7 More Things I Loved about India

7 More Things I Loved about India

1. At the end of our trip, we visited the vacation town of Munnar. It was so gorgeous it was otherworldly. Looking at the green hills, I imagined that I was in the World to Come and could see souls meandering between the tea plants. I felt so grateful to Hashem for creating such supreme beauty in the world.

2. I loved taking a canoe ride through the Kerala backwaters. The most beautiful sight I saw in that thoroughly beautiful place was when we saw a woman in a bright green sari walking alongside a matching green rice field. Breathtaking.

3. I loved spending hours bouncing along in intercity buses, Indian music ululating in the background, meeting so many lovely women who sat next to me in order to practice their English. Through the window, watching hills covered with spectacular tea plantations, majestic waterfalls, curious monkeys as I listened to Rebbetzin Malki Friedman teaching about the month of Shvat and Rabbi Fischel Schachter telling Baal Shem Tov stories and making jokes about finding parking in Brooklyn. Wonderfully surreal.

4. I loved how religion is everywhere you turn in India. For example, one evening, on the bus home from the backwater canoe ride, all of a sudden I saw a noisy Hindu parade progressing along the side of the street, which kind of reminded me of a Hachnasat Sefer Torah, until I noticed a few men atop ceremonial elephants bringing up the rear.

Something interesting for me was that India is the only country I’ve ever been to, outside of Israel, where I actually felt motivated to keep mitzvot. Since everyone around seemed to be involved in worshipping their God or gods, I felt renewed spiritual motivation: “I’m the only Jew anywhere around here, so I’m going to do my best to serve You, Hashem, in a Jewish way!” Maybe it’s not a coincidence that in Hebrew, India is called Hodu.

5. In Israel, everyone who sees me understands in a blink that I’m a religious Jew. But in India, they couldn’t figure me out. A Western woman, but modestly dressed? They were stumped.

Was I, as one spice salesman asked, a nun? On another occasion, when we asked a rickshaw driver to take us to the cemetery of the Jews (next to our homestay), he took us to a juice bar instead. I actually enjoyed that. For once, since I started covering my hair, it was a refreshing change not being labeled in a single blink by everyone I passed on the street.

6. In Indian homes, people take off their shoes before they enter. Which means that at the shul, everyone prays with their shoes off. Just like in the Beit HaMikdash!

7. I loved how, wherever we went, the Indians we met were so incredibly welcoming and helpful. Every bus stop we stood at (confused) or Indian bus we traveled on (confused, still) we felt that, as the only non-Indians there, that we had been unofficially adopted by everyone there. And that made us feel, even though we were in a strange country far from home, safe and cared for. And looking forward to returning one day. Hopefully, soon.

10 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing, so much fun and such a unique experience.

  2. Dani Margolies

    Amazing!!!
    where can I get access to Rebetzin Malkie Friedman’s classes? I absolutely love her teaching.

  3. Michael Freedman

    I loved the juice bar mixup. So funny! I’m glad you had a great trip and were welcomed there.

  4. The Galut of Mitzrayim (constriction, oppression) is easier to recognize than the Galut of Ashur (expansion, freedom) but they are both dangerous as can be seen by the great number of Jews who are drawn away from Judaism in either place.
    When one finds himself in a place that is friendly, one needs to remember th keep one eye on boundaries. A good place to start is by reading the havdalah prayer that we say after Shabbos.
    “Blessed are You…Who separates between the sacred and the profane, between light and darkness, between Israel and the nations, between the seventh day and the six work days…

    • It may be beautiful,refreshing,inspiring, even godly, but it is not meant for me. See Devorim 4:19 “Lest you raise your eyes to the heavens and you shall see the sun the moon and the stars… which I gave to the nations (permission to worship).”

  5. These posts about India are incredible. Your comment about bumping around on buses listening to Indian music reminded me of when we were in South Africa visiting family. I would love to drive around and listen to African music. It was interesting to feel the culture through their music. I even bought a CD to bring back with me to Israel.
    Once I was back in Israel though, I didn’t like the music so much. In my own home, it felt strange. It wasn’t me.

    • right, I thought I would want to keep on listening to indian music when I’m back home. But back here it wouldn’t fit. d

  6. When I first started reading the posts on your India trip I was impressed that you could go to India by yourself. How brave! How adventurous! Then I was impressed by your ability to just flow with whatever came your way and really travel all over. Not every mother can leave her comfort zone, even for a daughter.
    But then I remembered that you had traveled far and wide when you were single. I guess those trips were (unknowingly) the preparation for this important trip to see your daughter. What a gift Hashem gave you all those years ago.

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