Travel Is In My Blood
Maharajah and Me
Travel is in my blood. I think the seed was planted before I even knew it.
My grandmother was a world-class traveler who spent her life seeing the world. Itâ€™s as if her travel stories, the memory of her travel stories and ideas I have gleaned from her letters and photographs are just a part of me. So it makes perfect sense when I had my degree (well being honest, 8 hours short of my degree) that my Dad asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I realized that I wasnâ€™t going to save the world. Even though my almost degree was in sociology, that I wasnâ€™t as altruistic as I once convinced myself that I was. So, my answer was â€œ I want to be a Travel Agent.â€ More on why that didnâ€™t happen then is for another post.
I am, however now a travel advisor and am so very fortunate to have personally seen and have sent many clients to the places that Cara (pronounced Car with an a, or as in Cara Mia) spoke about. I donâ€™t believe that traveling is only about the trip or the vacation or of how annoying airports are these days. It is about being open minded about the adventure being embarked upon. No pun intended, but I think it is truly about the â€œjourneyâ€ and the memories it creates.
I remember sitting with eyes wide open listening to her stories, from the time I was young. She spoke of touring Europe, dining with Maharajas, going on safari in Africa before it was popular, to fly fishing in New Zealand when she was 91.
Cara was so very important in my life and I hope to pay tribute to her while sharing some her tales and mine about one of my deepest passions, travel.
â€œThe Maharajah and Meâ€
It wasnâ€™tâ€™ until I was 13 that I realized that Cara was only 5â€™ tall and weighed 99 pounds. Her presence, at least to me was larger than life. She sat straight-backed with ankles crossed. Her grammar was always perfect, and her use of the English language was captivating. Among many other things she was a writer and a poet. She commanded an audience, and she truly commanded that I listen. I didnâ€™t care because listening to her as she spoke in her Katherine Hepburn like voice was mesmerizing.
One of the stories that I remember so vividly went something like this.
â€œIt was some time in the 1950â€™s and I was on a visit to India. I had been invited to join a Maharajah and his wife for dinner.â€ (I want to interject that I donâ€™t know which one, or the city they lived in, or which palace she visited.) â€œ The Maharajahsâ€™ first wife was the cook. When I entered there was all of the pomp and circumstance one would imagine when dining with such a grand figure. All of the wives and children were brought out to meet us. We sat down to dine on plush silk cushions, adorned with sequins in colors of red and gold. The tables were beautifully set with gold flatware 24 carat gold painted stemware and beautiful china. The candles burned brightly in the stunning candelabras. The fragrances of incense and curry filled the room. I could feel the anticipation in the air as dinner was served. I inhaled the curry before I took my first bite. After I had my first bite, I felt the heat rising inside starting at the pit of my stomach. The lamb was by far the spiciest meal Iâ€™d ever eaten. With each spicier bite, the heat inside me rose, until it finally reached my face. I was glowing.â€ (In those days, men sweated and women glowed). â€œThe perspiration was almost dripping from my hair. Iâ€™m sure my face was scarlet or close to the color of the cushion I was sitting on. I wasnâ€™t sure how I was going to finish the meal. I knew that if I didnâ€™t finish or made any time of comment, the wife would have been beaten. The wife waited patiently for me to finish. I persevered and finished the entire meal. I could almost feel the sigh of relief. All except my stomach and my laundress were very happyâ€
Experiences like that are just one of many a visit to India a traveler can have. There is a heightened awareness of sight; sound and smell visitors have in India. At first time traveler will probably visit, New Delhi, Mumbai, Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur and Varanasi. The next can take you to the backwaters of Cochin and Kerala.
The amount of travel publications is numerous and I donâ€™t want to reinvent the wheel or write what has already been written. That said, imagine your own â€œSlum Dog Millionaire, â€œBest Exotic Marigold Hotelâ€ and â€œLunch Boxâ€ movies experiences yourself. I thought I would mention a couple
Picture watching the time honored tradition of the pilgrimage to Varanasi, where Hindus come to pray, die and wash away their sins. The visual and sensual aspect can be overwhelming. In my mind allowing the experience of the sounds of the water, the grief and the smell of the smoke, to envelope all of your senses and emotions rather than just the visual perspective is what you will remember.
There is a very interesting contrast of visiting Varanasi to that of seeing the Taj Mahal. The palace is so much more than the incredible structure built over 20 years time, by a Mughal emperor in honor of his third wife. The Taj Mahal is a story about love, endurance, loyalty, artistry, opulence and death. As you walk through the halls, thoughts of those who created the palace and lost their lives are present. The love the Shah had for his wife can be felt in every room, seen in every jewel and heard in every footstep on the marble floors.
I read a beautiful novel about the creation of the Taj Mahal and the love story behind it, called â€œBeneath the Marble Sky.â€ I think the novel epitomizes this incredible love story.
India is obviously so much more that 2 magnificent sites an experiences. I hope this tweaks your interest and makes a visit to this amazingly cultural, historical and mind blowing county on your list. If nothing else a desire to learn more about it.
Cara would probably be both smiling with pursed lips when reading this blog.
At the same time she would correct all of my errors. If she was still alive, I know I would have received a typewritten, yes on a real typewriter or maybe by now she would have a computer, letter, with those corrections but also telling me how proud she was.
Her voice, her love and her memory come alive as I write. I can hear her say â€œTerrapin, I love youâ€