As cliche as it may sound, one of the most important parts of being a traveler is allowing yourself to live in the present. What makes travel so special and addictive is that each time you return to it, it always finds a way of being new and unpredictable. If you allow yourself to absorb as much of the experience as you can while you’re there and take it all in without any expectations, you will gain an abundance of beautiful moments and new knowledge from your travels.
So with this in mind I have chosen to reflect back on a very special trip I went on recently, where I decided to fully give myself up to India. To surrender to the madness and forget any preconceived ideas I had about personal space, or any of the other “norms” that I had become so accustomed to in my day-to-day life. India is a whirlwind of chaos meets soul. The energy is palpable and alive. It requires you to ditch your routine and leave the ordinary behind in order to focus all of your energy on the now. This is how I remember it.
When I close my eyes I go back to India. I feel my eyeballs twitching in every which direction, trying to capture the color and chaos and movement around me. I am captivated by a young woman with a piercing stare in her eyeliner enhanced eyes wrapping her sari around her pregnant belly. I see a child dusty with pride for his performance in a game of tag with his friends. I see a holy man bathing in the ghats, his skin worn so thin it’s as if his entire skeleton is exposed, he moves slowly cupping the water in his hands and shutting his eyes to embrace the cold chill on a hot day as he dumps it over his head. He sees me looking and offers a gentle smile, then continues with his bathing ritual. I keep walking.
I see camels ornamented in traditional garments of every color, with their hair shaved into intricate patterns and designs so that they are beautiful enough to be judged and sold at the Camel Fair. I see marigolds lining the lotus style archways that tower over the cities small streets. I inhale the smell of warm masala, which meets the scent of burning sandalwood from the shop across the way. I keep walking.
Further down the street I see a cow tethered to a rusty pole on the side of the garbage filled streets looking on at the world with mournful eyes. I see an older man with a red smudged bindi in the place of his third eye extracting the sweet syrup from a sugar cane stock for juice, and beside him two younger men preparing warm, smoky chapatti and steaming hot chai tea. I see a worn out tuk-tuk driver collapsed in the backseat smiling to be out of the heat, he offers a kind head bob in my direction.
I keep walking until I see a beggar amidst the sea of thousands of people, and I stop. He has no legs and he is as vulnerable as he can get, bearing his soul to the world. He also, has surrendered himself to the madness. I smile in his direction, aware of all the people pretending to ignore his presence entirely. His gentle eyes follow me as they cry for help.
I look around and I see another group of children, this time all holding hands and spinning around in circles until they collapse into a pile of giggles. I see a small family of 4 quickly clamber off the scooter they are on and head down to the lake to prepare offerings, which they light on fire and send off into the tangerine tainted sunset carrying all their blessings and wishes for the universe to receive. I keep walking.
Every emotion, feeling, and sensation is inside of me. I inhale and exhale and remind myself that I am surrendering my soul. I am accepting that everything here is out of my control and I am just an outsider, looking in on this never-ending melting pot tick away as it does every single day, quietly observing.
I feel a heartbeat through this city. I feel a pulse and I feel what it means to be human and alive. Everything is happening at once, the good the bad the beautiful and the ugly. The rhythm and movement carry on into the darkness. The breath of life never stops. This is why we travel, to see the world not just through our one pair of eyes, but through the eyes of many. My soul is elated and fulfilled. Thank you, India.