Well, that’s it for now, I have left India for the time being. And how exactly do I feel about that? It is very hard to find the words I need to express just how much my time there has meant to me, how it has changed me, what I have accomplished, and where I’m going now. I had made a good life over there, learnt to live differently, become accustomed to so much that was initially so completely alien and confronting, and already I am missing many things, not least, my friends there. But life rolls on, one door closes and another one opens and all that, and after a great deal of dithering, I find myself back in the UK, in the same small seaside town I lived in thirty-five years ago, for the time being.
The peace and solitude of my long daily walks north along the beach is amazing. It was what I was looking forward to more than anything and I haven’t been disappointed, not at all. This week I have taken a wind and light rain walk, a slate grey sky walk, and a bright sparkly sunshine walk, each one magical in its own way, and shared only with the flocks of sea birds at the waters edge and wheeling in the sky, and the occasional dog walker who expects nothing more than a ‘Good morning’ from me in return for theirs. Fabulous. Delightful though the interest and curiosity of Indians is, one has days over there where one thinks ‘if another person asks me “What is your good name?” or “What is your good country” I’m going to scream!
Burnham on Sea itself has changed little, it’s still very small and red brick and Victorian; but the pavements are level, traffic stops at zebra crossings, and no one beeps their horn. No beggars, but no sev puri stands either. No dust, but a cold sea-weedy wind from the estuary, and drifts of autumn leaves rustling against my feet. And most of the time, all you can hear is the mew of seagulls, and your own thoughts, because you can be very alone here.
In India, you are never really alone, and to an Indian, the concept of being alone is an extraordinary one, often seen as something unpleasant, or viewed as part of a retreat experience. It’s taking me a long time to get used to it again, and I have always enjoyed my own company. After a month, I am still finding my feet, and to be honest, I’m still stumbling around, working on becoming accustomed to another complete change of environment and culture. I feel changed by India in ways I had not previously considered; the faces around me seem drab and colourless, as do their clothes, and while I am certainly enjoying having a glass of wine when I want one, I find myself already planning and scheming to get back to Asia as soon as possible.
However. Being here is a very necessary element in a healing process after some savage blows….and as part of a consolidation of the lessons I have learnt during my time in India. I am not sure where or what my next step will be, and that in itself is less scary than one might think; one of the most important lessons India taught me was acceptance. By this I do not mean just sitting back and taking whatever life throws at you, but learning to be content in the here and now, taking each day as a gift, even if in that space of time I have not achieved anything tangible or concrete, knowing that being and appreciating being is enough.
Thank you, India. You changed me for the better, I think. And now, to get on with the rest of this wonderful life!