find this is due to the large population, it causes both the wealthy and the poor, at any given moment, to be on the same street. You’ll see every type of vehicle on most roads: BMWs, horse carriages, rickshaws, motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, and mopeds.
Something that shocked me was the rate of technology adoption amongst the population despite differences in socioeconomic classes. Almost everyone I saw had a smartphone of some sort on them. Now, whether they know how to use the full functionality of it or not is a different story.
Natives were using Google maps, Uber, Facebook, and WhatsApp. These apps were on the home screens of most of the people I saw. Technology companies have genuinely changed peoples lives. It's even more apparent in a developing country than it is here.
A question I kept asking myself while I was there is, what’s the difference between growing up in America and India?
The most noticeable differences are the culture, the weather, and the unequal distribution of opportunity. This isn’t to say that a motivated individual in India is incapable of moving up the socioeconomic hierarchy. It’s just significantly more difficult than that same individual in the US. Although, this comparison is apples to oranges it was an interesting thought experiment to go through.
After taking time to reflect on the trip, there’s no one major takeaway that I can point to. I didn’t 'move a mountain', 'find God', or 'find myself'. I was attempting to experience each moment as thoroughly as I could. Popular culture often over-romanticizes travel.
To me, this trip was a reminder that there’s a world that exists outside of mine.