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On The Road: India

On The Road: India

It's only my second day in India and I'm crawling out of bed at 6;00 in the morning to go to the Flower Market; I could not bear to miss out on this much color.  Men in white dhotis carry massive bundles of marigolds, bound for temple garlands, and rose petals to brighten fountains everywhere.  There's a buzz in the quiet waking air, as though the flowers themselves are humming, about to break into song.

The Flower Market leads to the food stalls, where vendors have already piled pyramids of green beans, ginger root, potatoes and spices, fresh for the day's picking, and sit proudly in the middle of the bounty.

A few steps further, I see women in flower-bright saris circling a tree and chanting.  They are making their prayers and walking them out, each round further deepening their intention and resolve.

And then the sounds of an open air temple begin to reach me, where I see large numbers of people gathering, circumambulating the mysterious center over and over again, while a melodic chanting rises. I slip to the side and watch the drama unfold, the building intensity of the chant, the quickening pace, the final unveiling of the deity, and, in a festive roar, the day begins.  

When two sisters stop to ask for a selfie, they tell me that this gathering happens every day; every day!, I am amazed:  the color and sounds and swirl of people are intoxicating.  How can one take in that much joy?

This is India, I think.  It is this much color, this much ritual and dance and chant and song and attention to the daily good of food and flower.  It is the elevation of the small things, the refusal to start the morning without praise, without touching the branch of a sacred tree, touching a friend's hand, touching the cool temple walls.  It is the celebration of the earth's harvest before it is eaten, the gathering of the earth's petals for the sheer exuberance of fuchsia and saffron.  It is all an extravaganza - right there in the midst of dire signs of lack, of being without - there is the abundance of joy.

This was last week, in Jaipur.  Today, I am home and find myself carrying the colors of that joy.  To love the day, no matter what it lacks, to elevate the taste and song of it, to start with thanks . . . that is what I brought home from India.  Where there is little, people have found much to celebrate.

This, then, is my song to greet the day.

All the Best,
Susan Hull Walker

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