Friday, December 7, 2012

Requisite Thank U India post

What is it about being in a foreign country that helps you clear your head, prepare yourself for plans that lie ahead, just plain calms you down?

Before I left for the trip I was wreck. I left my job of ten years, I had an emotionally wrought romantic breakup, I was burnt out from music promotion and live shows, I was fed up with other personal issues. I wasn't enjoying anything anymore. I was through with New York.

I still am and plan on leaving this city for good in a week, but I'm no longer anxious about it. Being abroad, I knew, would help me prepare for a big life change. I was able to take myself out of an environment in which I felt controlled in pretty much every aspect. Traveling solo was a means to be in full control again. Sure, India has its limitations such as delayed trains and the occasional bad chow mein and no toilets on buses, but if you go with certain expectations and are ready to take care of yourself over there, you will feel like you have all of the power in the world. And you bring that feeling back with you. Because after you experience that, you feel like you can handle anything. 

I miss a lot of things about India, but what I might miss the most is having an instant connection with people because you are both in this crazy place due to your endless curiosity, your tendency to get bored easily, your need for your true insides to be let out of its dark crevasses, your need to feel very present. You are both there because deep down you know there is something to learn about yourself when you are placed in the midst of beauty and chaos. You both know every single person you meet on your journey no matter how old, where they are from, and how much English they speak, will give you something to chew on. And there is a good chance they will touch your heart with their kindness and their offer to have a chai or just listen and smile or maybe joke around for some much needed comic relief. 

I experienced a lot of honesty on this trip. I noticed it right away when I landed in JFK and headed straight to the nearest decent coffee shop (good coffee is hard to come by in India). I overheard a lot of exaggerated compliments and false plans and people filling up their day with meetings and appointments and ten minute catchups and I immediately missed my boring lazy life in India. I missed just hanging out and bullshitting and having absolutely no reason to exaggerate or pretend or hide any feelings you had that day. 

As much as I love the USA, I feel that here there is this overwhelming need to make it look like everything is a-ok. No one wants to handle raw emotion. There are many downsides to this but the one major and obvious one is that suppressed emotions end up blowing up in our faces. You see it on the bus when fights break out or in loads of passive aggressive behavior that lead to untrustworthy relationships. My wish is that people were truer to themselves. That they can admit when they are truly happy or sad or anxious or whatever without fear of judgement. Because I do believe that that is the healthiest way to live. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Almost Goodbye

My last day in Udaipur was spent in a little village I'm pretty sure had yet to see a tourist pass through. I am still so fascinated by the colors and smiles of rural, village India.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Things I haven't eaten in a long time that I would kill a cow for right now

I was doing more than ok with the food situation in India for a while, loving the new flavors, soupy curries, light dosas, fresh nan and complex Masalas. I couldn't get enough. While other travelers stuck to their Muesli and pasta, I was on a never ending hunt for the best pumpkin curry and biryani.

Then the inevitable happened. I got sick. And nothing makes you miss homey comfort foods like being sick half way around the world and just wanting mommy's chicken soup.

Here's a list of foods I would kill for right now:
My mom's perfect Jewish penicillin with loads of parsley.
Beef broth
Burger from jg melon on 74th and 3rd
Sushi, fucking top notch close your eyes its so good sushi. From Riki on 45th st.
Baked fish. Any fish, as long as it's fresh. With olive oil and lemon.
Really fresh salad with cheese, lemon juice and olive oil
Hummus from hummus place with above salad.


I arrived in Amritsar on a crowded dusty government bus which left Dharamsala 7 hours prior at some ungodly predawn hour. This meant setting my alarm for 4am and walking in complete darkness to the main square hoping I would find a taxi to the bus station. Luckily I did and sat in the nearly deserted waiting area next to tall, skinny light haired guy who instantly reminded me of my best friend and bandmate back at home. As we exchanged the usual banter, where we are from, how long we are in India for, I decided he would be my new best friend as his gentle mannerisms, laid back nature and general go with the flow vibe were immediately evident.

Benji from Austria and I rodé the hellish busride together which included a rest stop in a dusty garage infested field where the men got off to simultaneously surround the bus and take a piss and a nicely timed save by a mother who opened the window in front of us so her kid could puke out of it. I immediately decided I would never again take a government bus in India. Benji didnt seem to care about any of this. 'It's not bad,' he would say in that monotone German chilled out accent.

Amritsar is a disgusting, dirty, crowded city but houses the Golden Sikh temple which in my opinion blows the Taj Majal out of the water. In the evening time it is especially magical and not to sound like a Lonely Planet guide but no visit is complete without experiencing the communal meal eaten on the floor and served efficiently by temple volunteers to over 80,000 people daily. The chappati and dal was one the tastiest I've had in India and really showed just how generous and anti-caste the Sikhs are.

You could stay for free in the temple in the foreigners room. Benji didn't mind sharing a bathroom with ten other people and sleeping on an uncleaned bed next to a complete stranger. 'It's not a four star star hotel' he would say. I booked myself into a two star down the block which included a flat screen TV and the rare complimentary role of toilet paper.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Different Kind of Trip

I've done my share of traveling but many things feel profoundly different on this trip. I rarely feel lonely even though I am often by myself. Part of this is the ease at which one can talk to people here, both tourists and locals. Travelers don't come to India to party or veg like they do in Thailand or Jamaica. Most come looking to be stimulated visually, to expose themselves to a unique culture, to look inward, to meet likeminded people who don't mind trading an easy beach vacation for something a bit richer, albeit more difficult.

