As Karma would have it...

As Karma would have it...

Sunday, December 14, 2003 Travelogue:  Excerpts from past impressions and experiences in India (see the first travelogue segment we posted)

Hello to everyone!!!

I've never done one of these group e-mails before, but I think now is as appropriate a time as any.  I hope you all are well and enjoying the Christmas season.  As I sit here in the swelter of a city called Trichy, I can't quite fathom a snowflake falling.  Joni, Michelle, and I have been in India for 9 days now, and are exploring the southern state of Tamil Nadu.  We are slowly adjusting to the myriad of cultural and social differences.  Everyday I learn something new, but to be honest, I've got a lot of questions that still need answering.  I guess it's like a huge puzzle.  All the pieces are in front of me, and yet I've got no idea how they fit together, or what they will look like in the end.

My first big question concerned the cows.  I'd heard the rumor, and yes, it's true.  Cows really do roam around everywhere here, even on the beach.  Apparently they actually BELONG to people, and every night they go back to wherever their home is, get fed and milked and stuff, and then head back out into town the next day to linger in obtrusive places and eat trash.  Cows especially enjoy standing still in heavily trafficked areas, looking like they've forgotten where they are, or who they are, for that matter.

So what else have I gathered so far?  With the exception of answering their cell phones, people here seem to be doing the same things they've been doing for thousands of years.  Ok, so there are internet cafes and international phone calling centers (disconcertingly called STDs) on every corner.  But on those same corners are also men wearing identical styled sandals as people were wearing a thousand years ago.  I know this because I saw a sculpture yesterday of Shiva that was made in the 10th century, AND HE HAD ON THESE SAME SHOES.  Apparently South India, and the state of Tamil Nadu in particular, is one of the few classical societies left to have remained intact and relatively uninfluenced by outside forces for over two thousand years.  This means that a woman who is bowing down and placing an open coconut at an alter to Vishnu is quite possibly performing an action that's been going on for countless generations.  As my guidebook says "If the sacred peaks of the Himalayas are Hinduism's head, and the Ganges its main artery, then the temple complexes of the South are its spiritual heart and soul."

I have to say it is intense here in India, but perhaps not quite the place I had imagined.  As Joni says, it's important to put on your "patience cap."  The emotional highs and lows are a bit like the smells.  Sometimes it's a gust of fresh sweet flowers piled in neat rows at a vendor's table, other times it's the overpowering waft of shit from an open sewer.  You never can tell which aroma you're gonna get, so you just have to roll with the stenches (ha).

Stay tuned for more travel stories.

I miss you guys,