It’s 10:55 AM. My host father and I have been sitting in Delhi traffic for an hour and a half now. We’ve only made it about 5 km from where we started this morning. In hopes of making the time pass faster, we decide to put on a TED talk. I browse through the options, and am intrigued by one tited “The Danger of a Single Story.” This should be good, I think to myself. And it is.
The speaker is Chimamanda Adichie, a storyteller from Nigeria. She begins the talk by explaining the nature of her childhood. She grew up reading British and American children’s books, and consequentially adapted a love for writing at a young age. When she began to write stories, they closely resembled the types she read. Ones with blue eyed, white characters who “ate apples, drank ginger beer, and talked about the weather.” She goes on to explain how this demonstrates how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children. Eventually, she discovered African writers who, she says, saved her from having a single story of what books are.
I immediately draw a comparison between Adichie’s words and my perception of India, prior to arriving here back in June. As I sat on my 14-hour flight from Toronto to Delhi, I was mentally preparing myself to arrive in a dirty, impoverished country. Because for months, this is what I had read I should expect, from various travel guides and blogs. I was also preparing myself for congestion, beggars, and pick-pocketers. In my mind, I had created a single story of what India would be.
Delhi has proven to have some of these things I had pre-conceived about India. However, India is SO much more than Delhi. It’s the beautiful beaches of Goa, the serene views of the Himalayas, the Bollywood music and dance of Mumbai, the deserts of Rajasthan, the crowded streets of New Delhi – the list could go on and on.
I naively came to India expecting to mostly experience the negative things I had read about the country. However, for every negative word I read about India, I can now speak five good ones. India is a country of immense culture, history, and diversity. It’s poverty. It’s pollution. It’s crowds. It’s peace. It’s art. It’s tradition. It’s children. It’s cricket. It’s colors. It’s stray dogs. It’s loud. It’s quiet. It’s street food. It’s singing. It’s dancing. It’s ornate. It’s simplicity. It’s mountains. It’s beaches. It’s cities. It’s deserts. It’s beauty. It’s chaos. And it’s absolutely incredible.