Warning: this is kind of a hard post…to write, and probably to read as well. I may not say things perfectly…there’s no way I can. But here’s to my best effort to describe some hard things…and capture some beauty as well.
It has been said that being in India gives you a sensory overload. I love this quote from Keith Bellows (National Geographic Society) “…I had been seeing the world in black and white and, when brought face-to-face with India, experienced everything re-rendered in brilliant technicolor.”
Things in India are certainly vibrant in every way. And it’s not just the colors. There is a vibrancy in sounds, emotions, and thoughts that is impossible to describe. It is extreme highs and lows…huge crowds where you can scarcely move a finger to serene spots where you are barefoot and in wonder and awe at God’s love. Right on to extreme sadness because you wonder where in the world that poor girl begging at your car window will get a break. And your heart breaks watching a mother try to find a place for her baby to sleep…or something to eat to get them through the day.
Your heart wonders about God. How this Plan of His works. Why were these people born there, and me here? Why do I have a refrigerator and a closet full of clothes when that man is smiling at me in his “home” made from scraps of cardboard and tarp. And that other man is severely disfigured begging outside an ancient Indian palace.
As I look through these pictures I realize a picture cannot, as the saying goes, tell a thousand words. Pictures and words by the cartload cannot do this place, nor this experience justice. I cannot find the words deep enough or filled with enough emotion to explain what is in my heart.
So bear with me.
I will try to write at least what is on the surface…and maybe scrape down a little tiny bit to those emotions that jolted me while I was there.
One of my favorite things about traveling around India was that our tour guide took us places off the beaten tourist track.
There was a “church town” on the way to Delhi where we experienced India unlike anything we could have imagined. Everyone was heading to their respective churches in a holy place where it is believed Lord Krishna was born and lived as a child.
There was crazy traffic to get there. I’ll try to attach a video when I can figure out how to clip it down in iMovie.
(I should really have more pictures in our van because boy howdy we spent a lot of time in that thing!) At some point, the traffic was so bad that we got out and walked. It was quite a walk. Here’s a little snippet of it:
And a little later when for some reason the crowd thinned out:
I LOVE the cute boys at the end of that one.
I loved the faces of the people we saw as we walked. I was almost out of camera battery so I was stingy with the pictures, darn it.
We finally arrived at the church where Nitin wanted to take us:We checked in our shoes at the door (which was getting to be old-hat to us by then) and mingled in with the throngs of people gathered there. There was a huge long line of people waiting to swing a model of Krishna on a little swing with a string in the middle of the church, and then in the back people were gathered dancing.
This was a Hare Krishna gathering. For more about Hare Krishnas click here.
The dance got more and more animated and happy and frenzied as time wore on. It went from this:
…as we stood there and watched in awe.
Max didn’t enjoy this part very much…he was a little bit claustrophobic as everyone thronged around him and kept trying to pull him in to dance.
But for me it was a pretty neat experience. Standing there with my husband, two children and good friends witnessing how this whole group of good people strive to connect with God.
After about an hour of pure squishiness, we peeled ourselves out of there and headed back to the van…which was actually a long, pretty scary walk. I was positive one of us was going to get our feet run over as we shimmied ourselves in between all these cars and carts and rickshaws.
But there was cool stuff to see on the way:I loved meeting this sweet girl en route, and wondering about what her life was like.
The next morning we met the guy who owns the tour agency we used. His name is Praveen and he is awesome.
I’d so highly recommend these guys if you ever go to India…ask for Nitin as your tour guide :)
Our first stop in Delhi was for a rickshaw ride through the old city.
This is the part where I was baffled by the wires.
There were coils of wire miles on end, scrunched into corners, strung across streets, wound around street signs.
Here’s how it looked as we took off with our strong rickshaw driver…I was so in awe of all the sights that it wore off pretty quick how bad I felt for the guy pedaling us heavy Americans around.
We stopped at the spice market.I think spices are beautiful. The market was jam-packed with people buying and selling. We kept getting in the way of people lugging around huge potato sacks filled to the brim with every kind of spice imaginable.Nitin, true to form, took us off the beaten track. We wanted to see the real-ness of India, which was actually pretty rough to see at times. This was our walk up to see the view above…
(That guy sleeping was a little startling I must admit…so much so that our smiles in the next pictures seem so eerily out of place.)
So different from the way Lucy rides to school on her huge yellow school bus:
I think you can get so much more of a feel for how it was with a little more video footage:
These are the taxis in Delhi:I think they are pretty cool.
Next we went to visit the memorial for Mahatma Ghandi.
It was beautiful. They have so much respect for that man who many call the “father of their country,” with good reason. That man was amazing. We need to rent the Gandhi movie and watch it at some point soon while all this is still lingering in our minds.
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” – Mahatma Gandhi
“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” –Mahatma Gandhi
Next we visited “India Gate,” the national monument of India. As you can tell, it was inspired by the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and it commemorates the 90,000 soldiers of the Indian Army who lost their lives fighting for India.
We had dinner.
And headed to the airport on eerie streets that got more and more un-Indian as we got closer and closer to the flight that would take us away from there.
So, back to my question, why am I here? Why are they there? The only answer I can come up with is that we are all here on earth to learn and grow. We are all learning from what is thrown in our path, and we all have something. Sure, we all have vastly different lives. We all wake up in completely different surroundings. But it’s what we do with those surroundings that matters.
We need to “arise and shine forth” in any way we can, whether it is something big, or something as simple as sharing pieces of our hearts with those around us right in our little neck of the woods. I love Mother Teresa’s famous quote: “Be faithful in small things, because it is in them that your strength lies.” I believe this with all my heart, and even more so after having visited India. We can’t do big things that will change the poverty and hardships over there. But we can do small things in our own communities. We can stand up and love others around us. We can get involved in making a difference. Each in our own, unique way.
“You must be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
As we headed off to Thailand we smiled.
We knew another adventure lay ahead.
But part of our hearts mourned.
Because we knew that part of the depth of feelings we had in India would stay in India. There’s simply no way to take them with you.
We knew we’d have to go off into our own section of the world and try to make some semblance of it all. And try to let the parts that touched us the most, change us gradually into who we want to become.
“There are some parts of the world that, once visited, get into your heart and won’t go. For me, India is such a place.” –Keith Bellows
I hope that will always be the case for each of us who had that opportunity of a lifetime.