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My Vision of India

My vision of India changes every day: it developes and it transcends, it is altered and it is cemented.

As we all sit on a train after a day of travel which takes us away from Varanasi, the city we have learned to live in, I am filled with reflections of the city and this country, and ultimately, how they have filled in a piece of India so new.

Varanasi, Banaras, Kashi: the city of light, the city of death. Although it would take much more time than four weeks to begin to understand the complexities of this city, our time in the city allowed us to see and explore them. In every way, in my being and in my bones, I felt moved and changed by Varanasi. My vision of Varanasi is a fragment with many missing pieces, it is my collage of moments spent in the city, moments where I felt, I saw, I tasted and I heard.

Each day I see the country differently. From thousands of feet above, I see the mountains and the plains from the sky; from a dirty train window, I see the landscape passing by; from a bumpy rickshaw ride; from a boat ride on the Ganga, at dawn and at dusk; from a street food shop; from the bedroom window.

I feel this country in contrasts. It lures me in and scares me off. It excites me and overwhelms me. The second I step out into the street before the chaos of outside fully consumes me (the honks of motorcycles, rickshaws and bikes, the water buffalos walking with their snouts in the air, the smell of spicy street food mixed with cow dung) for a moment I feel as if time is paused.

Seeing the city, by boat at dawn and dusk, by foot. I sit at a temple with monkeys scrambling above and a view of the the city, the ghats reaching like roots into the slow flowing Ganga, the light of day dancing on the water, Adi Keshava on the other river bank, a contrast of Banares, empty and flat. The smog rests over it all, the air is heavy from Dev Diwali fireworks.

Tasting the city, the sweets and spices, the traditional dishes and holy prasad. Streetside sweet shops on every corner, filled with Barfi, Laddu, and Razgula, Kheer. A hot gulab jamun with Saurabhji and Isabel before walking back to Assi. The vendor who recognized my face and cooked fresh all different tastes- potato pakoras and infamous Banares tomato chaat.

Hearing the city, the sounds last all day. Waking up to ringing bells of the nearby temple and a faint call to prayer at a mosque, my morning walk through an alley of cows, the occasional dog fight, the constant fireworks for all days of Diwali, the neverending honking which is easily tuned out. Underneath it all, the sound of the birds chirping.

My vision of India is incomplete–but filling in the gaps is the reason why my time here, putting together my image of a country so vast and different, is transforming how I view this country and how I view myself: evolving.