March 02, 2005

Shanti Shanti

Sometimes when travelling you meet some really remarkable people, but don't limit your vision to those wearing a turbin!

Some years after the country of India was formed an English comedian once commented that the country was so full of foreigners that they even called him a foreigner! So when your heart is open to knowledge and wisdom do not restrict your vision to that of the exotic, this is illusionary. My pasty white complexion and "full moon" absence of hair is just as exotic to the population of India as a dark skinned saree wearing hindu is to me.

I regard myself as a "soft" adventurer. I love being far from the tourist trail, I love spending days on end without seeing another western face, and I love indulging in local delicacies. However, at the end of each day I find my feet are worn tired, I am in need of a soaking hot shower, and I instinctively seek out somewhere to plug in my laptop. Not all travellers are necessarily more open and adventureous than the folks you have left at home, but even the most trepidacious of traveller will likely return home with stories of chance encounters and epiphanies. Including soft adventurers such as myself.

On a recent photo trip I shared companionship with a group of fellow westerners. On the very last day of our trip one of my companions found a grain of wisdom upon meeting a certain Sikh gentlemen who read his palms. The fortune teller saw much in those soft lines - many thousands of roupees in fact. Our fellow traveller left the encounter much the poorer and only a little wiser. Ironically I found far greater and less expensive wisdom in the company of some of our other companions during this trip.

On my journey through Rajasthan kind and gentle souls were with me every step of the way - two ladies of quiet experience and generous personalities offered me more insight into my past and future than any roupee scamming palm reader. Their counsel was invaluable and their examples were inspirational. Yet they were just normal people like you and me, absent of funny headwear or ancient rituals. In a country of over 1 billion people I am sure you can meet some truly wise locals - just don't forget to chat to the person sitting next to you on the train!

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