Across the World: My half-year in India
Travel Blog #1. Dec 2016
A variety of emotions, thoughts, and sensations accompany me when I travel solo. And in India, everything is amplified. And everything is a paradox. Including me.
Wonderment & ease…
Most of the time, I feel a sense of calm and wonder. No matter how much chaos, noise or fervent activity is going on around me I feel ease and comfort…in the midst of it all. In Jaipur, for example, traveling through the city is an experience like no other. Cars, motorbikes, rickshaws, horse-drawn carts, bicycles and thousands of pedestrians converge in one crazy stream of movement and determination. All of them (well, the majority of them) know where they are going and find every single open space, or hint of open space, to merge into which leads to their destination. Yes there are traffic lights and obvious and acceptable “ways” of navigating the constant stream of movement…but it seems their strong will and determination is the driving force that gets them to where they are going. Also intuition, hyper awareness, and a connection to the flow of movement. It is pure dance. Accidents do happen, but not nearly as much as one would expect in what appears to be utter madness on the roads.
I don’t find myself in fear for my life or anyone else’s (including the stray dogs and cats and meandering cows)…instead there is a calm that runs through me. My second day in Jaipur, I rode on the back of my friend’s motorbike and was reminded of how much I love to travel through the city in this way. He asked if I was scared and I said “no way, I love this!” All that was keeping me from falling off the back of this bike to be consumed by the stream of traffic, was my desire to be in the flow, strong leg muscles and a will to live.
To completely trust and allow another to carry me to my destination without a scratch. To put my life in the hands of another.
We do this all the time every day, whether we are riding in a car, flying in an airplane, or taking a sailboat ride. Yet, to be a passenger on a motorbike in Jaipur, India, is the greatest act of surrender and trust. And also, it really isn’t so bad. This is the way it is here. Normal. Not a big deal. So I remind myself of this.
Overwhelm. A deep desire to blend. Hospitality and love.
Sometimes…well more than sometimes, I feel overwhelmed and out of place. Like I don’t belong. An imposter. A secret spy who isn’t very good about hiding my identity. Every stare, glare, twitch of the mouth, utterance, shrug is exaggerated in my mind to mean that this or that person doesn’t want me here. And the more I dress, look and act “Indian”, the safer I think I am. Yet, my fear tells me that they still know I don’t belong here. That the gig is up.
The greatest contrast to this fear is the amount of generosity, hospitality, and kindness I witness and experience from the Indian people. Almost every person I’ve connected with on a heart-to-heart level has told me to call on them if I ever have a problem or need help during my travels. I’ve been invited over and over again to have a meal or cup of chai with new friends. The desire to just be together. No rushing around. Just enjoying one another’s presence.
Back home in the west, it seems every single minute is accounted for in my schedule or daily planner. When I come to India, I am reminded of the absurdity of this way of living. How can one truly be in the flow and be open to the mystery of life when one is such a slave to time?
So right now I’m working on slowing down, being more in the flow and taking opportunities to connect with others and myself. In a few weeks my group tour of India begins with 7 other amazing women, so for now I get to wander, observe and let the magic unfold for me. Just for me.
I look forward to having travel companions during those lonely moments, and I relish the quiet time by myself…where I’m free to listen to the pulse of my desires and follow them accordingly.
And I also find that the more I stay in one area I feel welcomed by the strangers who seemed to stare and glare at me before. The story and charge around not belonging starts to dissolve and I am more recpetive to smiles and warmth.
Pushkar is one place I love to stay and make a temporary home in. The love affair with India began in this place and every time I come back (third time now) I feel my muscles relax and my heart pound louder in my chest. It beats stronger in love in this place. For so many memories. So much gratitude. And the familiar faces I see while walking in the market, passing by temples, and at my favorite restaurants make me feel so at home here.
It has taken me almost a week to publish this post. The internet is intermittent here. Sometimes the wifi connection is strong, sometimes it drops out completely. I see and experience things in India that I am not used to in the West. The wifi connection (or lack thereof) is just a small irritation. The long lines at the ATM are a little more frustrating. The way some people budge in line and crowd one another like it is no big deal is another aspect to get used to. The trash everywhere, dependence on plastic water bottles, navigating cow pies and walking on the left side of the street (with the flow) are all things that take time to get accostomed to. I’ve had to do this every time I’ve come to India.
Then there are the cultural norms and values that are very different from my own. During many conversations with locals, I’ve observed the judgements that arise in my mind…especially when it comes to women. The whole business of marriage and family and what is expected of women is very different and each caste of people have their own rules. Rajasthan is very traditional and old school, which brings a lot of richness and charm, but they are way behind the rest of the world when it comes to equality. So…I call on compassion and love when I notice the judgements. And I pray that things get better for women…in every culture, everywhere.
And then…I notice the millions of little things that remind me of why this place enriches my life so very much. The warmth, sweetness, generosity, wholeheartedness, devotion to God and spirit, the love of animals and the shanti way of life (especially in the small towns and villages) remind me of how I want to live my life. So I hope to continue to be a bridge…to help merge East and West through the way I show up in the world and share my gifts.
This…is just a bit of my India…
More to come…