January 13, 2011 Udaipur, India
India is a land of mystery and excitement and whether you love or hate it, you cannot escape its complexity. It keeps you on your toes by constantly awakening your senses. You are forced to give up complete control over your life and succumb to where the country takes you and what it has to teach you about yourself. Once you manage to let go, you suddenly begin to come face to face with an array of magical, unexpected things: Joining a wedding procession with a crowd of 1000 people chanting prayers and enacting Hindu folklore; Being invited for a cup of chai in a local home in a village; Frequently stopping in the middle of the road to allow elephants, monkeys, camels and cows to cross; Walking into a tiny shop on the side of the street and finding 100 year old antique exquisite saris lying in a pile in the corner; Joining girls on the street for traditional Rajasthani dancing while en route to the market; Leaving a 5-star hotel and feeling a tug on your shirt from a desperate child begging you for your bottle of water and licking the residue off the outside to quench their thirst.
I spent a month traveling in India, visiting the places I missed during my initial trip (mainly the north) and trying to expand my understanding of this fascinating nation. Visiting the different region s I realized that the amazing things about India are not only tied to my experience in the village but is the essence of the people. Their interconnectedness, sense of community, openness, and ability to embrace life and whatever it brings their way, whether heartbreak or joy, are all things you can feel in people all around the country. Walking through the quaint villages of Rajasthan, I would sit down next to woman weaving baskets, selling vegetables, or feeding their children and just lock eyes with people whose lives were so far from mine yet we somehow magically shared an unspoken connection.
Each day I spent in India I fell more in love with the country and came to see that deep down, through all the chaos and difficulty, it has now become a part of who I am. Though in the Middle East I questioned homeland and where I belong, coming to India I found that a home is not necessarily where you grew up, the country your parents are from or the background of your ancestors. It is somewhere that you feel closely connected to a place and its people. Ironically, India does not include a part of my history or heritage yet somehow, among the many unexpected things, I have seemed to find a place to belong here. India will always hold a special piece of me and coming here for the second time, made me realize I will always feel moved by this nation. For that very reason, I know it will be a ‘home’ I will visit for the rest of my life.
More photos from my time in India: