India and Me

India. Say it the way I say it and a vision of explosive color, mystery and magic wavers into place. Upon arrival and a week of exploration in Mumbai and Ahmedabad, it’s everything I imagined plus so much more. India has always seemed a place of exotic flora, fauna, people, and food, and basically this is true; however, there is much that is left out of my previous vision of India. Things I imagined about India that are true:

  1. No shade of the rainbow is excluded. From the colorful saris and parakeets that explode with vibrancy to the exotic vegetation of banyan trees and red lantern-like flowers, India is as colorful as any uninformed westerner (like myself) would have imagined.
  2. The food tests and challenges your palate. These spices and curries whose names I can neither remember nor pronounce present a spectrum of flavors that explore every taste bud and all corners of the palate.
  3. This place is magical. In some ways (perhaps being at an ashram with Gandhi’s quotes on every wall makes this claim biased), magic seems to float all around us. The culture of India is so ancient it only seems obvious that in this exotic place, magic and mystery are ever present. The people too seem to have a meditative connection and understanding of the earth and of life.
  4. The heat. Need I say any more? It devours you. Even indoors, where the fans whirl constantly, the heat remains stagnantly inside of you, refusing to leave without drenching you in sweat.

Unexpected things I discovered about India and about myself in India:

  1. The people have some of the biggest smiles and warmest hearts. Living in New York City for two years, the people here stunned me with their warmth. Who back in the States would invite a group of eighteen strangers into their home for tea? Who back home would welcome others by placing bindis on every person’s forehead? Here everyone wants to be your friend, and I want to be every person’s friend too.
  2. Modernity, to some extent, has reached the many corners of India. Cell phones, for example, are common and practically everyone has one or even two.
  3. I like being disconnected from the Internet. Being at the ashram, which has no Internet connection, I have realized that I do not need to depend on the Internet every day. In fact, it is actually quite refreshing not to feel the urge to check my email every waking moment.

India has had numerous surprises and all have made me fall in love with the place even more. Even being here for one week, India has given me much to hope for, contemplate, and consider. It is a beautiful place with beautiful people, and even when we move from place to place (as we speak we are leaving ESI), it is hard to leave our newfound friends behind. Of course, we may be physically leaving them, but spiritually, India and its people have found a permanent place in my heart.