Pink Monsoon Summers
My dream of travelling to India became reality but with much more intensity than I expected. I want to share my deepening understanding of Indian culture, Hinduism, history and politics through the many experiences, encounters and conversations I had during my travels. This book is for anyone interested in knowing more about India. More
In Part One the story begins in Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan in 2010. I venture out into the chaos and an unknown environment. It is like entering other worlds simultaneously. The parallel world of un-owned animals that live in close proximity to suburban houses, the world of dire poverty and dirt, next to the world of incredible wealth. I encounter the strangeness of Hindu and Jain religious practices. Who are all these bizarre gods and goddesses? The longer I was there, the more I slowly began to comprehend the very particular Indian way of life as well as the many concepts behind the god figures. Over two monsoon summers I built up some very warm relationships with the people I met, which I also unfold throughout the narrative. After completing the elephant project work I flew to Varanasi and delved into the complexity and ancient holiness of the oldest inhabited city in India. The Indian devotion, reverence and importance attached to the river “Mother Ganga” and their complete disregard of pollution is difficult for a western acculturated person to understand. Amit, who became a friend and guide, gave me a lot of explanations. In Part Two I relate how I returned to India one year later. This time I wanted to do more travelling as well as doing an art project with school children in Jaipur. My first stop was at Amma’s Ashram. Amma is well known in India and runs many recognised NGO’s. Brief stop in Delhi. An encounter with two beggar widows and their daughters. Dealing with poverty and beggars. And the difficulty as well as pleasures of train-travel. There is only one “Rat Temple” in India; it is situated near Bikaner on the edge of the Thar Desert. By that time I had also become interested in how the caste system functioned. How do Indians always recognise which caste someone belongs to, even though they only very reluctantly talk about it openly? Corruption was a major topic and the 76-year-old activist Anna Hazare was constantly on TV news programmes wherever I went, campaigning for the Lokpal Bill, a bill against corruption. Huge demonstrations were taking place all over the country. I could sense the excitement wherever I went. Revisiting Jaipur. I describe how my friends had changed, how Jaipur was changing, and how the elephants were doing in their new village. These transformations are indicative of the rapid developments taking place in India today. This time I worked on an art-project with children in four different schools. The project happened to take place around Independence Day so I was confronted with an Indian view of the British army and the effects of the British Raj and colonialism. Climax of the visit was a ride on Pinkie, our favourite elephant through the countryside and villages.
Next stop: Khajaraho a national heritage site. A unique complex of restored medieval Indo-Aryan temples, which are quite different in style to the Moghul architecture I saw in Rajasthan. Here I describe the story surrounding the temples, as well as writing more about Yogi Sharma, caste and my guide’s arranged marriage.
Varanasi revisited. Varanasi is a very crowded and chaotic town at the best of times but with everyone worrying about whether Anna Hazare would die from his fasting, the demonstrations had reached a frenzy, even child monks dressed in orange were demonstrating. Tourism and traditional pilgrims jostled side by side. I tell of my friendship with Amit, his problems as a young male Indian, his relationship with women and gender aspects, as well as what is like to be an “older woman” alone in India.
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