“Another incredible place! They took Ann Coffaro and I on a guided bird walk. I saw one hundred and twenty new birds in India. My favorite was the Bee-eater. Talk about birding in style! A porter to carry the scope and refreshing drinks on a tray at the end of the trail.”
~ Tara O’Leary, India 2012.
Each time I visit India, I find myself slipping between the veils of past and present, of luxury and the ordinary. I am reminded how thin the line is between the extraordinary and the everyday.
Devi Garh is my favorite hotel of the program, an 18th century palace fort that royally commands the valley and looks out over the Aravalli hills. Bo-chic in style, its modern interiors are minimalist, austere five-star elegance, a bit “Indian Zen.”
Barefoot shop owners sat before scales on old wooden counters or on the floor. Some were turbaned, some not. We nodded hello to each other as I passed. Women carried food or water jugs on their heads, gliding gracefully in their saris, as vibrantly colored as the fruits and vegetables spread out on blankets and carts. The village astrologer sat on the corner, dressed in red next to a sky-blue wall, waiting for a consultation. Carts of vegetables displayed local varieties with names like “Lady Fingers” and “Gentleman’s Thumbs.”
I followed some of the women through a doorway and found an old man making the terra cotta pots used to store cool water. With white hair and beard, he stooped and twirled his wheel with a stick. Once it got going to the speed he was happy with, he threw some clay in the middle and started molding. Three small pots were produced within minutes:
These are the moments I cherish: easing into the pace of local life and discovering the artfulness of a simple, age-old skill, watching an old man’s hands shape clay into pots, or the hands of the women easing the pots onto their heads, calling their little ones to follow down the road.
So often travel to a faraway spot reminds us to appreciate the magic of everyday life. The finer elements of this particular program always bring me back to the simple pleasures that lend soulfulness.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel