#A total change of scenery
"We think we're going to make a trip, but soon it's the trip that makes you, or undoes you.Nicolas Bouvier. The Indian universe is made up of beliefs and devotion. When today's action determines tomorrow's life, the notion of time changes. India and its castes, the will of Karma, the power of destiny. This vision "explodes", makes the Western soul startle, often lost in a material world. The omnipresent force of the sacred, disturbing, opens the unknown door of the divine. "The East to orientate oneself", according to Henri Michaux, because India sometimes acts as a beacon. Coming from the great consumer societies where the spiritual dimension of life tends to fade away or to take a back seat, many find themselves or lose themselves in the esoteric vision of the Indian universe. A shock that will certainly leave no one indifferent. For it is a softer and harder world, where sacred cows will never be crazy, where vegetarian food fills the plates. All visitors who arrive in India for the first time are first lost, without any reference to an elsewhere that exceeds them. The change of scenery is total: the strange caste system, the sacred cows, the venerated cobras, the mysticism of the sadhus, the rickshaws, the thousand facets of Hinduism that defy our understanding and so many other things, this journey is like a dream. Dreaming with open eyes is undeniably something to make you want to leave the shore, to sail gently adrift. India allows you to put things into perspective, think for a minute that you are living so that your next life will be better and you will understand.
The splendour of the maharajas :
If you have some savings, luxury, calm and voluptuousness will be within your reach in this India of all contrasts. Off-season, prices are falling for those who take the time to negotiate. For the price of a Formula 1, why not opt for a haveli or an old Maharaja palace. Rajasthan has thousands of them. From the splendours of this period, there are still some hotels that are unique in the world (suites, marble sculptures, mosaics, paintings and furniture gilded with gold leaf). Between treasures to discover and palaces to stay in, a trip to Rajasthan is a luxury... within everyone's reach.
At the foot of the Himalayas, in the heart of the mountains, in the hollows of the cliffs, by the rivers, at the top of the hills, on the bed of the plains, Mother India sings.The North of the country is the refuge of nature lovers, it is the soul of India. The trees, wrapped in flowers in May, bear abundant fruit in September. Water, such a sacred element, is also there; the Manali Valley is reflected in its brilliance.Eldorado is located at high altitude, in a rocky landscape surrounded by snow-covered peaks. The features of the faces are drawn by the cold, the pleated eyes open with curiosity on the unknown. Everywhere the prayer wheels turn and the flags let the prayers fly with the wind.At the top, the Indus River is the cradle of an ancient civilization. Travellers from all walks of life are attracted by these lunar landscapes. And on the road from Leh to Manali, the second highest accessible road in the world, everyone is caught in a whirlwind of pure beauty.Around Leh, the capital of Ladakh, the gompa welcome more or less young Buddhist monks, who strive to respect secular principles. Here life is punctuated by the sound of gongs. The visitor is charmed. In Leh, thin streams of clear water flow through the city, a labyrinth of alleyways the quadrille and the flat roofs complete this postcard setting. In this place, which is conducive to meditation, you don't want anything, you already have everything.
A welcoming population
It is almost a tradition in this country which, for thousands of years, has been a land of passages, pilgrimages and cultural crossovers. Indians travel within their borders, and all of them have had the feeling that they are in a "foreign land". They therefore accurately measure the importance of welcoming, and naturally put into practice what can be considered a code of conduct, dictated by religion - certainly! -but which is nonetheless deeply sincere. Whether you are in the Himalayan mountains, in the Thar desert or in a megalopolis like Delhi; whether they are Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Jains or Buddhists, there will always be someone to help you, talk to you, share a meal or offer you hospitality. It is up to you to accept this offering that makes any trip to India unforgettable.
Ease of communication
As surprising as it may seem, it is easy to "move" to North India because the means are so varied and their access so easy. Language, in the first place, will never be an insurmountable obstacle (due to the former colony). Outside of a few remote regions and villages, you will always meet a person who knows how to speak English, ready to guide you. Of course, knowing a few words of Hindi will delight your interlocutors and open new doors for you.The means of transport, on the other hand, are remarkably well developed and organized. Plane, train, bus, collective jeep, rickshaw... there is always a solution to move forward and, moreover, often at a lower cost. Be patient anyway, because the journeys are long, very long.To reassure family and friends, and share your amazement with them, the Internet is never far away. Connections - broadband in large cities, a little slower elsewhere - are multiplying. In less tourist areas, you have to be satisfied with the telephone. And yet, there are still a thousand and one ways to "get lost" in India.
© Dominique Auzias & Jean-Paul Labourdette