India Permeates

Back from India for almost four months and I am surprised daily by the ways in which it sneaks up on me and permeates my life in Silver Lake, a million miles away. Before leaving for my trip, I ran into a friend who hugged me and said “this is the last time I’ll ever hug you. You’ll be a different person when you return. No one comes back from India the same.” I thought he was being dramatic.

Ganesha, god of auspicious beginnings, remover of obstacles, patron of the arts, sciences, and writing, watches as I open my notebook, sipping hipster matcha, and begin to write.

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While there I became addicted to their creamy, homemade yogurt and learned that it is one’s neighborly obligation to lend starter to anyone in need. I buy a yogurt maker upon  return and begin experimenting with coconut milk recipes. Bring the milk of your choice to just under boiling, about 200 degrees. Cool until warm to the touch, about 115 degrees. Mix in starter ( being without a yogurt making neighbor, I buy starter at the health food store, though just adding already made, unsweetened yogurt will do the trick as well). Place in the yogurt maker, or slow cooker, or (if you live in a hot climate, like India, on your counter) and let sit undisturbed for anywhere between 4-12 hours. Cool and, voila, enjoy.

A man we met in Bundi, a healer in the guise of a skirt salesman, crosses my mind frequently. Karma, shakras, energy, numerology- he knew things about me I’d never told anyone.

Baby Krishna looks out over my books from his place on the shelf and reminds me to open my heart. Love. It’s the reason we are here, he whispers, the only reason. Love in all its forms.

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Family is the most important thing, says our driver, Lokesh. I agree and, now 800 miles away from mine, miss them terribly.

Feed the dogs on Saturday. It will bring you good karma.

After three weeks, I was ready to return to the familiarity of traffic lanes and avocado toast. But, little did I know that India had already burrowed into my soul and that within a few months I would feel the urge to return, to plan another trip, and that I had been changed forever. My friend was right.

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Chapter 4- You must have confidence.

“You must have confidence, madam, to live in India.” Lokesh, our driver in Rajasthan.

Lokesh becomes our second driver one week into the trip, in Jaipur, after his brother Hari’s foot is run over by a scooter.

Saris on the backs of motorcycles, sidesaddle, their backs to us, the man driving in front. Colored silk blowing in the wind, sometimes two or three children pressed in between. I realize, as I watch them pass, that I, age 38, am the age of the grandmothers, not the mothers.

Cows, dogs, bikes, cars, trucks, pigs, monkeys, and motorcycles navigate the roads.

Blow Horn. Use Dipper at Night. These words are written on the backs of trucks. Why? we ask Lokesh. Blow your horn and flash your lights so the trucks can see or hear you. Some people need to get places quicker than others, he explains. In our country everyone thinks they are those people, we explain.

On the subject of marriage- Arranged is best, he says. Your parents love you, they know you, they’ve lived with you for eighteen years, they want you to be happy, and will find you a good match. Love marriages rarely work out.

He slows to let us take pictures of particularly well decorated trucks, or camels, or elephants, or elephants in the backs of trucks, or camels doing the work of trucks.

Bahubali is the best movie. Parts 1 and 2. Lokesh tells us to find it and watch it. The most expensive movie ever made in India and his favorite.

He tells us about recent uprisings in towns close by. Tension between Hindus and Muslims runs high. A movie has been made that depicts Hindus in an unflattering light. Threats of violence towards theaters that show it. He agrees it should not be shown. We don’t tell him we actually want to see it.

He tells us which days of the week correspond with which Gods and Goddesses.

I have a sore throat after leaving Jaipur and he pulls off at a chai stand and asks them to add extra ginger to my chai.

On the way from Udaipur to Jodhpur, we stop at the Om Banna motorbike Temple on the side of the highway. Om Banna was killed in a motorbike accident on the site in the 1980’s and, after his bike was cleared by police, it mysteriously made its way back to the site three times. Thus, a Temple.

He explains that village people are the happiest people. Wake with the sun, go to sleep with the sun, grow food, barter. All traditions still going strong. But, change is coming, he says. Fast.

We pass field after field of mustard, wheat, and dill. The villages surrounding Udaipur are amazingly beautiful; with lush fields divided by low, stone walls.

“Tika, tika, tika.”

“A, cha cha.”

Spelled phonetically, both mean something like “ok” in Hindi.

I finally figure out that what look like two lane highways are actually three to four or five, depending. The traffic flows with a chaos that would bring US drivers and freeways to their knees in under one second. Horns and beeps a language of their own.

As I write this, we are hurling back to Delhi and blogging seems a better use of time than worrying about the possibility of dying on an Indian highway. Sometimes it is easier not to look. As the Buddhist saying goes, if there’s something you can do about it, why worry? If there’s nothing you can do about it, why worry?

And, as Lokesh says, one must have confidence, madam, to live {in India}. Dear Gods and Goddesses, all 330,000,000+ of you, please help me to integrate this wisdom into my life.

Namaste, India. Namaste, Lokesh.

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Chapter 3- My Words are Inadequate.

I was just trying to write something here for the first time in several days, but a wedding passed by the hotel, so I had to go and watch. And so it goes.

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Words, or at least the ones I know, seem an inadequate form for India. I want to touch it, wear it, hear it, eat it, smell it, and live it.

The compassion. Curry. Textiles. People. And the, literally, totally rocking Temples. Everyone I’ve met, from people on the street, to shop keepers, to drivers, discuss vibration, energy, and the Gods as if discussing restaurants or the weather. Spirituality is so interwoven with life, it seems impossible to separate the two.

And, why would we want to?

This morning, while eating breakfast, I watched as a wild pig, two cows, several dogs with pups, monkeys, chipmunks, birds, and people went about their morning routine, together. None with any more right to be there, in the intersection, than the other.

The fields surrounding town are full of mustard plants, blooming with yellow flowers. Our driver told us it will be harvested at the beginning of March and then it will get hot, very hot, through October.

Right now it is beautiful outside. Warm in the day and cool at night.

If you’d like a silver pendant shaped like a mango and filled with perfume, look for Mangoman’s shop in Bundi.

 

All photos taken in Bundi, Rajasthan.

My Little Boat.

I woke up in a great mood this morning and lay in bed looking out of the window for an hour before finally getting up.

The image of a small row boat in the middle of the ocean appeared in my mind. A boat so small it is able to surf the waves, big and small, in ways a larger one could not. The world, with all of its relationships, jobs, worries, politics, borders, diseases, religions, love, hate, Beauty, confusion, laughter, joy, and sorrow are the waves, while I am the boat.

2017 has taught me to ride the waves and to find my own equilibrium; a lesson I know will continue to be useful in the years to come. It has been a good, strange, funny and bizarre year, has kept me on my toes, and repeatedly shown me that once I let go and trust, I will always be guided to the next right thing.

I ended the day watching a most spectacular sunset on Santa Monica Beach with my friend, and the surfers and the sailboats.

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