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I'm in Thailand now. Before delving deeper in this new country it's a good moment to write about the last moments and feelings in India. After my stay in Arambol, I rode south along the coast for a while, then turned inland for a brief stop in Panjim, the capital of Goa, checked out a few churches in Old Goa and finally rode to Margao from where I took a train back to Mumbai. The train arrived at eleven in the evening and I had an exhilarating ride speeding through the night to my friend Gaurav's place 25 km north. A couple of days later I took a plane to Bangkok, Thailand.
In Goa, Anjuna was another place where it would have been fun to stay longer. A network of small streets and dirt paths leading to both guesthouses and private homes created a fun alternative style village athmosphere. Paradiso was a cool club which would have been still better during season with a larger crowd and the main outdoor stage open. South from Anjuna the resorts started to become more polished and to look like a package holiday destination. My guidebook said that the more luxurious hotels would have been still further south, I didn't go there to check them out. Panjim was a pleasant small city, based on what I can say after spending just a few hours there. Old Goa is famous for its old churches which made it worth a stop, but otherwise it didn't have any life or identity of its own.
India has many faces. One of them is misery, which is emphasized by the fact that luxury is also available for those who can afford to pay. You can almost see it in front of your eyes by reading this story written by a friend of mine. However, independent of the social class, Indians seem to be generally proud of their country. National flags are displayed prominently and the army is looked towards with respect. People have a competitive attitude towards China and are happy to mention that the population of India is predicted to surpass China during the next 20 years. The problems of overpopulation are not in their minds. Those with higher education are also quick to point out how much world-class research is done by Indians abroad.
Indians love bright colours: fabrics, clothes, houses, temples, vehicles, everything is colourful. They are curious, which any traveler will immediately notice: stop anywhere, in particular outside major touristic centers, and you'll be surrounded by people, many people. Curiosity is complemented with hospitality — nowhere else have I been as many times offered tea, meals and places to stay. The hindus have a saying "Guest is God" and the way they follow it makes you humble. Finally, there's sprirituality which is present everywhere: during festivals, at religious places, in daily life.
Since ancient times India has had gurus which have been drawing a large following. It continues still today, ranging from centers with traditions and long heritage to more controversial contemporary figures such as Osho. There are so many different religions living in peaceful coexistence and so many different sects of them in India that you can be certain to meet multiple different views. Unlike the Christian church in most of Europe or Islam in the predominantly muslim countries there's no one single powerful organization which will feed you its answer. You'll have to put your own thought into it. You can of course ignore the spiritual aspects if you like, but they might just draw you in.
The biggest difference in India compared to the culture in Finland is the concept of a joint family. It's not only that three generations live under the same roof and cousins next door, it also means that you are what your family is and vice versa. Stay in line and you'll have the full family support through the hardships of life, but make your parents angry and you may become a social outcast. For example, marriages in India are usually arranged by parents instead of the young couple finding each other themselves. I met a man who was considering to flee with the girl he loved because her parents didn't accept the marriage, a tough choice. Most surprisingly, an Indian friend of mine told that love marriages are actually again in decline after a rise in the eighties and nineties.
My only real culture shock hit during my stay in Jhankri, a small village in Rajasthan. My host, the primary school teacher about whom I wrote three months ago, wanted to introduce me to all his relatives and friends. To be more exact, he wanted that I introduce myself individually to everyone in hindi, which meant several dozen introductions during one day. It was a bit tiring but still okay. However, then he started putting words in my mouth, wanting for example that I personally invite his cousins to Finland because they were his family and now my friends — people I had met just five minutes ago and barely remembered the name. I tried to be polite and play along, but it was a clear clash of cultures. I'm generally happy to welcome people at my place but it's my choice when and how I decide to issue the invitation.
I spent three and a half months in India but still feel it wasn't enough. In Europe, Romania and Moldova were the highlights of this trip but India left an even stronger feeling that I need to come back some day. I started to love the chaos which somehow amazingly works. Being again out of the country will hopefully give some perspective of what really was important and what not, but my intuition tells me that India has still something in its treasure trove for me. I don't know how soon, but I'll be back.