I have been in India for over a week and as usual, I would like to share my experiences with you. Some of my friends even ask how is India!
People travel to India, but not many people know why. The answer to this question is not simple and obvious.
At the end of my trip, I will try to come close to the answer and share my observations with you.
The statement that India is a country of contrasts of extreme wealth and poverty, is an understatement known already by many who travel around the world.
Someone asked me during my flight what was the difference between India and Thailand? India is more spiritual, I replied without hesitation. But what does that mean?
What is so special about India that people keep coming back after more than a dozen times and are able to spend 3 to 6 months every year; a place where people are begging at every corner, where garbage is shuffling through almost everywhere, and all year round you can smell the smell of sewage (luckily not everywhere and mostly only in the evening).
To complete the picture in your imagination, you might want to picture some of these contrasts and "flavors”.
On the streets, you can see luxury cars passing carriages harnessed with cows. On sidewalks, millionaires cross people living below the poverty line.
The income disparity is gigantic in India. It has the largest number of millionaires in the world, while 20-45% of people live below the poverty line.
With the population of well over 1 billion, each socio-economic group is shockingly large.
Moreover, such a large and diverse country is managed very democratically, because their parliamentary system and governance structure are based on the English and American patterns.
My previous visit in September last year (mainly for business purposes) was to Mumbai and Jaipur and was more about the rich and luxurious side of India.
The luxury five or even more star hotels are not worth much attention. I experienced it and I would not return there.
This time I landed in Chennai, the capital of Tamilnadu. Then we walked about 300 km to the south to Tiruvannamalai. It is a town at the foot of the Fiery Mountains called Arunachala, which are 880m above sea level.
There was a full moon on the day we arrived at Tamilnadu and it was the beginning of the feast of Pongal - a sugar cane harvest festival. Everyone chooses a few sugar cane reeds and decorates their homes with it. Some of them are even 2-3 m high with a dark brown trunk. I had the impression that it was like choosing a Christmas tree for the holidays.
People wish themselves a Happy Pongal and are very kind to each other. In front of their houses, they make beautiful colorful paintings featuring various flowers and religious symbols.
This is also a period which is popular for pilgrims, who come to walk barefoot around Arunachala. It is roughly an 18.5 km walk and is celebrated during a full moon because it is believed that the power of the mountain is greater.
The first day in the evening, with a full moon, we hiked around the mountain, which was not all that easy. My companions had blisters on their feet. Fortunately, I managed to do without blisters. The Hindu people make pilgrimages to Arunachala with a specific intent, which gives them extra motivation.
Direct contact of bare feet and the body with the energy of the mountains, is so unique, that even my compass and watch which measures the altitude did not work.
The level of radiation must have been high. I liked the mountain so much that I ran around it twice and at the end, I climbed up to the top. Approach to the peak is about 4 km long and the last 2 km are very steep and challenging. During 5 days I hiked and ran around 100 km.
I was pretty much exhausted after an intensive week. A newly met friend gave me a lift to meet Italian lady Daniela. She was around 50 years old, charming and very attractive lady, who travels around the world all the time and always comes back to India. She offered me a 1.5-hour long backbone particle therapy (a friend of mine from London said it was very popular and rather expensive therapy in the UK).
It is about putting your body fluids, in motion especially in the spinal cord.
Today there will be a new experience, a new home. We will travel 200km by bus to Cuddalore, in the direction of the coast.