My heart is my Guidebook

by Dianne Sharma-Winter - Heart of India
( December 19th, 2009 )
Tribal Village, Wayanad district. Kerala

The travel bug bit me many years ago when I set off like Huck Finn on my first great adventure at the tender age of seven. Plonking myself beside The Great Western Highway which stretched from my Sydney childhood across the Blue Mountains to the west, I was unconsciously echoing Kim, the hero of Rudyard Kipling’s novel of the same name.

My parents didn’t care for a literary analysis on the whole event and I think I am probably still grounded from that day. Which is why I get a delicious thrill even now to be living life on the road, it still feels almost naughty!

It’s not that I haven’t tried the domesticated life; I married twice already and have two children who gave me four gorgeous grandchildren whom I adore passionately. Life has just turned out this way for me and I blame Ossie.

Ossie is a guy I met the very day that the travel bug came back and bit me HARD on the behind. I remember I was elbow deep in nappy san when on a frosty wintry morning in a dull little timber town when the postman arrived with a postcard from Greece. My old schoolmate had chosen the kiwi option of the big OE before marriage and I like many Maori women opted for early babies and extended families.

Me somewhere in lovely Laos

I looked at the blue of that water and felt the Travel Bug kick me squarely in the rear. I wept hot tears into the nappy bucket. Would I ever have a life that didn’t revolve around four hourly feeds and mushy bananas? And if I did, what would it be?

That night I met Ossie who sat in a corner of a party while everyone else glittered and gossiped. I approached him as the only other outsider in the party and we began to talk.

He had just returned from India and his eyes were lit with some inner fire. He talked for hours about his experiences and I listened with rapt attention. He was a messenger from another planet. India sounded so unlike the safe little bundle of islands that is New Zealand, so over the top, and so much more exotic than any island in sunny Greece. I wanted that look in my eyes too! My compass was set.

I went home and announced to my three year old son and nine month old daughter that they had to leave home and go flatting when they turned eighteen because I was going to India. The husband rattled the newspaper and harrumphed.

Nobody believed me, especially when later as a struggling solo mother even a bus fare was sometimes beyond my means. But I reasoned, if I said it every day then by the power of positive thinking it would happen. Anyway the universe had years to sort it out; all I had to do was believe.

When my daughter was 16 (two years ahead of schedule) I came to India for the first time.

India totally overwhelmed me and appealed to my sense of the ridiculous. It captured my imagination as a story teller and literary inspired traveler. It taught me I could follow nothing more than a line of poetry and arrive at a destination.

Even after sixteen years, India still retains enough of her enigma to be ever elusive and confusing.

I am living in India for a year, sometimes in Pushkar Rajasthan and Manali in the High Himalaya while I work  on  a quasi domestic, creative life and organise small group tours of India for women.

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