Tagged: India

Surrender with a capital ES – (India 2.0: 3/3 and a bunch of other stuff i.e. my first half of the year and summer review)

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”  – Alice  (from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis  Caroll)

And just like that, July has arrived like a ninja, which means it’s also the middle of 2011 and the tail end of our not-really-summertime-summer-vacation.  I’ve been working on wrapping my head around this fact for a week now and it seems to be working because it’s almost 3am and I am still tweaking something for work (read: for upcoming induction workshop in school. Very excited.).

Wow.  Six months.  Really?

It feels like just yesterday when I was deciding on my WFTY 2011Focus.  That’s my word for 2011.  And so far, I think it has done me a lot of awesome; well, as much as a word can do someone good, in spite of her ADD anyway.  I know I have some ways to go in the consistency department (hence, the need for the word) but I have managed to avoid all extreme anythingS since deciding that I would dodge drama at all costs.  This is a good thing.   Surrender  though, has found a way to be a subword the last two months. Which brings me here, exactly where I need to be. Yup. I seem to have been focusing on surrendering to, well, whatever recently and it’s been great. Surrender traveling doesn’t allow for mediocrity and more recent experiences and a trip to a rainy Boracay, have been far from mundane.

Now, surrender here doesn’t mean giving up or quitting or throwing in the towel or raising some white flag, leaving you with a woebegone look and a deflated spirit. No. Surrender here means simple acceptance; a profound letting go of things that can’t be negotiated, manipulated, controlled or changed. It’s making the conscious decision to gladly take the path of least resistance because absolutely nothing cooler can come from resisting the inevitable.  The inevitable unfolding of learning new things borne from living at the edge of the box I have been placed in; the one I have placed myself in.  The slow walk away from what I thought I already knew has made surrender the riskiest thing I’ve done but also, the one of the best things I’ve done.

Experiencing India with a heart of surrender made my time there textured and gritty and unforgettable. It allowed me to enter a world different and the same from my own, with an open mind and a traveler’s heart hungry for more.


Goofing around with S at the Westin

It allowed me to understand what S sees and loves about her maximum home. Why she looks at it with fondness, compassion and love.

S taking photos of Kinneri's newly renovated apartment

S taking photos at Bandra Fort

Behind the lens, I was able to try and capture a city’s strength, vulnerability, part of its culture, a little of its history, some of its personality, quirks and dysfunction.

Reviewing snaps on a train. Photo by S

 And really, what I did was I allowed myself to fall in love with a place I wasn’t sure I would have liked as a younger, more narrow-minded person.  Smitten with everything I saw, ate, felt, heard, smelled and experienced every time I rode a rick (Haha. Like tricycle rides on crack), I felt grateful for an older, more grounded and more humbled version of me because otherwise,  I might have missed it all — the people, the city’s pulse, the photographs,  the point.  Mumbai is not perfect, mind you, but what place is?  And sure, I’ve allowed myself to romanticize a bit of it (read: like never mentioning that I forked over a lot of money for overweight charges (I had an extra suitcase with a lot of stuff) at the airport which made it seem like I shopped in NYC instead of Colaba but that’s just me being an amateur traveler. Fail.), but who cares.   At the end of it all, after waiting for the “intricate maneuverings of the expert hand with a loom patiently stitching together a pattern for a silky Indian shawl” to be done, what I am left with is a work of art unique only to me; wrapped in my heart, unforgettable to my senses and lodged in my memory to be retrieved repeatedly, over and over again. Naku. Indian fever na ito.

Back Home: Clearly still have Indian Fever (with Sabine at my brother's in laws) Photo by my brother, Mon.

Katas nang Colaba. 🙂 Sabine's ring though, came from her cousins. Photo by my brother, Mon.

