Vaccinations…√ Malaria meds… √ Tourist visa… √
Interestingly, an Indian visa costs more if you travel on a US passport because as I learned from the application centre staff member, “Americans are rich.” Does no one watch the news anymore? Last time I checked, our economy was in the gutter. Nevertheless, after a few minutes with currency converter I realized that Americans are indeed rich. We have a lot of stuff, an excessive amount in fact, and although that doesn’t make you rich it does mean we have a money tree somewhere. By comparison, the average Indian income 21,000 Rupees per year, that’s about $441/£280 per year. Go ahead High Commission of India, charge me twice the price for my visa; go ahead Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalay (Prince of Wales Museum) charge Indian visitors 15 Rupees and Foreigners visitors 300 Rupees (or roughly $6.00/£4.00). Basically good news, it looks like we are rich in the monetary sense but I digress.
After a few days in Mumbai, I fly to an eco-retreat in Goa. A holistic week of mind-body-soul at SwaSwara, which translates from Sanskrit to inner rhythm, is just what the doctor ordered for soul-cleansing, spiritual creativity. Perhaps I won’t transcend to a higher state of being but my daily Ayurvedic massages and therapies should cure all my evils.
My trip to India is several lifetimes overdue. In my second semester of University I sat mesmerized in Professor Doug Brooks’ class “From Confucius to Zen” and I fell in love with ancient India. Despite my conservative Catholic upbringing, the stories of Vishnu, Rama, and Shiva swirled in my imagination. From Hindu temples and Buddhist monasteries to philosophies of past lives and practices of yoga and mediation; this is the India I want to explore. What I’m likely to find is modern India, a super-power débutante, poised for emergence on the global stage yet its vast populace is plagued with illiteracy and poverty. Of Mumbai’s urban-dwellers, more than half live in slums. The anachronistic caste system of which a palatable version has morphed its way into modern Britain is at war with less conservative, more commercial, and capitalistic values.
That’s my impression of incredible India pre-departure. I wonder what I’ll encounter and how my preconceived notions will change. Unplugging. See you in two weeks.