India – Old Delhi, New Delhi, Jalandhar, Village
Sri Ram Ashram – Haridwar
Canada is much different than India. We are a country with approximately 40 million people. According to Google, this spans over 9,984,670 km². All this to say, we have a small population that expands over a large mass of land. This means we’re a culture comfortable with lots of personal space. You can walk down the streets with your hands stretched out if you’d like, and no one would run into you. In fact, they’d give you a wide berdth and walk around you. Perhaps even, those who are in a hurry would go as far as crossing the street to avoid you.
Being raised in this culture I’ve learned to love my own personal space. In fact, us westerners even have the cute quote, “my space bubble.” Well, if you go to India, prepare to have that popped.
India has a population of approximately 1.2 billion people, according to Google. This spans over 3,287,590 km².
This means there are significantly more people, in a significantly smaller space. People bustle about, pushing and shoving to get from one place to another. In Canada, this would be very rude. In India, it’s a way of life.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with this cultural difference, and that’s why it’s important to surrender your cultural confines and embrace something entirely new, entirely uncomfortable.
Once we arrived at the Ashram, I immediately was grateful for this seemingly lack of respect for ones personal space (however ignorant that phrase may sound). Within half an hour I had my hair braided by one of the Ashram kids. Every day there was a new hand to hold, a new kid to carry and a new friend to be found. I felt so loved and accepted, occasionally calling it home accidentally.
In Canada, it would be rare to have a group of strangers come up and tangle arms with you. In fact, every bone in our body would react to such an action. We would say, “You’re in my space bubble. Get out.”
Not to say one is better than the other (although I’ve surrendered my spacious solitude), I do think it’s really valuable to be pushed out of our comfort zones. I learned that it’s good to be challenged, to open our minds and push the borders. It’s important for us to understand our global connection to one another, and learn tolerance towards each other.
When I walk into a nearly empty room, I now find myself gravitated towards where people are sitting. Beforehand I would’ve wanted as much space as possible, and would be irritated if a stranger would sit next to me. It’s interesting to see cultural differences, and experience both sides. Going to India was an amazing experience that often pushed me out of my comfort-zone. I don’t think anything magically made me a completely different person, but I now have a much better grasp of the world outside of my own sphere.