Two things say Sri Lanka: Elephants and tea. I happen to love both things. Although the trip was very short, I came away with an enhanced appreciation for both. Here’s the proof:
Took a trip to the majestic island of Bali a few months ago. Here’s some of what I stumbled upon.
I’ve never been a lover of sapphires. Their deep blue color was nice, but not so appealing to me. Having an April birthday, I prefer the clean, crisp diamond to colored gemstones. But, one look at the azure sea of sapphire toned homes in the Indian city of Jodhpur instantly changed my opinion on the shade.
This most beautiful tangle of royal blue, turquoise, indigo, and slate homes weaves it’s way through the muddled terra-cotta streets leading to the gem in Jodhpur’s crown: Mehrangarh Fort. Deep red, gold, and amber in color it’s stark contrast to the royal blue beneath it only enhances the beauty of the city.
My parents and I had the pleasure of strolling through the alleyways one afternoon clicking photo after photo. Beautiful blue after dazzling purple, rows and rows of azure abodes, we were mesmerized by the simplicity of these monochrome streets. However, what struck us most was not the richness of color but the strong sense of community woven together as tightly as the intertwining rows of buildings.
Women, men, children, animals clumped together like rubies in a crown, basking in shadow and protection of the ancient fort. Worshipping, having tea, chasing chickens, playing cards or gossiping about the strange tourists asking permission to take their photos. We were welcomed, embraced, shown personal artifacts, and told stories of how magical their blue city is.
Our time spent in the silver chain of sapphires was only an hour, but it was the most significant and astounding part of the city. What lies amongst the ocean of aqua is a deep sense of serenity, contentment, and pride to be part of the diamond that is Jodhpur.
There’s a little village close to me called Mahim. There’s nothing really remarkable about this typical middle-class neighborhood except for the few days before the Hindu celebration of Diwali. As if from nowhere, shining shops pop on the streets and lanes enticing onlookers to walk amongst the glow of hundreds of colorful paper lanterns. It’s magical. Diwali, my favorite time of year in Bombay. Light the lights!
My friend Jane celebrated a landmark birthday the other day. To celebrate, a group of women ate and dined at a trendy bar in downtown Mumbai. We ate pumpkin ravioli, drank French wine (complete with fire sparklers), and indulged our sweet teeth with flour-less chocolate cake. There we were, six successful women spending our money on the finer things in life. Enjoying the freedom that comes with being a single woman in Mumbai.
Riding home in an air-conditioned cab, I couldn’t help but rest my head on the window and watch Mumbai’s neighborhoods, heavily laden with Diwali lanterns, unfold in front of me. Soaking in the beauty of this city, I was full of appreciation for being able to live the life I have here. Then we rounded the corner and drove straight through one of many annual Muslim celebrations. The scene seemed regular to me at first; loads of people on the street gathered in colorful clothing listening to someone important speaking on a raised platform. Then, something peculiar caught my eye.
There, right in front of me, were hundreds of women, glittering and colorful, crouched together on the dirty street leaning and stretching their necks to see around plastic chairs occupied by men and boys, dressed all in white. Hundreds of women, sitting behind their sons and husbands and fathers barely able to see, but somehow part of the ceremony. It shocked me out of my dream. India has a way of doing that. One second you are sipping on imported French wine, the next you are traipsing a path through oppression and segregation.
As a resident of India, I am aware of the plethora of delicate social imbalances and somehow forget that my experience here, the one peppered with the luxuries of Western life, isn’t the reality of most women living in this country. It’s humbling in a way that I would never have the opportunity to fully understand as just a visitor. For that, I am thankful. Thankful for my home, my health, my friends, my family, my work, my brain, and all the opportunities awarded me simply because my parents chose to give birth to me in a country full of potential for a clever little girl.
I’m lucky. Lucky to be learning every day. Lucky to fall more in love with this country and lucky I don’t have to stay. I’m lucky I have the choice to change the world in which I live. Glass ceilings shatter everyday for women all over the world and I wonder, will these women crouching on a dirty floor ever have the opportunity to climb?