Every year I’m fortunate to visit a foreign land with the goal of relaxing and enjoying the scenery. But almost every vacation I return with an adventure, and a deeper understanding of our fellow residents of this planet.
Recently, we visited India, a country only 68 years old, but with 3,000 years of history.
Our goal was to see the Taj Mahal and many other historical sites, but in a land of 1.4 billion people, human interaction took center stage as we traveled the Rajasthan region in the northwest part of the country.
Communication was easy since English is the nation’s primary language. About 85 percent of Indians are Hindu, who appear to be a humble people. About half of the total population are farmers, and they rank second in worldwide agriculture output.
The old caste system that relegated people to one of four different classes at birth isn’t used anymore. However, people still seemed to “know their place” in the system, which some people said made them content.
As we drove about 1,200 miles, we saw what appeared to be chaos on the roads. Most are paved in the cities, but in the rural areas, they’re just dirt roads. None was wider than the two-lane roads we have here at home. The amount of honking in traffic rivaled New York City during rush hour.
Yet we didn’t see any accidents and our tour guide said there aren’t many of them. Nobody was speeding as drivers waited for scooters, cars or enormous dump trucks that carry all types of loads. Drivers had patience.
At the Taj Mahal, our lines to enter were relatively short because of our higher ticket price. However, 10,000 Indians making the pilgrimage to the palace were standing in a separate line, waiting patiently for many hours to see their national treasure.
But Indians aren’t just proud of their past. They look forward to becoming a world economic powerhouse. They must, because to keep up with their population expansion they need to build 300 cities within the next 10 years. And each city needs to house 2 million people!
But as ambitious as these people are, some of their ways are antiquated. We experienced this at the Pushkar Camel Fair. This 100-year-old festival attracts 400,000 people as 50,000 head of livestock and camels are sold. In case you’re in the market for one, a 15-year-old camel sells for $600 while a 5-year-old camel costs you $1,000.
Our big adventure of this trip came here, when we returned to our tent. After hearing some commotion, we barely escaped as the tent next to ours caught fire and within seconds ignited our tent. Literally, within a minute, nothing was left except the severely charred remains of our belongings. You see, India doesn’t have electrical wiring codes. Bad wiring started the fire. It also doesn’t have fire departments to douse the flames. By the time the bucket brigades got there, it was too late.
But as upset as we were, the people did their best to help us cope with the situation. We appreciated their concern. That sentiment of the people is what we saw all across the region. They were kind, gentle souls, who easily went out of their way to help a stranger. They didn’t let traffic jams bother them. They never seemed stressed. Their attitude was to deal with what came their way and make the best of it.
Maybe we need to adopt that type of attitude here.