View From Above
The final days in Pondicherry approached quickly. The little room on the roof of the art gallery that I had called home for the month would no longer be my place of rest and reflection. It was time to move on. Explore unknown territory and open myself up to the spiritual journey that awaited me in the northern regions of India.
I would fly to Udaipur to meet Josh where we would spend the next month making our way from the north-west part of the country in Rajasthan to the holy town of Varanasi. A wave of anxiety and uncertainty came over me as I started to pack my bag and say goodbye to my new friends, adopted art gallery family and the girls of Maasila home. We become comfortable in routine and the familiarity of our surroundings. We as humans are adaptable beings - whether we choose to think so or not. We mold to our environment and create a nest for ourselves wherever we rest our head.
I remember my final night in Pondicherry vividly well. The founder of Ouicare, Azath, and I were scootering around town trying our best to purchase and deliver the final emergency items needed in the home before my departure the following morning. There was a moment when we were driving through the chaotic streets as dusk was upon us that I remember well to this day. I was staring out at the road ahead but my mind was fixed on a kaleidoscope of little memories from the past month. Moments of dancing on the roof and practicing yoga with the girls. Bicycling home from a day with the girls and the one time my bicycle broke down and strangers stopped to help me fix it. It felt almost like a highlight reel with music behind it. Happy memories of gratitude. But memories of hard work and commitment which started a new chapter in my life that is focused on helping to support and empower others - even if it’s in small gestures.
Northern India was cold and dusty when I arrived. Everyone was wearing a bomber jacket or a wool shawl of some kind to keep warm. Coming from the tropical southern region where I had spent the last three months, to say the least was a shock to my system. I constantly felt chilled to the bone. Except during the middle hours of the day when the sun would radiate on my skin on the rooftop of my hostel in Udaipur. I’d have a few days alone here before Josh finally arrived from Mumbai. These few first days were particularly difficult for a number of reasons. For the first time in a month I was finally taking a day off to breath and relax. I had time previously when I wasn’t working and focused on my health but I knew I needed total separation for a moment or I would find myself back in the unhealthy cycle of imbalance that I knew all too well in Toronto.
The landscape in Rajasthan is much different than in the south. Mountains and sand encompasses most of the land you see. It felt more rustic and rugged up here. The colours of the textiles were more vibrant than I had remembered them during my first trip five years ago to this region. This to me was starting to feel like the India you imagine the country to be if you had never visited before. Snake charmers on the sides of the road, metal shop workers hammering away, elephants with painted trunks strolling down the sides of the road, and camels with their owners waiting by the waters for the next eager tourist.
Udaipur is known as one of India’s most romantic towns. It surrounds a lake with hillsides in the near distance with castles resting just above the cloud line that used to be inhabited by maharajahs.
One day I met a handful of people at the hostel I was staying at and we decided to venture out to one of the hilltop castles. An American guy who had been on the road for the past year who was a true free spirit and carried a traditional chillum everywhere he went, two Goans that were on vacation from the Indian navy, an air Marshall’s son, and Josh - when he finally arrived after a long journey that was supposed to be a short one.
Once you see one castle, the ones you see next tend to all be the same, but this one was different. Not because of the castle itself, but because of the incredible view over the entire city it had - especially at sunset. No words can really describe the aura of this place unless you experience it first-hand.
When the sun set on the day we visited, a whistle signalled all of the visiting tourists to leave and make their way back to the city. Luckily being with a few Indians served us well and after a short discussion with the security in Hindi, we found ourselves entirely alone with no one else around enjoying the last few minutes of the sun setting over the horizon. We sat in silence and absorbed the energy around us. It was magic.