Why I love India

Did I ever mention how much I love India?  
It's the best travel destination.

It's not the easiest.

In fact - it's pretty crazy.

This is their everyday attire. At the Pushkar Camel Fair, Rajasthan.

It's exhausting, exasperating, energizing.
But it is certainly - the most rewarding.

It's colorful and chaotic and totally over the top. 
A complete feast for the senses.

The flowers - the fabrics - the food.
The sounds, the smells - the spices. 

And the COLORS -!

But what impresses me most is - the people.

They pay attention to everything going on around them. 

And those smiles -

The fellow with the red turban is just holding back a huge smile that erupted just after I took his photo. So many Indians are so surprised that we'd want to take their photographs.

Hard to believe, but - we seem exotic to them.

India is just so FULL of LIFE.

Sometimes I wonder why we travel.

It's challenging, uncomfortable, uncertain.
Things are beyond your control - or even your understanding.

Often, you can't read anything (India has 22 official languages, with 13 different scripts)

And you only have a basic idea of how things work.

Everything has to be constantly figured out.

In some places, you really don't even trust yourself to cross a street.

It's dirty and confusing and - the noise!

Barreling through chaotic Delhi traffic in a decrepit tuk-tuk.
The decibel level is amazing. 

And yet - I remember thinking: there's no place I'd rather be.
(At least for a while.)

Even in incredible traffic, there's a rhythm and an awareness of those around them.

It's almost like a dance. 
It feels totally chaotic.

Yet - everything (including the odd camel or cow or elephant) weaves in and out. 

No road rage. Nobody bumps into you. 

They're all in it together.

The women - are so beautifully dressed.

Even in small villages, they wear necklaces.
Bracelets. Scarves. Saris.

On a public bus, a woman beside me was traveling with her 2 young daughters. 
(Of course, we stirred a bit of attention, riding on a local bus.) 
She leaned over and said kindly,

"Excuse me, but - you really should decorate yourself a bit more."

The lady making the bangles - which I bought.

She reached into her purse and gave me a dot on my forehead.
A string of jasmine for my hair.

Her daughters looked pleased.
Then she told me to buy some colorful bangles in the next town.

Which I did, from the woman above.
Who made the bangles there by hand. From scratch.

Once, someone handed me a goat as I walked through a village. 
Nobody ever handed me a goat before.

At least, before we were introduced.

Like women all over, she asks me how many children I have. 

Another fellow invited us to eat his fresh pakoras.

(We did. They were super delicious.)

The odd discussions we had.
The abstract conversations.

The brief connections with people who normally never meet foreigners.

It's magic.

A dentist waiting for patients explains his tools.

The markets!

How can you resist - all this color and incredible attention to detail?

And the vehicles-?

All the myriad weird and wonderful ways things and people are transported in India.

Handpainted trucks.
Handcrafted tuk-tuks.
Motorcycles with sidecars.

Buses and bikes and oxcarts and "head transport".

(That's when people carry thing on their heads.
They even have their own union.)

It can be very creative.

Handmade truck. Completely - handmade. 

I didn't mention all the animals.

Monkeys walking along city walls.
Oxen pulling carts.
Elephants and camels in the streets.
Peacocks and piglets.
Eagles, kingfishers, crocodiles and cobras.

  Like this wonderful camel at the Pushkar Fair.

There were another 30,000 camels there.
Although I'm not sure who counted them.

Are we in India now? No. 
We're still in the south of France, on the boat. 

But - I spent over 20 years working with weavers in India.

It was often frustrating, maddening, difficult. Like India.
But still.

And after a business trip, there was usually time for a bit of exploration. 
It's a huge country.

I've only visited a few corners of it.

Stan and I were sitting on the aft deck of "Maggie May" last night.
Here in the south of France, on the Canal du Midi.

I pulled out the photos of one of those trips.
Over a glass of wine, we went through the folder.

From the northern border with Nepal - down to the tip of Tamil Nadu.

I've only ever done one small blog post about India - this one.
About the Pushkar Camel Fair. And it's pretty minimal.

I mean - where do you even start on the stories?
Or the thousands of colorful photos? The many experiences?

It always seems impossible to explain.

What impressed me was - how happy I felt there. 
Yes, it was exasperating. Exhausting. And yet - so exotic, so different.

Truly another world.

Surrounded by ancient culture.
Gods and spirits and cows and camels.

Music and musicians.
The crazy electrical wiring and such confusion.
And in the photos - 

I look just - delighted - to be in the midst of this whirlwind.

There's something odd and wonderful about travel.
It keeps you marvelously off balance. 
The world feels fresh and new.

There's just no better way to gain perspective. 
Empty your mind. Learn about the world. 

Maybe just learn to appreciate our fortune at being born into the lives we lead. 

And - I haven't even mentioned the whole "spiritual" side.
 Thousands of temples. Shrines, festivals.

Or the architecture.
Intricate palaces and unbelievable ancient stonework.

But - that's enough for one post. Another day.

"And at the end of the day, 
your feet should be dirty, your hair messy 
and your eyes sparkling."

– Shanti