I’ve just returned from a fabulous and fun trip to India with my friend Harjeet. My original plan was to go and set the scene for my second novel in which I had planned to cover some of my own past experiences in Tibet, Nepal and India. Some of these were in the mists of time and I wanted to check out the modern scene to make my book up to date! It seemed a good idea and Harjeet is always up for an adventure so we set our plans. We decided to avoid Tibet (those memories are cast in steel in my mind as I nearly died on my one and only visit there!) but to go to Delhi then Kathmandu and Pokhara in Nepal then back via Delhi to Jaipur in Rajasthan then home. A friend of mine, Douglas Maclagan who founded and ran the brilliant Child Welfare Scheme for disadvantaged Nepalese children has recently started a new venture in Pokhara – an eco-hotel that will support his latest projects to rescue and rehabilitate trafficked children and women and this was to be included in my book as this is a subject close to my heart. I was also excited that my great friend Debbie Mulkern of Ripple fame would also be in Pokhara at the same time as us developing the spa oils for the hotel.
With all plans set, a shopping trip to East’s sale for cotton clothes suitable for India and with my packing under way I was devastated to discover that the Indian High Commission had refused my request for a multiple entry visa on account that I had entered “Writer” as the only occupation that seemed appropriate on my application (I thought India had enough healers and gurus!). I pursued
my case with several letters declaring no intention of journalism but they just gave me a single entry visa emphasising that I was visiting for tourism and not to work as a journalist! I ranted and raged for an hour or two thinking the holiday was ruined Eventually, I thought that maybe this was a plan of a higher source and that a holiday it would be. So our plans had to be changed at the last minute and Nepal put on the back burner for another day. Our new itinerary took us to the foot hills of the Himalayas to Moksha Spa and down to the heart of India to Rajasthan and Jaipur – hey that’s not a bad alternative!
My last visit to Delhi had been about forty years ago when I was the International sales manager (fancy title!) for a computer company responsible for selling my company’s computers to India, Pakistan, South Africa and Nigeria. As the only woman in the team I got the hottest countries – work that one out! Delhi is a really quite beautiful city, with large wide avenues, lined with trees and huge
roundabouts dressed with flowers and statues. There are numerous parks that have remnants of the history of Delhi and India – monuments, palaces and huge mausoleums. We spent a delightful afternoon in the Lodhi park.
My girlfriend Harjeet was keen to test her bargaining skills as she was invited to two weddings in UK and needed appropriate outfits. The shopping was great fun and took us to large airy emporiums and down noisy bazaar style streets where I was totally traumatised by the auto-rickshaws that simply mowed through the pedestrians including dogs – none of which seem at all fazed! Delhi’s
back streets are not for the nervous and fragile but they are great fun and there are some amazing bargains. I loved the colour everywhere and realised how drab we are in the UK with our tendency to reach for black, grey and browns through the winter when we really need the brighter colours to cheer ourselves up.
Temples and Pujas
I didn’t intend to write a travelogue here – although it might be going that way – but to give you a taste of my trip and to share some of the evens on the way. Early on in the trip we met up with a Ruchika, a lovely friend of Harjeet. A trained lawyer who had moved into healing a few years ago and she introduced us to a Pandit (spiritual teacher) at one of the many Hindu Temples. Harjeet requested a puja for her mother who was sick back home in UK. For the next three days we spent an hour with the Pandit who took us through a series of rituals and prayers (mantras) finalising with us pouring milk over a number of statues of deities. We felt that this kicked off a change in all of us and since then we all three have noticed quite significant changes. I have never felt more liberated and happy – I am not sure it was the puja or maybe the fun of a holiday in the sun in such an interesting place but whatever the cause I am delighted to say I still feel this inner happiness. After three days of shopping, sightseeing, temple visits and eating divine Indian food – oh yes and the odd cocktail we then took a train north. This was a very different experience to my previous train journeys in India and we had a comfortable seat with non-stop service – far superior to British Rail I might add. Then a car journey from Kolka to a cable car ride up to the Moksha Spa, in the Himalayan foothills was wonderful – beautiful views and a peaceful retreat after the bustle of Delhi. We were treated like Royalty and as we had chosen (or my guides had) a quiet week it was the perfect retreat. We did wonder if I got so much attention because of the word journalist in my passport visa – could be!!!
After Moksha we went south again to Jaipur which is known as The Pink City as the old town buildings were painted a soft salmon pink for a royal visit in the times of the British Raj. Again great fun in the bazaars tasting sweetmeats, enjoying the bartering and the glorious colours of the wedding clothes – a village wedding can have as many three thousand guests and pouring over pashminas – did you know the finest quality are made from the chin hairs of the Pashmina goat? We also visited the Amber Palace which is absolutely beautiful and a must do.
The Other side
I love India and always have but it still hurts my heart to see the children in the streets and on the rubbish heaps sorting and collecting items for sale. It hurts my heart to see the beggars in the street and personally I don’t care if they are with an organised ring or not – those mothers and children are filthy and you only have to look into their eyes to see the suffering. It hurts my heart to see the squatter camps around the cities. In the past the poverty and suffering has dominated my mind and heart and made it difficult to enjoy myself. This trip I decided to see, empathise, give donations where I could and send love and still enjoy my visit. This is my philosophy in life really – to protect myself and not take on the emotions of others but be empathetic and help where I can – I feel it’s a more powerful and more useful position to take but I have to say it’s not easy and I shed more than one tear.
Going with the flow
After the trip I came back to upheaval at home – good upheaval I might add! We are having the ground floor redecorated and a new kitchen installed. So we have moved into an old converted stable block with our two Labradors, Harry and Supa. It’s a bit cramped but it’s snug! I have decided not to get impatient but to wait for the work to unfold as it will and to enjoy it. I had a reading after
India from Claire Montanaro, who is a beautiful, pure channel and was told that the trip had been deliberately altered to keep me safe! I had a feeling that there was a touch of divine intervention and am now glad that only ranted and raged for a short time then went with the flow – it really is the easiest route! AND I had one of the best holidays ever!
Big hugs and lots of love Anne xxxx
Douglas’s Charity helping street children and the victims of trafficking: Child Welfare Scheme Hong Kong – www.cwshk.org
Claire Montanaro: www.inluminoglobal.com