Ten insufficient days in India, a land which needs ten weeks, ten months, ten years, for the traveller to come to comprehend the complexity of the innumerable faiths, languages, landscapes, and peoples that constitute Hindustan. In ten days this traveller arrived confused, but left captivated.
My own ten days were spent between Mumbai and Goa, between Hindu and Catholic traditionalism, between the metropolis and the rural. The contrasts are extreme, and the differences in wealth are obvious. India is a country of great wealth, enormous investment and infrastructure, and a large middle class, but many there still suffer privation and poverty. Housing can range from modern apartments and individual homes to huts and crumbling buildings.
The mega-city of Mumbai, with its population somewhere over the twenty-million mark, is not merely polluted, it is poisoned, with its wind water and earth not fit for human consumption. Leaving this metropolis by train your lungs breath freer, and the landscape rolls out before you. There is not one square kilometre where you cannot spot a human soul. Children splash about in a river below the train, women launder their clothes on a shoreline, elderly women collect sticks in the brush, a man walks about a field, his immediate objective not apparent. It is dry season and fires burn off last harvest’s remains, and the humidity creates a veil over the hills and mountains beyond.
Reaching Goa, your senses relax. It is refreshing to leave behind the congestion of Mumbai for the palm treed cities and towns of this formerly Portuguese colony. Here the legacy of the colonial days is apparent in the beautiful architecture of the urban and rural homesteads, and also in the presence of Catholicism in the little chapels scattered throughout the landscape and the omnipresent Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary in taxis, portraits and statues.
In India you fall into a kaleidoscope, a kaleidoscope of religions, cultures, languages, and classes all mixing together, weaving in and out of the other to form a disorienting yet mesmerising mass of colours and sensations. In India you can only but dive into this multicolour confusion and let the sounds and sights, the cuisine and customs, the dress and rhythms entrance you in its polychromatic captivation.
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