It is with great excitement that I am writing this introduction. I don’t think you could anticipate the kind of adventures that you have signed up for. To borrow a line from Kubo and the Two Strings, “If you must blink, do it now. Pay careful attention to everything you see and hear no matter how unusual it may seem.”
My relationship with India traces back seven years ago, to the Pacific Coast of Mexico. There above the sandy beaches and perched on a cliff I started to study the ancient art of yoga. It was a time of tremendous personal growth as my awareness expanded to new horizons. In the cool breeze of the night I would gaze into the stars in the lucid sky and a longing for India took roots. Two years later I first ventured onto mother India’s soil. Landing in the airport of Kolkata I thought I had traveled back in time, to the 70’s. The old yellow-colored ambassador taxis only strengthened my initial impressions. Stuck in traffic, my surroundings became hyper real. The sounds of the persistent horns, the sheer volume of human traffic meandering around, the thickness of the heat and humidity in the air, the unceasing sight and sound of people spitting messy red splodges on the streets (“paan” I would later learn), people lathered in soap squatting next to roadside water hydrant washing themselves… amidst this symphony of foreign chaos, I felt my first cultural shock. The queasy feeling subsided gradually once I started to interact with locals at depth. People are friendly, helpful, and more noticeably, curious. As a foreigner I was invited into strangers’ homes and people often came up to me to strike up a conversation. This pattern continued as I travel west to Bodh Gaya, where millions of pilgrims gathered to hear the teachings of His Holiness The Dalai Lama at Kalachakra 2012. Something incredible happened when I was offered an opportunity to become a temporary monk. A small hesitation was followed by a resounding “YES!” Little did I know that I was capable of meditating 15 hours a day for the next three weeks. A three-day train ride eventually brought me south where I landed at the universal township of Auroville. Living with people from all corners of the world, my days were filled with arts, yoga, and assorted cuisines. India was burrowing deeper into my heart and in the last five years it has became my de facto home on my nomadic life. No matter where in the world I would traveled to, I always carved out time to spend at least a few months in India. Why? Because there is simply no country on earth like her. From the flaming sunset on the beaches of Goa to the sprawling coconut groves of Kerala, from the sacred ghats along the Ganges in Varanasi to the bustling bus stands in modern-day Chennai, from the mutton biryani street vendor in a Muslim quarter in Delhi to the chaiwala outside of the Hindu temple across the street, India is a kaleidoscope of human activities and a confluence of traditions. Literature, music, paintings, all try to capture her beauty, yet her essence seem to always stretch beyond the effort of her admirers.
My love affair with India is just one of the millions of stories that she has given birth to in her long history. Yours will be unique too. You will see things that you would have never imagined before. I am honored to serve as a guide to connect you with India, one of the most historic, diverse and vibrant civilization you could travel to today! In addition I feel blessed to have the opportunity to be working closely with my co-instructors Saurabh and Uttara, who are ever-flowing fountains of local cultural knowledge. Here are some photos I dug up from my early days in India. May this program ignite your cherished collection of tales and memories that mother India offers in true abundance!
One leisure activity I recommend prior to your trip is to watch the movie, Lion (2016). The trailer was misleading in the sense that I was surprised how much of the movie took place in India. The cinematography is excellent in capturing the sights and sounds at the street level and thus taking the audience on an immersive journey. Watch it with your family, so you could all sample a taste of the flavors that you will be experiencing on your program.
We are currently working on finalizing the tentative itinerary. Please keep your eyes glued to this Yak Board for that and other announcements. Feel free to write your questions here also, as others may have the same.