I stand on the edge of the Arabian Sea, my feet routed in that sweet spot where the white lip of the waves gently brushes the shore, covering my feet with foamy kisses. I allow my heels to sink into the soft wet sand, staring down at its rippled surface, lightly skimmed with a thin coating of sea water that transforms it into a mirror for the eagles that circle overhead.
I guess that is what India has been for me this time around; a place where I can see myself clearly, for perhaps the first time, reflected amidst the turbulence of a county I have felt inexplicably drawn to ever since I first set foot on her soil over a decade ago.
“Time has a funny way of collapsing when you go back to a place you once loved. You find yourself thinking, I was kissed in that building, I climbed up that tree. This place hasn’t changed so terribly much, and so by an extension of logic I must not have changed much, either. […] Coming back is the thing that enables you to see how all the dots in your life are connected.”
– Anne Patchett
Coming back to India has been a theme that has charted my entire adult life, a collection of moments dotted at regular intervals. It is a geographical constant from which I feel a gravitational-like pull, shaping the path my life has taken, helping me grow into the woman I am now.
- April 2002
I was 22 years old when I first came to India, and cried within thirty minutes of leaving Delhi airport. I was timid and unsure, a misnomer of a woman still very much a child, and in love with the male equivalent, an eternal Peter Pan. India took my breath away, and the air that flowed back into my lungs left me forever changed.
- December 2004
I was back in the country that had stolen my heart to share a love affair of a different kind, as two of my best friends got engaged at the Taj Mahal. Basking in the warmth of their relationship showed me how unhappy I was in my own. I knew I was living the wrong life, but didn’t know what the right one was. India was trying to show me.
- December 2007
An Indian wedding and the chance to explore Goa with my younger sister lured me back a third time. I brought with me the wounds of a love run dry, and let the ebullience of India flood my heart instead. I watched a man walk the beach in a kilt, and the next thing I knew, he had strolled his way into my life.
The road to love
Jumping into a new era
- February 2008
I found myself cross-legged on the floor of a monastery in Dharamsala, attending the annual teachings of HH The Dalai Lama. It was a time of spiritual awakening and struggling to let go. I had an image of what I wanted my life to look like, but was too afraid to cast the first brushstroke.
- November 2008
I was in love with the man I had met in India one year earlier, and returned to Goa to be with him as he wrapped up a year of travel. It was here, in the comfort of a country I felt more at home in than any other, that I finally let go of my fears and embarked on a new relationship.
- February 2010
I was turning 30, and there was only one place in the world I wanted to start this new era of my life. It was during this time that I first voiced my desire to live in Goa. I daydreamed of what my life could be like, but was weighed down by the fact that I was seriously (and secretly) in debt, and lacked the courage to act on my desires.
- October 2012
I arrived to the monsoon rains, letting them wash me clean of the negative emotions I had been carrying with me for such a long time. I was debt free at last, and on a path of discovery that was almost too great to comprehend. I spent five beautiful and imperfect months finding self-acceptance, sowing seeds, and voicing dreams.
Tomorrow I will be leaving India, and making my way to Thailand, a country I have never visited before. I am sad to be moving on, but grateful for everything I have experienced during my time here. I know now, without hesitation, what I want, and more importantly, who I am as I take these first steps into the unknown.
I have a starting point, and an end point. All I have to do is connect the dots.
Earlier this week I took my friend Candace up to my office on the hill. I told her how, every time I sit there staring out to sea, I hope to see dolphins. We sat for an hour or two, sharing our stories and dreams beneath the feathery branches of a great old she-oak, until our conversation was interrupted by a glimmer of silver in the distance.
There they were, for just the briefest moment. My dolphins.
The greatest lesson I have learnt throughout my love affair with India, is that anything is possible. Dreams can become reality; you just have to give them a voice first. The future is as deep and unknown as the ocean, but every so often just enough of a dream rises up, cresting above the blue, a sign of what lies beneath the surface, waiting to evolve as you do.