Returning to the land of my childhood always brings a resonance within me. There is this 'joy 'n peace' combo working away inside. I just enjoy being back in India.
I like noting the things that stay the same and the things that change.
About 90% of men still seem to have moustaches - but not quite as many (thankfully) still relieve themselves pretty much anywhere. As one long-time observer noted, 'Indian men must have the smallest bladders in the world'.
You still need a dictionary of acronyms in order to interpret the newspaper. Headline after headline, article after article is dependent on clusters of capital letters. And 'CPI' is not the 'consumer price index', but the Communist Party of India - while CSI is still barely hanging-on as the Church of South India!
When I was taught to drive it was about looking one way and then the other - and then doing it all again - before venturing out onto the road. Here there is still that sense that the one who does not look at all has the right-of-way. Whether pedestrian or vehicle there is a lot of no-look venturing out onto the road as others give way to you. Establish eye contact and you will be waiting for hours.
I do not know where all the small notes of change are hiding in India, but shopkeepers still seem to have none of it when you purchase an item. And I smile when Indian shopkeepers in New Zealand seem to have the very same difficulty.
Travelling on the trains of India - tomorrow we take the 38hr trip from Bangalore to Kolkata - is still one of life's great joys. Sitting or standing at the open door of a carriage watching India go by...
What about plunging the thumb into the base of an orange? And I mean a real big orange - none of this ping-pong manadarin stuff we get in New Zealand. It is still one of the simple pleasures of India.
But there are things that change as well.
I'ved enjoyed watching Indians love their India and take pride in it. I don't remember it being like this. That Mysore zoo was stuffed with people - with Bethany and I the only foreigners.
I've been staggered by the status that India now has in the world. In the six weeks that I have been here, the leaders of the USA, France, and China have all visited in order to broker trade deals worth $10 billion, $6 billion, and $16 billion respectively. I hope some of that money reaches where it needs to go.
I've been humbled by the extent of the missionary force moving cross-culturally within India. I keep bumping into missionaries, Indian missionaries moving elsewhere in India. Consecrated people living sacrifically for the sake of the gospel. Some estimates put the number at 50,000 people. We even visited a school for missionary-kids - entirely Indian students. It wasn't like that in my day! Remember all that gnashing of teeth over foreign missionaries being sent home? God knew what he was doing.
I've been concerned at the lack of indigenous songs in the churches which I have attended. With just a few exceptions, they are singing what everyone seems to be singing. Very sad. It didn't used to be like that as the downside of globalisation begins to kick in.