We left Pushkar on the 22nd after spending six nights there, the longest we’ve stayed in one place so far. After Pushkar, we headed to Udaipur, “The Paris of India,” where we stayed two nights. We honestly didn’t do much there, mainly just hung out at our hotel’s rooftop cafe and talked to other backpackers. We’ve been meeting so many cool people and have actually been traveling with one guy named Ben for a few days now. Ben, Easton, Dennis, James – I’m so happy that our paths crossed, if only for a few days!
One cool thing we did in Udaipur was go on a sunset boat ride around the lake of Udaipur, stopping at the Jag Mandir Palace. As we left, the sun was setting and fireworks went off over the lake for a huge wedding taking place at the palace. So magical!
After Udaipur, we took a bus to Mount Abu where we spent one night. The main thing we did in Mt. Abu was visit the Brahma Kumaris Museum. Filled with life-sized mannequins, flashing lights, and images of an electronic egg that was supposed to represent your soul, the Brahma Kumaris ideology wasn’t exactly the type of spirituality that we’re looking for on this trip. Nonetheless, it was really interesting hearing what our guide, a monk at the Brahma Kumaris ashram, had to say. I’ll never forget his definition of the word God. According to him, G = Generator of the new world, O = Operator of the new world, and D = Destroyer of the old world.
Another very long and bumpy bus ride got us to Jodphur, where we are now. Tomorrow, we leave again by train for Jaisalmer. We’ve been moving pretty quickly between places, mostly out of a mutual desire to get to the Kumbh Mela as soon as possible. This whole time, I’ve been reading Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road, and Sal Paradise has been keeping me very good company.
To wrap this up, I wanted to share a few ideas I’ve had on both Indian culture and my own.
In a way, I think that the differences in American versus Indian society can be compared to the debate between free will vs. determinism/fate.
As Americans, the main emphasis in our society is on individualism and our ability for to achieve whatever we want for ourselves. In essence, this is what the American dream is all about – the belief that we each have the ability to shape our own destiny. As we often say, “Try, try again” and you will succeed.
From what I’ve seen in India, the course of one’s life is largely determined by the situation that one is born into. There’s no changing or getting away from the town, family, and caste that you are raised in. I think this may come from a prominent disbelief in coincidence here in India. According to Hinduism, everything that happens to you isn’t just random, but comes from past karma that you accumulated in previous lives.
Along these lines, many adults I’ve talked to have never moved away from their parents’ house, and they couldn’t even if they wanted to. Nonetheless, most people have also expressed that they have no desire to leave where they are. The majority of people seem perfectly content with the lives that they are living.
Can we as Americans say the same?