“When I decided to visit India first I was quite young – just 19 years and still going to school preparing myself for its final examinations. And I never wanted to go to India, always to Africa, which I still did not visit so far.
It was at the end of August 1989 when I have arrived in Delhi and I remember well my first impression leaving the airport, besides it was hot and humid: I felt a release somewhere within and a silent voice telling me, First time in your life you are at home!
The first days roaming around Delhi my senses got overwhelmed – by the temperature, the sounds, the smells, the whole atmosphere in general. Everything was new on the one hand and seemed to be familiar on the other. I did not need time to feel comfortable, it just happened. I did not know too much about the country – honestly speaking, it was nearly nothing as well as I did not know, why I decided to visit it. But it felt perfectly all right. So I was open for whatever will happen without any prejudices towards people and circumstances.
For almost one year I was travelling around – going to the North up to Dharamsala as well down to the South until Kanyakumari. I could discover Rajasthan on the back of a camel as well as vibrant heart of Kolkata, going by boat on the backwaters of Kerala as well as swimming at Goa‘s unspoiled beaches. Nowhere I went I felt as a stranger – mostly welcomed and more accepted then in the country, I was born and grown up. The whole journey was hallmarked by meeting people and staying at places bringing me in touch with something. I had been missing so far in my life, not knowing what it really was – an invisible quest for the unknown I was longing for. I am thankful that I could come in touch with it while being in India – not only once.
Returning to Germany I started to feel immediately depressed – the Wall had fallen down and nearly everything has changed – at least on the surface, but I have felt even more uncomfortable then ever before. I wanted to get back the taste of India, its smells, its colours its warmth. Going to an Indian restaurant here was not the same.
I needed a long time to return. In 2010 I decided to join a two months yoga-course which was the beginning towards a new chapter of my life. This time I have arrived in Mumbai and the feeling was the same like more than twenty years back – I felt like coming back home which fulfilled me with some tremendous joy from deep within. I could not remember when I have been last time so happy.
These months had been so much different from my first visit, because this time I came with a specific reason to stay here – but of course as usual, everything became much different and I could extend my stay towards one year, joining another school to intensify my studies and let myself being guided by an inner voice which became more and more obvious and impossible to ignore. Finally I ended up at a place I never wanted to go to – and this was Rishikesh. Bathing myself not only in the Ganga but in the uplifting atmosphere of the whole place I went to visit by recommendation of an Indian friend Vasistha Gufa – the most “mysterious” place I ever had been in my life and it seemed to be, that everything I was looking for the passed years I was able to find here. No more reason to go somewhere else. Countless hours I have spent in the caves for meditation, sharing meals and tea with the ashramites, having inspiring talks with unknown people. What I could experience here I am not able to explain in words, going beyond what can be described.
India has many sides – especially for Westerners many challenging ones: the crowd of people, the noise, the countless smells and something special you will not find somewhere else, not even in other Asian countries. It is a special mixture of beauty and sadness, future and past. And yes – sorry to say this, its dirtiness. Something which is most hard for me to accept and understand and which became worse within the time I know the country.
I feel attracted towards the huge cultural heritage, the curiosity of people, there openess and how easy it is to come in touch with strangers and become friends. Qualities we have less in industralized Western countries, where individualism counts more than the sake of familiar structures with the result of a feeling of being lost for many.
Finally I can say, that all important experiences one has to make in ones life journey I have done in India and therefore I will remind forever thankful towards its people.”
Submitted By – Heiko Peter
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