Yesterday I took a roadtrip to Murdeshwara temple with Shubham and his friends’ family. It gave me time to observe lots of people at a major Hindu pilgrimage site, busy with Republic weekend holidaymakers. There is a beach at Murdeshwar, where people wade into the water to cool off after visiting the huge silver Shiva statue and temple.
The joy in our group was evident enough but seeing the crowds at Murdeshwar made me realise that this is the key difference between my culture and Indian culture: the willingness to experience and express joy, from splashing around in the water in a gorgeous silk sari, to taking a refreshing fresh lime soda or clicking a selfie in front of a golden statue of Nandi the bull. It’s something I’m used to seeing on the faces of children at the beach or at a funfair, but here it’s on the faces of so many people of every generation. The joy of being with loved ones, the joy of being at a beloved temple, the joy of buying everyone an ice cream, the joy of faith in a philosophy that maintains that our essential state actually IS joy.
I see it in Shubham (pictures) all the time – he is always telling me to just ‘enjoy the vibes’ whenever I’m worried or fearful about something. He is playful and happy (mostly). This is why I think Westerners are drawn to this incredible place – unbridled joy is unfettered, socially condoned and not sneered at.
We think we can only find joy in a glass (or six) of alcohol but the only unhappy Indians I’ve met or heard about are the ones that drink a lot.
Ever since I came here I’ve been seeing the joy in the small things – Coco the cat that comes to visit my room and nibble my toes, the chai with Sweetpea at my feet in Simrose, the sound of the poder (bread boy) at 6.30am as he blows his horn, saying ‘good morning’ to all my neighbours as they sweep their section of the road, throwing water over it to keep the dust down.