India is the most magical place I've ever been. There's a combination of senses that can't be duplicated anywhere else in the world, even in your favourite local Indian restaurant. I loved India. But I also hated it.
I hated the garbage littering every single street I walked on. I hated the feeling that I'd stepped in a puddle and didn't know if it was water or sewage or both. I hated looking into the eyes of the old lady sitting in the gutter next to the sidewalk and seeing a lifetime of hardship and suffering. I hated being asked over and over and over again to take a selfie with every guy with a smartphone.
India tests your ability to deal, both mentally and emotionally, with the reality of humanity. It's impossible not to look into that lady's eyes and not feel extreme sadness. I suppose what you do with that sadness depends on the type of person you are. Most people come out of India a changed person.
There are those who travel to India to experience a culture, both good and bad, that they've never experienced before, and there are those who travel to India so that they can add some colour to their Instagram aesthetic.
Don't get me wrong, I love colour, and I love a colourful Instagram. I understand that Instagram is a platform to showcase the most beautiful places in the world, and to prove to everyone how much fun you're having in those places. India is definitely one of the most beautiful places in the world. But India is also one of the most raw and shocking places in the world, and in my opinion it's just as important to let future visitors know and see that.
I knew before I went to India what I was going to experience (to a point). I mentally prepared myself for months for the assault it would have on my senses. That's why I loved India so much. I knew exactly what I was getting myself into, so I was able to process the shocking things I saw, and appreciate the beauty and realness of it all. That's also how I knew when it was time for me to leave India. When I got tired of the constant stimulation and wasn't able to deal with the crowd, I knew it wasn't doing me any good to be there any more.
I think people who hate (and only hate) India do so because they expected something different. They looked through photos of Instagram influencers and travel photographers and saw unique architecture, beautiful saris, delicious-looking food and a world of colour. What they didn't see was the poverty and the dirt and the overcrowded streets.
I believe that if people know what they are getting themselves into when they commit to travelling to India, they might be able to anticipate and prepare for the shocking parts of it, which will help them to appreciate the beautiful parts, and they will love India as much as I did.