A Precious Opportunity: Gracious India

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Story and Photos by Nancy Kirkpatrick

I’m not a fan of the term “bucket list” to describe places I long to go, things I hope to do before passing from this known life. However, I do recall thinking as a child that I wanted to go somewhere. Anywhere.

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Passing lazy summer hours with the neighborhood kids, my sister, my brother, we’d lapse into games like, “If you could be an animal, what would you be?” I would be a bird. Always. I’d soar the heights, dropping down whenever it suited me; wherever the breezes took me. Explore. Know somewhere new. Then up again to wherever that blue air flowed. It didn’t matter. There were no names for the places I wanted to see.

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But that little girl never went far from home. Nor did the teen. Fast forward to a different life, a different day. The day I was asked would I like to go to India. I was stunned. My mind flew instantly to gritty images of monsoons, poverty, dust and grime and a population I hadn’t sprung from. Didn’t understand. Didn’t really know anything about, I finally admitted to myself.

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By then I’d had a small taste of Europe: London, Dublin, Brussels, Amsterdam. Places different but not strange and unfamiliar. But India? That’s not what I’d had in mind as my next precious chance to travel. But I swallowed hard and said, “Sure!” It was travel, after all. I was going to India.

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Travel visas, inoculations, preparations to be off work, a dog sitter. The days flew in a frenzy to meet a hard-stop deadline. Glossy National Geographic images put aside, I devoured histories instead. Timelines, Religions. Read about abundant past riches, discovered, relentlessly stolen. I felt the injustice. Opened my mind to expanded thought. And touched down in New Delhi a different person than the one who’d been touched only by the known.

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This was the world. In the days that followed I was carried head long into a river of color, a cacophony of sound, a kaleidoscope of faces. I felt the weight of population. The poverty. No where could I escape the sense of people; with dots of color distant in the fields, highways packed with no space to spare. Fuchsia, scarlet, sapphire, gold and emerald. The sidewalks and walkways fluttered with fabric jewels of color.

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This was the India I discovered and eventually fell in love with. Its people more gracious than any I’ve met before. More grounded in the moment. More in tune with the natural rhythms of life. When people ask me to describe what India is like, my answer is always the same. It’s disturbing. And it’s beautiful.

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By Nancy Kirkpatrick