Category Archives: India

home

I’m home. It almost doesn’t feel as though I left Memphis 3 months ago, and it doesn’t feel as though I lived in another country for 3 months. 3 months is a long time. It’s a 4th of a year. It’s a long time.

Coming home never felt so good. Despite the setbacks of canceled flights and trying to find ways to get back to Memphis, I am so glad I’m back. At the end of the day, home is home. No matter where I go, or what city I travel to, the prospects of being able to shower in your own shower and sleep in your own bed are things I definitely call luxuries.

I’ve been home 2 full days now, and I’m still trying to adjust back to the cold weather (I came home to snow!) and get rid of this jet lag. We’ve basically unpacked the 8 bags we brought back. I’ve eaten taco bell and had brewed coffee (I’ve been living off of instant coffee for 3 months, and for a coffee lover, it does not taste good at all). I was even happy to come back to songs that really annoyed me when I left (ahem, hey, I just met you…). I didn’t forget how to drive either. This was all such a relief to me, because it made me feel like I never left. I was home.

However, I began to think back to India, and the millions, or possibly even billions, of people who don’t have a home. The ones that live on the streets or in shacks that may fall over any day. I wondered if they regard their block of sidewalk or the metal sheets that encompass them as home just as much as I consider my house my home. Is the feeling of “home” a universal feeling?

When I was little, I remember my aunt once telling what the difference between a house and a home is. A house, she said, is built by hands. A home, however, is built by hearts. I guess this concept resonates with me now more than ever. My home, consisting of me, my mom, and my dad. Our three hearts. So, I guess if we take that definition of home, you can create your home wherever and with whomever.

How great is it to be able to say that you have a home to always come to. How blessed are we? Incredibly. I wish that everyone in the world had the ability to say those words. But, the world isn’t fair. What can I do?

I’m reminded of the song “Home” by Philip Phillips.
“Just know you’re not alone. Cause I’m gonna make this place your home.”

Home isn’t confined to walls that surround you every night. Or by the people who you live with. Home is a state of mind. And I can try my hardest to make someone not feel alone, and help them feel like they have a home.

My journey in India has ended. But, I’m just beginning on my journey to figure out what this whole life thing is about. I’m coming back at the right time. I can’t wait to start this new year fresh and rejuvenated and ready to take on the world.

it’s time for the goodbye

Well, this is officially my last post from my 3 month long journey here in what I call the motherland-India. I am so excited to be hopping on a plane in less than 24 hours, and finally be heading to my home. But, a part of me hasn’t accepted that reality yet.

The past 3 months have literally been a roller coaster of emotions, experiences, thoughts, etc. I’ve learned so much about life and who I really am. I was lucky enough to have 4 amazing gurus to teach me as much they can in a short period of time about classical music, Sanskrit, Yoga, and Ayurveda. I’ve gotten so much closer to my family in India, and I can finally say I don’t feel like I don’t belong here.

I’ve eaten so much, I don’t want to see Indian food for at least 3 weeks after I get home (except for this one punjabi shabji my aunt is bringing me today!). I’ve literally shopped ’til I dropped. I’ve been in a car here more than I can say I wanted to. I rode on a train in India (from Ahmedebad to Mumbai). I did touristy things and took cheesy pictures. I partook in Navratri festivities, Diwali festivities, and Sharad Poonam activities. I’ve witnessed and experienced every range of social economic status–I saw what it is like to be extremely wealthy, and I’ve seen what extreme poverty looks like. I saw how ridiculous election time is here in Gujurat, and how angry people get when their candidate doesn’t win. I watched riots and protests on TV in Delhi after a young girl was gang raped on a bus. I visited beautiful temples that really represent what our places of worship should be like, and I’ve visited not so amazing temples.

I learned how to work a riksha and travel in the city all by myself. I know the streets of Ahmedebad and can find my way home if I get lost. I stayed in a village with no internet, a city that is growing faster than anyone can think, and in a megacity that is running out space. I saw the rivers and lakes of this country and more fruit trees than I ever have in my life. I saw that there are more animals roaming the streets of India then there are in the zoos of India. I watched Bollywood movies and memorized Bollywood songs that I can’t wait to bring back to the States. I talked in Gujurati, English, and shaky Hindi. I learned that the final price is never the final price here, and that you can always shave off at least 200 Rs at the end.

