I dream of travel. My nights are spent luxuriating on the beach in Mexico, eating my weight in SE Asian street noodles, being awoken long before dawn by the roar of an African lion. Sometimes my dreams aren’t quite as vivid, rather than memories of past journeys, they consist of the anticipation of what is to come. These days those dreams have a lot of llamas in them.
But when I awake feeling as though I just stepped out of a Technicolor kaleidoscope, I know I spent the night in India, for no other place is so astonishing and so terrible all at the same time.
My brother-in-laws’ family are heading to India this fall on a mission trip. I am green with jealousy. Even while listing all the reasons why I knew my sister-in-law should be glad she wasn’t going; the filth, the unrelenting poverty, the lack of personal space, the beggars, the open sewers, my mind was experiencing extraordinarily vibrant flashbacks of a riot of colorful saris, of the astonishing flavors of the cuisine exploding on my palate. Of cruising the peaceful backwaters of Kerala, and of the chaos on every street in every town.
I drifted into a daydream resonating with memories of roadside chai stops and exceedingly uncomfortable rickshaws. Of the ever present cows and the thieving monkeys. I felt, improbably, THERE. All of my senses were alive. I could literally SMELL the vile and yet intoxicating combination of garbage and incense. I could FEEL the oppressive heat and crush of humanity as surely as I could the sand between my toes on the beaches of Goa. I could TASTE the richness of butter chicken, the spice in the chai, the super sweet fruit.
My mind reeled and I felt a bit unsteady, so intense were the reflections of my time in Incredible India. No, India is NOT easy. By far the most challenging destination I’ve found, she will test you. Every. Single. Day.
For the magic of India is found only when you surrender. Only when you stop questioning the hows and whys of this complex country, can you begin to be drawn into the charms of a place where life is largely unexplainable.
India continues to draw me to her shores and, while I am not sure when I will return, I know without doubt that I certainty will.