There is no doubt that living in India is a lot different than visiting India.

So many things get unnoticed when you are sightseeing, enjoying the tasty foods, visiting temples, and going shopping.

But actually staying put and blending (well, trying to) with the community you live in is another story. So, here are some things I became aware of during the many years in this unimaginable land that stole my heart. And please, don’t get me wrong, this is not a complaint or a comparison with the Western world. India can harden your heart or break it open, the choice is yours. In my case it is the latter.

First things first, life in India is not easy. And then it’s important to remember that India changes from state to state, city to city, village to village. So one’s impressions depend on which region of this vast Country one experiences. I have visited the south part with its colorful temples and beautiful beaches, tasty foods, and kind humans. Yet, I fell in love with the northern part. It was a going home for me that goes back over twenty years ago. There was a special something that happened to my heart when I visited Fatehpur Sikri as if I had already been there, and I knew India had me.  

You have to have a strong will and a loud voice, literally and figuratively, to be heard. There are sounds here I have never heard before and at times it’s difficult/impossible to detect the source. And then I ask myself, who cares where this noise comes from? Drivers honk constantly. I’ve learned that there are different techniques for making yourself heard while driving. For instance, the “get out of my way” horn is long and fierce whereas the “I’m passing you on the right” is short and feeble.

Personal space has no meaning, because there are so many people. Everywhere. At a certain point you become part of it and it doesn’t bother you any more.

There are different prices for videshi, foreigners, and Indians. It helps speaking the language, especially when someone is trying to overcharge you, but it doesn’t always work.

If you go to a shop before the owner has done his/her puja, offering, you just have to wait until he/she is finished. How beautiful is this! 

Dogs are free to roam around. They have a special capability of avoiding cars, scooters, trucks. Some don’t. A few get taken by families; sometimes they end up being chained, sometimes not. I guess it’s a matter of luck. It is possible for a puppy to be taken by a tiger and manage to escape before being eaten, like it happened to Urmilla, the pup I rescued from a sewer who is now living with a loving family in the village, chasing monkeys and scaring birds out of the rice fields. Think about this, she managed to escape being taken by the tiger not once, not three but five times. She must have a very good karma, what do you think? And then miracles do happen.

Rainy season is just that: rain nonstop. The heat is the hottest I have ever felt. There are no words to describe the feeling. I’m used to the Floridian humidity, but the Indian version of humid is oh so much much more. 

The depth of peace you find in an Indian temple is something beyond magical that envelopes your whole being, like stepping into a giant box of glitter. There are days I spend hours sitting on the cold floor of the Lalita mandir down the road, legs crossed, immersed in another world. Incense burning, flower offerings, devotees coming and going, hands to heart, tears flowing. Can I stay here forever? 

The holy river Ganga is a source of incessant blessings: Her water changes sounds from season to season. There is a special energy you feel when you sit in front of Her majesty. You have to actually visit Her sacred banks to feel it, because it’s a personal relationship. I don’t know how many hours I have spent in Her presence, feet in the cold water, mala in my right hand, walking up and down under the excruciating heat learning the Shiv Tandav Stotram, I’m still working on it.  This sacred water is so powerful and innocent and full of peoples’ dreams, tears, hopes and wishes.

Going to the hospital is a little like unwillingly be catapulted in Dante’s purgatory, although blood tests’ results are much cheaper than in Europe or the USA and are returned within two hours!

Fresh salads are not easy to find, but mangoes come in very many shapes and colors: their sweetness fills every angle of your mouth.

The foreigners who come to Rishikesh for yoga or else don’t seem to realize that wearing shorts and a tank top is not appropriate. No matter how hot it is. Reality check, please. And respect for the culture. Thank you.

Masala Chai (not masala chai tea lol) is an amazing drink that can be savored any moment during the day and night.

The Himalayas are the most impressive place I have seen in my entire life. Their magnitude fills your eyes and heart, like a breath of fresh air after being stuck for too long inside a box. It seems the Goddess has spread Her blessed arms to envelope the whole mountain and is sharing Her love to those who are open to receive it.

Of course the list could go on, but I’m stopping here. I mean how long of a post can I write without boring you?

India, thank you for being the way you are. For testing my patience and my sense of humor. For keeping me strong. For teaching me things I would never learn in any other way or any other place. For making me feel alive in every. single. part. of who I am as a human being. To remind me that the change I wish to see begins with me. I am grateful to be a part of you.

Thanks for reading ❤️