I found out that I am a very impatient person. I get aggravated easily. I learned that the only way to live life is to constantly be open to what your environment and surroundings are throwing at you. I realized that the Universe is always, always, giving you signs about where your life is going. And when those signs are being thrown in your face, grab them as quick as you can. I learned that the most unexpected people walk into your life and can make such a huge impression. I’ve made friends that I probably wouldn’t have if I hadn’t come.

I felt excitement, homesickness, loneliness, happiness, extreme heat, annoyance, over indulgence, pain, flexibility, and love.

Most importantly, I am content and at peace with myself. I’m ready to come home.

mumbai mumbai

I’ve made it to Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay. Today, we took an all city tour of Mumbai! I’ve been to Mumbai on several occasions, but I’ve never actually seen the city. I know it’s super cheesy to do super touristy things, but recently I’ve been loving it. I mean, I love the hidden secrets of cities, don’t get me wrong. But, it’s cool to really see the history of a city. Surprisingly, I had a really awesome day, despite being on a bus for about 10ish hours, and going to some places that I didn’t think were very Mumbai-ish. We basically did a huge bus tour of the city. We visited the beaches that surround Mumbai (all Arabic ocean—the water is so gorgeous might I add), looked at various old buildings that are a part of the city’s history, and naturally saw some of Bollywood’s biggest stars houses (including Amitabh Bachan, Shah Rukh Khan, Rekha, and Salman Khan…also Kajol’s house I can see from my aunt’s house!).

The thing that struck me the most about this city was how you can really see how much of an influence the British had in this city. You can tell by just the architecture that is seen throughout, especially in South Mumbai where a lot of the older buildings are, and where the Gateway of India is located.

It’s also safe to say that I don’t think I’m used to such crowding, not even in big cities like NYC. There are people everywhere. Literally. One of my cousins told me every day about 25 million enter the city, including residents, visitors, people who work in the city, etc.

One of the biggest tourist attractions, or so I think, is the Gateway of India. It was created to welcome the first arrival of King George V and Queen Mary during the British rule in India.

I think the big thing I saw was how long influence can last. Sure, the architecture of Mumbai is something so physical, but it has left such an impression that it has become part of the city’s culture. It’s important to remember how our actions and words leave an influence around those we surround ourselves with, because it can literally become a part of who that individual is.

I don’t have much more to say. I am definitely exhausted from the day! Mumbai is such a magnificent city, and I wish I had more time to explore the city. If India is on your list of places to go before you die, I highly recommend Mumbai! Below are some pictures from the day!

Beautiful sunset over Mumbai

Beautiful sunset over Mumbai

Looking over the shore in Mumbai

Looking over the shore in Mumbai

Another building built during the British era.

Another building built during the British era.

Forgot exactly this building, but built during the time the British were in India--you can really see the influence just in architecture

Forgot exactly this building, but built during the time the British were in India–you can really see the influence just in architecture

Close up of the Gate of India

Close up of the Gate of India

Gate of India- built in 1911 to welcome King George V and Queen Mary to India for the first time

Gate of India- built in 1911 to welcome King George V and Queen Mary to India for the first time

blind faith

“Devotion toward another person, no matter how saintly, is not sufficient to liberate anyone; there can be no liberation or salvation without direct experience of reality. Therefore, truth has primacy, not the one who speaks it. All respect is due to whoever teaches the truth, but the best way to show that respect is by working to realize the truth of oneself.”
-William Hart in The Art of Live: Vipassana Meditation as taught by S.N. Goenke

We were in Shreenathji about a week and a half ago. I have really mixed feelings about the trip, because it pokes a place in my beliefs that I have really strong feelings towards, and that is religion. I’ll explain the reason I was drawn to this specific passage in this book in a bit. But first, let me talk about my outlook on religion.