Anyway, Rilke was right about not seeking the answers and just living everything instead. From embracing the questions to the unlearning and the melting away of the edges of the claustrophobic  box I’ve carefully crafted to protect whatever I thought to be true, the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.“  Win.  It was a month yesterday since coming home from my trip and the ‘distant day into the answer’ hit me while sitting in church, waiting for service to begin.  I realized that surrender of this type has suited me well because at the core of it is gratitude. Gratitude towards the many opportunities to travel, learn, unlearn, to be wowed, to be moved, to be with friends in different parts of the world, to experience life in such a layered and lovely way.  If the ultimate outcome of embracing the unknown promises more of this, well, I am determined to surrender as often as I can. 🙂

Which takes me from the beginning of my not-really-summertime-summer vacation to right now, near its end point. Sigh. Looking back, it seems I have a grabbed a number of other opportunities to just live by relinquishing all illusions of control.   India apparently, does not have the monopoly of abandon. 🙂

Here are more random summer-of-surrender highlights.

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From accepting that rainy Boracay is just as fun as its sunny version (read: the ironic arrival of the sun on our last day on the island), to crawling through EDSA traffic at the height of rush hour to make it in time for the Kylie Minogue Aphrodite Live in Manila concert (read: good friend, Y, got awesome tickets last minute, like literally he called me an hour before the show) to catching the Virgin Labfest 7 (six plays and a number of serendipitous snaps of the Harbor), it’s been a wonderful last few weeks because of surrender with a capital S.  (Even if I, *sniff*, missed my parents’ 40th wedding vows renewal ceremony because it was so last minute and I was in India. Boo.  Some snaps of our family lunch at Antonio’s Tagaytay post their ceremony are in the slideshow too.)

Speaking of productive alone time — Yay! I  have increased my 50 book challenge 2011 list by a chunk.  Also caught a slew of movies (including Tree of Life, Water for Elephants, and soon,  Transformers), spent quality time with family and friends and worked bit by bit here and there to build up to a fresh start for the coming school year 2011-2012.  I’d have to  say it’s been a productive seven weeks especially since I’ve been able to mind map what’s next in terms of my career as well (I’m tenured! Woot!). Future posts on that, fo sho; on being tenured and the steps that need to be taken  in the remaining months of 2011 towards the coming chapters of my life. 🙂

So, wow, thanks for everything, G.  It’s been a great summer and first half of 2011. And you, thank you for passing by.  🙂  I do love your company. Make sure to come by again.

grateful slice:  distant days, time, surrender and melting box edges

Weekly Photo Challenge: Old Fashioned





Mirror Mirror GSP

Good Luck

Ultra Light

Old Architecture

Three is a crowd

Antique Knick knacks

The Other

Old Fashioned TV

Like Some Old fashioned Miracle

Like Some Old fashioned Miracle
When Summertime is done—
Seems Summer’s Recollection
And the Affairs of June

As infinite Tradition
As Cinderella’s Bays—
Or Little John—of Lincoln Green—
Or Blue Beard’s Galleries—

Her Bees have a fictitious Hum—
Her Blossoms, like a Dream—
Elate us—till we almost weep—
So plausible—they seem—

Her Memories like Strains—Review—
When Orchestra is dumb—
The Violin in Baize replaced—
And Ear—and Heaven—numb—

by Emily Dickinson

All Photos taken with a Nikon D90 (various places – South Mumbai, India and Antonio’s, Tagaytay)

grateful slice: old fashioned doesn’t mean out of style

India 2.0 Pray – A Photo Gallery (2/3)

“When I admire the wonder of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in worship of the Creator.” Mahatma Gandhi (internationally esteemed for his doctrine on non-violent protest, 1869 – 1948)

Worship is a loaded word and prayer, an extremely personal thing.

I guess you can say I grew up with a specific version of both. I also learned to reject a lot of this version as a young misguided adult and jaded academic/scholar.  At some point though, I started to search and once again yearn for that connection I had severed so callously as a twenty something. Someone was definitely listening, I guess, because to make a long spiritual story short, I re-met God just a few years back with a brand new heart and with a whole new set of eyes. Frankly, my life as a thirty something has not been the same since.

