This begins a series of postings about a trip I took to India at a time in my life when I desperately needed reassurance that God was near. I was living in the Middle East and had lost twin daughters a couple of years earlier in a difficult pregnancy that included an extended six-week hospital stay in Dubai, a good distance from my husband and friends, and half a world away from my family. I had gone through a miscarriage a year later and just discovered my marriage was ending. I needed to sort through my life. This teaching break gave me that opportunity.
I sat in the lunch room of a women’s college where I had taught in the Middle East for six years. If you looked at me, you would have seen a smiling woman eating reheated jasmine rice and dhal prepared the previous afternoon by my part-time Indian housekeeper. Many Indian women worked for expatriates living in the Middle East. I looked happy and adjusted to my life. None of the women I sat with would guess that inside I harbored guilt over being unable to carry my pregnancies to full-term. Further complicating my emotions was the announcement that my Egyptian husband wanted a divorce. It would be awhile before he could move out, however, due to a housing shortage in our area.
“Amy, what are you doing for the semester break? Do you and Ihab have any plans?”
“Not sure yet.”
“Why not come to India?” The invitation came from Helen, a business teacher in her sixties. “We’re going to Kerala, a tropical paradise. It’s beautiful, lots of palm trees, superb Indian cuisine in an open-air cafe with traditional dances during dinner.” Helen’s eyes grew dreamy as she recealled memories of an earlier visit.
“Well, Ihab is busy studying for his MBA–” I remarked. Funny how the truth also becomes a convenient cover-up of sorts. We would never travel abroad together again. My heart lurched at the thought of it.
Shirley, Helen’s supervisor, a Scandinavian-looking Canadian, rubbed her white hands together in anticipation, “We are going for Ayurvedic treatment,” she said. “For me it is maintaining beauty from the inside out. You won’t believe the difference when the toxins are out of your body.”
I couldn’t argue with this. With smooth, unlined skin, Shirley looked much younger than the sixty-some years she recently celebrated at her birthday dinner over Thai food.
“Kerala is home to Ayurvedic medicine,” Helen explained. “That’s a holistic approach to health that dates back 5,000 years.” Helen suffered from rheumatic arthritis, and had discovered the merits of Ayurvedic medicine as an alternative to expensive doctor-driven medications that failed to work. “Without my ‘treatments,’ I would be wheelchair-bound now.” she empasized.
“Jackie and a friend of hers with MS may be going as well,” Shirley added.
As they talked, I thought about it. Why India? Hmmm…another exciting adventure!
Although they talked about resorts, health and massages, my mind conjured up more exciting images…
I imagined grand elephants bedecked with gold finery parading through simple village streets, or me atop an enormous elephant thumping its way through jungle pathways. The elephant would uncurl its trunk, flap its ears and munch on some plantain trees, then trumpet as it proceeded on…I envisioned entering intricately-carved and grandiose temples along with a million Hindu gods and goddesses with names like Vishnu and Durga, and, of course, Buddha also came to mind. And, then there was the Taj Mahal. I’d have to see that! And crafts, oh the beautiful hand-dyed batik fabric, and the traditional dolls–more to add my international folk doll collection–and who knew what else I would find!
Relaxation! I saw myself seated in a simple, thatched-roof hut with an ocean view. At arm’s length would be a pale green young cocount, with a straw thrust into the square old made by some young teen’s machete. I’d be drinking the cool coconut milk and remark to my companion, “It’s milk but it looks like cloudy water. There’s nothing that tastes quite as heavenly at kelapa muda,” I’d say using the Indonesian word I learned for unripened coconut. Coconut trees would dot the area, and sway in the breeze. The scarf from my traditional sari would lift in a gentle puff of movement and I’d throw it over one shoulder. I’d tuck a stray strand of hair behind my ear and laugh along with my cohort, savoring the sound of the surf breaking up along the shore. What rest! Yes, I could use such a rest!
I continued my daydream. Of course, I’d wear the bindi, the red dot all Indian women wear on their forehead after they marry. They always looked so elegant. Oh, wait! I can’t wear that with Ihab’s announcement about our divorce fresh in my ears. I frowned. My thoughts turned to safer imaginings, like curries, cloves and the many spices and teas I expected to encounter in such exotic countryside.
All this popped into my mind as I contemplated the invitation I received to travel to southern India.
“Have we sold you on it yet?” Shirley asked.
“Well, yes, I guess you have!”
“You’ll love it!” Helen clapped her hands together. “You’ll see. The treatement will be fabulous!”
“Oh. Yeah.” I hid a smile at my real thoughts, and switched to those of daily massage treatments, superb Indian cuisine, and the resort which overlooked a jungle-like cliff with tiered earthen steps that spiraled down to the sea. I felt intrigued. But really drawn by the country itself, and my own sense of adventure. What did I have to lose? From where I lived in Ras Al Khaimah, a four-hour convenient flight would carry me straight to Kerala, India.
You bet I wanted to go!
God, what do you have in store for me? Can you heal my betrayed heart with Ayurvedic medicine? I laughed, but not because I believed that. More because I found myself ready for this new adventure. I still had a lot of life left to live! And that comforted me.
Why India? Why not?