I regard myself as a pretty religious person. I read the Geeta, I say my prayers, I celebrate the holy festivals, what have you. But, I have made it a point in my life to really understand the true meaning behind everything I do. Sure, I don’t have all the answers, but I make the effort to ask people and trace the reasoning back to something. My parents have been awesome for putting up with me as well when it comes to this from the get go.

So, back to Shreenathji. It was definitely a experience I’m not sure I have the will power to go through again. It’s basically the city where Shreenathji (God) took human form. There’s this huge temple where He actually lives. That’s kind of a rundown. But, He has millions of followers, my family being one of them. Really we went to take my mom’s mom and my dad’s parents. It’s considered a holy city, and since they’re all pretty old now, my parents kind of wanted to give them this last chance to come and offer their prayers. And this is how I felt: the city was completely packed with people, it wasn’t the cleanest city I’ve been to in India, and I was able to actually see the idol for about 3.2 minutes TOTAL. You get shoved in and out in a matter of seconds.

And this is where my problem lies with the state of religion today. Please keep in mind that this is a strictly personal opinion, and I am not sharing sentiments on behalf of people. Anyways, I feel like we’ve really lost the essence of what religion is supposed to be. It’s supposed to be guidance along a personal journey to merge with God. It should offer you peace and comfort that you’re not alone in the world. It should encourage you to seek a divine life and try to instill Godly qualities within you. It’s not something that if you pay a certain amount of money you have a direct ticket to heaven. It’s not something that if you merely go to church, temple, or some sort of place of worship once a week you’re considered a “religious person”. It takes effort. It takes dedication. It takes love and compassion. We’ve become so quick to find the easy way out, that we’ve forgotten that there is a path that we must walk to achieve our goal. Can I really say that I live a religious life? We have faith in the middleman, but not in the Ultimate.

The beginning of my senior year of college, I had a realization where I began to ask myself, am I living a life that God would be proud of? Am I worthy enough to be called His daughter? The answers: no and yes. I am worthy enough to be called His daughter, because I am His creation. But looking back, I’ve done a lot of dumb and stupid things that would really embarrass Him. Keeping this in mind, I tried to fix the gaps in my life, so that I can live, to the best of my ability, something that He would be proud of.

To me, going to a temple where I can’t even sit in front of God and spend time with Him isn’t devotion. I will say, that you have to have a LOT of faith to endure Shreenathji, and I sincerely commend those men and women who go with loving hearts. Me, that’s not my way to show my gratitude. That’s the beauty of religion. It provides a path, guidance. But it doesn’t –or to me, it shouldn’t—have strict rules to follow, because my relationship with the Supreme is completely different than my own parents.

“Devotion toward another person, no matter how saintly, is not sufficient to liberate anyone; there can be no liberation or salvation without direct experience of reality. Therefore, truth has primacy, not the one who speaks it. All respect is due to whoever teaches the truth, but the best way to show that respect is by working to realize the truth of oneself.”
I wish I could tell you how many different people at different times have tried to explain this idea to me. The path is about the effort. You have to do to achieve. And finally, it clicks. The best way to show that respect is by working to realize the truth of oneself. 

Countdown to America: 12 days

relationships

One of the most important things that goes on in India is visiting family. I haven’t seen a lot of them in 7 years, and a lot of family I’m meeting for the first time! I really didn’t realize how big my family was, until I for real thought about it, while I was at my mom’s mom’s house in the village. There were new relationships and connections with my family every day. It was pretty cool, and way more than I can remember

I started thinking about all of the relationships I have in my life: friendships, personal relationships, family, co-workers, my relationship with my community, and yes, even my Facebook friends. Each one of those relationships play a very crucial role in my spiritual development.

A real relationship is where you are really truly developing into a better version of yourself, ultimately bringing you closer to the Ultimate. Just recently, my best friend and I were talking about how after our friendship rekindled essentially, we’ve been more confident in ourselves, are more optimistic, and are really just happier. This is what a true relationship is about. I think to my friends from college, Bridge Builders, youth camp, whatever situation, and how blessed I am to have found people in whom I can grow closer with the Supreme.

