I'll have a number of different posts on my India trip. I thought I would start out with an overview.
I loved it.
I felt very comfortable in India. It met my expectations exactly. It seemed like I had been there before. I really do think I lived there in another life. I know, everyone says that, reincarnation is a good excuse for these sort-of feelings!
We spent a week touring and shopping. It was awesome to be in a place where the cultural references were all familiar! Our hotel in Bangalore was right next to Garuda mall, for example.
I am always surprised when I travel by the similarities between places. I know it shouldn't surprise me that it is all one earth and the divisions are so arbitrary. When I see the grass and the trees it just gives me that sense of the unity of the planet.
I ate better than I can ever remember. I adore Indian food, and I even enjoyed things I didn't expect to like. I stuffed myself every day! I bought some cookbooks at Gangaram's bookstore and I'm looking forward to trying to recreate some of those awesome meals.
We had lunch with my cousin's in-laws who live in Bangalore and they let us use their driver for the rest of the trip, which was wonderful. He was a lot of fun and took good care of us. I attempted some Hindi with him, though his primary languages are Telegu and Kanada. I'm pretty sure I told him that the trunk of the car was a very old man, rather than very big.
None of my Hindi worked out very well. It takes me a while to formulate a sentence, and I was trying to force myself to do it faster in order to talk. I would realize about five minutes later how I had messed the sentence up! No one seemed to understand me. Partly because most of the people I interacted with aren't Hindi speakers, but I think also because it was too weird and unexpected for Hindi to be coming from me. I was really encouraged that I understood almost all the Hindi I heard, so that made me feel pretty good.
I was delighted to discover that very, very few women wore western clothes. I thought at least in the city there would be lots of jeans and such, but that was not the case. I really think American women could take a lesson from Indian women's wardrobes! Everywhere you look there are amazing colors and patterns. I would say half salwar kameez and half saris. For anyone who doesn't think saris are practical everyday wear, women there wear them as part of uniforms, old women washing floors were wearing beautiful saris. I got a picture of a woman officer in the army wearing a khaki sari. It just shows there is never an excuse not to look gorgeous!
The second week we spent at a small town called Sringeri, where there is an ashram dedicated to the shankaracharya of the south. We went to darshans and pujas there and asked for blessings from the guru, etc. I'll have more detailed posts about that later.
Everywhere we went outside the city, I felt like an exhibit at a zoo. People stared at me and wanted to take pictures of me or have their picture taken with me. I was surprised by how noticeable it is when people are staring at you! I was glad that people were happy to see me wearing Indian clothes and embracing Indian culture. A couple of high school girls in Sringeri were asking me what I thought of Indian culture and they were just thrilled when I said I liked it! They were very impressed with my sari wrapping skills too.
I felt very inspired while there and got a lot of good writing done. I also came home feeling emotionally lighter and steadier.
I have almost 200 pictures, so I'll link to my flickr album rather than post them all here! (At the beginning are some pictures from my parents' house in Concord that were on my dad's camera, so that's what it looked like at home while we were gone)