Snakes from India

“How am I going to pack my cobra?” A question I never thought I’d hear from my dear friend and travel companion, much less have a ready answer for.

“Give it to me, I’ll pack it in with mine.”

Snakes in my suitcase. Only in India would I find myself attempting to pack two cobras into my luggage. Okay, they are made of wood, gifts for my son and hers. Still, we did see a live cobra in Jaipur. A sad and lonely looking creature captive to a ‘snake charmer’ who kept jostling it back into position in hopes of getting more rupees from his audience.

India, a land whose culture I am only beginning to understand after two weeks in-country. People I respect and am baffled by. Animals I admire and feel compassion for.

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I am grateful for the constant feast for my senses, the smells, the spices, the rich colors, the vibrant and friendly people. The beautiful landscape and stunning architectural gems, both ancient and modern.

Seeing barefoot children at school, grateful and excited.

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Knowing this is their lunch:

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And this is their playground:

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Yet taking in the happy faces of both children and teachers.

A place of contradiction, where one can meet scrappy eight-year-old kids hawking souvenirs to tourists during school hours; beggars clutching scrawny, naked babies; skinny puppies dead by the roadside, and men sitting in the dirt in a hot, dark room working long hours cutting sheets of aluminum with a bare spinning blade and no safety equipment.

Or beautifully accomplished swirling dancers, friendly tour guides filled with hospitality and kindness, spice merchants haggling merrily with local customers, or excited fans waiting outside the homes of Bollywood stars for their idols to appear.

Inspiring and desolate, generous and cruel, hospitable and unforgiving. I know there is much more to India than I will ever see or experience. I am grateful for what it has given me, for my time spent appreciating the many puzzles and gifts of this gem of a country. And for the many unusual questions I never thought I’d hear or give voice to.

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