Cycling in India was fantastic but there were many ups and downs. The experience was a bombardment of the senses in both the pleasant and unpleasant varieties whether the smell of incense burning in a temple, spicy curry cooking or an open sewer or rotting rubbish in the street.
India shaped me, literally, from a combination of illness, the climate and an increased intensity of everything. I lost a stone even though I was eating a cyclist's diet consisting of a huge amount of curry and syrupy sweets.The place tantalised my thoughts and pushed them into strange and profound places. My experience was not one of travelling the landscape but travelling through people.
Each interaction had an effect on my experience whether it was a handshake, a smile or a misplaced joke when I was tired that put me in a bad mood. It was a continuous conversation with myself and others and often not in my native language but in smiles, glinting eyes, gestures and atmospheres.
An immense energy carried me along as much as it threatened to squash me into the road manifest in huge trucks with monkeys on the roof or jam-packed streets. Places with open space felt weird because they contrasted the highly populated areas.
Peaceful places such as temples and mosques took on a heightened spiritual quality in contrast to the bustling streets.I remember visiting a temple high up on a hill somewhere in the desert and looking around at empty plains. It was a good place to look around and reflect on where I was going to end up as much as to gaze at an impressive landscape.
I laughed at the often ludicrous nature of my situation whether visiting a temple made of ghee, thirty people following me on bikes one morning or sleeping next to the police sergeant in a police station in Rajasthan.The imagery of the Hindu religion is full of cartoon-like creatures and larger than life stories and I think it rubs off on the people.I felt angry at the hypocrisy of the new rich living next to the poor workers on the streets.
I felt ashamed of myself as a 'tourist'. I wondered what the heck had happened that made me need to be thousands of miles away from loved ones and my own culture of context.India made me assess my own desires because it touched on all of the ones I already had. Take the seven deadly sins - wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony, all of them were touched upon.
No other place did this quite like India.It made me look at myself and what was driving me which caused me to become critical of my culture and its misgivings hidden in familiarity. Being able to see my culture of context juxtaposed against another was an incredibly valuable experience.
Mumbai caused me to be increasingly intrigued to live in a city because of its complexity and abruptness at which the environment changed. I walked around and allowed the sights and sounds to wash over me and what stuck ended up in my journal.I felt anonymous walking around a city like Mumbai which was weird compared to being followed and surrounded by excited people in villages and small towns in the countryside.
There was too much to take in in terms of trying to document, report or describe all my observations. It was my own personal take on things that made it interesting. After dwelling somewhere for a while, it was possible to dig deeper and to find new things to focus on and new ways to see.That was something that was clear in India. There was so many possible directions to take to have exciting experiences that it would take many lifetimes.