-From Passage Through India by Gary Snyder
Because I left "ready to go" and have been happy to be home, I wonder if I've deserted my long-beloved India. But as I read Gary Snyder's accounts of eating chapatis and curd, encountering ascetics and adivasis (tribal people), the difficulties of long journeys on second class sleeper trains, and the agony of being surrounded by a throng of desperate but demanding rickshaw drivers...as well as his critiques of guru devotion and the caste system, I felt myself a part of something larger. I remembered that I learned so much, that I love that complex and complicated place, and I truly began to miss it. We traversed similar paths at times...Dharamsala, Triund, Delhi, the Sivananda ashram, Mumbai...and many of his reflections were similar to ours.
Gary Synder traveled to India in 1962, and I was quite taken by how much was similar: the railway system, ashram culture, thalis, chai, the temples...India is changing rapidly. McDonald's is not an uncommon sight in the big cities, and every urban dweller seems to have a mobile phone. Yet, I really believe that so much will remain: women in saris, turban-clad Sikhs, cows roaming the streets, cyle-rickshaws, rice and dal...along with arranged marriage, the sideways head nod, and wacky slap-stick humor.
There were times during our travels, when we couldn't get honesty from anyone, while being stared at by groups of men, when strange, screaming babies where thrust into our arms so they could be photographed with us, when we were laughed at...that I didn't know if I'd ever want to go back. But it's only been a few weeks, and I'm reminded of watching India roll by from an open train window, and the palm-lined beaches of the South, the possibilities of a meal in a stranger's home, and the awe of a place that at times feel so different, yet functions so well. I miss it. I hope to return.
It's not a surprise to me that reading this book, now that I'm home, would have such an effect on me. Throughout our travels, reading served as a necessary way for me to process what I was experiencing, and even begin to theorize a little about it. Some of my suggested reading about India: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons by Susan Bumiller, Holy Cow by Sarah McDonald, and Life of Pi by Yann Martel. This is a very small list, but if you're interested in reading about India, it's a place to start.
Thank you for reading my blog.