ਸਤ ਸੀ੍ ਅਕਾਲ
In Punjabi, Sat Sri Akaal, is a greeting for all things. It is hello, goodbye, my pleasure, take care, and more. When spoken, it almost sounds like “Such Regard.”
Which I found fitting, as I prepared to say goodbye to a country that welcomed me with a full heart, while completely overwhelming every aspect of my person.
India, is a country that as a westerner you can’t prepare yourself for. No matter how much research, planning, or preparing for you do. India will shock you with both its colourful beauty, and filth. It is a country that you will simultaneously love and hate. India will scare you, as she will push you to find new confidences outside of your preconceived boundaries.
In truth, India will confuse you.
Thought-out our three week trek through, across, and over the sub continent my sentiment towards the country changed on a near daily basis. At first, I was alive with excitement and the disbelief that I was ACTUALLY in India. The sheer process of having my passport stamped by Indian immigration thrilled me. I had arrived to a world that was bran new (to me.)
On our first excursion, the day tour of Old + New Delhi, I felt my excitement boarder on terrified. My senses were lost to the cacophony of sounds, smells, and souls. Internally I questioned the decision to travel half way around the world, to a third world country.
In Varanasi, my world view was turned upside down. I battled with the feelings of disgust I had for the fates of the people I saw living, begging, and bathing in the fifth of the streets rotting with waste. I found solace in the kindness of strangers, and their curiosity. Our stay in Varanasi was a challenge. Both T and I had dove in, past our comfort. I found myself forced to focus on the positive, forced to find the beauty in the small things. The Hindus pray to thousands of gods. I prayed to the god of small things.
In Agra, my prayers were answered. Again, I found myself bewitched by the beauty of India. I was unprepared for the grandeur of the Taj Mahal. I welcomed the frivolous statement of love, and enjoyed the attraction for the wonder of the world it is. The rich history of the country was a delight to unravel. Learning the “whys” of a new culture enticed me. I needed to learn more.
The days spent touring Jaipur and learning of the Mahārāja’s that ruled the region throughout the centuries was fascinating. The discrepancy between wealth and poverty was unparalleled. The opulence unmatched.
Goa, was a vacation from our vacation. A much needed break- that allowed us to decompress and absorb all that we’d seen so far. A chance to regroup and prepare for the days ahead.
The wedding, was a hoot. Vibrant, Rich, inviting. The kindness shown to us and the generosity of the host was world’s above our expectations. The memories made will live with me for a lifetime.
In Atali Ganga, we were introduced to a different India. Wild yet quite. We were fortuitous to have the chance to witness first hand the natural beauty of a country so layered in history. A highlight of the trip was swimming in the clean waters of Ganga River.
With our question, India was the trip of a lifetime. I’m thankful to T for having the gall to explore a whole new world with me, and to our wonderful travel guides of Unwind India. With out the knowledge and kindness of Ashok and Nitin, our Indian experience would have been very different.
As we boarded the plane to return home. We both were in a strange state of contemplation- as we reflected on the wonderful, wild, and wondrous adventure we had just completed.