I arrived at New Delhi Airport around noon. The taxi-driver saw the ‘newly-arrived-look’ in my apprehensive eyes and instantly tried to swindle me. Having already looked up the local prices for taxi-rides, I knew how to play his game, resulting in us both having a good laugh about his audacity. Just like that, I had already made a friend. India is a fast-paced place.
His name is Kumar. A father of three, declaring himself to possess more knowledge of the backstreets of Delhi “than that silly Google Maps-thing.” He was born and raised in this megacity. Never travelled far from it. But, as he proudly pointed out – why should he?
“All you foreigners flock here, so there’s obviously something about the energy of this place.” India is a place where ‘energies’ are commonly mentioned.
Kumar turned into a guiding-light as we together struggled to find my hostel in a chaotic neighbourhood, half-hour drive from the city centre. It was a scruffy looking area. Scruffy and packed with people. Everywhere I turned, I’d see people. People, people, people. And they’d see me too. Short people, tall people, young people, old people. Happy and sad people. And they were all busy chatting, eating, playing, fighting. India is a place bursting with life.
My now inquisitive eyes were also met by an abundance of fruit-stands full of tropical treasures on our drive. And so many (to me) foreign and vibrantly compelling plants, tucked in between fancy high-rises and decaying tin-shacks. My eyes were drawn to the things that interest me the most. People, plants, possible provision and polarities. Oversaturated within all these fields, India is a place that interests me.
Only once he saw me safely welcomed into the hostel building did Kumar drive off with a salute. He was the first person to make me feel at home throughout my India-trip. But certainly not the last. It’s strange, the further you find yourself from the physical place you call home – where you were born, where your parents live, where your possessions are currently residing – the more frequently feelings of home appear. You scan your surroundings for familiarity in the absence of homely comforts. India is not a place of homely comforts, by Western ideals.
I spent the next 40 days finding my way home, in innumerable amounts of ways. I found homes within the newly cultivated friendships, the fragrant foods and the fantastic festivals. Within the spiritual temples and the stunning nature. The warm sea and welcoming culture. All this, whilst constantly surrounded by rice; rice-pancakes, rice-porridge, steamed rice-buns, lemon rice, beetroot rice, fried rice. India is a place where rice is served with every meal. Like literally, literally.
And India is home to a staggering amount of people, 1,353 billion to be precise. Maybe that’s why it’s so good at being just that; a home. Maybe it just comes naturally once you host that many people. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe it’s the hospitable culture created by the spirited people living in this colourful country that creates a feeling of belonging. Who knows. What I do know is that India is now also one of my many homes. Namaste.