My friends from Kolkata took me on a few day trip to enjoy Orissa (or Odisha as it’s now known). We started in Puri, and stayed in a government run tourist lodge on the beach. I could sit and watch the waves all day, and enjoyed watching the sun rise on the eastern shore. Unfortunately, one single female can’t possibly want to enjoy time by herself on the beach, and soon a group of teenaged boys appeared to keep me company. I had slightly better luck when accompanied by my friend Samata, but even then we were attended to by vendors and beggars. Sigh.
The group of us went to Jaganath temple, although foreigners aren’t allowed in. Just as well for me, as simply looking at the crowds going inside brought on feelings of claustrophobia. I was quite happy to admire it from outside.
We also visited the UNESCO world heritage site of Konark temple. Built in the mid 13th century, Konark was a temple erected for Surya, the Sun god. The temple has many stone carvings on the walls depicting family life and erotic couplings that rival Kajuraho and the Kama Sutra. Sadly it was filled in with stone in 1903 for “preservation”, and even now many of the stone wall carvings are being replaced by flat stones purportedly for the same reason. It does seem like some censorship might be behind this, but I can’t say for certain.
After Puri we headed inland to Bubaneshwar. On the way we visited the site of the battle of Kalinga (the former Odissan kingdom). In 260 BCE, the Mauryan emperor Ashok waged a great battle against the Kalinga people. He won at great cost, and when he saw the massive carnage of the war he had waged, pledged to live a peaceful life and converted to Buddhism. He created a great deal of helpful programs and rules of tolerance which modern leaders could learn from today.
Our last historical visit was to the Pushpagiri ruins. There were sites of Buddhist monasteries from the 6th through 12th centuries and may have served as Buddhist universities of sorts. Now, being ruins, they are remains of the great structures battling the destructive forces of both nature and mankind. However, they were peaceful and interesting places to visit, and reminders of the Buddha’s words that “all conditioned things are impermanent”.
And thus is this trip to India. Five months in India seemed like such a long time before I came, and now it is drawing to a close, gone in a flash. India has been both exhilarating and exasperating. She has reminded me that control is an illusion, and has taught me other lessons as well. I’ve seen, heard, tasted, learned, and experienced so much that it may take another few months to process. But I’m very grateful for the experience and will continue to carry India in my heart.
So with that I’ll leave a humorous list:
Ten signs you might have been in India for too long:
- It’s perfectly normal to find you’re covered in dust at the end of the day.
- Instead of being surprised when people ask to take a selfie with you, you start posing with them, or charging them ten rupees.
- You not only know how to use a dipper and bucket, but also prefer it to a shower.
- You think it’s perfectly reasonable that cows, goats, dogs, or monkeys should be walking down the road or on train platforms.
- You have an inexplicable urge to use an ATM if the queue is short.
- You’re able to hold your place for a train seat or line among fifty others pushing and shoving for the same.
- You ask the chai wallah to give you more sugar because the chai isn’t sweet enough.
- You bargain better than the locals for a good price.
- You no longer think your life is going to come to an abrupt end every time you get in a rickshaw or try to cross the street.
- And the number one reason: you can’t wait to return to your home country, yet you’re already planning where you’ll go the next time you come back.