India possesses something that only people who travel here can understand. In my old beaten up copy of the Lonely Planet there is a brief introduction about either loving or hating India; many swearing never to return. A more accurate travel advisory, however, would read that India is both. It’s an adventure in challenging your level of comfort and a love story in capturing your heart.
A country like India is not without its challenges. The poverty and the pollution are just some of them. For me, I only return to study yoga under my teachers. I want to learn. I want to remain a student. I want to go back to a place where practice matters. It’s not about the performance or my advancement, but the practice.
Although India itself has always promised to be a reminder of the terrible (homelessness and poverty), it is also a steady reminder of the wonderful temples and palaces. Taking the time to learn more about India; her people, customs and whatever else I can indulge in is a daily adventure. Something I treasure and favour.
On my latest trip, I kept notes on the interactions I had with the local people.
These are a sample of the ones that make me smile at a way of life that is just different from the west:
~ I order papad (a flat crispy bread like a chip) and get tandoori. You can imagine my surprise especially being a vegetarian.
~ I ask to speak with another clerk at the front desk of the hotel; someone who speaks English. Their reply is, “You want the wine list, mam?”
~ I rent a scooter and I receive a phone call daily from the vendor that goes something like this, “Hello, madam, any problems? Any problems madam you just call me. Any problems.”
~ I am 75 rupees short when buying a gift in the market. The vendor agrees that I can return in an hour to pay. He has never seen me before, does not know my name or where I am staying. He does not ask.
~ In the local shops it is a common courtesy to first be offered chai (tea). Not taking it seems rude and an insult to their incredible hospitality. I recommend anyone taking it as it gives you more time to strike up a conversation with someone who might not normally think of speaking with.
~ I repair my shoe heel for less a dollar. The cobbler marks the price in pen on the sole of the shoe. While waiting, the police officer stops to ask me, “What country you?” while the cobbler demands, “You take foto.”
~ I have a silver key chain welded in 10 minutes for 10 rupees (about 25 cents).
~ I spend several minutes exchanging clumsy arm and hand movements with one of the Muslim washers regarding when and where I can pick up my clothes.
~ The waiters at a local restaurant ask me, “You come long back. When you come now exactly?” This is really nice and I forget about the black toilets at the back.
~ “Did you have your breakfast?” “Had your lunch?” “How is your mother?” The typical questions from many vendors.
~ A fellow motorist informs me while we are both driving that there are police officers checking for people who are not wearing their helmets. I stop to put mine on feeling grateful for his warning. In a matter of seconds, he was right. The police officer was standing right there. I sail by.
~ This year I learn what should have been the first lesson about driving a scooter. That is, how to lift the scooter onto its stand. It’s a good laugh for the bell-boy at the hotel who mutters the statement, “After 10 years, you learn the first lesson last.”
Outside of yoga, a trip to India is so full on many levels. Yoga is the centre of it, but the heart goes into the daily regime; the way the people move, react, sound, gesture and behave.
© Copyright of Heather Morton, The Yoga Way, 2013. All written rights reserved.