When India Gets Under Your Skin…

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Taj Mahal, Agra, India


If India gets under your skin, you’re done for. Indians may have a hard time believing this, but many a foreigner from a wealthy nation, like Canada, goes to India, falls in love with the place and never wants to leave.

That’s what happened to me. At the end of my first trip to India – six deeply immersed months, living in Delhi with my new Indian boyfriend, traveling from Kanyakumari to Dharamsala and studying yoga in several ashrams – I didn’t want to leave so badly, I felt sick. I was so nauseous that when my boyfriend, Ajay, was driving me to the airport, I thought I was going to have to ask him to pull over.

I don’t remember the long plane rides back to Toronto. I cried the whole way. And when I got my first whiff of Toronto air, which smelt like a parking garage, I missed the intoxicating mixture of scents in Delhi so much, I started crying again.

“Once you have felt the Indian dust you will never be free of it.” Rumer Godden

What is it about India? Much of it is crowded, polluted, poverty stricken; it gets so hot you worry your brain will melt; you can never get the right advice, directions or change; you have to watch every thing you put in your mouth, even making sure it’s closed tight in the shower; the train is late, the car breaks down, the driver doesn’t listen; your white clothes come back from the laundry grey; you see the same shawl for half the price, half an hour later; the thin, naked child turning somersaults at the corner breaks your heart; and the sight of an old woman carrying a basket of bricks on her head in the heat of the day fills you with stifled anguish.

And yet … When you wake up in the morning and India’s yellow sunshine is streaming through the window and you can hear the vegetable seller calling his wares in Hindi. When you sit in meditation by Ganga at sunrise and feel the vibration up your spine, fine-tuned by eons of Rishis sitting in the same spot.

When you dive into the streets and bazaars and let uncensored life swirl around you in every colour, shade and gradation known to man. When you allow the humanity of an open hand to touch your heart. When you experience the famous “hospitality of the east,” captured by the phrase Atithi Devo Bhava (Guest is God). In other words, when you allow India in, she may never leave.

Women in saris at the Kumbh Mela 2010, Haridwar, India

At the Kumbh Mela 2010, Haridwar, India

And you may not want to leave, either. But leave I did, on a hot night in June 2005, after six months of traveling in India and blogging about my trip for family and friends. That of course is the trip that changed my life. I’ve been back to India five times since then, and my casual blog has turned into a full-time profession as a travel writer, blogger and editor.

And not a day goes by when I do not feel the dust of India within me, calling me back.

This post originally appeared on TravelWireAsia.com.

Mariellen Ward
Mariellen Ward is a freelance travel writer whose personal style is informed by a background in journalism, a dedication to yoga and a passion for sharing the beauty of India's culture and wisdom with the world. She has traveled for about a year altogether in India and publishes an India travel blog, Breathedreamgo.com. Mariellen also writes for magazines and newspapers.
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One Response to When India Gets Under Your Skin…

  1. Jennifer Nice July 11, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    Beautiful! I visited India for 6 days in 2011, and can’t wait to return. This post triggered many memories – thanks for capturing India’s essence in your words.

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