“To Delhi”, she said.
“She was free in her wildness. She was a wanderess, a drop of free water. She belonged to no man and to no city”
Today, as I soar across the Pacific Ocean on a quest to search for the untold Indian story inside me, I feel like a wanderess! It sounds so much more elegant than a wanderer. Right?
I tend to have outlandish travel dreams. I don’t just want to go to East Africa, I want to go for at least 6 months and do a north-to-south overland trip. I don’t want to take a Caribbean 5-day cruise like most normal people, I want to take a 20+ day cruise that takes me around Cape Horn or takes me across a vast expanse of ocean, from one continent to another. AND, I didn’t just want to stop by India for a few days or on my way to or from some other place…I wanted to wait until I could contrive a 3-4 month journey that would take me throughout the Indian Subcontinent, through Nepal, India & Sri Lanka.
I’m settling for a 6 week starter trip to India. 6 weeks to carve out a journey in one of the world’s most fascinating, and trying, destinations. 45 days to explore a country with remarkable diversity; biological, cultural, human, etc. 540 hours to try and make heads or tails of this place known as much for its technology & economic growth as for its perverse rural & urban poverty. 32,400 minutes…..You get the point.
Is it enough time to get to all the places I’ve dreamed of? Absolutely not. When I first listed out all the places I’d at one point or another bookmarked, I realized the challenge I had on my hands in narrowing down my itinerary. There are monsoons to try and avoid and long, long distances to factor in. There are 29 states and territories in India and I think I’ll only get to 6 or so, but I’m pleased with the tentative plan I have in mind. I’ll be travelling quite a bit faster than I normally like, but I know this might be a one-time deal and I want experience a good sampling from this multifaceted culture.
As word has spread within my Mexican family and community that I’m off to India I’m hearing a lot of variants of the “Why India?” question. Didn’t you read “The Jungle Book” when you were young? Isn’t it on every persons list? I guess not. India has risen and fallen within my top 10 list, and it wasn’t at the top when I decided to commit to it now, but it’s always been on my list.
I feel impossibly nostalgic about India….nostalgic for an India I couldn’t possibly know. I wish I could go back in time and visit another version. Maybe Kipling’s 1890s version for the grand adventures Mowgli had. Maybe the early 20th century to get a feel for British India. While I wouldn’t have been pro-British Rule, I can imagine it would be hard to resist the charm of the English Hill Stations, even if I had forfeited the ride in a shoulder carried carriage under the comforts of a lovely parasol! 🙂 Maybe in the 1940s when the independence movement was underway and Gandhi was promoting civil rights movements worldwide. Maybe the version Martin Luther King Jr experienced in 1959 when India was a young country in the midst of a lot of growing pains as they built their kingdom. (As an aside, I found this sound recording from MLK’s visit to India on NPR). Or, maybe the version my father got to explore in the ’70s.
But instead, I get to explore today’s version, in all its glory and confusion. I get to tour India while its in a boom, on track to become a 21st century superpower. An India which I expect to leave me floored, awed, frightened, inspired, confused, and on and on….
My husband decided to sit this one out. India isn’t at the forefront of his own agenda to explore the world, and as I mentioned recently, he is feeling ready for a “stay-put phase” in Chiapas. He’ll be keeping tabs on my journey from afar, and holding down the fort. And so begins another solo adventure.
“To Delhi”, she said.
Don’t these old ads, maps and posters make you nostalgic too?