Alberto and I met travelling, so it is only natural and inevitable that our itchy feet would have us dreaming of our next destination. After a year in Colombia, we decided to gather our pesos and pounds and embark on a new adventure together – to India. India has always been an exciting destination in our minds for the both of us, an ancient civilisation full of wisdom and spirituality. We want to delve into the unknown, into the colours and the chaos, into the history of its mystic temples and under the skin of its everyday people.
The explosion colour and flavours of Indian spices is like the kaleidoscope of diversity that is India. With a population of 1.3 billion people, India represents 18% of the world’s population and is often praised as the world’s largest democracy. India is a secular state that is deeply spiritual; religion is central to daily public life, and home to millions of followers of not only Hinduism but also Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism, Christianity and Jainism. There is no single national language but there are 31 official languages, 122 major languages and hundreds of other local languages or dialects spoken across India.
Despite India’s apparent openness, diversity and spiritual harmony, there are many curious controversies that are extremely perturbing to outside observers. The poverty is truly striking, with 22% of the population living below the international poverty line (<$1.9USD/day). India remains an extremely traditional and conservative society, where the caste system is solid, patriarchy rules and family values are the highest priority. Unsurprisingly, India is rife with gender inequality; “respectable” women belong in the kitchen, and are kept hidden under the tradition of ‘purdah’ (married women are kept ‘under veil’ by their husbands). The record for gender violence is atrocious, with rape, including gang rape and child rape being commonplace. Although we feel strongly about these issues, we are not here to judge or condemn, but seek understanding by observing from within.
We chose India in search of a world completely different to that which we already know, a place where the mundane becomes extraordinary, and experience a culture that makes us question our inherent assumptions and prejudices. Ultimately, this is what travelling means to us; it is not about checking tickboxes, it is about constant discovery.