South India: on magic, growth and prejudice

India has been my most powerful travel experience so far.

India has been so rewarding because it completely shaped me, made me grow in an unexpected positive way contributing to my mental and physical well-being even years later  which explains why in  my everyday life I am constantly referring to my time in India.

India has been a great teacher. There is nothing romantic or deeply spiritual regarding my relationship with India. India has been hard, emotionally and mentally for numerous reasons. The disgusting stares, the insecurity I sometimes experienced, the constant feeling that you are less than because of where you come from.

People usually ask me: how was it? Was it good, bad? It was not good or bad.  It was challenging, uplifting and emotional.

  • A deep attachment and love for India

I went as a volunteer, volunteering is a great way to get in touch with another culture. It has been a  cultural journey. I did not know a thing about India before having the opportunity to travel over there. I fell in love with this country, its culture, food, history and people. The Hindu festivals, the marvellous religious and cultural mix. The music which is omnipresent, the liveliness, the beauty and diversity of the many places I discovered,the kindness and hospitality of my colleagues and friends.

To me, India is this huge subcontinent, filled with a diversity of people, culture, ancestral practices, characterized by a never-ending dynamism which can  sometimes seem unfriendly at first impression but which is deeply welcoming, spontaneous and surprising.

  • ce17e202b015f290898565c9cebaec43An experience with discrimination and prejudice

Every Black person who wants to travel to India should know what I did not know, what they do not mention on guides such as the Lonely Planet or the Rough Guides: a mental preparation is needed because of the constant stares and the mockery.

I was constantly looked at, as if I was a weird monster coming from another planet. From the father holding his daughter hand at my sight, to the teenage girl laughing out loud pointing a finger to me in Thiru or the street sale-person in Agra yelling “Negro” at me. Streets after streets I was the centre of the attention. It was not necessarily curiosity, you could often feel that it was disdain. It is destabilizing the fact that people can be so open about their ignorance, racism and sexism and it is overwhelming.

To a Black woman wishing to travel there I would advice to be prepared mentally for this type of reactions. To meditate often about this travel and to affirm each day your purpose. To travel to India , you need to be thick-skinned, or you will forcibly become thick-skinned. 

  • A personal journey

In India I have learned to think differently, to challenge my views. I have learned that I could adapt quickly, that I can be more patient than  I thought. I have acquired a number of beneficial habits. These habits include writing, documenting my personal experiences as a therapeutic practice. Seeking and learning to enjoy my own company also begun in India..I fell even more in love with travelling in this country.In India, I have progressively adopted a new lifestyle that I maintained and am benefitting  until today. India is that type of destination that inevitably provokes self-reflection, mental renewal and self-development.

 

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