Anyway, my experience  is  really all I know up close and there’s no way I am an expert on either.  I mean, I do not know enough to comfortably write about religious diversity at length lest I let my ignorance about the many different ways to worship God fall through the cracks of my sentences.   That’s the last thing I want to happen.  What I did try to do while I was in Ahmedabad and Mumbai was capture what I saw behind the lens.  The varied and colorful offerings, the different places of worship, the diverse rituals and plethora of belief systems.  I also tried to snap the sincerity, the earnestness, the compassion and the intimacy between man and his/her G/god/s.    From Ganesh, the Hare Krishna, to Buddha, MumbaDevi, to the Jains, to the Haji Ali Shrine and the Christian service that S and I attended the only Sunday I was there, spirituality was definitely part of this maximum trip because it was everywhere I looked.  I hope the gallery is an apt glimpse.  Om. Amen.Namaste.

grateful slice: the freedom to know G, in the most intimate way real to us

India 2.0: Eat (1/3) …and notes from a procrastinator

People think dreams aren’t real just because they aren’t made of matter, of particles. Dreams are real. But they are made of viewpoints, of images, of memories and puns and lost hopes.”  – John Dee , in SANDMAN #6:“24 Hours”

Sometimes it takes another trip  to a completely different but familiar place, and for some time to pass, to wedge the distance necessary to write about the experience of other people’s culture, space and rituals unfamiliar. This is what I have been telling myself the past two weeks upon arriving from India, of course.  Needless to say, Mumbai’s intensity left me breathless and overflowing with rainbow colored stories and tastes, I wrote at length about the futility of knowing where or how to begin while I was still there.  So I let my photos speak for me, swirling then in the ennui of leaving for the second time.  I’ve  been home for awhile now though, and so far, I’ve worn my kurtas and my bangles, rings, told many stories, gave away my presents  and uploaded a thousand pictures, and have gone to the beach and back. But still no three part post.

And just like the overzealous disclosure of a lucid dream, the specific details and the emotions and the logic, even the order of events, are slowly slipping away with every imperfect description, inadequate word said, and  funny tale told.   Which brings me here…EAT!  Finally, the first installment of my three-part India post because I am deathly afraid of forgetting.  So, here goes…

Let me begin by saying, OMG, I love Indian food.  Full stop.

Anything anyone suggested I try or quickly pop into my mouth, I willingly did, without hesitation or remorse.  I loved how chicken tikka and palak paneer melted as I ate one spoonful after another, loved how chana’s textures and flavors exploded in perfect harmony leaving my palette never the same again, and appreciated how warm naan with a bazillion different dips and sauces in little containers to choose from something that suited my eating style. All my hosts and hostesses, whether in Ahmedabad or Mumbai, would watch me furtively at first, each time I stuffed myself with whatever they gave me but all anxiety disappeared as I oohed and aahed at the different flavors assaulting and devirginizing my taste buds. I told myself that my “diet” would need to take a backseat and start when I got home because there was no way I was going to deprive myself of the food ecstasy extravaganza.  Thinking about it now, I have absolutely no regrets, even if I had to be  bikini clad just a week upon my return.  Fact is, I lost like four pounds even if I thought  I had gained yes, a bazillion. Please don’t ask me how that happened because I ate everything I could while I was in India. Must be G’s grace.  LOL.

Anyway, I did have a couple of things going for me from the get go which made me an easy India foodie,  1. I am an adventurous eater, 2. Except, I don’t eat red meat or pork, 3. I love spicy food.  I am also very good at listening to locals’ advice regarding street food, so I waited until my last day (with Kinneri in Juhu Beach) to try some.  Again, no regrets and no infamous India tummy ache soon after or the next day.

Wow. Right now, I am longing for the many choices, the different smells and the firecracker flavors. Since coming home though, I’ve had every single meal made more spicy than usual or just made spicy even if it’s not meant to be. 🙂  I do miss a lot of things about India and the food and surprise attack flavors, some of the most.  🙂 Of course,  I also miss eating out with my sis, Sacha, having tea and comparing photos with her at the end of a long day, and gushing about just how lucky we both are.  Boy, would I kill for half a serving of kulfi right now.  Think you can do something about that, G?

Anyway, enjoy the food snaps.  There are plenty to make your mouth water and lips smack.

