It is impossible to be indifferent to India. The country beckons to be experienced with all of one’s senses, from the Taj Mahal to the ancient teeming back alleys of Varanasi. As Stanley Wolpert wrote, “everything is there, usually in magnified form. No extreme of lavish wealth or wretched poverty, no joy or misery, no beauty or horror is too wonderful, or too dreadful, for India.”
On my maiden voyage there, I could not have been more pleased. The people I encountered were wonderful, intelligent, and resourceful, friendly, dedicated, and extremely hardworking. Their capacity for storytelling and spiritual devotion, for creating olfactory sensations and super sugary sweets, their sense of beauty shown in marvelous arts, handicrafts and colorful dress, raucous celebrations and deeply spiritual funeral customs that reach way back into India’s ancient culture, as well as their ability to generate a tip and make a sale, seems unlimited. So seems their capacity to accept the dark side of India. The lament often heard is “what to do” or ” ah, that is India,” when, for example, bemoaning the fact that dowry is still demanded when trying to arrange a marriage of one’s daughter.
I readily admit to having averted my eyes to the visible dark sides I encountered in India. (I did not always succeed, and those moments were heart breaking, but I am no stranger to this, having encountered suffering in many countries I’ve traveled, including my own. Of course in India, the dark side is less camouflaged than in the western world.) Therefore my photoblog is a bit one-sided, showing only the beauty I tried to capture through my lens. It is true, as Wolpert observes, “India pulsates, vibrates, scintillates with such such a plethora of human, animal, botanical, insect, and divine life that no camera or recording device, no canvas, pen, or cassette can fully capture the rich design of ordinary existence.”
I was awed by my first impression of India, and how systems, to the western mind, that should not work at all for any length of time, have somehow—for better or worse—worked in India for over 6,000 years. May they progress and flourish for at least another 6,000 years more.
-Photos and text by 11-time WT adventurer Helmut Kapczynski, Royal Rajasthan