It has always seemed to me that one’s perception of things is influenced hugely by one’s sense of scale, which in turn is a direct outcome of past experience. This came back to me strongly while on my Caribbean trip last month.
I went to two countries. The larger country has 250,000 people; the population of the smaller one is 100k. Accompanied by a number of my country-men, I set out to explore these countries. Very soon, I started to notice a pattern. My compatriots would try to explain Indian scale to the hosts. For eg. ‘Most large Indian cities have over 10 million people” or “India has a billion people” etc. This would be met a polite nod from the host – it was clear that our caribbean friends had no conception of what we were saying. Not that they did not get the numbers. Just that they could not even remotely comprehend the reality of these numbers.
Soon, I started to see the reverse to be true as well. We, indians could simply not comprehend the reality of a people who were born in and lived their entire life in a country with a population that most self-respecting housing colonies in India would have.
Scale (in this case, of population) is a veil through which we see everything around us. Travel can sometimes bring this fact home with a vengeance.