Drooling is allowed.

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Until part two, friends: India 2.0 Pray (2/3), have an amazing day full of gratitude and love love love.

grateful slice:  Indian food, the nature of dreams and cliches like, ‘Better late than Never.”  

On Leaving this Maximum City

You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way again. 

Azar Nafisi

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books

I overheard some of the vendors in Colaba a few days ago talk about the monsoon coming exactly on the tenth of June and well, here it is. Pouring, cooling the earth, clearing the streets and cleaning the air.   I wondered then how they could be so sure, so confident that the rains would come today and be correct.  I see now that this confidence is the same one they have on the streets — where one rick knows that zooming into a small space between two huge trucks won’t mean imminent death.  I mean, the rain has been coming and going for an hour or two for days but nothing like this.  It would tease us sometimes, especially on days we didn’t bring our umbrellas and surprise us with a sudden downpour while in a rickshaw, dressed and on our way to a night out with friends.  Today, as we decide to stay in to pack and just chill before we both leave (me to go back home to Manila and S to NYC to meet her love), the rain is like a gift from the heavens. Even if everything is gray, the awareness of a season ending is also healing in a way. It, of course, does everything to nurture and feed my ennui right now.  Just the thought of leaving Mumbai makes the tears well up in my eyes.  I feel like an open wound exposed to saltwater.  The sting is sharp and almost unbearable but I know the sea will make it all better if I persevere.  And S is spot on…the sadness can only be appeased by the promise of return.  I have no choice but to make sure I come back to this magical place.   S and I burst into laughter every now and then to stop me from crying and from enabling my melodrama.   Maximum feelings for this maximum city.

Suketu Mehta, the author of “Maximum City”  talks about how his currency is stories.  “Stories told for stories revealed…stories from other worlds, carried over the waters in caravans and ships, to be exchanged for this year’s harvest of stories. A hit man’s story to a movie director in exchange for the movie director’s story to the hit man.  The film would and the underworld, the police and the press, the swamis and the sex workers, all live off stories; here in Bombay, I(author) do too.”  I feel like writing about Mumbai (prologue) when am back home will keep me afloat and sane for awhile. Thus, the writer’s delay.  That’s how I will pay. With poetry and photos and stories about my trip, but from a distance.  Photographs have been saving me these days too.  Thank you, decisive moment.   Here are some favorite snaps that reveal some of these maximum emotions.

Ennui from my reluctant subjects: Bandra Fort

Sadness in her eyes: Haji Ali Shrine

The gaze of a hungry traveller

the smile of someone who will definitely come back: Western Railway en route to Mumbai Central

Actually, seeing past the melodrama, S and I already have a plan:  Next time I come back, I will invest in the old cameras that they sell in Colaba.

Old cameras that remind me of my brother

You will be mine, oh yes, you will be mine!

Mumbai: Land of negotiations. This man gave ma big discount for my gift for Mr. Tandem after I hung out and took pictures of his stall for awhile

S and I will visit an Indian village, do more heritage walks and see Juhu during the day.  Then there’s the rest of beautiful, complex and schizophrenic India which I intend to visit, photograph and write about. Perhaps when the sun is not so treacherous. Yes, in the land of NO, this is definitely not goodbye.  Until then, Mumbai, see you in my dreams and my mind’s eye.

I didn’t look back. I couldn’t. Such is life, imaginary or otherwise: a continuous parting of ways, a constant flux of approximation and distanciation, lines of fate intersecting at a point which is no-time, a theoretical crossroads fictitiously “present,” an unstable ice floe forever drifting between was and will be. The Adventure called and I followed with my thumb like a character being written by an intractable author. Which, of course, I was.