Even in big cities things shut down by 10pm. Tea is the drug of choice with the occasional Kingfisher or blunt if you are up north. Even chicken feels like an indulgence as it is beyond easy to be a vegetarian here (this coming from an unapologetic carnivore).

Entertainment in India is everywhere. Once you sort of get past the mountains of garbage in the streets, pollution, crowds and poverty, you are left with a beautiful feast for the senses. Womens' saris in every color of the rainbow packed into a ladies only subway car. Random cows following you home at night as if they want to make sure you made it ok. Random conversations with an elderly wise and silly Sikh man that exemplify the generosity of the religion. You really have absolutely no idea who you will meet next and what kind of impact they will have on you.

Indians subscribe to the notion of living in shanti, or, peace. I can't seem to shut off my Western frantic NY ways but I will say that being here has helped me inch a bit closer to this style of living, taking the time to just stop and turn off the worry, eliminate the clutter in my head, understand my priorities.

On a personal note, moving forward with a relocation feels exhilarating on this trip. I love this feeling of being in between two lives. Knowing I'm not going back that place of severe burnout has done wonders in enjoying my present surroundings. It just goes to show that it's not where you are physically that dictates your state of mind. It's the decisions you make in order to ensure your progress, how much you listen to yourself, care for yourself, make sure you are living your life for you and not for anyone else that allows yourself to fully enjoy every aspect of your daily routine. It is cliché but so true- do what you love and the love will find you.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


It's hard to not get really comfortable in Rishikesh. Yes, you are in India, there's dirt, thali stalls, markets, little stores with flies buzzing about where you buy chocolate and toilet paper. But it's also quite western and touristy and yoga obsessed. My first yoga class in India was filled with all Westerners in a brightly lit zenlike room and an instructor telling us which poses are good for weight loss. I thought for a second I was back in my Greenpoint hatha yoga class surrounded by stressed out Brooklynites looking for a much needed break from their long work day.

I've met many Indians who told me they never did yoga in their lives. In Rishikesh, the yoga capital of the world nonetheless, and they would laugh hysterically when I would try to teach them half lotus or bridge pose. The best yoga experience I had in Rishikesh was on the rooftop of my guesthouse playing yoga instructor for my new Indian friends. Crazy ass role reversal.

It's hard to leave Rishikesh. After a few days here, you find yourself settling into a pretty solid schedule.  I was here during the 5th annual yoga festival (in the yoga capital of the world! mind blowing!) so my schedule would vary slightly depending on what lectures were happening that day. Dinner plans, breakfast plans, plans to meet for 2pm hatha but maybe I'll be late because there is that 1pm Aryuvedic lecture. Afternoon chais would turn into dinner when you bumped into someone at the cafe. It's unbelievably nice to be surrounded by other people with an open schedule. Back in NY everyone always has someplace to be. Here, yoga and naps dictate the schedule. Not a bad way to start off the trip.  

Friday, November 2, 2012

I Wish it were Oh So Quiet

I like to think I can deal with a lot of inconveniences with minimal complaints once I leave the Western world. Sure, I would prefer a temperate climate, a mattress, a hot shower, potable tap water, a non-bumpy busride and clean air. But given that these things are pretty hard to come by in the far east, I deal with it. I don't mind that my room could badly use a fresh coat of paint or that I have exactly 3 minutes of lukewarm water in the shower before it starts to freeze up again. 

However there is one thing I do not see myself eventually tolerating: the noise pollution. A big reason I left NY was to rid myself of all of the noise. Unpleasant sounds are just unbearable to me. Maybe it's because I've played music for such a long time, (or maybe that's why I play music? chicken/egg scenario?) but my entire body begins to tense up and my heart begins to pound when I'm  subjected to car horns, construction sites and annoying music (forget about it if it is all at once). Even loud talkers are too much for me to handle. I've been known to tell certain people to lower their voices as their volume was really stressing me out. A particular friend of mine talks loudly since his lifelong best friend is deaf so he's really the only person I give a pass to.

India was the wrong place to end up for some peace and quiet. I love so many things about this place, but the noise pollution is really the driving factor that has me heading up north to the Himalayas, the peaceful hills up where the Ganges begins. The cars, motorbikes, rickshaws, cyclists, tuk tuks all compete for how many much noise they can make on the road. Sometimes there are only grumpy cows and a goat or two in their way. Do they expect those guys to move? I really don't know. Sometimes there are pedestrians who just ignore them and go about their business walking along what could be a sidewalk, a urinal deposit or the actual street (hard to really distinguish). Sometimes there really is a traffic jam so insane that you wonder how people don't just abandon their vehicle and crawl to the nearest corner and rock themselves into a state of sanity. Part of me thinks the reason people are so religious here is because Hindu temples, Buddhist monasteries and Muslim mosques are the only respite from the insanity. I'm pretty sure I would sign up for any religion that preaches momentary silence if I were here long enough. 

I have booked myself into an ashram up on a little hill overlooking the Ganges in Rishikesh. There's a chance this won't even be quiet enough for the time being. If it isn't, I'll be sure to send postcards from that ashram up in the mountain complete with a shaved head and an orange robe.