Riding a train in India is always an experience. Exhilarating, harrowing, communal or deathly tedious - the experiences vary, but the ride is almost always memorable. Back in my old wanderlust days, after college and before children, I was hardy or foolish enough to withstand journeys spread over days in third class carriages fitted out with little more than padded wooden benches. I remember compartments brimming over with people and the remarkably courteous, almost genteel, way that we all cohabited in that tiny space. There were seemingly endless stretches of time when a train would stop in some barren, dry landscape. Of course, there were no announcements as to why or for how long. Local villagers would appear as if out of the shimmering air, bearing food and trinkets to sell to the passengers. Hours later, the train would give a lurch and resume its slow pace toward its destination.
Regular readers of these posts might be aware that over the last number of years I have been making annual trips to India in order to pursue continuing studies of homeopathy. This year was no exception. I usually travel sometime between November and January. These are the Indian winter months, which, compared to the beastly heat of the summer and the continual rains of the monsoon (they only recognize 3 seasons there), are generally considered to be the best time to alight onto the subcontinent. It is definitely the tourist season. And as such, it is the time of year when the opportunities to attend a conference or some other type of homeopathic venue are most abundant.
17 years it took for me to get back there. And, from the moment of arrival, engulfed by the fetid smells and damp heat of the city, I started to ask myself, “Why did I wait so long?” It felt like I had come home. It is said that a visitor either loves or hates India, that there is little room for an indifferent attitude. Life unfolds unadulterated in front of you; extremes of order and chaos, wealth and poverty, the sublime and the base, the attractive and the repugnant, of joy and suffering exist in a proximity to each other that is at odds with our experience. Certainly, it is not everyone’s cup of tea.
I found myself immediately enthralled, invigorated and also quite comfortable. The streets of Mumbai (formerly known as “Bombay”) - like those of most Indian cities - are teeming with life. They were a source ceaseless source of curiosity and stimulation.