I wanted to give this post the title “The Story of Me Falling In Love With India And Its Hospitality”, but then I would have to add, Apologies to the German Girl who wrote an article of the same title.
Trying to keep it simple, I came out with this.
The story of me falling in love with India is the story of ‘I knew I love you before I met you.’ Since I was young, I have always been fascinated by photos of starkly beautiful women with piercing eyes, wearing wonderfully coloured sari. It has always been in my bucket list of countries to visit: England, Egypt, and India.
A real love affair started in 1996, when I was initiated as an Ananda Margii and decided to be a vegetarian. I played kiirtan incessantly, and my friends are puzzled by my long playlist of songs with only the lyrics ‘Baba Nam Kevalam’ or Love is all there is. I started meditating, and on the side soaked in as much of the culture from literature I could get my hands on.
I wanted to go a couple of times before, but nothing went beyond wishful thinking. So when the real opportunity came, I was super excited, not to mention I was going to attend an exceptional training The Workshop 2015 (19th Praxis Commune on Participatory Development) that would send ripples to my work and personal life.
I was probably the most excited of the four foreign participants in the training. I easily became friends with fellow participants, and hang out with them after the day’s sessions. I felt it was effortless being with them. Nidhi, one of the participants always talked to me in Hindi, saying she always thinks I’m Indian. Others also thought I came from Northeast India, and the fact that I have an Indian name started many fun and unforgettable conversations.
The South Indian vegetarian food was superb and I courageously tried vegetarian street food, to the amazement of others. This easily added pounds where I didn’t need them. I started doing early morning brisk walks which prompted me to go back to exercise when I went back to the Philippines. This made me feel lighter and healthier again. And thanks to that pivotal visit, I finally decided to be vegan when I went back, which was something I’ve been wanting to be for a long time.
Anybody interested in Asian culture will reel in all India has to offer, I was not there for long, only ten days, and I’ve visit only a small portion of the massive country. But already it was a kaleidoscope of colors. The beautiful places we visited, which were not tourist spots at all, the ordinary places, the chaotic roads and serene campuses, all reveal the real charm of India.
In India, everybody looked beautiful, men and women, often physically, but beyond that there is always something more. Probably it’s the special affinity I feel for them, much like the feeling I feel every time I meet Africans.
What I saw there was not a perfect picture of how I imagined the country and its people. But it was this fact that made me love India even more. Its charm lies in its perfect imperfections, raw and real.
Before I went home to the Philippines, my heart was heavy at the thought of leaving. I’ve been to five other countries before, but I never felt such dread going back. I plan to return one day, enjoy more of India’s secrets and surprises, reconnect with friends and meet more of its lovely people, go around and enjoy just being in this incredible country.