– Sol Luckman

grateful slice:  Knowing when you are leaving a place, returning and the currency of images and text, traveling

India 2.0: Eat, Pray, Surrender (a photo prologue to a three part post)

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
Rainer Maria Rilke

A complicated, intertwined blob of ideas and feelings are swirling amok in my head and my heart right now. Like the intricate maneuverings of a hand with a loom patiently stitching together a unique pattern for a silky Indian shawl, I can’t think or write fast enough to capture the vocabulary fit to describe what India has been like for me during this trip. Only until the pattern is done and the shawl is ready to be purchased as a piece of art by an unassuming traveler and storyteller, will the experience fall into some state where discernible articulation is possible. Amidst the heat that has snuck up on me and has felt like concrete on my skin, flavors and textures that have not ceased to burst in my mouth, the architecture and history porn, and the bedlam and mayhem I face and accept everyday since I’ve been here, I am once again, categorically and unquestionably smitten by India. Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu was unforgettable. And now, Ahmedabad and Mumbai, especially South Mumbai, have carved their special corners in the cavities of my heart.

A Quiet Moment in Ahmedabad, Jiten

It’s not easy though, to write about India while still in India. G knows, I’ve tried. And it’s not a problem of not having anything to say as senses feel like they are on steroids. In fact, my extreme and exag ways interlace and lock quite nicely in this maximum city as the overstimulation goes on overdrive. The problem really is where and how to begin …How do I begin to write about a place so chaotic, so crowded and full of contradictions; a place so colorful, and jam-packed with flavors that just won’t quit? How do I explain the intensity of the Heat I thought I already intimately knew growing up in Manila? Where do I begin to describe the ebb and flow of the streets where the willing, surrendering soul can eventually meld with the anarchy , just as long as he/she learn the ways of the inexplicable pace and movement of the waves to not get killed on the road?

Writings on Mumbai, edited by Jerry Pinto and Naresh Fernades

Words are too limited and incomplete right now to describe the first moment I laid eyes on The Gateway of India. My body reacted for me and I got a nose bleed instead.

The Gateway of India. Breathtaking.

In the middle of taking a photograph of a man in green blowing bubbles, and after a postcard salesman tried to slip me some weed, blood started too ooze out of my nose and on to my favorite scarf. I wiped the blood with the back of my hand and memorized that Mumbai moment as onlookers stared at me, the nose bleeding voyeur who stuck out like a sore thumb.

The man in green and the bubbles

And what about the people I’ve met…where do I start when it comes to talking about just how great they have been? It’s both an exciting and daunting task, to write about how their stories and lives have moved and inspired me, to aptly pay homage to their significance (I see you) and to express my deep gratitude to them and to G, for making this trip exactly what it is. Amazing and unforgettable.

From my best friend, sister and gracious host, @sacha_wc; Jiten and Jaya, the coordinators at The Calorx school in Ahmedabad; Viren, our brilliant guide during the Taj Hotel Tour, who can speak a gazillion languages; plus all the strangers I bumped into, smiled at and asked for directions, I am extremely grateful for you today.

Papad Salesman at the Crawford Markets

Veggies on the street

Silver Sales Lady at Law Garden in Ahmedabad

Speedy Delivery, Pali Hill near the Promenade

Sad man by the Red phone, Colaba, South Mumbai

Rick Meter. This was a dangerous shot to take.

Reading, Writing and Living Mumbai

Promenade, Carter Road, Bandra

at the Flower Galli, Crawford Market Tour, South Mumbai

"Temple" near The Calorx School, Ahmedabad, Gujarat

So Eat, Pray, Surrender. An up and coming three part post of my (mis)adventures in India: Ahmedabad and Mumbai legs. 🙂 Stay tuned as I let the pictures tell the stories today. In the meantime, I need to live the questions, I need to live everything right now so …”perhaps I will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” I am hoping, at some point, I will find the way and the words to write about my experiences in this truly maximum part of the world. Hope is a good word and memories catch up with us rather quickly.

grateful slice: India, Mumbai,Ahmedabad and Rilke.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Numbers

Frankly, I have more photos of letters and words, it’s true; and that probably comes with the territory. But  numbers, I find,  do come in handy (*wink wink Joey Tandem).  Math is a language and what would trains, planes and automobile moments be like without them numerals?

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Photos taken with a Nikon D90 and Canon Ixus 750 (New York City, April 2010 and Mumbai, June 2011)

grateful slice:  numbers and people who get them

India Calling

Remember, send yourself a postcard this time, fo.

