After a full 4 months in India, it’s time to leave the Subcontinent. Yesterday was Thanksgiving and with my son, it was easy to celebrate and give thanks. With two days left in Rishikesh, our home for the last 5 weeks, we chose to splurge for a more expensive option to our familiar cheap room at Laxman Jhula. This more upscale room is a treat to send us off in comfort and maybe a quieter night’s sleep. Also, we might be easing back into a more entitled mind-set for the re-entry into our life in California. At any rate, we are gearing up for departure. My son is quite excited after so long minus close friends and kids his age as companions. It’s just been the two of us mostly, as I too have opted to give us time, rather than talk in length to adults who don’t engage more than superficially with kids. But again, I am grateful for the opportunity to both revisit a place with which I had so much affinity and to spend real quality time with my son, who I now know so much better.
This country has grown and matured so, I had a difficult time shaking my memories- which created unfair expectations- for a country developing into the global contender nation that it is. I still wanted it to be my version of pure and slow and spiritual- which it still is, but it’s become so much more. So many influences have touched the trails I traveled here, though that it’s hard to imagine what the next ten years and will create for the youth who live with the mixture of both tradition and modernity. How world influences mutate a culture remains to be seen in the deepest parts of India, but I met women who talked of their young children no longer wanting to eat Indian fare but prefer pasta and sandwiches, or who speak more English than Hindi. One man told me, young Indians prefer what’s called Multi-cuisine Restaurants (previously known as Continental+Chinese+Indian) to the many Indian styles that I found on my previous trip, more than a decade ago. My memories didn’t account for so many changes.
And, of course, the changes in myself, both then and now are tremendous. Along with other travels, India helped formed the mother I became, and how I think my life going forward must also. Then, with two trips in 2 year period in the late 90′s, I found spirituality and courage and open mindedness and my voice. And more, without a doubt; certainly I grew, I had epiphanies, I accepted myself. This time, in my 50th year, a mom of a middle-schooler, a son, I saw India through his eyes, with a new ability to see it with humor and with a lighter spirit- yet I felt a sense of protecting against the roughness of it’s seemingly, more primitive side. I see my evolution as a woman and person through the lens of this adventure. India and I have both grown up and we understand that change is good. , ” Looking is free,” I heard, over and over. The point is to take what works and leave the rest. Maybe more to my point here is, ‘be the change, you want to see…’ I have no doubt that India can squeeze the wisdom from you if you are open to seeing it all around you.
So as we watch TV in our little room, as the countdown brings us closer to our return to what’s called our normal lives, I can’t help but feel again, that India will stay a part of me, and now influence my son in subtle ways, making us better individuals and bonding this relationship with the glue that is travel, into my happiest memories. I am thankful for the time, health and ability to take on India with a backpack. I am thankful for the car, sold, that gave us the budget that allowed for 4 months to do and go as we pleased. I am thankful for my son, as my support system and partner on the road. I am thankful for the humorous times, the hard ones, the ones where my son was brave, comforting, patient and forgiving, curious and confident. I am thankful. India- thank you.