Since you can read, watch and hear everywhere how indescribable, different, exotic, unique and so on India is, I did not dare to waste your precious time by repeating these things like a mantra. Not to say that they are untrue, but I feel like I you should know this by now. So I thought by myself, why not simply try to describe and explain what I experienced during my stay and take the risk to not capture the whole thing from an objective point of view. (You may acknowledge that I can only speak about the north of Tamil Nadu, never of India in general)
Me (amazed) and a really big Dosa in Kanchipuram.
7 months of my time I lived in an outskirt of Arani, a bigger town where you could get everything you need but which I would still describe as a rural area, comparatively to cites like Chennai or Bengalore. I tend to call it rural area because of how the people live, work and think. There’s a lot of agriculture and saree-wavering, most of the houses look rather traditional and the public facilities have seen better days. To the surrounding and the scenery I got used to very fast. By that I mean the trash everywhere, the large rice fields, the colorful house and the Hindu-Shrines in every place you could imagine. I even got used to poor people living in tiny huts next to big houses or lying on the pavement to and I don’t know if that was good or bad. So over all, after a few weeks I did not stop in awe at every street corner but I was able to do my daily shopping by overcrowded buses or rickshaws and to look out of my window in the morning witnessing dozens of men going for their morning toilette to the field behind our house like I never did anything else. But what I was not able to do was to build up close relationships with other local people except from them working in my NGO. A reason might have been my lack of Tamil knowledge or that I did not live in a family, but in the NGO/Orphanage I was helping in. I dare to assume that a reason also have been the difference in the mindsets or the consciousnesses. By that I mean that I hardly felt to share my feelings and ideas with anyone or to discuss cultural aspects because I had the impression that they would not have been understood and that whatever you say is interpreted in a personal way which you didn’t mean and would maybe hurt someone. I think without my dear friend/roommate/colleague with which I stayed in the NGO this time and without the orphan children, who were as open-minded as children are, and our granny I would have felt a little alone. All in all I had a great time there, rich on experiences, including people who have no shame to stare or point at you for minutes and those which whom you can barely talk a word but feel like family.
At a toll station somewhere near Krshnagiri, searching for bus to Pondicherry.
After these 7 months, fate, or better to say the Tamil Nadu Laws for Immigration, brought me to Pondicherry. Here I moved in with a really nice family and started to help in a special school with amazing teachers who are really dedicated, helpful and lovely. After being sad to be forced to move away from the place I settled in. I now have to say I am really grateful for being here. In the first time it was challenging for me to live with a host family because when I lived in Arani I had all the independence one could have and when you live in a family, you should adjust to their way of living and try to integrate yourself in the family live. But the few sacrifices I had to make were really worth it, because now I really feel at home here and I have the possibility to have a great insight and a close relationship to the country and its people. I can talk with them about religion and politics, joking, sharing my worries, playing with their child (which is far more fun than I ever dared to believe) and go on celebrations with them. Most of the things I am able to do now, like talking to a retired professor of mathematics about philosophy or simply going in a car with air conditioner to a family trip, feel even more amazing after such a long time in a “small town universe”.
Me and a canon and my host father.
Ending this short brainstorming, I would like to outline some conclusions I drew and lessons I learned since I am here: Everything will work out in the end; I just have to ask the 1001th person to show me the right bus. After I feel at home in a place and learned to love it, I feel the right to criticize it and only if I do, I do justice to this place; Obvious but still most important: People are not so different on the opposite site of this planet. Everywhere you can find close-minded people, who mess with you or harass you because you look different and don’t fit in their small concept of the world, and everywhere you can find lovely and inspiring people who make you believe that maybe humanity is not going to extinct too soon.