I am going to India!! I am really going to India!!
I will be in India. India will come to life. It will no longer be just a land of my imagination and beyond it, but a real place beneath my feet, chattering and chanting around me, unrolling before trains and boats, filling my nose and my eyes and all my senses and probably my spirit, too.
Three weeks from today i will leave my country, not really knowing where i am going, not knowing when i will return. I don’t know whether anything has ever felt so fated before in my life.
I will be in this completely new world for months–almost like being born again, learning how to navigate and how to live.
I will be so excited to meet the elephants–those intelligent, sensitive beings. There will be elephants, not behind bars but painted up pretty and encountered up close.
This evening i signed up for Netflix again just to get 4000 United Airlines miles. (Just to give you an idea of what that $8 is now worth: ten times $8 is $80; ten times 4000 miles is what i used to book a fare clear from my hometown to Bombay). Started streaming Darshan: The Embrace, a documentary about Ammachi, the hugging saint of India. Noticed the classically Keralan backwaters, looked up Amma’s ashram, and learned that she’ll be there for a long time while i’m in that region. A lovely possibility! It was almost six years ago, on Mount Shasta, that i first heard of Amma…
Seeing the movie, i am reminded that i want to pack as few Western garments as i can get away with until i find some proper Indian sandals and a tailor to outfit me with a modestly cut salwar kameez. I am reminded of the beauty of so much devotional music. I am reminded that i will be in a land unimaginable to me now, having moments of utter awe that i should find myself here, and now here, among these, seeing that, and participating.
I got my typhoid vaccine today and an hour on the phone with another Indian-American friend–a Mumbaikar, actually, who offered her parents as hosts for me for a day or two upon my arrival on the subcontinent. How much would i love to begin my acquaintance with India in the company of an elderly couple? (Answer: oh how!) After i leave the Hare Krishna temple guesthouse, it would also be wonderful to be picked up by the parents of a friend who would also assist me with matters such as cell phones. I can get along fine without such help, but how much easier and more comfortable it can be to embrace allies in key moments.
Other ideas for Mumbai:
– an early-morning bicycle tour of the city with Reality Tours
– a no-photos tour of the million-person Dharavi slum (where part of Slumdog Millionaire was filmed, incidentally), also with Reality Tours
– seeing a Bollywood film in this Bollywood city, probably in Hindi with no subtitles, drinking chai from an in-house chai stand, at some neat old Art Deco cinema such as the Liberty or the Bharat Mata
– maybe couchsurf and go dancing at a club (Blue Frog sounds like a cool warehouse venue)
– walk on Juhu Beach, near the Hare Krishna temple & guesthouse where i will begin, and gawk at the Arabian Sea
– the Zoroastrian “Tower of Silence” where vultures feed on human remains
– sunset qawwali and pomegranate juice at Haji Ali Dargah
– have shoes or clothes made for me
– laughter yoga, apparently the tai chi of Mumbai parks
– the view from the rooftop bar at the Four Seasons hotel
Amma songs in chorus