It’s official.  Am booked and will be heading back to India in a few weeks.  Ahmedabad, Gujarat and Mumbai this time around. Will fly out the day after the last day of school to first conduct a two-day in school MYP Assessment Workshop in Ahmedabad.  Then I get to visit S in her new home in Mumbai until the tenth of June.  It feels a little overwhelming right now with all the work that still needs to be done before the arrival of May 28 but am optimistic it will  all inevitably fall into place.   Like always.

Anyway, aside from a little healthy anxiety, there’s also the excitement and the feeling of immense gratitude coursing through my veins right now. I’ve said it before, I will say it again.  I am a lucky, well-loved schmuck. To be given these many opportunities to travel, teach, share, learn, experience and visit good friends in different parts of the world, has been a real treat from G who is ever faithful, generous and constant.  Thanks again for this, G.  You must really love S and I.  First, the 8 weeks in New York with my sister in 2009, now ten days in Mumbai!  Win.

There are a lot of plans in place.  A market tour.  The slum tour.  A missions thing. Prayer walks. Working out and running together again and visiting S’s school.  G definitely has big plans.  I am convinced that’s why He is making this happen.  🙂  Right now though, I need to focus on everything that needs to be done:  I have the Poetry Fest on Friday,  papers to mark, report card narratives to write, grades to finalize and workshop preparation to attend to.  It’s going to be a wild ride this May and damn boy, am hanging on real tight! Wohoo!

grateful slice:  traveling, India and awesome, humbling opportunities.

I heart India. Our final days, the Temple and the next step…

So, with the workshop behind us, Stu and I debriefed a bit, shared resources, had coffee and biscuits then walked around Kodai like tourists instead of workshop leaders with a lot on our minds.  We dumped our computers back at our hotel, shared a Kingfisher and headed towards a nearby store to buy my rings before dinner.  I had found them on our first day but wanted to delay gratification.  I said I would buy them for myself after the workshop and that’s exactly what we did.  Check them out…

Not seen anything like it before

Brown and Silver

Then we met up with Barbara (Assoc MYPC) and Graham (MYPC) to have dinner at The Carlton. It was really awesome of them to take us out on our last night to celebrate in such a nice place with lots of food and great conversation.  Something tells me I will see Graham and his family again in this lifetime.  I think this, but I don’t tell him.  🙂

Our last day was spent tying loose ends, checking our emails in the faculty computer suite, and eating dosa at a random restaurant on our way to the elementary and middle years campus.  All in all, it was leisurely goodbyes to an awesome place and people and preparing ourselves for our long trek home.  36 hours to be exact.

The car ride was standard.  We repeated stories, tried to take pictures of wild monkeys and slept most of the same way back.  Upon reaching the turn toward Coimbatore we decided to stop at the Palani Murugan Temple (the same one we saw on our way up) to check it out.  It took some negotiation, 3 hours instead of 1 to go up, go around and come back down  but all in all, we were glad we removed our shoes and took the detour.  Mommy, our guide up the temple, was great.  I gave her a warm hug before leaving and after she handed me two of the yummiest bananas I have ever tasted.  In the end, we were sticky and exhausted but happy.

Anyway, from there we still had three more hours on the road before hitting Coimbatore.  We needed to do a bit of shopping (mostly for Stu and his family), grab a bite to eat before catching our plane.   Shopping in Coimbatore must be similar to shopping in Divisoria or Baclaran.  My goodness.  It didn’t feel unfamiliar at all except for the parts where random parents would send their kids over my way to say hello, shake my hand or kiss my cheek.  It was surreal but warm and trusting of them.  I guess for this leg of the trip, that’s what it taught me.  That traveling always opens my eyes to how different and the same we all are.  And it never fails to teach  me to always be compassionate, be more open and hopeful.   

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Saying our goodbyes at the Singapore airport was bittersweet.  Stu gave me valuable advice (about what to do next regarding my career) and told me exactly what I needed to hear as a colleague and friend.  Like I said, I’ve been lucky with my partners. Thanks, G.

