One thing I always enjoyed doing when on a bus is people watching. What are they thinking? Where are they going? How is their life?
I had one of these reflection moments while in a van, at a city tour in Mumbai, India.
The scene I saw from the window was an almost chaotic city, with broken or unpaved streets, and a constant and desperate horn noise in the background. A girl dressed in Sari, the traditional Indian outfit, is barefoot and with her feet dipped into a hole filled with muddy water.
It seemed to me like the aftermath of a war scene – no exaggeration. Ok, maybe a little.
However, people have a calm look, accustomed to what they see. How come? Timely, our guide started explaining Karma – an expression very present in the Hindu and Buddhist religions. The Karma is a reflection of a man’s past acts, even if from previous lives.
The difference between the term for both religions is that for the Hindu, the goal is the total purification until the being doesn’t need to reincarnate, though to move to another spiritual level. In Buddhism, the ideal is to be born again, until you reach the point of being “enlightened” with the truth of life. Isn’t that beautiful?
In China I had already thought about this: as in Brazil, these countries carry the tragic image of social inequality: expensive cars contrasting with poor slums. But why don’t the miserable Chinese or Indian population revolt and choose violence, as it happens in Latin America realms? Perhaps Brazil needs a little more faith and karma.
Anyway, controversial issues aside, I loved India. Although Mumbai is not a super-structured city and I have hit my toe several times in different boulders (I’m a flipflop fanatic, my fault), the country has somehow captivated me. I think it was the cultural shock, to begin with. I asked an Indian why some women wear the Sari every day, while some wear jeans and other Western clothing. I was thinking it had something to do with “married” vs. “unmarried,” but no. She explained that it is a matter of belief. Many of these women prefer to keep the tradition and do not let themselves be carried away by the invasion of the western culture.
This will to carry the culture is exactly what I wanted to see in the world. What’s so great about going to a tribe in Africa and seeing that the natives drinking soda and wearing jeans? To go to China and listen to American hip-hop in the nightclubs? In India, I was able to feel the energy of a people who love their history, their religion, their music. My first night out was awesome, for that matter. I was still a bit shocked by the city’s infrastructure, and I did not believe it when we went into this stylish club in the middle of the city’s bazaar-shacks. Between 80s songs, pop rock and electronic, he played a lot of Indian music. Super exciting, everybody singing out loud, dancing, jumping up and down and throwing their arms high. What an energy! It was contagious and got me into the same mood in no time. This nightclub was called Poison, and that night was “Bollywood Special.” It was 2007, and I’ve never heard of Bollywood, although some productions were watched more than the biggest Hollywood hits. Bollywood movies ten years ago were hilarious, almost parodies of western titles. Hard to take it seriously, with all the special effects and lots of dance choreography. Some would like to call all productions’ genres as ‘musicals’. But no, the genre is unique, and it’s called “Bollywood.”
Just like the country. It’s unique. It’s India.