06/03/2014 - 06/07/2014 86 °F
It is Sunday afternoon, June 8th, 5 days after arriving home from the most fulfilling travel experience of my life thus far. When I originally left for India, I was sure that after 3 long months of traveling, I would drop to my knees and kiss the ground upon arrival at LAX. Not the case at all. Yes, I was happy to know that there was a toilet with running water and fluffy, 2 ply toilet paper waiting at home for me, a bed with 800 thread count sheets, a pillow top mattress as well as a box spring!, stop lights and stop signs where cars actually stop, garbage cans that citizens actually use and best of all, my sister waiting for me at the International Terminal (she wore her most exotic outfit that she got in Morocco, I think, in effort to ease my culture shock). All these things were comforting but I am a girl in love! I fell in love with an entire country and culture and there is no amount of Quilted Northern to fill that void.
Below is a excerpt from my final entry into my Indian Soul Travel Journal written on my flight from Dubai to Los Angeles with tears streaming down my face as the woman next to me pretended not to notice my sobbing which was pretty difficult because it was my ugly cry.... You know the cry with the snot, shortness of breath, restless legs, etc.
Why the tears?
I am crying for the docu-movie about the incredible life story of Indian Olympic runner Milkha Singh which I just finished watching on the plane.
I cry for the two small beggar girls and their homeless father whom I met and shared lychees with on my final night in India, at the historic landmark the Gateway to India in Mumbai.
I cry for the memories I made which now pass through my mind like a slideshow, some bright and some already beginning to fade. I cry for the lessons in humanity that India never ceased teaching. I am crying because I found my Polka Dotted Unicorn alive and well in India. The PDU and I became very close with one another and I fear this plan ride back to LA could separate us.
India is a Motherland. I thought Mother Africa was the one and only one Motherland but I was mistaken. India is big and vast and she holds her arms out for so many to feel her embrace (1.27billion to be exact). She embraced me and I felt so at home that I embraced her right back with no fear. She swept me off my feet so fiercely that I felt like I was in an exotic whirlwind that I did not want to be rescued from. She stole my heart but gave it back to me full....so much more full than when I arrived.
I have fallen so deep in love. I am in love with the people, the temples, the land, culture, traditions, food, the rituals, Gods, Goddesses and Ganga, the children, and the unrelenting spirit that drives the country at full speed day after day. In my 32 years of life, I have never been so in awe. India was a full length mirror to my big S higher Self and my little s lower self. She showed me high truths as well as the gravitational pull of my lower self. She gave me sights in which to marvel and feel deep sadness at the same time. Every single day she showed me grace, sometimes in the smallest moments.
The Mother that is India treated me like all good Mothers know how. She eased me into her rhythms in Rishikesh using my familiarity with Yoga to make me feel safe and at home. She knew my deepest longings for truth and spirituality so she met me on that level and engulfed me into her mystical rituals. She sang to me at the Aartis and beckoned for me to place my fears at the bank of Maha Ganga. Her rivers comforted me in knowing they flowed without pause...every moment a chance for renewal...a place to rinse away the past.
In Rishikesh, she also gave me knowledge. A lot. So much I wasn't even ready to handle. But a good Mother is a teacher and good teachers understand when to give a student more than they can handle. The fact is, they know very well that you can handle it. A good Mother just waits patiently for you to realize it.
Then we left the comforts of campus and she took me into her 'real world.' We ventured out onto trains, into rickshaws and to the streets to feel her fullness and richness. Here, under some extreme circumstances, I met myself and not being an overbearing Mother, she gave me the space to do so. All the while, I still felt like I was under her wing. She was taking me to her depths but keeping me protected from her dangers.
As we furthered on the journey to Darjeeling, she even allowed me to be the teacher. She let me lead others and share the little bit of knowledge I had to give to her children. But even then, as I was outpouring she was still filling me up. Filling me with new traditions and new faces to brand into my memory, filling me with new lessons specifically in duty, family and community. I got to see first hand what truly makes the Indian joint family something to be honored. Generations, all living under one roof, everyday the same ritual of working, worshiping, eating, laughing and cooperating together to promote the family unit. I finally understood the word duty and the honor I never realized associated with that word. In America, our duty is to the individual. In India, the duty is promoting family and using the family to promote the community. Our goals are my goals. My goals, our goals. No need for a Social Security system and Senior Citizen homes when an entire family unit has invested in each other.
