I wrote recently on an off the wall way to see India, it came out of my thinking about how connected I remain to India even when I am not there. Or perhaps its especially because I am not there! It’s taken me years to condense the magical, maddening obsession of mine into a few words. India is not the country to squeeze herself into a suitable box; she spills over the sides, crowds on the rooftops and hangs off the rails. There are so many perspectives of India that you can actually choose a theme for exploring her and get off on your own Excellent Adventure.
At first the choices are as giddying as they are confusing. You can see all of Kashmir and nothing of the rest of the country. You can Go To Goa and have your own version of Coronation Street amid coconut trees and cheap booze. For train enthusiasts, the options are unique and unforgettable. For lovers of luxury, there are palaces and remnants of the Raj. For foodies there is an endless smorgasbord since every area has its own unique and seasonal menu. For those who are on a spiritual search there are ashrams and Gurus galore. Photographers are given a play of light and sound and faces etched with valleys of time.
My particular route has been through the classic stories and myths of India. It’s a journey that came about organically, since living arms stretch out from these stories into the modern day with rituals and routines adapted or taken directly from these stories. For a storyteller, that’s a miracle in itself. That stories released into the world thousands of years ago reside not so much on bookshelves but in the hearts and minds of the people. The stories spill out into festivals, crowd on the roof of family weddings and are inseparable from daily life. It’s the way in which stories are given pride of place on the stage of life that made me fall in love with India. If there were only two stories ever told it would be the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, with the Bhagavad-Gita as a close runner up. And if you want a highway into the hearts and minds of India, then I would suggest these as a better guidebook than the Lonely Planet.
There is one emotion that drives the plot of all these stories and that emotion is hope.
Hope on a cosmic level. These stories refuse to recognise a life that begins and ends, rather they see the vast spectrum of life as part of an ongoing act of creation, destruction and renewal. The past can mix with the present and the present with the future before cycling back to the beginning. This belief is borne out in two ways that touch my heart directly.
Every action, every drama, every event is seen as a potential story or part of a continuing story. And every story is seen as part of the journey of the human across the tapestry of life.