August 20, 2007

Incredible India Indeed!

After weeks of an exhilarating experience of travelling to some of the most fascinating places on this planet, I am back. I'm refreshed and feel filled with enough strength and energy in me to hopefully continue being here until its time for another holiday.

The trip to India that I undertook this time was a different kind of trip in many ways. Without indulging into the details, what happened mainly is that a few plans that I had made of travelling in the company of a couple of friends did not materialize for some reason or the other.

There is something about the mental freedom that I experience when I am travelling, and I couldn't afford to miss it just for the lack of right company on the way. It is said that courage defines all other human behaviour, so it didn't take long for me to realize I have enough of it to go on my own and hence decided to continue on my journey, most of the time solo, and catching up with others, who could meet up, in a few places.

Some may complain of the narrow lanes, the pollution, the heat, the rains and stifling humidity and noise of India, but I love it and right now, I miss it. The friendship of the people of India, their hospitality, trust and warmth can't be explained. It can only be experienced. And this reality has struck me more so since I've returned here.

Since I travelled solo, I was fortunate to strike up conversations with an array of fascinating fellow travellers, including two bankers and an educationist, while on a journey on Shatabdi Express, as I was simultaneously enjoying the glorious countryside roll by. It was also good to have insightful conversations with a businessman from Delhi and an air hostess of Lufthansa while on a bus journey on the way to Jaipur.

Intervening in the heated dispute between the taxi driver and a young Canadian couple on the journey between Manali-Sarchu to finally bring about peace between them was an interesting episode. The other Australian-German couple was more understanding, and helped me into hammering the message into the young couple that it certainly wasn’t a good idea to raise the BP of the old taxi driver while driving down from a height of almost 17,000 feet above sea level on the Rumtse valley. Conversing with two gentlemen from Srinagar on the way to Nubra Valley was equally interesting, and it ended up with sing-songs on the way back from the beautiful Himalayan village of Diskit.

It's such a pleasure to watch and experience the culture of fascinating Jaipur, including their menfolk’s colourful turbans in shocking pink, red, orange and green and their sparkling white shirts and dhotis. Cool Manali, situated on the Beas River Valley, was a welcome getaway after spending time in sultry Japipur. I must emphasize here that journeying through the Manali-Leh highway, maintained by the Border Roads Organization that includes the highest mountain passes in the world, with a stop-over in the tents in Sarchu, has been one of the best road-trips and experiences of my life. Passing through the valleys of Lahaul, Rumste, and Nubra is a captivating experience.

Spending an entire day at the picturesque mountain village of Fiang, and meeting a wonderful and hospitable Ladakhi family of four generations, each member of the family diffusing warmth and friendliness throughout my stay with them, made me feel it was a special day and got me into a delightful mood. I thoroughly enjoyed the joyful ambling from one house to another through the mountain brooks, fields of potato, mustard and other cultivation, drinking cups of delicious home-made yoghurt and sipping endless cups of their ‘pink tea’ laden with fresh butter, both before and after lunch. With a tummy full of exotic food, towards evening I walked, to pay a visit to their beautiful Fiang Gompa built on a steep hill, with a bunch of tittering girls of the same family. It has been one of the most memorable days of my life, thanks to the Soto family.

Fulfilling my dream of being atop Khardung-La Pass was rewarding in more ways than can be described. Passing through the mountain passes at Rohtang-La, Lachulang-La, Tanglang-La, Baralacha-La and finally, Chang-La on the way to Pangong-Tso Lake have been enchanting experiences. I won’t even make an attempt here to describe my experience at Pangong Lake, which certainly deserves a full posting.

For me India is a place where I can walk on the mountains of Himalayas on a particular day and a few hours later, can have a stroll on a sea-shore with a beer. And I did just that! I left the northern Himalayan capital of Leh of Ladakh at 6 am to reach my home town in the South-western part of India (Karnataka) by 6 pm – all within a span of 12 hours (of course with 3 flights to board too).

I love my India for what it is, for its splendour and misery, its chilling socio-political success stories and failures, for its poverty and its amazing heart-warming munificence.

Some of the happiest people I've met in my life are Indians, who actually live by the day. Sometimes I feel shaken up by the overwhelming poverty seen around. Yet the needy people’s blank refusal to see a bleak future or a life not worth living is a lesson to be learned by the pessimists of this world. Poverty is not necessarily a question of lacking money and I find many of them rich in almost all other aspects. They refuse to be bogged down by the harshness of the realities of their lives and continue smiling. It is so heartening to see the strength of the human spirit that greets me everywhere in India. India is a place that moves me to wonder about many things, a place where the extremes of the human conditions are exposed – unadulterated and raw. That may fill some people with disgust but I am filled with awe.

For every little inconvenience of travelling in India, there is a rich reward of rare and wonderful experience. So often during the journeys I am reminded of what is really important in my life and what is not.

India is beautiful, magical and mysterious. I love the journeys, the excitement, the peace, the railways, the crowds, the airports, the vast expanse of spaces, the crisp mountain air, the awesome forests, the astounding flora and the fauna, the flowing waters of the rivers, the majestic mountains of the Himalayas, the high passes, the exotic birds, the variety of languages, good humour and the sense of humility I feel when I am in India.

