When you’re sharing a country with a billion other folks, you will find yourself with no option but to cultivate endless patience. Whether you are waiting for an overworked bureaucrat to finish your visa paperwork or pulling yourself through the eighth dance sequence in the four-hour Bollywood movie you are watching, patience is what you need to hold on to.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way – regardless of the origins of this phrase, there’s nowhere more equipped to teach you this than India. Jugaad culture – which involves finding low-cost, inventive, constructive ways to make things happen – makes this country the incomparably resourceful centre of innovation that it is. Whether it’s an Indian company inventing an upside down umbrella to collect and purify water, Dharavi school girls building apps to solve problems faced by fellow slum dwellers, or Mumbaikars finding ways to squeeze in 5,000 folks in a train meant to carry 1,700 – Indians are constantly finding new ways.
India runs on what it calls ‘unity in diversity’ and that translates to how we’re all human, the same as any of the 1,600 language speakers, 29 state dwellers or 10 different religious followers. India teaches and practices co-existence like arguably no other place on earth can, and there’s no better philosophy to ground yourself with when faced with the country’s incredible diversity.
India is a land of constant surprises – not just for visitors but for those who’ve lived here as well. At blame for its unpredictability are its billion-plus strong population, hundreds of languages and local subcultures, and thousands of years of complex history. You’re always better off making less assumptions, about a particular street foods’ ability to burn a hole through your gut, about a seemingly innocent granny’s ability to scam you out of your life savings, and so on.
Throwing aside religious, class and social differences, and pressing issues of all sorts, Indians still come together to celebrate hundreds of festivals every year. The country wouldn’t exist so peacefully if its people didn’t constantly find ways to unwind, celebrate and party-it-up in whatever form. India does Diwali, Holi, Christmas, Eid-al-Fitr, and way too many more festivals to even keep track of, with unmatched grandeur – all you need is the spirit to celebrate.
There’s no way to get by in India without some cooperation from your fellow humans. India can be an unnecessarily overwhelming experience when you don’t enlist the help of those around you. And so if you find yourself lost, confused or in need of a second opinion, ask someone around you.
Of course, this is a globally applicable lesson, but one that particularly needs reminding when you’re living in India. It’s easy to get frustrated when you’re not particularly in the mood to co-exist, share or be patient with your billion-plus fellow residents, but there’s no point being rude or acting out your frustration.