For those wishing to visit India, one of the main thing they need to pack with them is plenty of patience. The eternal queues, endless paperwork, triple copies of all forms, crowds, endless traffic... living with all of this requires endless patience.
Everyone in India seems to want to try your patience. The street hawker will bargain with you till you are blue in the face. And all this for a few rupees ! The whiney beggar will follow you until you either give him some money or abuse ! The auto rickshaw driver will play Russian Roulette on streets over crowded with people, animals and vehicles of various size and speed. You can not feel any more secure in a car - the driver will insist on playing Chicken Run with an over-loaded lorry on a road narrowed by roadwork. There is no peace in the temples either. Priests and devotees alike insist on loudly ringing brass bells at all hours of the day. Loud "devotional" music blares out of loud speakers from temples, mosques, and film/ pop music blares out of every pan shop.
You need patience for crossing the roads, where no man made law rules - only the eternal law of self preservation and survival guarantees any chance of getting through. Footpaths are virtually non-existent on most through fares. Where such a facility exists, it is more often than not taken over by hawkers, beggars, shanty dwellings and the ubiquitous cows. Navigating the roads of India is an art form and an entire documentary series could be made on the finer points of "Survival on the hostile terrain of the Indian road system".
Everywhere you go, you are forever surrounded by people. Even in the remoter parts of the country, life engulfs you. In the houses, friends, family and house servants are forever present. Outside, life of all description assails you from all directions. Even in the villages and hamlets of India, you cannot escape the constant scrutiny of men and beasts. You are forever being observed. Not just because you are an outsider, but because many people have nothing better than to stare ! People are forever discussing the comings and goings of their neighbors and their neighbors' neighbors !! Animals have caught on this habit. Cows, buffaloes and even dogs stare. Apart from barking at night, dogs enjoy laying in the middle of the road and staring at all drivers who force them to get up and vacate that warm spot on the tarmac.
I can now understand why Indian Rishies recommended patience as an essential virtue. Even our Gods and Goddesses hold up their hand and ask us to wait and be patient. Indeed, the queues are often greatest in India's temples ! Everyone want so appease the Gods. Someone wants a better job, a wife, a son, win the lottery or simply want to be "seen" at a temple because it is fashionable to be at that particular temple ! Indeed, it is a status symbol in certain circles, and the best of the best will dress up in traditional grab to pay their humble respects to the divine.
Of course, nothing is more divine than money. In a nation that takes pride in the likes of Buddha, Mahavir and Mahatma Gandhi, money is forever the main topic of conversation. Everyone is thinking of getting rich and rich quickly. Corruption is still an ever present problem. Wheels of government are still greased by wades of money. Most of the politicians are accused of corruption, murder, sleaze and thuggary. Dressed in simple, rough, hand spun clothes, this new class of our rulers is becoming more and more adept at sucking money from every pore of it’s masses. It doesn't matter if it’s a large military contract or a massive aid for emergency fodder for cattle, they will sponge as much as they can out of this.
Unfortunately, politicians are not the only ones. Sadly, some of our saffron clad monks are also involved in flaying us for lining their pockets. While the masses of India find it difficult to keep a tin roof over their head, many so called monks live in marble palaces with solid gold wash basins and silken robes. When the populace is hemmed in on one side by greedy rulers and even greedier clergy, how can they escape this atmosphere of greed?
Don't get me wrong, I love India and think it is a great country with an even greater potential, but, it requires a lot of patience to discover this greatness.