Don’t forget India

This morning I found myself falling back into an old habit; mindlessly scrolling through Facebook while I wake up. I stumbled upon a comment in a military spouse group I’m a member of “Congratulations to all those selected for Quantico!” I flew out of bed as if the house were on fire. I scrambled down the stairs with my eye mask still halfway over my right eye, one sock missing and my pajama pant leg pushed up I was a sight for sore eyes. My heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest while I powered up my laptop and looked to see if our name was on the list. “Please let us get this. Please let us get this” was being repeated. We had been sitting on egg shells in our house for the last few weeks as the release date continued to get revised. Now the hour was upon us…..

We didn’t get it.

I continued to check the list and hit the refresh button to see if our name would magically appear. I felt like the girl who keeps going to the refrigerator opening and closing the door every 5 minutes in the hopes different food would show up. My emotions went from angry to sad, sad to angry. I wish I could say that this news didn’t affect my mood, but that would be a lie. I walked the dog feeling pissy, I worked out feeling pissy, and I ran errands feeling pissy. Total and utter pity party for us. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize the mental state I was in until about 6 hours after waking up. I spent my morning being pissed off at the world. Finally, as I sat in the chair at the salon getting my hair done while simultaneously getting a manicure, I remembered where we were this time two months ago. It was time to knock it off.

Traveling to India has always been on our bucket list. We had heard nothing but good things about it from others who have traveled there. For us, this would be the place that we went to in the hopes of having a bit of a spiritual awakening. Sounds like a tough bill to fill on paper but believe me when I say, it did not disappoint. Without much of a second thought, we booked our tickets, got our visas and were on our way.

The airport in New Delhi was beautiful and impeccably clean. Shortly after we collected our bags, we saw two gentlemen standing both adorned with black suits holding up our last name on a sign. Before we knew it, we were whisked outside of the airport, not carrying a thing, into our BMW. We were both beyond surprised by this and felt amazing. We felt like we saw how the “other half” lives. Our smiles quickly left as we exited the airport.

The middle portion of the highway was complete dirt that appeared to be for farming. Men, women, and children all worked using their bare hands to till the soil. As we continued away from the airport and towards our hotel, we passed a series of tents filled with fruits,

Prepping banana leaves, Old Delhi
Prepping banana leaves, Old Delhi

Vegetables, juices, and meat. By all accounts it was like a food truck back in the States with one stark difference; this is also where these people lived. Mats and blankets surrounded the area as well as pots of water that were being used to wash their hands as well as the food they were selling. It was like nothing I had ever seen before.

We passed an area that was government housing. I thought about what that term meant when we were in the States. I had spent enough time in the DC metro area to know the living quarters the federal government could provide. As our driver pointed this area out to us, he said it with a tremendous sense of pride in his voice. He was pointing it out to showcase it. When I saw it, it reminded me of low-income housing back in the states. Spray paint and garbage flooded the streets of the compounds. The windows of the buildings covered with black bars, some of which were bent.

At each traffic signal, we stopped at children surrounded our car. These kids could not have been much older than 7. They were dirty, often not wearing shoes. They banged on the doors and windows of our vehicle begging for food and money. I was quick to reach for my bag to see what I could spare when our driver immediately stopped me. “No,” he said. It was the type of tone where you are certain this is not up for discussion. “You must not give them anything. Ever. Their parents send them out to beg.” I couldn’t believe what I just heard and what I was seeing. This viewpoint of the world was not familiar to me. I realized at this moment what a sheltered life I was able to lead.

Arriving at our hotel took about 30 minutes from the airport. Our hotel was behind these larger than life walls and gates that ultimately kept you in the dark about what life was like just beyond them. It was the ultimate juxtaposition between luxury and poverty. Despite the amenities being wonderful, I could not shake what I had seen that day. We spent the rest of our first day in our little bubble preparing for day two; a tour of Old Delhi.

His name was Vishal, and he was born and raised in Delhi. He was a well-educated man who worked for the government of India, specifically within their division of tourism. He proudly showed us his badge informing us that he didn’t make this title up himself. We spent 7 hours with Vishal on our second day and had it not been for him; I don’t know how we would’ve felt about India. He made sure to

View into Old Delhi
View into Old Delhi

Get us out of our van and into the streets of Old Delhi so that we could see what life was like. We saw extreme poverty, horrible living conditions, no sense of structure to the roadways. It was by all accounts their definition of organized chaos. Despite all of this, there was one thing that remained with everyone we saw and encountered. Pure and genuine happiness. We continued our day with Vishal touring the burial site of Gandhi, learning and discussing some of the conflicts the country has endured over the years and spending time at his Hindu temple.

While we spent several days in India, I think of our first and second day quite often. In a world where we are so quick to complain about everything that doesn’t go the way that we either expected it or wanted it too, remembering what we saw and passing it on to others is tremendously important. While it sounds cliche to say, the next time something isn’t going the way that you want, stop. Just stop what you’re thinking. Stop what you’re about to say. Reflect on all of the blessings you have in your life. How wonderfully amazing life is for most of us and just be. Be happy.

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