India beckons you in, seduces you then transforms you. Life is considered to be lived wholly, absolutely and perfectly, only when your soul encounters this Land of Holiness
It is not just a country; it is life.
It slaps you on the face and puts you exactly where you need to be. If you are a complainer, it will make sure you encounter as much poverty as possible. If, like me, before my first visit, you are reluctant to be with yourself, then it will present as many situations that shove you in that direction. The list goes on but what one needs to be fully aware is that the awakening shocks through you like thunder. It will strip you off the layers that keep you comfortable and warm; layers that limit your growth and life itself. It does that in the most sensual of ways - like a lover undressing you when the soul wishes to bond. Once this happens, the lover leaves your side, you are alone to face the stage and the audience
You change forever and there is no turning back
The thing is this, I thought that my first visit was all about infatuation at first sight – the kind of little girl excitement you experience when you visit a place for a brand-new time and you're just about falling in love with anything and everything every two seconds.
India, five years back was no cruise. It was a do or die for me and I went there to greet a part of myself that I had neglected for a lifetime. Nothing scared me – the jabs, the lone travel, being alone and getting lost or eaten by wild animals. I just had this torrential force within me to just go and lose myself there.
When I did land on Holy grounds, the Ganga took some breath away. The Goddess was sat on a lotus flower and emanated a ginormous energy of purity, one that would strip you instantly from a lifetime of Karma and sins. I would sit there for hours just watching life pass by and be cleansed of impurities.
The mountains stood on parallel lines in majestic beauty.
I was there for YOGA of course and some ego shattering lessons; awakening moments of spiritual essence and not, to heal my soul and meet me. The dancer accompanied me of course and it was this part of me that instigated the absolute hunger and passion that the India culture is made up of.
‘Teach us’ ‘We want to learn’. They don’t drag feet, they do, act, make life happen.
And then, I saw it very clearly.
It was a picture I thought would stay with me for a short while or perhaps until after I left.
I was wrong
I kept picturing it – a hut, a school, a place that would gather kids and adults alike and offer them my Dance, Yoga, life and anything that my soul choreographs. I saw it everywhere.
I kept seeing it when I left India and years on but then it faded during my 2nd visit when India nearly killed me. This was the most ironic form of illness, one that stemmed from a senseless urge to fall for street food. The gut was poisoned and pooh was flooding out of me uncontrollably, yet my mind remained untouched and very focused; I was there to study and teach and my eyes despite the physical illness, remained eager to learn and the information was being absorbed surely and beautifully. I sat up in bed all day reading and awaiting my next urgent call to the floor hole (toilet)
Back to the vision
I lost it totally and for a long stretch, until my yearly outdoor Kids Camp in Malta came along and I was taken back o that mission. This was precisely one year ago and it inspired me to inject the week with as much freedom and sense of belonging as possible.
Then it was time to return to India and this time.
I didn’t possess as much zest as I did the previous times, perhaps due to the fact that I needed to structure it safely as this was Jules’s time in India, no Yoga and no Janet plans. So I completed the logistics and just got on with it. There was no excitement, just a slight anticipation of Jules's expectations of India and the lengthy journey that prevailed.
We got to the airport and I totally mixed up our journey details, was checking the wrong flight and with that information, the stewardess announced that our first connecting flight had been missed.
Then it all came rushing back, my India and everything that comes with it. Was she threatening it? For a few seconds, all my blood rushed to my face and then down to my feet in absolute shock.
I wanted it as badly as I did the first time and I could have miraculously formed wings and flown us there sans airline.
This would be a short 10 day trip.
Ashram style, new friends, instant life, beautiful spices, lack of sleep and plenty of water, an average of 12,000 steps daily from Ram Jhula to Laxman Jhula, lots of beeping horns and men spitting their guts out and there it was again.
I guess the revival of my sense from the Ganga vision and the magnificence of the Himalayas switched on my absolute connection to this land and my utmost and utter urge to be there for good.
The vision and my mission, flooded in too and this time both accompanied me everywhere. Visually, I saw it in my mind's eye and it became real and extremely palpable. The hut, that establishment that would bend souls and bodies into dance and yoga and bring life onto the stage.
So, it wasn’t infatuation after all!
That picture I saw 5 years ago, that love, that oomph in my gut
It was real
My first encounter with monkeys, 5 years back, was an equal dose of cuteness and aggression, I fed a baby and his mama took it personally. I then had some jungle Karma knock on my door and in my absence, these crazy dudes, ate my tampons, my soap, chewed corners of my books and laid my rubbish all over my bed
I warned Jules to stay away but I forgot that the child possessed a ‘just do what you think is limitless’ green card and he went ahead and made friends with most of them. It became his daily mission to buy biscuits chapatti and fresh fruit, stand in one of the corners of Laxman Jhula and wait around for the monkeys to gather and sit with him for a daytime picnic. With that came Indian photo shoots and girls eyeing him up whilst he played his usual Bear Grylls part.
The monkeys had the same teeth as the pissed off mama I had encountered the first day of my first trip, yet they were so gentle and happy to just sit with him, food or no food.
The food I found to be proper soul porn. It comes from all over the world when you’re in the cafes but very much local when you dine in the Ashram. Chapatti, Dhaal, rice, Paranthas every day and until it is all coming out your ears and other places :)
You walk along the streets of the village and into the markets and you are tantalised with fresh mango, clementine, strawberry, sugar cane juices. Momos steamed or fried and inundated with melted chocolate or vegetables are unavoidable. Hand-made and churned Bombay mix is also there but that comes with a very loud reminder of death, bacteria poisoning and 40 loo visits in 4 hours.
The Mountains and the Goddess
I decided to sign me up too. It’s not my thing to trek anywhere let alone a 3 hour downhill into the Himalayas.
It was a 5am wake up call, an hour uphill drive, Meditation and a breakfast of paranthas shared between us and the monkeys and an orgasmic sun rise. You feel you are on top of the world until you start a 3 hour descent and reality hits you and your legs feel like they want to retire and give up. My feet love fresh air and like me they feel trapped when enclosed in shoes. After the initial excitement of being so high up witnessing the fire rise into the skies and following that, sitting in Kunjapuri Temple and learning all about how Sati, wife of Shiva was carried lifelessly until her upper body fell at the spot where the temple stands.
The River is another story. Water is my element and wherever I travel to I make sure it is within very easy reach as it calms my Pitta (fire) right down. Jules was signed up for a 120 minute rafting afternoon I opted out on this occasion as I had already lived through its calm and aggression and experienced what it's really like to be totally submerged in its raw and moody state.
For a while now, I will not be able to look at any other place with some eyes of love so until I return