I’ve been wanting to do some foreign travel for some time, but I just could not figure out where in the world to go. Some said “Belize, you’ve got to go to Belize.” And then someone else said Scotland, and well, I do love castles. I wanted to honeymoon in a castle when I was young and dreaming about such things.
But then the other day, as I was eating Indian fast food for lunch, I was invited to a wedding—in India. And in a moment, I knew I must go. I must go to the wedding, and I must go to India. I mean for crying out loud, I love elephants. I’ve always wanted to see some elephants, up close where they live, not in a zoo.
But India, I have to admit I don’t know very much. I read George Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant” in school. That was depressing. I saw the movie “Gandhi.” That was inspiring and a bit depressing too.
OK, so let’s face it. I know nothing about India. It’s this mysterious place. Columbus thought he had found India when he arrived in North America. He obviously didn’t know very much about India either. The Taj Mahal, Bollywood, Slum Dog Millionaire, crime, lots of people, heat, poverty, nukes, Kashmir, and terrorist attacks on the hotel where I would like to stay. This is what the Western media has told me about India. A lot of my stuff is made in India.
I mean any one who reads this blog probably thought I was headed to Russia. I thought I was going to Georgia.
But India. It seems crazy and yet it seems right.
So what am I doing to prepare?
Hindi. I’m learning Hindi. I’ve decided that I will learn the syllabary, and I will learn a few niceties (please, thank you, you’re welcome, hello, good-bye, etc.), and I will learn food words and maybe some discomfort words: I’m so freakin’ hot. There are tons of free apps for learning Hindi script and vocab. Plus, there’s YouTube. I’ve got no excuse.
Google Maps. I love Google Maps. It’s so cool to have a bird’s eye view of an area, plus labels over what things are.
Applied for my passport.
Watched a video on how to tie a saree.
Still to do: figure out to blend into a crowd. This of course is a great reason to go shopping!I found some incredible clothing sites. Oh. My. Goodness. Indian clothes are beautiful! And, I want to blend in as much as possible. In Russia, that was easy. I just wore clothes bought there and kept my mouth shut. Instant Russian. This won’t be so easy in India. Not only is my skin white, it’s freckled. I’m clearly from the far north. My hair is light brown with reddish tones. The only things I’ve got going for me are my large dark eyebrows.
I’ve booked two hotels and have reserved the flight.
Started researching museums and national parks. This trek looks awesome: https://www.thrillophilia.com/tours/trek-to-the-great-himalayan-national-park-shilt-thatch
Found a list of wildlife sanctuaries: http://www.thrillophilia.com/blog/top-10-wildlife-sanctuaries-in-india/
And, researched a list of books to read:
- Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
- The Upanishads, translated by Eknath Easwaran
- The Dhammapada translated by Eknath Easwaran
- The Bhagavad Gita translated by Eknath Easwaran
- The Ramayana translated by Ramesh Menon
- The Mahabharata translated by R. K. Narayan
- Maximum City by Sukheth Mehta
- A Free Man by Aman Sethi
- The Hindus: An Alternative History by Wendy Doniger
- A Strange Kind of Paradise by Sam Miller
- The Mountain Shadow by Gregory David Roberts
- Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
- A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
- Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
- A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
- Not Only the Things That Have Happened by Mridula Koshy
- The Shadow Lines by Amitov Ghosh
- Chronicles of a Corpse Bearer by Cyrus Mistry
- God’s Little Soldier by Kiran Nagarkar
- Serious Man by Mann Joseph
- The Lost Flamingos of Bombay by Siddharth Dhanrant Shanghvi
- The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
- The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
- A Matter of Rats by Amitava Kumar
- The Death of Vishnu by Mauil Suri
- Our Moon Has Blood Clots by Rahul Pandita
- The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar
- Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar
- Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh