When I came to India five years ago, I knew I´d fallen in love. The colours, the smells, the chaos, the absolute contrast to my life in England. It fascinated and drew me in like a magnet. I came to appreciate my need for that exoticism, that difference to´normality´as I know it, and I came to understand that a unique and rarely exposed side of my character is uncovered, a door to my heart is unlocked when I am in India. An aspect of myself that is otherwise hidden in some dusty recess blossoms and flourishes and energises me as a person when I am in this crazy, frantic, frustrating and endlessly gorgeous place.
This time, that seed of awareness, planted five years ago, has had the time to burst from its´bed and grow into a fully fledged flower of certainty. Four months has allowed me to really get to grips with India, the wonders of what it offers, the boundaries that can be traversed, and what it means to me as an open-hearted and impressionable twenty-four year old. When I try to describe India though I find it is beyond statement, for anything you say, the opposite is also true. It´s rich and poor, spiritual and material, cruel and kind, angry but peaceful, ugly and beautiful, and smart but stupid. It´s all the extremes. India defies understanding and for me, right now, that is okay. I can just about put my finger on what I love about the country and that is enough for me.
I love that the sacred is everywhere. Religion permeates from every orifice in India and the people here perceive the divine in all things. In every mountain, monument, ocean and rock. In every person a god exists, a divinity lives, and this belief creates an attitude of optimism, possibility, and vibrancy that cannot be denied. For me, visiting and being part of this vibrancy even for just a few months opens up philosophical fields of questions about who I am, what I am capable of, how my physical self and my mind are inextricably linked, and where I place limitations on myself. This reaction to India has obviously been a personal one but from the people I have met I can confidently say that this country acts as a playground for thought, nurturing and encouraging those inside to throw and catch the balls of opportunity, slide down the ride of possibility and hop-scotch their way to a deeper understanding of self. Whether this is through yoga, through meditation, through healing, through climbing a mountain, sitting on a beach, or riding on a bus next to a chicken in a swarming metropolis. Here, the thoughts that escape us in our every day lives are provoked and confronted in the here and now.
India attracts such a smorgasbord of interesting and diverse people to her shores and I have been spoilt with the amount of engaging folk I have come into contact with. I have absorbed all I can from those I´ve met, whether it be young travellers, holy men, people working in India a time, or holidayers searching for gratification and/or inspiration. I have become more gregarious and open hearted towards people I meet, consuming nuggets of wonder from those who have lived completely different lives to me and cementing the fact that meeting new people is one of my favourite things to do.
Resilience and patience is tested on a daily basis. The staring eyes, leering men, language barriers, incessant pushing to get anywhere, complete disregard for queuing and privacy. But writing all these things down still brings a nostalgic and affectionate smile to my face. Because all the frustrations, the alien behaviour, the immense cultural differences in every day exchanges and life...they all make India what it is. Without one, the place would crumble like a castle of playing cards. And so, I know I´ll be back, but for now it is farewell to India and a few poetic words in its´honour...
What a rollercoaster ride it has been
What sights and wonders I have seen
What enveloping experiences have been enjoyed
What preconceptions have been destroyed
What fire, what heat, what colours exposed
What vibrant harmonious symphonies composed
What teeming humanity has been endured
What relentless staring I have implored!
What entrancing people I have met
What deliciousness my tongue will never forget
What mind expanding open heartedness
What ways to explore prior carelessness
What deep breathing to exhale and in
What tingling stretching of the limbs
What soft, white sand to run through the toes
What delightful trinkets, jewels and throws
What fascinating faiths to explore
What grandiose monuments to stand before
What speed and thrill to travel on the streets
What normal tasks become impossible feats
What joy to emanate from a strangers´smile
What thoughts can arise from just sitting a while
What frustrations that make the mind explode
What strength of those carrying such heavy loads
What sounds that flow straight from the heart
What tenacity of refugees torn apart
What serenity in fluttering prayer flags
What heart-wrenching sights of children in rags
What hustle and bustle the city provides
What calm and reflection in the shimmering tides
What a place to be, a place to become
Whatever you please, in this Indian freedom.