Kindness in the Thieves’ Market

Today we visited an area filled with stalls selling antiques, also bicycle parts, plumbing, and fresh vegetables.  The area has the colorful name of Thieves’ Market (Chor Bazaar) but it is a quiet Muslim neighborhood full of people just going about their day. I was wearing Indian clothes – a wide scarf (dupatta) across my chest, a long tunic (split at the sides), over loose pants – and I had a heavy bag slung across my front.  After we had walked and shopped for an hour, a woman walking by stopped right in front of me, looked at my hips, and silently tugged the front of my tunic back down over my pants. The heavy bag had made the tunic ride up. I had no idea.  But she did and she took the time and trouble to take care of me.  Such kindness to a stranger.  I leaned toward her, touched her arm and thanked her and we just smiled at my foolishness.

A Sheltering Sky

“Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really…How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems so limitless.”

-Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky

Though the idea of stepping onto a plane in Newark, and stepping off of it in Mumbai is still an abstract and somewhat illusory concept to me, I can’t help but think of this quote from The Sheltering Sky. A post colonial story about an American couple abroad in Africa, I think it is a must read for anyone traveling to an unfamiliar place. Some may find this quote to be a little cynical, possibly pessimistic, and I wouldn’t completely disagree with you. Yet the realist in me recognizes and resonates with the idea that everything has a limit and therefore an end. Our trip is ten days long, an insignificant amount of time in the grand scheme of things, a story we tell our kids about,”that one time when I was in India….” I don’t mean to take away from the thrill of travel. As this is my first time out of the country I can’t quite formulate the anticipation I feel into a coherent sentence, yet I find myself more focused on the presentness of everything. My last week at home with my family until the summer, my last night with friends who are very rarely all in the same state and/or country at one time, my last night binge watching a Netflix show in my bed that I’ve had since fifth grade. And soon, my last night in Mumbai, my last day taking in the wonder that is Elephanta, my last night in India. I’ve become very aware of how my time is spent and I hope it follows me to India, forcing me to take in everything as if it is my last time there, because it very well might be. And ultimately I share the same feelings as everyone else, pure and unfiltered excitement at the thought experiencing something new.

 

Fast approaching

With the holiday season safely over and our trip almost upon us, I feel a similar sentiment to many of my classmates: excitement and disbelief. I have been looking forward to this trip all semester and the prospect of seeing the sites that we have studied made learning about them even more interesting. Even so, I still cannot fathom the fact that I will return to Colgate on Friday to begin our travels to India. As I often feel while traveling, be it to ski destinations, a whirlwind month around Europe after senior year, or flying to London for a long weekend this fall, it takes waking up in the new location for it to feel real. No amount of preparation, day dreaming, packing, or even travel makes it sink in quite like waking up in an unfamiliar place does.

Building on my research, it will be interesting to see some of the Jain sites that I learned about and saw through opposing perspectives of magnitude and importance as well as many of the places we spent more time on in class and examined closely.

With that I should start to think about packing and prepare to wake up on our first morning in Mumbai ready for a great experience.

Elephanta is waiting for YOU

We went to Elephanta today to scope out how to get you there and back most efficiently.  And to take loads of pictures. Pretty magical.  Saw a craven little gana I had never seen before!

Personified weapon (?) beside a door guardian protecting Shiva Sadashiva
View of Sadashiva with human door guardian
Professors Rotter and Hingorani at the East entrance to Cave 1, Elephanta.

Before India Trip

Just thinking about the awesome trip we are about to go on makes me more excited than when we first began talking about it. This will be my first time outside of the country for an extended period of time which makes me a little nervous, but I’m much more excited. I can’t wait to see, hear, smell, feel, and taste parts of a culture other than my own. One of the parts that I’m most excited about is physically seeing and experiencing the beautiful temples and caves we discussed in detail in class. There is something special about learning about a place and then visiting it. I took a class at the beginning of this year in which we studied environmental concerns on an island and then went and visited the island, seeing those effects right in front of us. It was an impactful and unforgettable experience which is what I hope this trip is for us!

Countdown to India

It’s kind of hard to believe that in a week I will be on a 15 hr flight to Mumbai. Never did I thought I would be going to Indian until I got accepted into this class. To say that I am excited about this trip is an understatement. Learning about those impressive architectures and figures in class was one thing, but I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like to stand there and experience them in person. I cannot wait to get to Newark and get on that plane to begin this journey, and I am excited to share this experience with people I know. Like a true tourist, I will have my camera ready to document all the magnificent sites we visit. Elephanta, here I come!

Before

As the holiday season is coming to a close, I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that I’ll be on the other side of the world two weeks from now. I remember last year, when I had found out I had been accepted into the SRS program, one of the most difficult things had been that I would have to wait a whole year before actually getting on the plane. And again this semester, learning about and seeing photographs of this sites we were to visit, there was a sense of anticipation and awe that I felt. But this week, as I’ve was explaining to countless relatives (“so your mom tells me you’re going to India!“), it really doesn’t feel like I’ll be standing at the foot of Elephanta in 13 days.

I’m not quite sure what to expect, or even how to feel. I guess it might take physically getting on a plane for me to finally believe that I’m actually going. Until then I’m enjoying the excitement of preparing for the trip, getting suitcases and outlet converters as Christmas gifts and almost passing out during my hepatitis shots. And as I’m reflecting back on it now, I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity. I am so lucky to be able to have this unreal experience to travel and learn, and I truly cannot wait.

The Anticipation Begins

First and foremost thank the Gods that the semester is finally over!!! This has been one of the most stressful but yet eventful semesters here at Colgate. With finals finally being over I can finally look forward to going home for a couple of weeks to be with family for the holidays but what I am most excited for is this trip. I am feeling all types of emotions but I am mostly excited for what I believe will be an unforgettable experience. I look forward to surrounding myself in a completely different culture than mine. I am so excited that I have installed a countdown app on my phone to countdown the days leading up to January 7th, ONLY 22 MORE DAYS!!!!!