“The true soulmates, those who are really meant for you, they always show up, at the right time, and at the right places. You can’t search for these friendships, they just happen. A real friendship consists of more than social exchange and emotional support. In a real friendship, one plus one always exceeds two. Such friendships need hard work. You can’t plan on coming across such friends; you have to leave the start of such friendships to the chances”

This quote is from a book I just finished reading, “The Alchemy of Well-Being” by Indrajit Garai, and I think it sums up pretty well the essence of a relationship. People come into your life at exactly the right time, when you need them the most. And if they leave, then they’ve played the part they need to make you a better person. This last part is sometimes hard for me to grasp and understand. Why do friendships end? Why do I stop talking to people I once was so close to? Everyone who you cross paths with has a role they play in your life, whether it be to be your best friend, hurt you so that you are able to learn from the experience later on, encourage you to achieve your ultimate goal, to love, whatever. But, not everyone is meant to stay in our life forever. We can learn something about who we are from each encounter.

A relationship should be a mirror reflecting the image of who you really are, and helping you turn your flaws into perfections. Something that I’ve begun to think about is if I’m being a true good friend to those around me. I’m glad that I have so many relationships that really reflect the person I am, and friends who have my back, encourage me in all that I want to accomplish, and tell me when I’m being unrealistic or just dumb.

So, whoever you consider family or friend, love that person/group. They’re here for your personal growth!

“In a real friendship, one plus one always exceeds two.”

Countdown to America: 13 days

inner reformation

So, I’m at my grandmother’s house in a small village, which isn’t so small anymore. I’ll be here until Saturday, and I don’t have any internet. How am I writing this post you say? We made a day trip to visit someone, and I brought my computer to get some work done.

I have a TON to talk about from my last trip to Shreenathji and Udaipur. I can’t wait to post everything. But, since my computer is about to die, here’s a daily encouragement that really makes you think!

“Where can we find the royal road to reformation and change? Emerson declared: “Not he is great who can alter matter, but he who can alter my state of mind.” He strongly urged us to undergo an inner reformation. I want you to be assured that the challenge to which we set ourselves day after day–that of our human revolution–is the royal road to bringing about a reformation in our families, local regions and societies. An inner revolution is the most fundamental and at the same time the ultimate revolution for engendering change in all things.”                –Daisaku Ikeda

I just read an excellent book called “The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation as taught by S.N. Goenke” by William Hart (I think I’m going to do a book review on it, so be on the lookout soon!), and it talks a lot about how we are responsible for our own selves, our own suffering, and our own progress. And, I’ve mentioned it too in some of my previous posts about how we are responsible for our own happiness and no one creates our problems but ourselves. We hear this all the time from the all time favorite quote of Gandhiji‘s “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. This quote or some sort of paraphrase is literally shoved down our throats in every setting you can think of. So, there has to be some truth to it, right?

When we start to live a life in which we are truly happy, that positivity is going to spread to others and we can really truly be a catalyst of change. But, are we ready to take on that responsibility?

Sometimes, I wonder if I can do it myself, it’s definitely a huge task to take on. But, if we can start with even the smallest thinking of “today’s going to be a great day”, we can begin to be really be that catalyst, if for no one else, than for ourselves. Because at the end of the day, we are responsible for our own lives.

How are you going to start the human revolution?

 

want more awesome daily encouragement? be sure to check out www.sgi.org

back for a day

So, we got back from our mini trip really late Friday night. All I can say, is what an excellent time I had. I don’t really know where to start to describe everything, or even if what I say in words on this post will 1. make sense, or 2. give my trip justice.

Like I said, we went to Somnath to visit a few temples in the area that are important in the Hindu religion. It was actually pretty neat. For those of you who don’t know, in Hinduism, we believe that God takes human form when society is in need of being put back on a path of good. When he takes a human “birth”, it’s called an avatar. There have been many avatars to come, but one of them, Krishna, is one most people have heard of. Anyways, 2 of the temples we visited were locations where Krishna spent his last few moments in His human body. It was pretty neat to see where He took his last steps.

We also went to Diu, a city that’s very island-like (actually, I think it is an island. If not, it’s definitely a beach). It was founded by the Portuguese, and is seriously one of the prettiest places I’ve seen in this area (granted, it was like an 8 hour drive, but whatever). There, we hung out on the beach for a few, and went to another temple, and just chilled. There’s an old Portuguese fort that we checked out as well.

