⋙ It’s after midnight and as I’m writing about my Southeast Asia trip, I’m having a hard time focusing. Not because my mind isn’t in Asia, it’s just in a different part of Asia. It’s in India. I have wanted to visit India since I was 16 and took an AP World History class and we had a section on world religions. As a midwest teenager my conception of Buddhism was the smiling, bald, fat man that I saw statues of in Chinese restaurants and Hinduism was the religion with millions of gods. This class opened my eyes and began a curiosity about culture that I had never experienced before. At that point I started reading books about culture and religion. One thing I read that stuck with me was Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah Macdonald, a woman who moves to India and spends her days learning about culture and religion [you can read more about it here]. I learned more about these religions from her book and my desire to visit India increased.
At 18, I sat in my Paths to World Religions Class my first day of college and sat eagerly in my seat, excited to have more insight into this world that was so exotic to me. So different. So beautiful. Throughout college I took as many Eastern Religion classes as I could into my education. During my college years I also drooled over movies like The Darjeeling Limited & 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama, re-read Holy Cow & I read other books including The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner, a man who travels the world in search of true bliss [you can read more about it here]. As this time passed I watched as a close friend uploaded his photos of his travels, which included India, and couldn’t get these images out of my mind.
Images like his and the ones below have been flashing through my head all night: Bright colors. Om symbols. Henna tattoos. Hindu festivals. Exotic spices. Extraordinary architecture. Prayer beads. Temples. Beautiful devotees.
I figured that I would share with these stunning photos that I found while dreaming of this country I so desperately want to visit.
“I’ve learned so much from the land of many gods and many ways to worship. From Buddhism the power to begin to manage my mind, from Jainism the desire to make peace in all aspects of life, while Islam taught me to desire goodness and to let go of that which cannot be controlled. I thank Judaism for teaching me the power of transcendence in rituals and the Sufis for affirming my ability to find answers within and reconnecting me to the power music. Here’s to the Parsis for teaching me that nature must be touched lightly, and Sikhs for the importance of spiritual strength. I thank the gurus for trying to pierce my ego armor and my girlfriends for making me laugh. And most of all, I thank Hinduism for showing me there are millions of paths to the divine.”
– Sarah MacDonald from Holy Cow –
“I love the sound of horns tooting, the rickshaws, the women balancing pots on their heads, the peanut wallah calling out, the bells at the temples. I love the Indian accent. It’s endless, really. I love everything.”
– Eric Weiner from The Geography of Bliss –
“I think when you come to India you are, to some extent, reliving the Buddhist myth. No matter where you come from or how poor you think you are, India puts it all in perspective. You may be changed by this forever or simply harden your heart to the seemingly endless needs of those around you. Or you may do as the young Buddha did, strike out on your own seeking answers to your questions.”
– Rick Ray from 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama –
“Eleven months of the year Pushkar is a quiet way station on the Hindu pilgrimage trek. But for twelve days in the month of Karttika (October – November), the town attracts nearly a million people. They come for several different reasons. First, Hindu pilgrims gather to bathe in Pushkar Lake, a large pond said to have sprung up miraculously when a lotus fell from the hand of Lord Brahma. At the same time, thousands of desert nomads ride from the Thar Desert to trade their camels and other livestock. Then tourists like us come from around the world (mostly Europe) to witness the whole vivid spectacle. And finally, merchants, hawkers, and traders of every strip swoop in to see their wares of the gathered multitude. The resulting mehla is one of the larges, most exotic and colorful festivals on the face of the earth.”
“The other reason I’m finding it hard to relax is that there always seems to be something going on – something to take in. I think I’ve blinked less since I’ve been here as I don’t want to miss anything, so my eyes have been open longer than normal. Maybe that’s why my eyes are so tired.”
– Karl Pilkington from An Idiot Abroad: The Travel Diaries of Karl Pilkington –
“Why do so many presumably sane westerners leave their wealthy, functional nations behind and travel to a poor and dysfunctional nation in search of bliss? Are they romanticizing the east, fall for Charlatans with flowing beards? Or did the 19th century scholar Max Mueller get it right when he said that, by going to India, we are returning to our ‘old home,’ full of memories, if only we can read them?”
– Eric Weiner from The Geography of Bliss –
⋙ While I may not be in India tonight, or tomorrow, or next month or even next year, it is still on my mind. I will continue to read books & articles, watch films & documentaries and drool over photo after photo of India and be ready at any point to hop on a plane with my love and make this dream come true.
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