They call it a Bucket List, after the film of the same name. Mine had for 32 years been topped by India, but every time I thought about travelling, India got pushed down in favour of Canada – where my family and friends are – Cuba, Costa Rica, Belize,Tunisia, Greece, Italy, Ireland, the UK - even a 800 klm pilgrimage walking across the top of Spain ... all of which seemed so much safer and achievable.India, however, would rise back to the top immediately after I came home. I had studied Indian philosophy, religions and art at university, and I had read everything about it I could get my hands on ever since.
But I had to admit I was afraid of India. Why? Well for one thing I don’t deal well with poverty, and perhaps most of all I had been given to understand that Indians were just people that you couldn’t trust. They would tell you what they thought you wanted to hear and then ask you for money, or take you to their brother’s pashmina shop. I also wondered how I would manage the beggars, of whom I was told there were many. Could I really ignore their imploring faces and walk on? So India got side stepped time after time for reasons which remained vague fears. As it turned out I couldn’t have been more wrong!
Many people have decided to walk the Camino de Santiago because of Martin Sheen’s film The Way. Others have gone to Italy, India, Bali on the strength of Liz Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. I had already “done” the Camino, and honestly the idea of sitting chanting “Om mane padme hum” with a bunch of middle aged bleached blonde American ladies my age in an ashram didn’t appeal (actually the very thought would send me screaming for the exit doors) and I had no money to go to Bali, even if it did mean meeting Javier Bardem whose “It’s time” is the sexiest seduction line I have ever heard. I did enjoy Slumdog Millionaire though, and perhaps it was there that the idea of India, once more on top of the bucket list, began to make many pushy-pushy noises in my brain.In the end it was the two Marigold Hotels films that made me say: “That’s it! Today’s the day," not that I expected to find such a squeaky clean environment as portrayed in the films, nor streets virtually people free. Neither was I looking for romance. I just wanted to experience Being There; I wanted a chance to find out if the hospitality this film advertises really existed. I certainly didn’t expect to find myself in charge at a havelli guest house although it almost did happen, (and still might).
So I went to India, despite all the setbacks, holdups and downright frustrating things which happened just before I was due to go and threatened to derail the whole thing. As you will learn...
I went to India. And I hope that you will join me on my journey through fear to delight.Next: Snow-Capped Mountains from the Air.