India was never high on my bucket list. Even though it was an exotic country (even for another Asian), and which would probably be interesting and challenging, it just seemed too hard. It feels like you would have to know a lot of things to travel India – while staying safe and healthy.
In fact, my physician, when I went to take the recommended vaccinations, dropped many grave hints during the checkup that perhaps I ought not to go there – and preferably not all my by lone female self. But as you can see, I did not listen to him.
Introduction to Karnataka
The first time I went to India was actually in 2015. It was part of a corporate sustainability program that my workplace has. I won a coveted spot – not in my preferred project in Kenya, but the one in the Western Ghats in India.
So my first visit to India was actually an interior town in the state of Karnataka. It was not quite like I imagined India to be, and actually felt quite familiar for a Southeast Asian. It was a very organised trip, because it was a corporate program. However, I still learned a great deal about myself from that experience.
It prepared the ground for me to believe I could influence others to choose sustainability. In a way, it was a necessary precursor to creating Teja on the Horizon.
Travelling through Uttar Pradesh
It was only in 2017 when I returned. India was not actually the intended destination – Nepal was.
But I saw that the Taj Mahal was very close to Nepal. And I thought, surely I could pop down to see the World Heritage Site. And that was what triggered my second visit, which took the form of a loose train journey across the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
Now this state – this one was like the India that I imagine. It was a journey that was even more profound – and from it sprang a great many stories.
I went again to India in 2019. This time, it was to visit friends in Indian Kashmir. It just so happened that the constitutional crisis related to Article 370 happened right before my trip, so my friend and I arrived to an even more militarised Srinagar than usual.
It was not until the Covid19 pandemic was ebbing in 2022 that I truly finished writing about this trip, due to my sheer writing backlog from my trips in the Pacific.
But in a way, I’m glad that I had the huge writing backlog. More than other destinations I write about, Kashmir is best told with some time in between. Once again, a trip to the Indian subcontinent was complex and deeply challenging.