With my interests in people and culture, I have a great time feasting on the variety of life available in India. It's a wonderful time just to watch it all unfold in front of me, observing people and their ways. That includes bazaars, festivals, and crafts, the temples, the faith of the people, the superstitions, the hustle and bustle, the colors, the unusual and unexpected sights and the people one gets to meet.

Even if I were deprived of any one of these, I would still be fascinated by India. I feel alive in India, I feel at home in India. It's one place where I feel at peace.

India keeps me endlessly curious. There is so much unity in diversity, and to think of 60 years of harmonious living in a pluralistic society is something to commend about.

India provides such a rich mix of experiences that it indeed is a special place to visit. Being an Indian, I love many more things beyond what any tourist to India would generally enjoy.

I must soon find a way and fulfill my dream of making India my permanent place of residence. I am told that once a person returns to India for good, the initial charm would wear off quickly and reality would set in after which one starts to deal with the daily hassles of what it is really like to live in India. Nevertheless, I still feel intrigued about India. Reality should be as we choose it, and like it. In the end, I need just one home to return to and I know where it is!

As of now, I have traveled through 17 states of India. It seems that the more I travel, the more I want to continue to do so. I feel there are a million more fascinating places within India that I could travel to. As an Indian, I feel happy that I think this way about my country.

I am not boasting if I say that I've realized no other place I’ve seen can be compared with it. India is truly one of the best. I am hopelessly in love with this incredible country.


Priyank said...

17 states? woha! You are like a walking travel guide. I am eager to read your stories!
And I hope by the time you decide to retire in India, things will be pretty much simple and laid out :)

Pijush said...

Very Well written, Keep posting.

Crazy Me said...

You've made me add another destination to my travel wish list. Great post!

Jeevan Baretto said...

Finally the much awaited post.. Someone has rightly said that you'll find few things in life dearer when they are far away from you.. I am glad that you chose India as ur destination rather than any of those glamorous western countries..!!

P.S. Did you watch 'Chak De India' ??

indicaspecies said...

priyank: Yes, I am a walking-and-talking travel guide. Do you want to participate in my special touring packages? They are so unlike the run-of-the-mill vacation Thanks for stopping by and do visit again :)

pijush: Thank you very much for your encouragement, as always :)

crazy me: Thank you for your comment and visit here. I'm glad my posting encouraged you to visit incredible India. A very warm welcome to you :)

jeevan baretto: I make it a point to visit India atleast once a year; and this year, I made two trips already. However, I get attracted to glamour too :P
I haven't seen SRK's Chak De yet, but will certainly do so shortly :)

Ri said...

You paint a pretty picture, miss.

Also, you make traveling alone seem less miserable.

Happy Birthday, gaw-jiss *kiss*

Merisi said...

"There is something about the mental freedom that I experience when I am travelling"

I wholeheartedly agree with you!
I also don't mind travelling alone, quite the opposite. Of course, travelling with like-minded people can also very rewarding.

Your post left me almost breathless, I shall be back for more. :-)

david mcmahon said...

G'day from Australia,

Merisi nominated this for `Post of the Day', which appears on my blog each weekday.

Might interest you to know that I am Indian born and bred - and you might even find a few puns on my blog.



indicaspecies said...

ri: Traveling alone wasn’t miserable at all. On the contrary, it was much fun. So, ri, my future trips will be..with or without u ;)
*kichu* and thanks for the wishes :D

merisi: Thank you for dropping by and also thanks very much for your kind comments. I'm glad you agree with me. Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience of undertaking that kind of travel on my own. Of course it goes without saying that I have also enjoyed as much while traveling in the past with my friends :)

If you liked this posting, may I suggest you read my "Nostalgia" which is along the same lines?

david mcmahon: David, my friend, of course I know you. Pun is fun ;)
Nominated? That is extremely sweet of merisi I should say. I treasure my friends on this blogging community who make me feel special. Thanks for everything David, especially for that honour on your blog. :)

SJ said...

I've traveled quite a bit within India too but nothing like this.

skinnylittleblonde said...

Wow...lovely post & educational for someone like me, who has not even been to 17 states in my own country. I love that you saw richness as not beeing defined by material wealth... so true. The image of being mountaintop by daybreak & oceanside by beer time...sounds like heaven!

backpakker said...

Great post ...and I can feel the love for travelling in India pouring through ..I wish I could say the same in my post on Madras . But honestly , i can never trade any other country for india...there is still so much beauty . Hope you get to see more of it ..17 states ...I dont think I have seen half of that - wow !!

Pijush said...

Celine, Congratulations for being the Post of the day in David's Authorblog. Well done. Way to go, keep posting.

Keshi said...

superb writeup!


indicaspecies said...

sj: Thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you around:)

skinnylittleblonde: Thank you very much for your visit and your kind comments here. :)

backpakker: Thanks a lot for the kind words and good wishes. :)

pijush: Thank you, once again. I'm glad my posting has been recommended for mellow reading. So it's more like being "in" the Post of the Day. :)

indicaspecies said...

keshi: Thanks a lot for your visit and also for those sweet words. :)

Mridula said...

