My Travel Moment; India

My husband and I were on Week 3 of our 2 month backpacking through India adventure. Mentally and physically exhausted from the constant challenges that India presents, particularly to first time visitors, we pushed on to our next destination - Mandu, a village on the top of the plateau.

We found a vehicle within our budget (the offspring of an aluminum can and a van) and a driver, and began the journey up the kilometers of crude dirt paths to the top. The intermittent potholes and our vehicle’ s apparent distaste for a suspension system made it the most chaotic and bumpy ride of our lives. Loud music blasted from the front seat, and the driver and his friend began talking over it, creating super human levels of noise. Wind and dust were blowing in through the open windows, and a piece of dirt found its way into my eye - my kryptonite - since I wear hard contacts and anything in my eye causes disproportionate tears, pain, and loss of vision. My other senses were on overload because of the myriad smells assaulting my nose as we passed frying food, bus exhaust pipes, public restrooms, cows, and markets.

Bouncing violently up and down, unable to see, and melting in the heat after an hour of travel, I began contemplating the logistics of propelling myself out of the vehicle on the next big bump, and out of the never-ending ride. I just couldn’t take anymore – when abruptly, we arrived. Suddenly, my vision cleared, I inhaled a fresh breath of mountain air, and time stopped. Facing me was Rupmati's
Pavilion--royal ruins set on the very highest point of the plateau. Sitting on the ruins gave the impression of sitting on top of the world, looking down at the peaceful mortals below. The sun was low in the sky, coloring the valley in brilliant shades of red, orange, and yellow, which contrasted with the flat, green land around us. The only sound was that of the wind blowing, creating a feeling of being the only two people in the world and bringing an overwhelming sense of peace.

After a bit, we climbed back in our vehicle and began our return trip down the mountain. As I looked out the dirty, cracked window at one of the most beautiful sunsets I had ever seen, I became airborne with every big bump in the road, the music resumed, the sweet smell of pollution filled my lungs once more, but I was different. Up on that plateau, above the whole word, I had realized that this trip, this ride was the reason I had fallen in love with India without realizing it. It was chaotic, dirty, full of bumpy roads and scary turns, but if I looked through all of it, or perhaps looked despite all of it, I found awe-inspiring, unique, spiritual beauty all around. I smiled at my husband and settled back in my seat for the rest of the ride.

C Gilliam

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