I went to India a few months back.
I went under the guise of it being a photography related adventure. Spoiler alert – it was so much more! But more on that in a minute. Since I’ve been back I’ve felt sort of torn about blogging about the experience or not. It wasn’t an overly private experience for the most part. I shared it with 16 other people. I haven’t really been able to describe it accurately though, which feels strange, and also makes me more hesitant to try. Like it has some magic that I want to keep for myself and trying to explain it might threaten that. When people have asked me what it was like I’ve given a lot of canned answers. That it was really dirty. Like really fucking dirty. And it was beautiful. So loud. It was hot. Which are all really vague answers but people seemed satisfied with them for whatever reason. I had numerous small personal experiences beyond fucking dirty, beautiful, loud and hot though. I ugly cried in front of everyone over a bunch of elephants. I sort of desperately, albeit gently, fought off small children hanging off my arms because they really really wanted my 10 Rupees. Having terrible diarrhea and stomach cramps and announcing to everyone on the bus how I was going to poop everywhere if they didn’t pull over (they did and then I did, at a cute little roadside restaurant. Thanks guys!) Walking around a Camel festival wearing an insanely large denim moo moo so I could live out my dream of wearing an insanely large denim moo moo at a Camel festival. Photo and embarrassment credited to Whitney Chamberlin for making me do that. Accidentally brushing my teeth with sink water on the last day and having a panic melt down that my intestines were surely going to explode followed by furiously doing shots of vodka I found in the kitchen because logically that would totally kill whatever I had ingested. There were a lot of those little things. But still, I’m not really talking about the meaningful experiences.
Words are not my strong suit. It’s funny because at one time I thought they were. I was like 19 or something so I really had no idea what was going on with anything anywhere, but I thought for sure I was pretty damn smart and good with words. I was convinced I was mentally advanced in a lot of respects actually; I was a witty intellectual dammit! Now that I am older and only slightly less egotistical, I’ve realize that I was terribly out of touch with who I really was. I am a visceral person. Thesaurus.com (the most linguistic of the dinosaurs) gets a lot of action from me when I have to publicly express myself these days. I felt a lot of pressure putting together something to say that would do India justice (it took me a week to make myself sit down to do it, and 2 days to write 3 small paragraphs), but I think that was compounded by the fact that I was fighting against my natural tendencies. So I am not going to be the person to describe the land of India in rich detail that will take you there through your computer screen. I am just going to talk briefly about one singular thing that moved me. And that is the abundance of grace within the people who live there (fuck why did I pick that).
On the first day I was there it hit me. Within the first hours really. I remember immediately wanting to talk about it with someone else, to see if I was alone in what I was feeling. Jayden Lee of Elephant Landing and Woodnote Photography was there with me before most of the others showed up so him and I somehow got started on the topic. At the time I didn’t know what to call it, maybe Jayden said the word grace I’m not sure, but the longer I was there the more it evolved into an overwhelming feeling that was everywhere I went. You couldn’t escape the radiance of the people. Their kindness and their gentleness warmed you. Their inner joy was not a stereotype. It was real and I wanted to know where it was coming from! I’ve traveled to a few other places around the world and I had never felt this anywhere else. It was a whole body experience. I wanted their effortless happiness. It felt pure and simple, but somehow radical at the same time. Some of the people we encountered did not look from the outside like they were living lives of abundance, but it shined out of them. It made me feel guilty that I have so much in my life and I find ways to be unhappy still. I find excuses to build up and experiences to tear down. It was a wake up call that happiness doesn’t have to be complicated. And maybe life doesn’t have to be that complicated either. It distilled for me that whatever is right in front of me is probably all I need. I have not mastered this by any means, but it’s a feeling I’m striving for. I want to go back and experience it again and learn about it more. I want to just go back. For so many different reasons. I wish I could share them with you but I think I will just say that if you have the chance to go to India you shouldn’t hesitate. It’s not easily described in words but it is heavily and intensely felt. I will keep the rest for myself and maybe a few others. I don’t want to spend all its magic.
All of this leads to what is probably the most important part of this blog post though. And that is the Rajahmundry Orphanage. Our group wants to raise money for the children who live there to help enrich their lives. And also if enough money is raised, to give them a music room. This is important to all of us and if you want to help our efforts to do this please visit our Gofundme page HERE. A little money goes a long way in India so even a few dollars helps. Now, here are some photos and I’m done talking.
Me and the denim moo moo. Photo credit Whitney Chamberlin of Our Labor of Love