By Eliza Carr Schmidt
People at school always said this trip was a once in a lifetime opportunity or that it changed their lives. For me, I didn’t really get that feeling until the long bus ride from the tent camp on the Ganges to Uttarkashi. That bus ride, though long and for some an unhappy experience, allowed us to see more of the land and the people of India.
The thing that caught my attention most during those many hours was how welcoming everyone seemed. Maybe it was because our bus says TOURIST in big white letters printed across the front or because we are foreigners, but nearly every person we passed waved to us.
At first, that reminded me of home. Everyone in my town knows each other and always waves. Through the many stops during the bus ride and our unplanned overnight in Uttarkashi, I began to feel that this whole area kind of has a small town mentality. Everyone we met was friendly.
In Uttarkashi, the main city in this region, we went through the market. As we were weaving in and out of people trying to take in everything, I was surprised by something. In places people were shoulder to shoulder, but no one looked like they were pushing or impatient or mad. I thought about home and the United States. If you were in a city in the U.S. packed with people shoulder to shoulder, everyone would be pushy, angry, and impatient. They would want to be moving more quickly. Even at the market in my hometown, which has a population of 500, people would be upset about moving slowly.
I don’t know whether the welcoming friendliness or patient kindness is just in this area or throughout India. Uttarkashi being a holy city might be part of it. However, seeing a country that has an area this large of friendly, welcoming people with a base of kindness is not only a life-changing experience, but also possibly a once in a lifetime opportunity.