Returning to India has been a dream of mine ever since I left in 2001. We’ve been dating long distance for 12 years (after an obvious love-at-first-sight attraction) and the time has come to go back and hug her beauty. It took my digestive system many years to recover from our first date, but in every other facet of my body, there’s been a desperate wondering and yearning. Especially my heart. And it won’t go away. I guess this is what true love feels like.
My time in India in 2001 (I arrived two days after 9/11) fundamentally influenced the person I am today. Prior to my visit to India, I was sheltered, naive and had no idea how unfair (or poor) the world was. India opened my eyes and made me a better person; I am a social worker who does development work nowadays directly because of India.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve begun organize my upcoming second date. It’s really taking shape. Every step, decision and arrangement that has been made has been organic, natural and easy. Almost too easy. (Was this meant to be all along?) I now have the perfect solo pilgrimage in store for a month of healing and spiritual growth.
I plan on visiting holy sites to Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists and cities that I have never been to before. This exposure is yet another push to whole, entire, complete love and light. And a much-needed peaceful experience before I enter into the first (and most difficult) year of a PhD program. Here’s how the journey will likely look. (I am truly looking forward to sharing my experiences with all of you and writing to my heart’s content. There’s a memoir in me somewhere.)
1. Delhi for a night with a friend’s friend who is also a social worker and has a young daughter. They are warmly welcoming me into their home. I already feel like we’re going to hit off extremely well.
2. Amritsar. It’s always haunted me that I never saw the Golden Temple the first time I was in India; it is a very prominent Sikh Gurdwara. This temple appears to be even more beautiful than the Taj Mahal and is my first stop on my way up north.
3. Dharamsala. The Dalai Lama’s home and Tibetan refugee settlement, nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas. For 10 of the 14 days I plan on staying in Dharamsala, I will be at a Meditation Retreat Centre and taking a residential course called Introduction to Buddhism. I am encouraged to remain silent for 10 days and I will not be able to interact with the outside world at all. This will be a tremendous learning experience and probably one of the most challenging things I will ever undertake.
4. Rishikesh. Rishikesh is known as the “world capital of yoga”, and is considered a very holy city by Hindus. It is even vegetarian by law. Several temples ancient can be found along the banks of the Ganges in Rishikesh. I will be staying in an Ashram, honing in on my new-found ability to meditate (hopefully!) and practising yoga.
5. Hardiwar. I have a good friend who work closely with this Ashram/Orphanage/School and I’m pretty lucky to be making this my home for a few days. I can’t wait to meet the children and the selfless people who raise them. They also do cross-fit with the kids every day. (Most people are already suggesting that I’m likely to come home with one, if not two, of these orphans. Oh dear. They are quite possibly right. )
6. Back to Delhi to regroup and give thanks before returning home. And to get henna done!
Phir milenge, India.