Ever since I can remember I have been on a quest to find a deeper meaning to my life. Born and raised a Catholic, I walked away from the Church in my early teens and explored other options but eventually realised that I did not need religion to lead a spiritual life. This long path finally led me to one of the most incredible experiences of my life.
For many years I had a fascination with India and finally made a journey exploring the country back in the early 2000’s. It was like stepping into another world- one that felt like I had been to in a thousand lifetimes, full of colour and light.
Arriving in Chennai was an assault to the senses. The smell, the noise and the stifling heat. I checked into my hotel in the afternoon after 12 hours of travel, exhausted, completely overwhelmed and burst into tears. My friend who I was travelling with had missed his connecting flight and would not arrive until later that night. I got myself together and took a walk to the beach. Looking out at the ocean, I was excited and nervous about the trek ahead.
I spent almost a month in India travelling to many towns and cities, big and small ( I would quickly accept the fact that my feet and nails would never be completely clean) and came home with fantastic memories. One experience has stayed with me long after the trip. I also walked away with a new profound view of the world and the way I live my life.
I was staying in a hotel in Mumbai for a few days towards the end of my trip and on the corner of the street, I discovered a Baskin and Robin’s ice cream shop. After weeks of hot and humid conditions, an ice cream seemed like my idea of heaven! I practically ran to the shop. However, I was stopped by a small boy, approximately four years of age, holding a bunch of colouring in books. He didn’t speak any English but soon realised that he was selling the books. I noticed nearby his mother, cradling a little baby on her chest. It hit me like thunder- they were homeless. Living on the chaotic streets of the city. I purchased a book from him and he ran over to his mother who nodded `Thanks’ in my direction. I walked towards the ice cream shop with less spring in my step. I had seen people living on the streets during my trip but never like this. When I got to the counter to looked at all the flavoured ice cream, I turned around and found the small boy and beckoned him over. I asked the guy behind the counter if he would ask him if he would like an ice cream. His little face lit up and he stood on his toes to see all the flavours. While he was deciding what he would get, I ordered mine (chocolate in a cone!). He took a look at what I had and told the guy behind the counter that he wanted the same. He took the cone and ran over to his Mum with the biggest smile on his face. For the next two nights after taking in the sights of the city during the day, I would meet the little boy on the street, buy a colouring in book from him and then we’d eat ice cream. Except this time we would sit on the curb together, side by side eating our cones quickly before they melted in the warm night. On my last night in Mumbai, I was due to fly out around 9pm. I found my new friend and for the last time, we ate our ice creams together. I then gave him all the Rupee I had left. I think he guessed that I was leaving for good, he tugged at my t-shirt, I knelt down and he gave me a big hug, kissed my check and ran off into the crowd. Now as I write this, I can still see his face.
My time in India made me aware of how lucky I am and how consumed by materialism I had been. We don’t need much to be happy and content. Returning home gave me a bigger sense of my life and what I found or thought was important. My priorities had changed. I have all I need in life- health, family and friends. I take the time now to enjoy the small things that life has to offer.
In India, I discovered that outside in the streets there was chaos, mayhem and noise all the time. But inside the Indian people there is peace, calm and tranquillity. In the Western world, we are the opposite. Outside there is order, structure and discipline, but on the inside we are full of confusion, noise and disorder. Over the years I have worked to try and be like the Indian people on the inside. I am a spiritual person having the best human experience possible.
Thank You, India.