First Class Midshipman on His Personal Growth from Time in India
POSTED ON: Tuesday, January 14, 2020 9:53 AM by MIDN 1/c Steel Templin
Stepping out of the airport, the thing that stood out the most for me was not the large number of people nor the swarm of taxi drivers surrounding what they likely believed to be a confused westerner - me - in hopes of overcharging. Instead, what I can still remember to this minute is being in awe of the vividness of the environment. A much more earthly pallet of jungle green contrasting against the orangish-brown that is the rocky Decan plateau. And standing over it all was not the stars and stripes I was so accustomed to, but the saffron-white-green spoked wheel that is the Indian Flag.
This is the summary of my experience in India; vividness in contrast. Despite the change in ensign, I was still in a democratic country, just four times as many people. Subsequently, “home of the free” now has a different meaning to me. Yet despite being the world's largest democracy, the Indian state of Kerala is considered by some as the only example of a successfully functioning communist government while. Another contrast exists in that the West views India as a bastion of antiquity, yet the city of Hyderabad - where I spent the majority of my time - is at the forefront of the technology industry. Amazon, Microsoft, and Google all made their headquarters in Hyderabad and Boeing produces apache attack helicopter fuselages within the city limits, illustrating India as a major player in advanced technologies.
For five months, life was much slower then my life in the US while simultaneously being just as fulfilling. With my Western linear view of time and militarily ingrained punctuality, I resisted what I can only attempt to describe as a lackadaisical, peaceful existence where the only thing that matters is the present. Gradually the lunch meals stretched; 15 minute refueling sessions turned into 30 minute socialization periods which in turn morphed into hours of debate on the inherent morality of humans while sipping Chai. Unfortunately no enlightenment was achieved, but perspective was expanded and knowledge stratified.
While I was given pause to think and observe, future history played out all around me. Article 370 of the Indian constitution was scrapped removing Kashmir's ability to independently govern itself which resulted in a wave of further unrest in Kashmir and other Islamic cities across India. The Supreme Court ruling on Ayodhya - an event that happened in 1992 - came out stating that a temple would be (re)built on the site where right-wing mobs tore down a mosque. I happened to visit Mumbai on the 11 anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks and saw the increased security in Colaba and around the Taj Hotel; a reminder that the US is not the only country that has terrorist attacks on its own soil as the threat of terrorism is a global phenomena.
Although the memories are boundless, highlights include making one of the holiest pilgrimages in Tirupati, drifting along the banks of the Ganga in Varanasi, walking where the Buddah taught in Sarnath, seeing the glory of the Mewar in Udaipur, floating along the lagoons of Kochi, venturing through the mountains to the tea plantations of Munnar, witness the density of Mumbai’s public transport, and riding camels in the desert in Jaisalmer. I grew personally and professionally during my time abroad and am incredibly happy with my choice to spend half a year in the subcontinent.