An early-morning sight-seeing trip to cooling pond #1 of Bokaro steel plant gave me a direct channel into a part of the Indian psyche. The cooling pond is a raised, artificial pond constructed to provide clean, cooling water for the steel plant. It is surrounded by a large raised wall and wetlands, as well as green areas. The pond is huge, somewhere on the scale of 22 km around, and has a number of planted fish living inside it (which you can fish at a fee per hook).
As we traveled along the sides of the pond, we soon found ourselves surrounded by no-one, an event that so far been quite uncommon in my (limited, yes) Indian experience. We took the motorcycle all the way out to the edge of a small ridge jutting out into the lake. As we reached the end and got off the motorcycle to take some pictures, one of my colleagues proclaims "Not much people come here often, it's very, very lonely here" in a voice indicating this being a place that gave him the shudders (like an abandoned house or such).
His short statement left me thinking, "This would be exactly the place your average Swede would describe peaceful, beautiful, serene and, yes, even lonely". However, in the case of the average Swede standing there, lonely would indicate something positive, it would indicate a place where you could be left in peace with your thoughts. For my Indian friend there was nothing positive about his usage of the word lonel, rather he was clearly uncomfortable about not being surrounded by throngs of people.
When I explained that in Sweden, most places were like this (indeed, Sweden has a third as many inhabitants as small Jharkhand province and a tenth as many as neighboring Bihar), he shrugged and said Sweden must be a very lonely and sad place.
In a country as crowded in India, his attitude is quite appropriate, and has undoubtedly developed through living life surrounded by a massive amount of people at all times. Thinking of it, it seems quite obvious, but it reminds me of how very subtle the differences in how we perceive the world can be and how markedly they are shaped by our surroundings.