I have now meandered through your untidy lanes, made way for your sacred cows, gazed on the exquisite opulence of your forts and palaces, stunned by your exquisite craftsmanship – florets, teardrops, mandala designs – incorporated into your palanquins, swords, mirror inlays, delicious fabrics.
I have gazed with delight at the golden sun as it sets gently on your desert valleys. Breathed in your dust as the lonely camel and stray dog wander by. I have listened to the strange call of the peacock and the haunting laugh of the jackal in the early dawn hours.
I have climbed up sacred Hanuman Rock at sunset and gazed out onto the reddening desert-scape. I have stood inside the walls of a shepherd hamlet as the toothless medicine healer has invited me quietly into her ancient world.
I have eaten freshly made chapatis and vegetables sitting on the concrete floor of a traditional weavers’ home, a family who embraced me with their open hearted welcome: “come as a guest, leave as a family member.” I have greeted the morning sun as it has gently arisen between two distant neem trees, chanting Om invocations on a rooftop.
I have haggled in the noisy bazaars, purchased embroidered cushions, tribal bags, ornate silver jewelry, Kashmiri teas. I have sat with a village elder and been instructed in the ceremonial art of smoking opium from a chillum pipe. I have watched the gnarled hands of the potter as he masterfully created a beautiful, most perfect vessel.
I have sung the Gayatri Mantra walking through a field newly ploughed by the villagers, ready to burst with marigold blooms in the spring – here where my beloved mother’s ashes are now scattered under the sacred neem tree, the Tree of Nine Peacock Feathers.
I have feasted on delicious Rajasthani cuisine gazing up at the dancing lights of the massive Mehangir Fort, the “citadel of the sun.” I have gazed into the eyes of the handsome prince – the horse whisperer with his prized stallion.
I have bowed in front of the Ganesha altar smeared with turmeric and vermilion paste. I have been garlanded with marigolds, had my hands intricately painted with henna by the pretty girl with jasmine flowers in her hair, had my body massaged with aromatic ayurvedic oils.
I have wandered into a temple with 1444 carved marble pillars as the Jain priest in his saffron yellow robes has offered special prayers for the protection of my family.
I have slept in expansive marble rooms filled with light and spaciousness, and once, a tiny room in a clay baked hut with my window directly looking into a cowshed, where one night I was awakened by the curious sound of my friend, Mother Cow, as she snorted and thirstily drank from an earthenware pot.
I have sat with the doctor of spices, with his kohl-lined eyes and thick dark beard, as he poured tea into porcelain tea cups infused with saffron, cardamom and cinnamon – an elixir of magic. I have bought almonds all the way from Afghanistan from the almond sellers who meandered through the labyrinthian streets of the blue city calling out their wares.
I have met the handsome merchant with his languid black eyes who welcomed me into his shop with warmth and explained that he had once been in the finals of India’s Bachelorette TV show.
I have felt ecstasy as the full moon has lit up the sky over the Mughal parapets and the dancers have whirled and twirled around me to the sound of tinkling ankle bells.
I have sat in a boat, lulled by its hypnotic rhythm, as it has made its way across the lake, past the women washing their clothes by the ghats. I have listened to the muezzin as he has called out to Allah, awakening an entire town from its sleep. I have listened to temple bells, temple drums, temple priest chants…..
I have been mesmerized by you, dear India.
You have softened me, invited me to flow into the undulating rhythm of life as it offers itself to me. You have helped my grief and sorrow wash over me, as a woman grieving the recent death of her mother, as a traveler simply passing by.
You have reminded me that this journey has been my home.
That the journey IS my true home.
Amber Chand is a visionary coach, gifted storyteller and author who has recently returned from Rajasthan, India – where she leads soulful journeys for women. To learn more about her, visit Amberchand.com