It has been incredibly good to catch up with your blog. And let me tell you your post made me go green with envy, I mean the kind of places you visited and enjoyed. So many places in one visit! I can understand when you say you can go on till the next vacation :)

GuNs said...

17 states? WHOA!

indicaspecies said...

mridula: Haha..thank you for your visit here and the affable words. I feel extra energetic during my holidays, so it was possible.
I wish all the best with your Oktatatabyebye Freeze Frame Contest. :)

guns: Thanks for your visit. Peace :)..with or without guns. ;)

GuNs said...

And you call yourself poor??

Oh man! If I may use the word, get your a$$ down to the UK a.s.a.p. There are tons of concerts that keep happening here!


Anonymous said...

Incredible India Indeed ... wonderful post ... enjoyed reading this.

i came across a tv show recently where they were potraying India 60 yrs down the line . They said Indian population would increase , so would people moving out of the country and making names for themselves . India would be a super power because of that.

as you are someone who has travelled to most remote corners of india , i would like to ask you a question. would our boundaries extend and we could find diversity anywhere round the world?...or would we still be as passionate of our diversity within our boundaries? ... of course , 60 years down the line !!!!


indicaspecies said...

guns: Greetings from the poor one!
I use dinars, you use pounds, then why speak of $$? :P
I shall try to come over there asap, but I am afraid I might utilize the time on hand to do more sightseeing rather than attend concerts, unless of course you rock and sway me into joining you for what say?

indicaspecies said...

anonymous: Thank you anonymous Indian.

I would not like to qualify myself as ‘someone who has travelled to most remote corners’ of India since I feel I’ve haven’t seen and experienced enough of all that there is to be seen and experienced.

However, to answer your query, it’s not quite clear to me what you mean by boundaries extending – do you mean boundaries pertaining to geography, culture or otherwise? On each topic, I guess we could write a whole thesis and to make an attempt to respond here would be a futile exercise. Anyway, to convey my brief opinion, I believe India’s multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious society has such a diverse history, and this diversity has made it mandatory for Indians to evolve strong foundations of tolerance for each other in order to survive. We have no choice but to do that or break up. And Indians have just done just that. So we have a special status of being an exclusive group of people of such diversity that have lived harmoniously in one nation for 60 years. This sense of oneness we feel despite physical and psychological barriers is certainly something that Indians ought to be proud of.

Moreover, though I may be of Indian nationality, I also feel I am a ‘a citizen of this world’ (the exact introductory words on this blog) and you should also know that I am a free soul who does not believe in feeling bound, whether within the boundaries of India or otherwise. I’d like to explore and accept what I feel is the best from around the world, while also retaining the best parts of the culture I grew up with.

Feeling the passion of unity in our diversity is experienced not just within the boundaries of India. To give you just one example, it’s a well known fact that we find people celebrating Holi, Dussehra, Onam, Dugra-Puja, Pongal, Baisaki, Diwali etc not just in India but also, say, in New York, San Jose, Toronto, Vancouver, Sydney, Brisbane, London and in Kuwait. Doesn’t that speak volumes of celebrating the Indian spirit abroad?

I hope I’ve been of some help.

claytonia vices said...

Enjoyed reading this post. Keep traveling :)

indicaspecies said...

claytonia vices: Welcome to my blog and thank you very much. :)

Ananda Niyogi said...

Loved reading this...the spirit of the common man in Indian spirit is indeed amazing. As Gregory David Roberts says in his book 'Shantaram', India is indeed "the land where the heart rules". The hospitality of that we Indians exhibit is by far the most heart-warming I have felt anywhere...

You could have posted a few photos to go with the post though :-)

Squiggles Mom said...

Sounds like an awesome trip. I;m so J. I would love to do Leh & Ladakh and I only went to Srinagar as a kid... sigh.

indicaspecies said...

ananda niyogi: Welcome, and thank you for those lovely words that you have shared here. I will begin posting pictures of my trip soon. :)

indicaspecies said...

squiggles mom: It was indeed awesome. Keep smiling, and I hope you get a chance to do Leh, Ladakh. :)

GMG said...

I saw the picture posts on India and was overwhelmed. But this post is an incredible piece of literature; a love poem to a surely beautiful country. I'm absolutely astonished and quite ashamed for having never been to India. I'm trying to get there, but wishing to avoid summer months (sorry...), I don't know if I can manage to make it before I retire...
Thanks for sharing!

indicaspecies said...

Gil, I don't know how I missed out on responding to this comment. Thank you for your kind words. My feelings in this post that I had written then had come straight from the heart.

This great traveller that you are, nothing to be ashamed of as you have covered so much of travel these years! I am glad you are trying for a visit to India, and you are, of course, quite capable of it - now or after retirement. I am sure you would enjoy your trip provided you travel to the right places at the right time (not to mention with the right companions). Who knows I might retire too by then and might personally be able to say welcome. :)

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