What India and Germany Taught Me about Luxury and Longing

Traveling-to-Germany

At five PM, the show-stopper arrived in full force, making my five-kilometer drive to the Mumbai airport a two-hour taxi crawl. Admiring her work on my window, I exhaled, “Also a pleasure, Madame Monsoon, always a pleasure.”

When I reached the ticket counter of Lufthansa at the Mumbai airport, my thoughts poured out faster than the rain, “I would like a ticket out of here, please.”

The travel agent rubbed his keyboard just right and, being the genie that Lufthansa agents are, granted my wish. Next stop: Stuttgart, Germany.

The visit marked my sixth trip to my ancestral homeland and yet, this time everything was foreign. Hot water taps! Sports cars! Extensive grocery stores! Could eight weeks removed from advanced technology really clear my memory of what I was once accustomed to? “This is the Mercedes Benz factory,” my aunt said, transforming into a curator as she toured me around the once-familiar city that was now a museum to me.

I could feel the many stresses lifting off of my shoulders: the physical tension of being in such extreme heat and never knowing if I would be able to stomach my next meal, the mental anxiety of worrying about cultural faux pas, and the psychological trauma of ensuring I made it from one destination to the next safely.

“You may have anything in the bakery you desire.” My eyes grew wide. I could eat ANYTHING? After endless restrictions in India due to unclean water, improperly cooked vegetables, and liquid-fire-flavored meals, I was taken aback by the prospect of being able to eat anything I desired. This was the greatest country on Earth!

After a long, strenuous eight weeks in India, I was finally able to decompress. I could feel the many stresses lifting off of my shoulders: the physical tension of being in such extreme heat and never knowing if I would be able to stomach my next meal, the mental anxiety of worrying about cultural faux pas, and the psychological trauma of ensuring I made it from one destination to the next safely.

In Germany, I was no longer distracted by these discomforts and I could lose myself in my favorite hobbies. The climate was now conducive to exercise and I would spend hours running in the vineyards or through the life-sized Playmobil sets that are the villages. Every corner was dotted with plump bing cherry trees available for all to enjoy if only because the farmers had no time to pick them. When I grew fatigued, I would collapse into the manicured grass until the late hours of the evening and gaze at the harvest moon. One deep inhalation after the other, I grew full on the air. How delectable it smelled there! Just breathing was a dessert in itself.

I had three times as many shoes as I did in India, but none went with the dress I wanted to wear. I no longer worried about there being enough water in the well to pump a bucket shower because I had hot water on tap.

But along with the breeze came curious wafts of “comparison-ism.” In India, I only had two pairs of pants, three shirts, two shoes. My outfits were simple. Now I could wear skirts (so this was what my calves look like), and tank tops (was it OK to be showing my collarbone in public?), and my hair did not need to be tied back (freedom!). Maslow remained undisputed as I recognized that my comfort level was so high, I was no longer concerned with what I would eat or if my shoes would hold up.

But a new problem had arisen: without culture shock or stress, my desires were suddenly harder to fulfill. Instead of fearing what illness or fiery spice my next meal would bring, I grew tired of the fresh Ritter Sport chocolate I’d just purchased. I’d really wanted peppermint, not dark chocolate. I had three times as many shoes as I did in India, but none went with the dress I wanted to wear. I no longer worried about there being enough water in the well to pump a bucket shower because I had hot water on tap. Now if only it would come faster…

In the developed world, “comparison-ism” does not yield the ease that it should, but insatiability instead. With such luxury and selection, we analyze every little detail and find ourselves still dissatisfied. Fashionably late as usual, my realization arrived in a whisper to my conscience, “The scale of desire only goes down so far, but it goes up for eternity.” Perhaps my biggest challenge upon returning home will not be to re-adapt, but to be grateful for all that I have.

What India and Germany Taught Me about Luxury and Longing

About Monika Lutz

Monika LutzMonika Lutz has lived in seven countries and is the author of “Now What? How a Gap Year of International Internships Prepared Me for College, Career, and Life.” Although originally from Boulder, Colorado, she now resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts where she is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Government with a double minor in Mandarin Chinese and General Management at Harvard University.

One thought on “What India and Germany Taught Me about Luxury and Longing

  1. Avatar
    Ida
    October 25, 2011
    Reply

    So true the realisation of how little we really need, but how much we want when it is all aroud us.

    Materialisitc world = insatiabilty!

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