Choosing to focus on beauty in India
My friend Sharell recently wrote a post on her fabulous blog about what makes writing her blog worthwhile to her. She receives wonderful feedback from her many readers, particularly from Indians and NRIs who are able to look at India in a different light through reading what she writes.
What I was able to take from Sharell’s post and her overall experience is the importance and almost necessity of focusing on the wonder and good in our adopted country rather than its setbacks.
So much of discussion about India in other countries focuses on India’s surface beauty: its smells and colours and textures. For those expats living in major cities and smaller towns in across the country, the surface beauty can be sidelined by daily struggles and bureaucratic processes. Some expats become very tired of living in Mumbai:
“I have to get out at least once a month, to keep my sanity,” says one.
“It’s lucky places like Hong Kong and Dubai aren’t far away… even Kerala is nice” said another, who was also able to find some respite in another parts of India.
Some locals aren’t much better:
“I thought there might have been some progress while I was in the US… the road/subway/mall that was supposed to have been constructed ten years ago is not complete.”
“This country is too full of corruption and laziness to become anything different than what it is.”
The crumbling and cramped physical infrastructure and the due processes that one has to live with in Mumbai can present challenges to keeping your morale up . However, but if you take a closer look while making a conscious choice to find the good, you will notice that the beauty of our surroundings can be more powerful than the difficulty.
A few things of beauty that I love in Mumbai:
The light in the city at 5pm. A filtered light falls on everything and brings out the most intimate details. There is a thorough calm, and people seem to move in slow motion before the chaos of the evening rush.
Indian infants: there is not enough that could be said about the preciousness of Indian babies. In Mumbai, countless babies are born and grow up on the street, living and being despite all odds. I met one yesterday who was five months old and the size of a watermelon. He looked like Hanuman, with thick hair and wide eyes. This perseverance combined with the natural aesthetic beauty of a child is enough to make anyone believe in the future of this country.
Places where women congregate, like the ladies car of the Mumbai local train. The range of skin colours and hair textures and life experiences is astonishing: I have never seen such a variety of human beauty in one place.
Indian festivals and the resulting street parties: it doesn’t matter if someone worked a fourteen hour day and will work fourteen hours tomorrow. If there is a reason to celebrate, people celebrate wholeheartedly, without fear of what might happen to the rest of their day, their night, their week, their lives.
The jungle grafted over the city. In Mumbai and even more so in smaller towns, there’s a wonderful amount of nature that seeps through cracks in the concrete. Insects, animals and beautiful plants and vines live alongside old brick bungalows and new glass buildings. In Mumbai, things and people that might never be able to live together anywhere else, co-exist in near harmony.
There are endless details to uncover in a city that is as rich in history and detail as this one. India is beautiful, and challenging. There is a very intense amount of public suffering in Mumbai that one cannot avoid witnessing. Pavement dwellers and beggars are only one part of one thousand assaults on the senses every day. Sometimes these assaults can be so aggressive that it’s easy to be overwhelmed and want to just leave immediately. Choosing to focus on that beauty, though, is what will help your sanity. I feel like for India to move ahead, expats and locals alike can and must focus on the good: and there is so much of it.
I am well known for celebrating everything, in writing and in conversation: especially food. I choose to focus on what is positive and wonderful because that allows me to live a more full experience in harmony with the place I’ve chosen to live. This isn’t about just looking for rainbows and cupcakes and beautiful things for the sake of it: it’s about choosing the way you’d like to look at the world, in order to have a richer experience in it. I would love to see more people in India and in Mumbai make a conscious choice to seek out the beauty of our diverse and rich community, and celebrate that. What do my fellow India-focused writers think? I’d love to know.