July 10, 2012 | By Donna Evans
There is no easy way to describe India. It is a country with 1.2 billion people in an area about half the size of the United States. There is no personal space expected or desired. There is color everywhere, from the gorgeous saris with sparkles, colors, jewels and different traditional styles, to the architecture, the spice markets, forts and temples.
When you travel to India you must keep an open mind. The cow is a sacred animal to the Indians and because of this they (along with other animals) are allowed to roam at will. If you are riding in a car (do not even think of driving in India) you will find that the roads are open range for all animals: camels, horses, dogs, goats, pigs, water buffalo and cows. There is no such thing as a lane of traffic. Trucks, carts, bicycles, cars, animals, people on foot, tuk tuks, rickshaws and scooters head for any open space. Horns and flashing lights are continual. (And you thought New York City was bad?) But somehow they all exist and continue with no accidents, no road rage and genuine respect for each other and animals. Perhaps it is their Buddhist culture that has them living in harmony and working together so well.
The first couple of days with our driver had us gasping and holding tightly to anything until we realized all the drivers in India pay strict attention to what they are doing. If they didn’t, the family of four (or even 5) people on a scooter would cease to exist. We saw a car graze the pants of a passenger and it was a shock to all of us.
Along with all the organized chaos is a sense of pride in their culture and the jobs they hold. As you step back and take a look at the third world mixed well into the modern world you realize the traditions that have not changed at all. There is still the caste system. Marriages are still arranged. The son, when he marries, brings his wife to live with his family in their home. Horoscopes are very important and the cow is revered. There is a nonviolence attitude that rings throughout the country. No living thing is harmed. Love is everywhere. Kindness and caring really exist among the masses of people.
One of the greatest symbols of love is the wonder of the Taj Mahal, located in Agra, not far from Delhi. The story behind it is certainly the greatest love story to unfold. This mausoleum was built by Shah Jahan, a Muslim Emperor, in memory of his very beloved wife, Queen Muntaz Mahal. She died in child birth and his way of remembering her was this marble masterpiece. It took 22 years to build and 22,000 workers were employed in the construction. The symmetry and geometry used to create this tribute are magnificent and the gardens and reflecting pools add to the beauty. It is truly a national treasure.
There is so much to enjoy in this country filled with tradition, pride and traffic. Just don’t drive.