We kept moving and my meditation lesson of impermanence reigned Queen because like Maha Ganga, each face and each new experience kept moving whether I protested or not.
I feel so full. Overwhelmed is now a word I truly understand. It's like the tears have to fall and my nose has to run because there is just too much water in my bucket. I am physically overflowing! I think of my original gang of the 3 amigos in Delhi who I thought were going to 'stick me for my paper.' I remember Maria, the lovely spirit that was my roommate in Rishikesh and whom I know call friend.
I remember the little beggar boy outside the Taj Mahal in Agra who counted from 1 to 100 to tell me that 100 Rupees is all I had to pay for 3 snow globes he was selling with the Taj Mahal inside.
I think of the fortuitous train meeting of me and the German, Oliver and how Varanasi would not have been the same without him and the Frenchies.
I recall the remarkable hospitality of my home stay family in Darjeeling. I close my eyes and the children's faces of Magno Vale Academy shine so bright!
I think of my driver Haresh in Bangalore who followed me around the markets to make sure I was safe when I wore an outfit he thought was inappropriate. I think of my Japanese roomie Tomo whom I got to know and love even though we only spoke to each other 2 out of 10 days during Vipassana.
I think of Amyth, the guy who often occupied my thoughts while I tried to meditate. Sorry for the cliff hanger at the end of my last entry.
For the record: Yes, I did get his number and my daydreams of him going to Goa with me actually became a reality! Thoughts really do become things! Now those daydreams are the sweetest of memories.
I remember the Ashtanga Yogis with whom I shared a Sunday morning in Rishikesh involving a Netti Pot, a rubber tube that was supposed to pass from our nose to our throat, and liters of salt water for an internal cleanse which eventually led me the toilet on the roof of a Yoga studio! (Wow! I really did have a lot of 'toilet situations.')
My list of supporting characters on this journey is too vast to list yet each is unforgettable. All of these souls, without doing anything other than being themselves, has brought my life to a new level. They have enriched me without any thoughts of money. They opened my eyes to new worlds and possibilities of ways to live this so called life.
Now, I know that India is a Mother to billions. I am a single grain of sand on her beach. I have met tons of other travelers who came for their first time and booked the return flight before even leaving the country. Many others found love at that first rickshaw ride like I did. I am one of many but I tell you, I couldn't feel more special. I think she has made me feel more like myself therefore I can't help but feel special. I trust myself more. I am more sensitive to that small, still voice of intuition...which I realize is my PDU.
There are so many places in the world I want to visit but the next place I want to go is still India. Never been in love like this...because it's just me loving myself.
I AM FULL.
THANK YOU MOTHER INDIA.
And that was my home bound plane entry. A little dramatic, I know. Intense due to the circumstances of leaving a lover, a small cabin floating 30,000 miles above ground and the return to the reality of LA looming.
I miss India everyday and I think there may be a slight withdrawal happening. My first day back, I went to dinner with my sister and my roomies. They asked what kind of food I wanted and naturally I said Indian. They were confused how after 3 months of curry I could ask for more!!! Yesterday, I searched Yelp for a good Indian restaurant because I wanted some authentic Chai...mine is still not quite perfected. I'm not sure but it may have something to do with the Almond Milk....just a thought. I'm trying to invent a Vegan LA Chai but it's just not cutting it. Anyway, I ate my curry and then as I was driving home, I found an Indian grocery store stocked full of every brand I'd become so familiar with! I bought fresh chopati made by a local Indian lady, mustard seed oil, buscuits for my tea and dosa mix. Then, the owner told me about a sweet and chaat (street food) shop just next door! I was so excited!! I practically skipped next door to discover the perfect Indian hole in the wall. It was just grimmy enough to feel authentic. There were sweets, Samosas, Pouri and a bunch of other things I recognized but never learned the name for...and to top it off, on the weekends they serve Masala Dosa which is my most favorite Indian meal. I would have ordered one right then but I unfortunately already ate so I went back today for a Sunday Masala Dosa brunch!