On the way back, we stopped by another palace in Gondal (all these names sound very Lord of the Rings-esque. haha). Finally today, me, my parents, and my aunt and uncle took a day trip to this huge step-well (essentially, a well, but you can take steps down to the bottom) and a Surya Mandir (Sun Temple) about 2 hours away from Ahmedebad. Again, both places were so immaculate and beautiful (see pictures below).

All I have to say is from the past several days, is wow. If there was one thing I saw this past weekend, it was a whole lot of happiness. We stayed with a family who had 18 people living in their house. Their livelihood consisted of fishing. They lived a very simple life, but if there was one thing I saw, it was how freaking happy they were. They just felt as though they were so blessed by God, that not having things that I feel like I need (my iPhone, laptop, my 50+ pairs of shoes, etc) wasn’t even important to them. Talk about living a simple and humble life. Something that I’m over here trying to do, but am no where close to.

There is just so much history and culture in this world that I am so incredibly unaware of. I really feel as though life is too short to just sit in your house all day and not experience what’s out there. A lot of people know I am an avid traveler, and will take any opportunity that is presented to me to visit new places. I love long distance travelling. But, what I learned from this past weekend, is that you don’t have to travel far to literally experience a slice of history. The Surya Mandir is 1,000 years old, and it was just a short trip away. No one ever said that travelling consists of going to places every single person in the world has heard of. There are so many treasures in not-so-well-known places, like, Veraval (the small fishing community where we stayed this past weekend).

The new year is starting soon, and the first thing I’m doing when I get back to Memphis is planning out the next few months of places I can go and visit, even if it is just visiting a few friends somewhere, or going to some retreat. I’ve always found that my money spent on experiences rather than things gives me a better understanding of who I am, and I leave with a ton of awesome memories that I can put down in my life book. So save up a few bucks here and there, and go, get out and see something new!

Tomorrow, we leave for Udaipur and Shreenathji for a 2-day trip. I can’t wait, despite the early 5am leaving time. Another city to conquer and learn about, another opportunity to find out something about myself I didn’t know.

all the fishing boats at the harbor at the end of the day

all the fishing boats at the harbor at the end of the day

all the boats in Veraval

all the boats in Veraval

beach at Diu

beach at Diu

such a beautiful beach

such a beautiful beach

palace at Gondal

palace at Gondal

Adalaj Step Well

Adalaj Step Well

a small view looking up

a small view looking up

oh! hey mom and dad!

oh! hey mom and dad!

Surya Mandir

Surya Mandir

really intricate carving throughout the entire mandir

really intricate carvings throughout the entire mandir

just chillin at Surya Mandir

just chillin at Surya Mandir

If you’re not sure where to start your traveling journeys, check out NatGeo’s Best Trips 2013, including MEMPHIS. But, seriously. Great list of places!

first out of town trip

So, we finally leave for our very first trip tomorrow morning, and I couldn’t be more excited! We will be traveling 6ish hours by car to Somnath, Veraval, and Div. Somnath is considered one of the many holy places in India, as it is home to the Somnath Temple.

Why is this significant? Because Somnath is the home of the very first Jyotirling (wiki link). A Jyotirling is a shrine for the Hindu god Shiva. There are only 12 in the entire country, and the pilgrimage to visit all 12 starts at Somnath. I’ve never been before, but I have heard only great and amazing things about this beautiful place.

Packing for this short trip was one of the most hectic things so far in my (basically) 2 months of being here. I have only one month left here in the Motherland, and I have so much more to report. This has seriously been one of the most gratifying experiences I’ve ever had in my life. To say that it was a learning experience is such an understatement. It has been a period of growth in all realms for me, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, etc. I can’t wait to reflect on my last day here. Of course, I will have a lengthy post on everything I am feeling and thinking and experiencing. Until then, I hope my last month here is just as exciting and fulfilling. We will be travelling for a majority of the last month, so I will try and blog and post pictures as much as I can in between.

