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domenica 18 settembre 2011

India for beginners

That's right : I'm not an expert on the subject nor have I been there enough to be the perfect tale teller about the country. However, I've had my taste of it and I thought I would share it. Let's start by saying I haven't gone there to look for myself nor to meditate in an ashram, although, having practized yoga for many years I was curious about the search for spirituality and not only.
It's one of those things: either you love it or you hate it at first. I was told so and I was also told that I would have seen things I had never seen before also, in terms of overwhelming experiences regarding poverty and sufferance.
Hell yes! Overwhelming is definitely an understatement. After an awful flight experience with Alitalia ( as usual at its worst) I arrived with my sister in Delhi where I was immediately dragged into this vertigo of noise, crowds, traffic and dirt.. I remember the Hare Khrisna parade outside the airport where I couldn't even hear myself thinking while I was greeting the driver who came to pick us up with a nice white Ambassador car and who would have accompanied us for two weeks from then.
I had made a very good deal with a travel agent from Jaipur reccomended by a friend of mine
Our tour included : Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Pushkar, Bikaner and Mandawa; so basically all Rajahstan (plus Agra and Delhi).
What about Delhi? A few times in my life I had the impression of being transferred in Dante's Inferno and this was one of them. I don't think that I have ever seen such stomach cringing scenes as the ones I saw on the streets of Delhi in particular in the old part. One of those involved some locals mistreating some "outcast". I respect religious beliefs but the cast system is something which remains obscure to me and I remember that in another occasion in Udaipur when the same thing happened I got into an argument with the upper cast guy. Actually I got into a lot of arguments during those two weeks because for some reason the people managed to upset me most of the time with their insistence. I actually felt all the time as a walking ATM and every time I managed to make conversation thinking that I was establishing a human contact the discussion would revert on money and commerce.
Yes I have to admit I did not find any spirituality during my journey , probably because I didn't know how to look for it, and instead I ended up clashing with a world of susperstition and materialism. I also clashed with a lot of fake spiritualism sometimes confused with pot and hippylike clothes especially in Pushkar
where I was also almost attacked by fake hindu priests who are known to be instead scums hanging by the lake who will drag you into a what seems to be an intense ritual which ends with a blessing (fake of course) and with a pressing request for money which becomes an aggression in case you refuse.
Nevertheless my experiences in India were not at all negative. The places -i have mentioned are absolutely enchanting. My favourite was Udaipur where the famous 007 movie Octopussy was shot Funny enough there is place in front of the lake where the movie is shown every day.
If you have a lot of money to spend you should definitely spend a night in Lake Palace Udaipur at the center of the lake where the movie was shot .

Also for an excellent meal in a very charming location you should try Udai Kothi."

Another very beautiful place is Jodhpur the blue city which I actually mostly remember because our driver Banghwar Singh invited us to spend half a day at his home in the village just out of the city. We were the guests of honour and we were pampered by his family and the whole village ( although some of the kids were really scared since they never saw Europeans before and ran away). We were dressed in saris, which for some reason look just as great on Indian women as they look bad on me with a monstrous outcome...Then we were invited to lunch which basically meant to be the only ones sitting down eating
while everybody else was gathering around looking at us...

Another enchanting place is Jaisalmer the golden city in the middle of the Rajahstan desert ; once you get lost in the labirinth of streets in the Fort you can discover a world of treasures.

including some very unusual Jainist temples . I did not know anything about Jainism: , which is a religion based on non violence towards all living beings before going to India. It's a very interesting approach to life and a description of it can be found other than in the wikipedia link above strangely enough in the book American Pastoral by Philip Roth.

Another very intense experience was going to the Karni Mata Temple close to Bikaner also known as the Temple of rats. Now , unfortunately I don't have pictures of my visit on my computer but there is a video which is very well made and gives you an interesting insight of the place. (WARNING : do not watch if you are afraid or don't like rats). Imagine to walk around amongst dozens of rats hanging from the bannisters and rnning around your feet. My sister was basically thrown out since she was screaming all the times she saw one ( which meant about 25 times in five minutes) whereas I courageously walked around wearing my socks and trying to overcome the discomfort of the situation . I also managed to see what is considered to be a very lucky appearance : the only white rat living in the temple that all the hindus pray to see to have good luck. Well I didn't have any that year but never mind..

I realize I haven't said anything about one of the seven wonders in the world : the Taj Mahal. Actually that was the highlight of my all journey I cannot curse myself enough for not having pictures of our visit at sunrise of the temple on my computer. Seeing that has been one of the few experiences where I have been left speechless and breathless. There is no way I can describe such beauty in words so in lack of pictures I will post a video which will give you an idea.

The rest is all colours, sounds, scents of an ancient and beautiful world of which I just managed to get a little taste.
Yes I am an absolute beginner but I am willing to master and to look for that spiritual path which I'm sure I will find next time I'll visit incredible India.