It’s been a few weeks since I’ve cringed at the smell of curry or killed a cockroach in the bathroom before a shower. It’s been a few weeks since I left India and in a strange way, I sort of miss it.
It hadn’t even been 30 minutes since I had arrived in India that I knew this trip was going to be a lot more interesting than I had imagined. The smell of exhaust, spicy food and rancid water hit me almost immediately. It was around noon, local time, and my internal clock was ready to pass out. I was greasy, sleepy and in desperate need of a shower but I knew the day ahead was jam packed and I needed to muster up as much “umph” as I could find.
I apparently didn’t pack that in my carryon.
Trying to make sense of what I just got myself into and right in the middle of impending nausea I noticed something as I was staring out the window driving down the bumpiest road I had ever been on – people walking around with bare feet. Everywhere. Men, women and children walking down the street, in and out of buildings, everywhere, without shoes. Now I get that this doesn’t sound like much of a big deal but for me it was. These same streets are shared with cows, cars and the not-so-occasional man relieving himself! On these same streets children run barefoot chasing each other, men and women cross barefoot without caution to oncoming traffic, trash and rotting food cover these same streets…and its normal. No need for a tetanus shot. No fear. At first this completely grossed me out (as did a lot of things) but in the end I began to appreciate this way of life.
While poverty is very evident in the area I was in, this wasn’t a sign of poverty but rather a way of life and at times a sign of respect. Shoes are removed when you walk into homes; shoes come off when walking into a store, so why wear shoes at all? I realized that I had to learn to respect their lifestyle. It wasn’t easy to not cringe when you’d see people touch their feet and then want to shake your hand, knowing where those fingers had been. But I did my best to graciously respect them with the same respect they gave me.
I learned more about myself on this trip than I thought I ever would. And boy do I have stories for days! I may not have visited the most glamorous cities in India and I certainly didn’t see the amazing sights that this beautiful country has to offer. But in the end I feel like I gained more from this visit than I ever could have. In the end I embraced the life of a barefoot Indian and left my shoes at the door of shop in the alley, crossed the sidewalk barefoot and walked right on in.
I can’t wait to visit again.