Sophie in India: Letter Home #2

Words by Sophie Pahl.
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I had a few overwhelming days where the chaos of India, the gazillion people in my face and the constant uncertainty of my surroundings really tested my sanity. From the culture to the driving and everything in between — I was still shocked and wasn’t budging. One of the greatest things bothering me was the differing levels of status. I tried to help myself understand by writing about it:
“The contrast between wealth and privation (mostly the poverty) in which I am seeing leaves me feeling so uneasy. I don’t want to feel sadness for sadness lacks empathy while suggesting my superiority or my ability to remove myself from the reality of my surroundings. I want to feel the severity of class separation here in order to understand it. I desire to understand it, however I’m not willing to accept it. Content and mere acceptance ‘just because’ isn’t tolerable especially when there is so much inequality towards fundamental humanity. 
Within saying this, the several conversations I have had regarding what I’m observing in India have always brought me back to one focus: “it’s all about relativity, Soph”. This way of living has been habitually engrained into their culture and religion for centuries (as opposed to the mere hundreds of years like my western culture has been taught upon me). 
Here is my consequential predicament: what do I do with this newly acknowledged situation? (Rhetorical question, because I have zero answers).
As I have been paraded by guide after guide from marble etching warehouses to hand-made carpet and textile fabricators, I feel as though I am contributing to the exploitation of these industry workers. They spin wheels and create designs on demand for my own enlightenment. My thoughts are counter stating themselves however, as it would be unforgiving to not recognise that each of these industry workers play their role in order to live. Despite status inequality, there is a place and a role for everyone in this mad, kind of divine world.
All in all, these experiences are still overwhelming me and despite being the furthest thing possible from being prepared for this, I hope I can make my world all the better in return, however I work out necessary.”

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In the last week, I’ve been able to stop seeing black from white and rich from poor. I wouldn’t say it’s acceptance, but it’s mandatory to feel any sort of to this land. Since that and changing a few of my plans around — I’m back on two feet.
On the 22nd of April I arrived in a wee little town by the name of Pushkar. Pushkar is a sacred pilgrimage site for Hindu’s, their theology recognises Pushkar Lake as a holy pond formed after the death of Sati, Shiva’s wife. The city is situated around the lake and despite its date of origin being unknown, it is believe to be one of the oldest cities in India. They associate the creation of Pushkar with Lord Brahma. The city is known for it temples (/shrines) with having up to 1000 in the township. It holds one extremely significant temple — Brahma Temple. There are very few temples dedicated to Lord Brahma — Hindu Creator-god, and Jagatpita Brahma Mandir in Pushkar being the most prominent of them all. So far, Pushkar has been the place for me.
I passed my time in Pushkar visiting temple after temple, a lot of it was filled with questions about gods and mantras and rituals. I was able to take place in a blessing in the holy water of the Pushkar lake blessing my families and myself offering blessings on success, health, knowledge and a prosperous love between my families. I shared some really internally peaceful moments with myself, it was very grounding.
In the evening, my guide offered me a ride on his motorbike into the mountains for the sunset. He was rather vague about the whole thing and I wasn’t sure about the entire thing but accepted anyway. We rode about 30kms into the desert countryside of Rajasthan towards some grand mountains and reached a Shiva Temple after some time. The ride was beautifully serene. Inside the temple was just the priest and myself, I gave an offering and received a blessing. Despite not knowing or understanding the entire significance of many of the rituals, it was so warming to be welcomed and included into such a unifying, peaceful experience.
The following morning I headed down to the lake at 5:30am for morning dawn and sunrise. I remained silently while listening to bells chime and the chanting of mantras in surrounding temples. Grain and corn was spread around the lake as an inviting offering to all the animals while many men and women bathed in the holy waters of Pushkar Sarovar. After experiencing so many days of paralysing chaos, I had shared some mere moments of peace and silence. I certainly haven’t sought any sort of Nirvana, but I’ve experienced some soul humbling stillness.
In just one week my Indian journey will be over and I’ll be in the arms of mum and dad before conquering Europe together. It will have only been three weeks all up in India and away from my family and loved ones, but I think has been well and truly enough for an emotionally underprepared solo white traveller. Despite all of my crying and crippling anxiety with 389 trillion people around me, I’m very fond of the realness of India.
I’m currently in Udaipur, a gorgeous and romantic city situated on lakes which means today was only 35C, not 47C like one of my days in Delhi! I went on a boat and it was delightful and just pretty! But I’ll spare you the details of prettiness. Next up Pune and Mumbai.
Thanks for being on the receiving end of my ramblings, next time you hear from me I’ll be wrapping up 3 weeks of turmoil wrapped in gentleness.
– Soph xxxxx
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