Well, I’ll never forget my first taste of India, South India more specifically.  It was a feast for the eyes and ears, the heart and my palette.  I can’t wait for my trip to the Northern part end of May.  Did I mention that already?  I must have … Gujarat end of May for my next workshop. On my own now and since it’ll be summer, I will be able to extend, take a train and check out Agra and Mumbai (to visit my friend, S).  I wonder what will be in store for me then.

Right now though, thanks, G.  I am grateful beyond belief.  A thousand times over, thank you.

grateful slice:  unforgettable places, humbling opportunities, answered prayers

I heart India: The zigzag road to Kodaikanal & the bearable lightness of Being

There’s nothing like visiting a new place to remind us of who we are.

In my heart I know that this is what being in Kodai did for me. I mean, prior to the trip I knew I was burnt out exhausted, was demoralized by the on-goings in one of my favorite places in the world, was not the perfect candidate for the master cleanse diet and lived to talk about having gone three days of the supposed ten-day ordeal. It was clear to me that I needed to slow down, take a real break and breathe; even if it meant doing more work, work I love (leading workshops), to get there. Ironic, I know. But welcome to my world of full plates and multi-tasking. Take a seat and stay awhile.

Anyway, so, I did know all that before getting on the plane, that I was tired and grumpy and not myself at all. That’s why I was so excited to get out of the city. I needed some distance and perspective but boy did I receive so much more. Because clarity comes when you least expect it and sometimes, the you that’s truer than true, appears behind the lens, beside new friends, while getting head-butted by a brown cow, in a breathtaking, unassuming, unsuspecting super place.

The best part about Kodaikanal was that not only did it remind me of who I was, it made the best version of me quietly and without drama, appear. Being there, being away from what I knew, being submerged in a different culture, pressed to collaborate and work with 52 strangers, forced to detach and not have easy access to the reassurance and comfort of the grid, I exhaled and well, just let everything be. I mean, we were ready for the workshop; there was nothing to worry about. I trusted Stu and he trusted me. In the process, we worked as we communed with nature and brainstormed and planned as we ate, met people, took pictures and happily experienced Kodai’s unique culture and identity.

In the end, the workshop was a success, which was a good thing. That was why we were there in the first place,right?

The KIS Team Photo Op (post 2-day workshop)

But there was something else. I began to notice that I had a huge smile everywhere I went. That I talked to everybody, it didn’t matter who. That I made mental notes of what felt different but gave a voice to everything that was somewhat like home. I noticed that I listened more intently to what people were saying and had nothing but nice things to say. And it’s not like I didn’t do these things before. I guess it was what was happening inside me. There was a bearable lightness of being. It was refreshing and relaxed and I knew that this was what feeling happy and contented meant. It was pure appreciation and gratitude real time. Nothing taken for granted; nothing left unnoticed. I saw as Kodai saw me. Hello, Pau. Welcome back.

Anyway, the road trip felt like the old way to get to Baguio pre -SCTEX. There’s a 4-hour route that leads to a zigzag road and just like Kennon Road, would be closed sometimes due to landslides. Fortunately, it was newly opened again, which allowed us to skip the alternate 6-hour route up the mountains. I remember thinking, aside from the WindFarm, that it was like driving through Pampanga, Tarlac, Pangasinan, then La Union before getting to the foot of the mountain. Same narrow streets, overtaking and vast landscapes. Then, Kodai was like Baguio and Sagada mushed together; from the weather, to the horses and the pedal boats in the lake. Just add the spicy vegetarian food, women and their beautiful saris and 90% of their population wanting their picture taken…and there you have it, the complex combination of a familiar yet different place. It’s like a warm fuzzy cum culture shock and the best after taste in your mouth. Kodai really took me by surprise and it will always have a special corner in my heart.

Thanks again, G, for allowing me to discover South India in the most interesting, most productive and most fulfilling of ways.

Yes, I was there. Exactly where I needed to be.

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Next: The Palani Murugan Temple and our trip back to Coimbatore en route home…

grateful slice: recognizing myself and liking it, Indian food and an awesome visit to a wonderful place