Hello and love from the Motherland. And what a sight she is. India is even more remarkable than I remembered. As soon as I landed, a sense of ease washed over me. My first steps were comfortable and in harmony with my spirit. I am home.
It’s pretty easy to see why was so shocked the first time I arrived here 12 years ago, as a ripe 22-year-old. It can be very intimidating, loud, insane and downright filthy. If your heart is not clear, it can be difficult to exist. People are very forward – I had forgotten how pictures and autographs of foreigners is novel. (Perhaps I’m being mistaken for Julia Roberts?) However, it’s even easier to see why I absolutely fell in love with it and why it’s my favorite place on earth. Here are a few of the gifts India has given me so far:
The pervasive smell of incense and sandalwood.
The vibrant colors and patterns of women’s clothing. And how they sit sideways in their saris on the back of motorbikes.
The distant sounds of hymns and chants.
The affection men show by either holding hands or wrapping their arms around each others shoulders.
The lack of acknowledgement for rules or conformity.
The shrines and deities everywhere. In all sorts of religions.
Chai, Limca and Thums Up; fresh warm breads, mangoes and curries.
The unbelievable grace in which people conduct themselves amongst such complete and utter chaos.
The warm eyes of those who smile back.
How important the family unit is.
Living in unison with animals.
Bhangra, bollywood and cricket.
I have so much to say but internet speed is not on my side; I will have to be brief at this point. (I can’t upload photos as yet either.)
I am currently in McLeod Ganj and am surrounded by green mountains and deep valleys. There’s even snow on a few visible Himalayan peaks! This place is an interesting mix of Tibetan and Indian culture. I absolutely love it. It’s not like the rest of India. Peace flags and Buddhist monks in their maroon robes make for a more peaceful environment.
I’ve already been through wet Delhi and hectic Amritsar. Both were very memorable and enjoyable. I sought solace at the Golden Temple. I felt Indian pride at the Indian-Pakistan border-closing ceremony.
In other news, I’m potentially going to have to avoid the Rishikesh/Haridwar area as the monsoon has arrived early. I was headed there next. The worst flooding in decades is posing significant problems in getting to these places. Thousands of tourists are already stranded due to landslides and I’d rather not be one of them. Plan B may have to be concocted on the fly! I could head to Pune/Mumbai instead and visit friends.
Tomorrow I will start my 10-day residential course on Buddhism. I will not be allowed to connect with the outside world whatsoever and will remain silent. I’m really looking forward to this experience and purposeful time for silence, solitude, peace, calm, clarity and inner growth.
Finally, the most important thing to note is not what is around me here but what lies within me. I am thoroughly enjoying my own company. I am happy. I am free. I am alive.
I will leave you with a few quotes/passages from Alpeh by Paulo Coelho. It’s the first book I’ve completed on this journey and abundant with wisdom. It is shaping my experience no doubt.
“Travel is never a matter of money but of courage.”
“Our life is a constant journey, from birth to death. The landscape changes, the people change, our needs change, but the train keeps moving. Life is the train, not the station.”
“I am born a pilgrim. Even when I’m feeling really lazy or I’m missing home, I need take only one step to be carried away by the excitement of the journey. I will never reach my goal by staying in the same place all the time. I can speak to my soul only when the two of us are off exploring deserts or cities or mountains or roads.”
“To live is to experience things, not sit around pondering the meaning of life.”
“Whenever I refused to follow my fate, something very hard to bear would happen in my life. And that is my great fear at the moment, that some tragedy will occur. Tragedy always brings about radical change in our lives, a change that is associated with the same principle: loss. When faced by loss, there’s no point in trying to recover what has been; it’s best to take advantage of the large space that opens up before us and fill it with something new. In theory, every loss is for our own good; in practice, though, that is when we question the existence of God and ask ourselves: What did I do to deserve this?”