Guest post: forever changed by India

April 19, 2014
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Back in 2004, my Florida friend, Lore Raymond, went to India, and like me, returned forever changed. Here’s something she wrote after her trip that captures very well how India grabs visitors and never lets go.  Read on:

Ahhhh, India–the mystic continent of vibrant Crayola-colored saris, 500 languages, a billion people, and the world’s largest democracy outside the USA with take-your-breath-away scenery–secretly wants to keep each of us in the East. That’s why it took her so long to release us: 24 hours of fanny-numbing sitting in cramped airline seats, freezing air side terminals, and tiny backseat taxis to return to the West. And I’d do it again next month if I could.

These seemingly never ending stretches of time opened my floodgates of memories. It’s as though the hard drive is so full that I must shut down and reboot. So I want to shut down. I want to allow Incredible India’s monsoon-like torrents of memories wash over me. I want to remember every detail so that I can accurately answer the question, “So, how was India?”

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You don’t just “see” India. All your senses are flooded by India. She seduces you first with spicy chai (tea) and vegetarian foods seasoned with masalas (spices); soothes you with trance-like sitar, flute, and tumblas (drums) music in every marbled hotel lobby, taxi-choked street, and muddy, sewage stenching alley; stimulates your eyes with the jewel-like rainbow of saris, paintings made with gems, and gold in such exotic designs you can’t describe. (Did you know that India consumes 70% of the world’s gold?) and; continually tempts you to purchase exquisitely carved wooden boxes, trays, and elephants or perhaps Kashmir shawls, silk scarves, or hand woven wool rugs with ancient tribal patterns. Happily, we succumbed to these temptations and helped India’s economy prosper… just a little.

Indians, a most gracious and polite people, treat visitors as “gods” and there’s no request too small. Can you imagine hearing, “As you wish, mam,” or “Right away, mam,” all day long?!  (Am I spoiled or what?) And ohhhhh, how she stuns you with her exotic sights! While everyone knows of the Taj Mahal and the Himalayas, they serve as elegant bookends to an array of must-see places that we visited like the Baby Taj which inspired the Taj; the exquisitely carved, lattice-work marble of the Dilawara temples in Rajasthan; the red sandstone Amer Fort where moguls (and we) entered through a portal called the “Sun Gate” a top a plodding, painted elephant; or English-looking estates perched on hilltops for greater Himalayan views. (Now that’s real estate I’d love to own!)

Then when we least expected it and were feeling comfortably sedated with rich, dreamy-like feelings, India repeatedly unzipped our hearts to place it in our throats!

India wanted to shock us up close and personal with her armies of poor: a starving, gorgeous brown eyed, 10-year old girl in the body of a 4-year old; a tiny 5′ woman leper with a hole for a nose and gnarled fists of fingerless hands, or a dried apple- looking, skeleton man who all stared at us, eye ball to eye ball, while clinging to our partially opened taxi window and soulfully begged for ten rupees or $.25.

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At different times in the trip, each of them clung, hoping for this miracle exchange before the long, three minute, red traffic light turned green; their pitiful pleas intensifying as the light change approached. In these three minutes, we, the “haves” and they, the “have not’s”, unexpectedly met like countless others do, thousands of times a day throughout India. With compassion and respect, I call these precious souls the “mud-apple people” and I am compelled to help them. And I will help them.

There’s much more to share. For now, thanks for letting me remember a slice of Incredible India . We returned happy, healthy, and safely with our luggage — though forever changed.

 

15 comments on “Guest post: forever changed by India
  1. Ryder Ziebarth says:

    Fabulous description. And Carol, you know I’de go back in a nano-second too. After being completely uncomfortable while I was there. Must be something they put in the tea to draw us back–like childbirth, we’re have to be crazy to want something so painful and exhausting yet again, but we do. The benefits we reap just outweigh the pain. Well written and thank you for posting.

  2. I’ve never been to India. Since you’ve share your fabulous experience Carol and now Lore’s, I hope to get there one day. Great photos!

  3. Barbara says:

    Lore – what pictures! What enticing prose. I’ve never been but it does seem to be a magical place, an exotic spot of contrasts and I’m intrigued at all the “books” you describe between the bookends of the Taj Mahal and the Himalayas. Your graphic description of some of the poor was difficult to read. I can only imagine what it must have been to witness. Thank you for sharing this slice.

  4. Doreen McGettigan says:

    Your memories are so soulfully written.
    I am looking forward to visiting India one day. I am terrified of how broken hearted I will be over the children.
    There are many people from India participating in the A-Z Blogging Challenge this year. Their posts are so enlightening.

  5. I need to get to India. No one I know wants to go, so it will most likely be a solo trip. It is one of those places I would like to take in with someone else.

  6. Next time, come to Nepal! Kathmandu is … well, there are no words that do it justice. The colors of the kurtas and the umbrellas, the sound of the bells, the feel of the monsoon …

    Come to Nepal. You won’t regret it.

  7. I feel as if I have been there myself! Thankyou so much!

  8. Kymberly says:

    Wow! What wonderful colors in your sari photo. I remember reading all your posts as you were still in India and feeling so glad to live vicariously. Interesting that you are drawn back. One of my favorite novels is Passage to India, which also captures this mesmerizing/ repelling/ seducing aspect of the country that you report.

  9. Edna Harris says:

    My sense of smell, sight, taste, touch have each been to India through Lore Raymond’s
    description. Thank you for blogging a copy of this ever so dear memory of her India.

  10. Puneet Kumar says:

    Carol, this article bath my mind afresh.
    As you know I am from India. Whatever is written is nothing new for me. However the way it all is written make my soul alive. Thanks Carol for letting me read such a lovely thing.

  11. Suzanne Fluhr says:

    My husband and I have traveled extensively around the world, but we are both afraid of India — for all the reasons you’ve identified. I hope we’ll overcome our fears and go someday.

  12. Kim Diaz says:

    WOW. Super vivid and beautifully-written description. This should be in Travel magazine… Excellent post!

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