World traveler Leslie Fischer shares an experience that will redefine your perspective.
If I could tell you one thing and one thing only about India, it would be this: Prepare for impact.
India left a deeper impact on me and my understanding of the world than any other country I had ever been to before and all those I have visited since. Years after I left there, India has settled into my memory as a character all of her own — frequenting my thoughts, gifting me with perspective, and asking haunting questions of my broader purpose.
In short, India is a powerful entity.
India redefined my understanding of how many human beings live and rely on this planet. This concept came into sharp focus upon landing in the capital city of New Delhi, with its 31 million inhabitants packed at a density of 29,259 people per square mile. According to World Population Review, there are 23 official languages spoken among India’s 1.35 billion people. With roughly one-third the landmass of the United States and an additional 879 million people, India teems with humanity.
India redefined my understanding of the value of a dollar. In a country where the average income is the equivalent of roughly $1,900 U.S. dollars per year, I gained clarity on the realities of the outsourced low-cost labor that our international marketplace is built on.
While great strides have been made to reduce poverty in India, WorldData reports that more than 86 million people live on less than $1.25 a day. I became mystified by wealth disparities across the globe, as well as the environmental crises. Traffic, fossil fuel-burning power plants, and the heavy manufacturing of products for the western world have made India home to some of the most polluted air on the planet — creating a dense, gray smog that hangs over much of the country.
India left a deeper impact on me and my understanding of the world than any other country I had ever been to before and all those I have visited since.
Of the world’s 30 most polluted cities, India is home to 22 of them. Trash litters the streets and serves as the fabric of the slums. It is jarring, even angering, to see and can give rise to judgment — especially when compared to the blue skies and manicured lawns of home. In these moments, keep in mind the smokestacks from factories contributing to the smog are often working to make products supplied to the United States. In addition, tabulated trade statistics from the U.S. Commerce Department show the U.S. continues to export about 28,000 metric tons of plastic per month to developing countries like India.
My experience in India redefined my understanding of the global community as deeply interconnected, rife with challenges, and breathtakingly rich in its diversity — India was a visible microcosm of the world at large. It serves as a raw look at the breadth of the human experience and its impact on the planet. It prompts an interior reflection of what its visitors are willing to see in themselves.
KEEP IN MIND:
Both Buddhism and Hinduism originated in India.
India is considered a collectivist culture, meaning the decisions of individuals are made based on whether they are beneficial to the individual’s family, group, and social structure.
The best time of year to visit India is between October and March, avoiding monsoon season and extreme heat.
The traditional India greeting is namaste, which is delivered with palms pressed together below the chin and near the heart and accompanied by a gentle nod or slight head bow.
Many Indians consider the head to be the seat of the soul and believe it should not be touched — even to pat the hair of a child.
Instead of utilizing utensils, Indian food is eaten by hand, usually with a piece of naan or roti (different breads) to scoop up the contents of the meal.
Indian cuisine is vast and diverse. In general, food gets spicier as you move south.
Many Indian cities have changed their names to reflect the overthrow of colonialism. For example, Kolkata has replaced Calcutta, Mumbai is the name of what was once Bombay, and Chennai stands in place of Madras. This movement to change names upon gaining freedom is common around the world, but it originated in India.