Those days I was travelling through Uttar Pradesh, hopping from city to city in a whirlwind of a trip, resting nowhere, moving endlessly. First there was Allahabad, then Lucknow, then Varanasi. There was a stir of insanity somewhere deep in my mind or maybe it was genius, always hard to distinguish between the two. But I knew I was changing. That I wasn’t the same person I had left home as. With every city I rummaged through like a storyteller flipping through pages of his memory, I learnt more, about myself, about the city, and about my country and country people.
I was at Prayag, bathing in the waters of two rivers which confluence and became one, people struggling in and out of their clothes while their boats threatened to turn over with the weight of others disembarking and climbing aboard, it was in the middle of this armada of multi-coloured boats that I received my first lesson. When you’re surrounded by men and women, of all ages, colour and speaking languages which all seem garbled and different from each other but equally confusing to you, getting ready to take a dip in the holy waters without a shred of doubt as to why they were doing so or what they sought to achieve, you realised what binds every single individual in our country together; not money, not religion, but faith in something greater than ourselves. It reminded me of the time I was pacing restlessly in the corridor while my classmates were being interviewed for their dream job. Soon my name was called out and at that moment my knees felt like they would cave in, unable to support the weight of my stomach which at this point felt like it was made of lead. But I remembered what my grandfather had told me when I was a child: that it wasn’t the certainty of winning which made brave warriors out of simple men, it was the faith that you could if you tried. That night, over all the phone calls congratulating me on my new job, I had missed grandfather, and thanked him for the faith he had installed in me in my formative years.
A few mornings later, I was cruising through the streets of Lucknow, trying to figure out how to get to the Imambaras from Google maps and failing splendidly at it. Enter Edreesh, a man with beard as saffron from heena as the hair on his head was grey from age, he chewed betel leaves with spices which resulted in the emanation of a strong fragrance every time he opened his mouth to speak. He was driving a cart with a horse, brown and royal looking, pulling it. He offered to drive me to the Imambara and elsewhere and I agreed, taking his hand and climbing onto the cart, which started moving at a brisk pace as soon as I had climbed up. The whole morning we trudged through the streets of Lucknow, me marvelling at the impressive architecture the Nawabs had made and left behind. In the afternoon Edreesh finally dropped me off at the front door of my hotel. It was only after I had come out of the shower that I realised I had dropped my wallet somewhere, possibly in the tonga itself, which by now had definitely vanished into this maze of a city. My worries about how I’d get back home didn’t last for long however, since the telephone in my room rang, the manager informed me someone was standing in the lobby with my wallet, claiming I had dropped it in his tonga. That day, I learnt two things: that not everything they show in the movies is necessarily fiction, and that honesty is a virtue, we Indians hold really close to their hearts. Months later, I would remember this lesson and confess that unlike my friends, I don’t know how to cook or play the guitar, and I only write sporadically and not that great either, and the woman I would confess these things to would smile and tell me, it’s okay, honesty trumps showing off guitar skills when it comes to impressing a girl any day. I would blush and ask her out on a date, to which she’d agree, proving the truth of the two things I had learnt from Edreesh, all over again.
The final part of my travel culminated in my stay at Varanasi, a place where days are spent in the courtyards of temples and night comes to you on the stairs of the numerous ghats overlooking the river Ganga. Amongst these ghats, the one I spent most of my time on, was Harishchandra Ghat, where the walls were splattered with graffiti of all kinds and colours, and two crematoriums were at work all times of the day, the electric one as well as the one where wooden pyres were built and turned to ashes in the open. The flames of this ghat never burn out completely, myths say, because there is always someone’s pyre burning here. Here I learnt my third, and probably most important lesson. That of letting go, of accepting that some things in our lives are meant to leave us at a certain point, and we must see this as an inevitability, not something that breaks us beyond repair. Years ago, when I had missed my chance of getting into the most premiere institution for engineering in India, the sense of mourning had been almost unbearable, threatening to tear me apart. It was at that time that my friends stayed beside me, reminding me each day, let go of what hurts you, and embrace the new that comes along. Finally, I had accepted my situation, used it to my advantage, learnt to be happier. Everyone at this ghat had lost something, I realised, but they would stand up again tomorrow, they will live again, love again, fight again, and that, is what winners are made of.
With the new TVC of Lufthansa, we get to see how these lessons are ingrained into every Indians, leading them into being winners and influencers on a global platform, and inspiring others to be more like us. Lufthansa has, and continues to incorporate in itself, the values and virtues that make Indians who they are, thus being an important aide and supporter of being truly Indian, and have shown us how to be #MoreIndianThanYouThink.