Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Journey Ends, the Adventure Continues

"The simple and astonishing truth about India and Indian people is that when you go there, and deal with them, your heart always guides you more wisely than your head.  There's nowhere else in the world where that's quite so true."
Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram

It is with a great deal of emotion that I end this amazing journey.  When I came, I didn't know what to expect, and so I allowed myself to just be open to whatever happened.  I'm not sure how else one can immerse themselves in a totally new culture.  I never could have imagined just how much this experience would enrich my life.  In fact, even now I don't really know, because although the journey is ending, the impact on my life is only beginning.  So I return the way I came, not knowing what to expect, allowing myself to be open to what happens.

My loving hosts, Sheela and Ravi.  And me with my black eye.

I am sad to be leaving.  There are many people I will miss.  Most of all, my Chennai family - Ravi, Sheela, Shraddha, Shruti, Indrani, Praveen, Vignesh, Rani, and Google.  I had the best situation imaginable.  Living with a family gave me love, nurturing, security and allowed me to really get to know the culture.   I wasn't wrapped in a tourist bubble, interacting mostly with other Westerners.  In fact, most of the time I was the only non Indian around.  Yet I felt very comfortable.  I knew the Shankars before, but now they are family.  I know Ravi eats too fast, that Sheela giggles like a school girl sometimes, that Shraddha and Shruti are the most serious students I've ever met.  Indrani has become very dear to me.  Her beauty radiates from the depths of her being.  Praveen who just turned 15 May 6 is a fine young man,  and Vignesh is a new father.  His cell phone ring is now the sound of his daughter making baby sounds.  How I will miss them all!

And my Chennai friends.  Biking buddies Kannan and Lalitha, who are biking in Bhutan with their daughter.  Charitra, who kept contact with me while I was out traveling to make sure I was okay.  Uma, Shiv and Apura, who showed me around Chennai and invited me into their home.  Mahmoud Hussein who, at the age of 89, still does a 5 minute shoulder stand as part of his Yoga routine every day.   I hope to come back and visit them all again one day.

I'm leaving so much that I'd like to do, so much I've yet to see and learn.  For every place visited, there are a dozen more I'd like to visit; for every blog posted, one that didn't get written;  for every picture taken, a handful that I missed.  Yet I wouldn't change a single thing about my four months here.  Arriving with Dasa and Kelley, having friends to share the early part of the adventure with.  The early travels with Barbara that got my feet wet traveling with a companion.  The months spent in Chennai that allowed me to experience feeling like a resident, not a tourist.  Studying the Yoga Sutras with Ravi.  The solo trip in April that gave me a sampler of the diverse beauty of South India.  No, I wouldn't change a thing.

At the same time, I am eager to get home, to settle into a new home in my new home state New Mexico, which I've barely begun to know.  I look forward to seeing my family.  Erik mi querido hijo and his friend Judy.  My brothers and sisters in law, my nieces and nephews, my grandkids, Shelly and Kaya.  My friends in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, Texas, New Mexico, Washington.  I won't try to name you all, because the list would be too long.  I'm eager to meet the new friends that I've made as a result of this trip.  Brian, my dear penpal who has been my steadfast cyber companion on so much of this journey.  Grail sister Ingrid who is planning to visit India soon.  I look forward to hanging out with Barbara, Dasa and Kelley who were with me at the beginning of this adventure.  To seeing my friend Rong from China, who I haven't seen in over three years.  I look forward to getting back on my bike.  Planning my next adventure with Shirley and Donna.  Doing for myself again.  Making a home cooked meal, washing dishes, grocery shopping, driving a car, working in a garden.  And playing - hiking in the woods, camping out, soaking in a hot springs.  Yes, there is much to go back home to.  It will be different than it was.  I am different than I was.  How, you ask?  I don't know.  I do know that I am intensely grateful for having had this experience.  India is now my second home, and I intend to come back soon.

Saying good-bye to Kelley and Dasa at the end of January.

A walk to the beach with my beloved Indrani and her son Praveen a few days before I left.

That day we saw a partial rainbow.  Certainly an auspicious sign, don't you agree?

I wonder if I will ever wear my sari again.  Without Sheela's help I'm not sure I can wrap it correctly.

Not everything is pretty, but I will even miss scenes like this.

We had the start of a woman's cycling group.  I'm sure Lalitha and Charitra will keep it up.

I became quite accustomed to seeing whole families on motorcycles.

Indrani was a beautiful bride.

Ooty is so green with all its tea plantations and other produce.

The simple living and strong dedication to caring for the earth and building community at Auroville appeal to me.

I hope to return to Bodhi Zendo, which captured my heart with the beauty of the surroundings, the soulful people I met there, the discipline and simplicity of daily life.

The beautiful scenery and the wildlife of the Nilgiris allowed me to see a different side of India.

The cliffs and beach at Varkala provided a relaxing place to end my journeys.

The colorful chaos of Chennai.  I will carry it with me.

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