I am trying my best to reacclimatize and not sound like the "this one time in band camp" girl from American Pie where I relate everything to another tale from my Indian travel journal. I just started to wake up before noon and go to sleep before 3a.m. Only mediated once since being back and only practiced Yoga twice. But I am not judging any of it as good, bad or otherwise. Everyday is different and so my Yoga practice has been focused on observing and adjusting to all I notice without judgement or fear that I am not 'doing' enough....aka EQUANIMITY. As far as what's next?...I am reintegrating slowly and working to figure that out...so don't ask me because it gives me anxiety.
My friend Willis (whom I mentioned in my very first post as a soul who inspired this trip) said I need a Post India Reintegration Plan! Willis and I performed together for 2 years with Cirque du Soleil's VIVA ELVIS show in Las Vegas. I fell out in laughter because 'reintegration' was a Cirque du Soleil term we all heard very often when an artist was returning after an injury. Before any artist could come back to performing shows, they had to sit down and have a serious meeting with our Performance Medicine department, Artistic Director and Coaches to make a solid plan for how to reintegrate into the show without re-injury. The plan started us out slow. "Shadow" the shows backstage at first. Then, one show a night performing only 2 out of 8-10 numbers. Then 2 shows a night still performing only 20% of your work load. Then, if all is going well, you get to do 5 numbers. Then finally, after a couple weeks and a couple more meetings, if all is progressing well you can go back to your originally dance track. I think Willis is right! I need something slow and meticulous like this so I don't re-injure myself or accidentally use my credit card and buy a random plane ticket back to Mumbai!
Since this is my last post for "some time," I must thank all of you for reading, commenting and following my journey. Apologies to those who commented to no response from me. I, of course, read ALL the comments and was overjoyed at receiving each one because it meant that someone besides my parents were reading (and actually it took them a couple weeks to even find my Blog online so I thought I was writing to myself for awhile)! However, writing was already time consuming enough so I chose not to spend the time commenting but instead, getting back out there to experience more to write more. Thank you also to my family for being so supportive of my decision to take this trip. It helped to know you were all in my corner and only a Skype call away if I was in need.
It was such a joy to write and know that all I was experiencing I would eventually be able to share with those I care for. One of the worst things when you travel solo is experiencing something so mind bowing and looking to your left and then to your right only to realize that you have no one to share it with. This Blog was a way for me to share and feel surrounded by community. And I actually really like doing this travel and writing thing! I am seriously considering how I can include it in my professional life. If anyone is looking or knows someone who might be looking for an opinionated yet open-minded female who doesn't get sick off local, third world food, to travel exotic lands and document the journey, my passport and I are ready! For serious.
Now back to my regularly scheduled life in California but with an upgraded internal antenna for more channels and better reception and of course with a direct link to my Polka Dotted Unicorn..."the free spirit that frolicks the forest with an innocence that is actually protection from fear and a freedom of expression unusual among the regular, non-polka dotted unicorns. " I will not lose this link. And if the connection becomes bad I thankfully have this Blog as a reminder of where my unicorn lives.
SOUL TRAVEL STATS
LENGTH OF JOURNEY: 101 days
MILES FROM LAX TO NEW DELHI: 7,986
MILES FROM MUMBAI TO LAX: 8,688
INDIAN STATES VISITED: 9
INDIAN CITIES VISITED: 14
MILES TRAVELLED DOMESTICALLY: 4,057.3
TRAIN JOURNEYS: 5
BUS JOURNEYS: 2
DOMESTIC FLIGHTS: 2
TEMPLES VISITED: lost count
HOTEL STAYED IN: 14
BEST HOTEL: The Paul in Bangalore
SHITTIEST HOTEL: Sai Palace in Agra (the word Palace was used loosely)
TIMES I GOT SICK: ONCE but only for 8 hours!
For previous Blog stories : www.travellerspoint.com/ivoriejenkins