Here’s to life y’all!

routine life

My granddad (dad’s dad) just celebrated his 83rd birthday during Diwali. I really admire him. For a good majority of his working career, he would ride his bicycle to and from work, and work at least 10 hour shifts 6 days a week. Talk about a “when I was your age” story. So, at 83 years old, I’m sure anyone can imagine, that someone is going to be pretty stuck in their ways and routines. The first few weeks I was here, I was really astonished at the fact that he would easily wake up at 4, 5 in the morning. Naturally, my grandma would yell at him and tell that’s entirely too early to be getting up and making a ruckus in the house. So, now of course, he wakes up at a little later…at 6:30 am (this is a struggle for me regardless).

His routine is pretty perfect and to the tee. He wakes up at 6:30. Makes a cup of tea for himself. Waits for the milkman (yes, a milkman still comes to the house to give you milk here). After the milkman has come, he sits on our swing and reads the paper (but only the headlines, because the other print is too small for him to read). Then, when everyone else wakes up around 7:30/8:00, it’s round 2 of tea. And by 9:00am, he’s showered, gotten ready for the day, morning prayers completed, and is sitting quietly on the swing. And that’s his routine. Every morning.

I began to think of my “morning route”, and realized it’s so willy nilly, and very dependent on what I have going on for the day. Whereas my gdad, no matter what’s going on, his routine is stable. If I have yoga, I wake up at maybe, 6:30, sometimes 6:55 (for my 7am class that is). If I don’t, hello 9:00am! Sometimes I eat breakfast, sometimes I don’t. Basically, it’s so irregular. And sometimes, I’m just too lazy where I don’t even do my morning prayers or make time for meditating. What’s wrong with me? Will it take me another 60 years to reach the same place my granddaddy is at? Why am I so situation-dependent?

I don’t have an answer to this question. But, I know it takes constant effort. I mean, seriously, how good are we at keeping our New Year’s Resolutions? (If you’ve figured out the secrets, share them here!) It’s really hard to live a stable life. But, I do know that some sort of routine is good for a healthy life. I mean, my gdad, he’s 83 with not a single health problem. He’s doin’ something right.

Do you have a daily routine that yo follow no matter what the situation is?

you should be in control

Today, I want to share a story I learned in my Sanskrit class the other day. It really struck a cord with me, and coincidentally has been a theme I’ve been hearing more and more in my life for the past few months. It goes like this:

There was a father who asked an astrologer to read his young son’s palms to see what his future had in store. As the astrologer was looking at the young boy’s palms, he began to have looks of shock on his face. Worried, the father asked the astrologer what was wrong. Very cautiously, the astrologer said, “I do not understand. You are such an intelligent man, your son, however, will not be a knowledgeable man like you.” Very innocently the young boy asked the astrologer, “If I had the line for intelligence/knowledge, where would it be on my palm?” As soon as the astrologer pointed to where this missing line should be, the boy darted out of the room and ran into the kitchen, only to draw in the line for knowledge onto his own palm. He ran back into the room with his father and the astrologer and proudly declared, “Look. I now have the line. I will be as intelligent as my father.”

Our life is in our own hands. Yes, there are certain things which we couldn’t have controlled at birth, such as our parents. But, we can’t let other people dictate our every move, every thought, every opinion. I am responsible for my happiness and my own sadness. My life is in my hands.

These past several months I have been working on applications for grad school. In the beginning of the process, as I was writing and perfecting my personal statement, I asked for feedback from more people than I should. I got to a point where I became really stressed out, and I began questioning my capabilities as a student, and even wondered if I would be successful in grad school, when I can’t even write a personal statement. I happened to post a tweet on twitter, something along the lines of being stressed and asking too many opinions. My friend Ashley replied, “Remember, it’s a personal statement. Not a community statement.” That reply couldn’t have come at a better time in my life. And I took it further to apply to my own life. I am not a community project.

My life is in my hands. The question I have to ask myself is, do I have the courage to take control?

“My life didn’t please me, so I created my life.”  –Coco Chanel

Mosquito Bite Count: 5 | Serious Craving: nothing. so much food intake the past 24 hrs