India feels huge. Geographically speaking, it’s a fraction the size of Canada or the US, but the dense swirl of people give it a sense of infinite humanity, stretching on forever. People are not insulated from reality behind all of the walls we put up in the west; the condos, the mini-mansions, the malls, television, the desire to treat nature as a playground to visit. They live in a gritty oh-so-real world from which there is no escape. Confronted with this, a journey of twenty minutes seems to take forever, as though you have crossed myriad landscapes of humanity and geography. It comes as no surprise that many Indians have never ventured far beyond their home state other than to find work.
If I had lived my life devoid of the influence of media, growing up as it were near the middle of the North American continent, I can only imagine what my response would be to seeing the vast expanse of the ocean for the first time. The endless ripple of blue, the impenetrable depth of blue green, the feeling of seeing just the surface of a whole other world. What awe it must inspire.
Of course, I’m not sure my response would be to run fully clothed into the ocean, but we Westerners are far too sensible to do something like that. Indians, on the other hand, have no such qualms.
On a beautiful day, while we were finally enjoying Baga beach, the rain having let up briefly, several buses pulled up from deep in the interior of India, full of awe-struck Indian tourists. The beauty of Baga is the large sand bar, a buildup of sediment from the mouth of the river which spills into the sea, providing a large safe area to wade out into the ocean, free from the powerful swells and currents that rock the rest of the Goan beaches. The Indian tourists took full advantage of this fact, not stopping to change, try on bathing suits, or even buy some cheap souvenir jewelry, by proceeding straight into the water, shoes, clothes and dignity still worn.
The amazed joy visible on their faces was enough to make the absurdity of the situation seem trivial. Like disciples reaching the goal of a pilgrimage, the water brought out a childish wonder in them. If only we weren’t so jaded, so spoiled, perhaps the beauty in simple things would still make us happy; make us able to simply be, immersed in the joy and wonder of the world around us. Wet clothes are a small price to pay for the experience of pure joy.