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November 8, 2012

Voices from Around the Globe: The road to Rajasthan

Namasté! Kaise hai’?

Life in India is ... life in India. How can I otherwise explain something so wildly different from my previous culture in a single sentence? How can I describe a country that has never, can never and will never know uniformity?

In fact, though I have not been here long, it is much easier to acknowledge the differences between Indian states than between other countries. I realized this when I had just the opportunity, in the quickly receding but-not-so-distant past.

My school took me on a field trip to the state of Rajasthan, Gujarat’s (my state) northern neighbor. Rajasthan is known for its unique and exquisite culture. However, I had no idea just how different it would turn out to be.

We traveled by bus, so the trip was long and uncomfortable. The bus driver did not make things any easier by his continual habit of narrowly avoiding head-on collisions while passing slower vehicles in the other lane. I managed to fall asleep while we crossed the state border, but when I awoke, the passing surroundings that greeted my drowsy and dazed eyes were so changed that I wondered whether we had crossed into another country altogether.

The ethereal pink rays of the rising sun that stretched slowly over the horizon showed before me a wide and desolate desert. Having come from a land green with vegetation and flat as a crêpe, the low hills, brittle brush, and burning sands of Rajasthan were startling. Besides the natural differences, the first building I spotted clearly displayed an entirely new style of architecture. Then it was the language on the street signs; then the organization of the cities; then the clothing; then the music; then the physical appearance of the people themselves. I quickly learned not to underestimate the amount of change that can occur in just a few hours of travel in India.

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