India

My travels to India have come to an end for now, having visited 51 cities and towns, covered 8,700km, across 10 different states, over a period of four months. I’m leaving the second chapter of the chaotic madness of India (yes, I’ve found spirituality, holiness and shanti to be in short supply) until next year. I’m headed for Nepal in search of true rest.

Unfortunately, during my time in India I didn’t find the peace and enlightenment trumpeted by those wankers in elephant pants sporting a red dot on their forehead (aka hippie travellers) and the dreadlocked, stoned, loafers (aka holy men), who call out “Namaste” while placing their hands together at their heart. For the first group, the world is a reflection of yourself and problems of inequality, injustice, cruelty, ignorance, poverty and segregation can be solved by becoming hippies and moving into a commune. For the second group the choice to live as a possessionless holy man relies upon the charity of hardworking citizens to maintain them, a lifestyle totally at odds with modern society and its struggles.

Visits to mosques and temples have not made me more spiritual. Ironically, in four months I’ve seen too much to become religious. On the contrary, God to me has become neither a mystical Kabbalah nor karma nor Hell. I’ve realised that if there is a Hell it is here on Earth, but Paradise is also here. To get a place in Paradise you have to steal it from someone else.

I found a hypocritical system, which hides behind the label of religious mysticism, where a medieval caste system perpetuates and continues to sabotage and exploit innocent children and the poor.

I also encountered the country’s stunning natural beauty and its fascinating customs. India is a contrast; rich with peculiarities and wisdom, like a sage father who educates, guides and provides security. But he will also whip you and put you in the naughty corner if required. I often found that a positive experience was swiftly followed by a negative one, and vice versa. Pleasure would change to pain, joy to despair, tranquility to chaos, safety to danger.

Incredible India” — an advertising slogan, coined by India’s Ministry of Tourism — is quite apt, and often carries a double meaning. On the one hand I was treated as a king, the attitude to me was exceptionally warm and kind. On the other hand – I was treated like a complete bitch, constantly getting fucked and abandoned. As a result, the scales didn’t tip in favour of either side, and I ran out of fuel, unable to find an answer to the question “What is India?

Writing about the place I spent a third of a year of my life, a country that runs before it can walk, will be challenging, but I’ll try to get it right. While I prepare my stories on India and Sri Lanka, I’ve already written more than a century of posts about the places I’ve visited so far.