I have a strange way of picking my travel destinations. I do it by whim, waiting to be inspired by some sign or a feeling of intuitive direction. If you are a regular follower of my blog, you might remember that I chose to go to Barcelona, Spain because I saw the city on an episode of “The Bachelorette.” I’m a little ashamed about this bit of impulsiveness but Barcelona turned out to be one of my favorite trips as I learned about the famed architect, Antoni Gaudi, and discovered The Age of Modernism.
I picked India for my 2018 trip in the same unconventional way. While walking through St. Augustine, Florida on a trip during March, I came upon a sudden explosion of eastern culture, a colorful float and joyous smiling people singing and dancing in lovely vibrate clothing.
Looking for some sort of explanation, I approached a card table set up with Hindu books and various other items. I was welcomed warmly as I quietly looked at the titles. I immediately felt included in all that was happening. I mentioned that some day I would like to go to India and was given a set of Hindu prayer beads. I asked how much they cost, was told they were a gift, and was invited to join the group for lunch after a parade through St. Augustine. I was convinced, my next trip would be India.
I signed up for a 17 day tour called “Mystical India”. Before I went, the tour company sent me packets of historical information which overwhelmed me and I stopped reading them because I wanted go on this adventure with an open mind. But I can’t help but wonder if I took this attitude because I was a “teacher” or because I’m an arrogant American. In my career in education, I was taught to promote “enduring understandings” that would stick in young minds forever. For example, World War I was reduced to the fact that King Ferdinand was shot and the entirety of economics was explained by the simple concepts of supply and demand. As I soon learned, these quick shots of education were far from adequate.
My pre trip enduring understandings of India were neatly wrapped up in three concepts: Gandhi, cows, and “Slumdog Millionaire”. My gracious tour guide, Rashid, dealt with me patiently as I misunderstood the great Mughal Empire as something to do with the Mongols and thought Britain took over India after WW I instead of long before in 1857. Rashid , if you are reading this, I hope you have forgiven me.
However, I did take along with me something of value that kept poking around in my memory. A few years ago I listened to a”Great Courses” set of lectures called “Power over People-A History of Political Thought”. The very interesting talks by Professor Dennis Dalton from Barnard University ended with a segment about Thoreau and Civil Disobedience which promoted me to take a trip to Walden Pond. But I remembered something else. The professor had started his survey of political history with a lesson about Hinduism. Why had he chosen India to start a course about political thought? Though my direct experiences in India and some focused discovery since I returned home, I found out why. It is quite a lesson that has great value for all of us especially in today’s world.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”―
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