By: Andrew Updyke
Being able to change your perspective is a key to life. The ability to step back and see the whole situation (like the 0.5x lens on your iPhone) puts you in a position to understand. It helps you see something from someone else’s point of view. Which only helps you when it comes to building and fostering relationships. But, perspective is incredibly important while traveling. Especially to traveling somewhere like India, with it’s such stark contrasts.
Driving in India is the first time you have to bring the thought of perspective into your mind. Through a Western lens it looks like a million games of chicken happening all at once, drivers daring each other to turn first as they speed towards each other on a collision course of certain doom, with horns being used to hurl insults the entire way. But in actuality, it is a million moments of eye contact being formed between drivers, where an instant bond of trust is formed, and horns are used to inform and keep others safe. This view, through the lens of an Indian, is backed by Hinduism and the almost disbelief in dualism. Dualism – the belief that there is only two outcomes – is a big part of Christianity, where God decides your outcomes. In Hinduism, there is not that clear black and white, and since almost everything is a god or deity, there is no one single thing to make that distinction. So, if there is no such thing as a good or bad driver, we are all just drivers each trying to get to our destination and why wouldn’t we help each other getting there.
When the shock of the driving wears off, perspective comes right back into play while you’re actually traveling through India. Of course, there’s all the people you see (and it is endless) but as you move your gaze from the road itself to what is going on beside it, you start to notice things. First, you begin to see the buildings. Then, it becomes easier to see what each building is meant for – houses, stores, and sometimes both. Then you start to realize just how many stores there are, and wonder how they all get used. But you quickly realize that, again, there are a lot of people in this country. 1.5 billion to be exact. Even still, as you look closer, you notice a lot of these stores look exactly the same as each other, and they’re all extremely close together. Through this higher than thou western lens you start to think “how stupid must these people be, just change up your store a little bit to increase your sales”. But, if you dig another layer and think back to your home you start to realize how ignorant that thought is. I mean just at Christchurch alone there are three 7/11s five minutes away from campus. Not to mention the amount of times a McDonald’s will be right next to a Wendy’s that is right next to a Burger King when you drive through a town. All essentially the same thing, but in our eyes completely different. So maybe those stores are different from each other, we just don’t know what to look for.
Tourism is another major aspect of India that needs a different perspective. When we think of tourism through a western lens we think of swarms of foreigners coming to see the landmarks that we think are important to our country. But in India it’s different, at least it seems like it. The majority of tourism in India is done by Indians. They have a quickly growing middle class that suddenly has the money to go on vacation and see the important places that make up their country. So when you see the swarms of people throbbing through Rishikesh at first you’re slightly annoyed, even though you know it’s ridiculous to feel that way. To give an example of what it’s like for a westerner to walk through Rishikesh for people back home – it feels like you’re walking through New York City right after WW2 and the Great Depression so people finally have the money to travel, and it’s somehow turned into one of the most important cities in Christianity, but while you’re walking through it you have clown makeup on and can’t take it off making everyone stare at you. However you can’t stay annoyed for too long as you start to look around you. In Rishikesh, you see Hindus being able to connect with their religion in the places that are the most important, taking as many pictures and videos to show to their friends and family back home, and giddy at the chance to spend their hard earned money on souvenirs. This is not to dissimilar to millions of people that go to places like Mount Rushmore or Venice Beach.
Traveling also gives you a chance to change the perspective on your life. Not the traveling that we typically think of though, going to Disney World, walking the streets of New York, or climbing the Eiffel Tower. It’s the traveling that we’re doing that gives you that chance…not looking at your phone for days at a time, taking in all the scenery, and taking the chance to talk to the locals. The opportunity to talk to the locals is something that we on this trip have jumped at. This has given us the added perspective of what it’s actually like to live in that area, and not guessing through assumptions with our western lens. While we were in Pancheshwar, we talked to many people; but, the person who stood out to me was a man who talked about stress. He told us that there is no stress in his life whatsoever. His family is entirely self-sufficient, using everything they grow on their property for food and a little spring for water. It’s not that he had no stressors, it’s that he had the support system around him to limit the power those stressors had. Which is why traveling the way we are is so important. As you forget more and more about those little problems, clarity comes to your bigger problems and shows you what really matters in life.
PS – Warriors in 6!