Khardung La is one of the highest motorable passes in the world. It connects the Nubra and Shyok Valleys in Ladakh in Northern India.

 

It is impossible to resist the charm of India. There is no place on the globe as colorful, intense, captivating, heartbreaking or complex.

Despite the bouts of food poisoning and the time my right foot fell through a sewer drain, I can’t resist coming back. (I spent five summers in India teaching photography to high school students.) Every single moment, even just walking down the street, was an adventure.

While I’ve only explored a small portion of the vast country, there were endless amounts of surreal moments – photographing the Dalai Lama’s teaching at his temple in McLeod Ganj, skipping rocks across the clear waters of Tso Moriri Lake along the Tibetan border, and living on a houseboat in the tranquil backwaters of Kerala.

 

The Taj Mahal photographed through the entrance way on 120 mm Ilford XP2 film on a Holga.

 

I consider India to be my greatest teacher. The people quickly won me over with their kindness and humble elegance. I stayed at a guesthouse in the Himalayas run by an old man and his daughter, who was a nun. They spoke no English. The 80-year-old father spent the evenings by the wood stove reading his Buddhist mantra and spinning his prayer wheel. They had no running water and only had electricity for a few hours each night. Their life was simple. Yet, they were the happiest people I’ve ever met. I couldn’t help but wonder who has the better life—me or them? Their lives are harder physically, but Western life seems harder psychologically.

India dissolved every notion I had of the world and opened my mind. She made me grateful for the all the little things I took for granted and set my priorities straight –running water and 24-hour electricity are luxuries, not necessities. I have a greater appreciation for the ease of life in the U.S. thanks to India.

India also makes me laugh. Where else in the world can a herd of camels cause a traffic jam? Newspaper is considered an acceptable form of food storage. I’m always in awe and secretly jealous of how the locals can sleep soundly literally anywhere—on the tops of cars, concrete doorways or a grassy spot in the median of a large busy highway in the Texas-like heat. The U.S. would require you to sign a liability waiver and wear a hard hat just to walk outside the Delhi airport.

For more about India, check out my next post: 12 Places Not to Miss in India!