It’s been said that India is an assault on the senses. We can’t find a more fitting statement for this mystical magical country. No matter how often we visit, what new cities we discover or what people we encounter, it does not seize to have a profound impact on my soul. The socio-economic contrasts can be deeply moving; and can make you question some of basic things we take for granted. There is no prescription for the best experience; and without a doubt a first visit to India is probably not complete without a visit to the Taj Mahal and some of the imperial cities of Rajasthan. But I’ve found that the best way to experience the splendors of India are through it’s people, it’s customs and it’s rituals – the most profound of which is a traditional wedding.
Reminiscent of a grand feast of a Maharajah, indian weddings are grand multi-day events lead by deeply religious rituals and hip shaking music. At a recent wedding which I was lucky enough to attend, music permeated each event; the dancing and celebration never ended and a gathering wasn’t complete without the delectable Indian food. Indians really know how to shake it up, and on this ocassion, I felt in familial terrain when they turned up the Bhangra.. a beat that is addictive and hypnotizing. Like Latins, and maybe even more so, Indians are extremely hospitable and warm, and I found myself feeling “at home” in their company. Indian women exude inner beauty – they may adorn themselves with henna, sparkling bangles, earrings, and dazzling saris, but they carry their real beauty inside.. you can see it in the intensity of their look, their genuine smiles and their evident self-acceptance.
On Mumbai.. Mumbai is a city of contradictions: its where Victorian architecture meets the slums; it’s a monochrome city with dashes of colorful sarees and marigold garlands; the streets smell of cardamom, anise and other spices, burning incense and a hint of something foul; rapid hindi is overtaken by the honking horns of the yellow-hooded taxis that rush the streets; the face of poverty, dirt and homelessness is in every corner…
It seemed chaotic at first, but at some point between my driver’s personal tour of Mumbai and my walk through the back streets of Culaba, the city sounds drifted into the background and I merged with that divine mystic energy that flows through the city; suddenly, everything that mattered a few days ago seemed trivial and forgotten…Mumbai is life in a very raw form and I experienced it through the eyes of its people: the windows to its soul.