“Our world is merely a reflection of ourselves.”
The blooming of a lotus flower is an amazing thing. I’ve been in india the past two weeks where the lotus is regarded as the national flower. It’s the only flower that is able to fully bloom among the dark, shrouded sludge of a swamp. Among all this muck, rises beauty in a magnificent form.
It therefore symbolizes spirituality, fruitfulness, wealth, knowledge and illumination in India.
Many people have a stereotypical view of India as being a very chronically dirty place. With dust, pollution, over-crowded traffic, limited city planning, and a humid heat that keeps people in a state of low energy. Pollution isn’t limited to the trash that is littered throughout streets, but also the imposing noise and light polution wherever you go. Endless honking can be heard in every corner of every city as the common way of driving seems to be honking as if you were dribbling a basketball.
I just finished traveling through almost 5 states in India, three of which I had never been to before. Relatives were asking “who’s accompanying you?”, “why are you going?”, to which I would simply respond “I’m going alone to really see India, not the way others do, but the way I do.” I never de-value having companionship or family/friends when visiting a new place, but simply appreciate the value in everything including solo travel. My journey took me through Bangalore -> Pondicherry/Auroville -> Madurai -> Kochin -> Goa -> Ahmedebad and the states of Karnataka -> Tamil Nadu -> Kerala -> Goa -> Gujarat. There is one profound thing I realized as I mingled with tech professionals in the bustling city of Bangalore, found inner peace in Auroville, enjoyed company of family in Madurai, experienced coastal richness in Kochin, traded stories with new friends while growing a deeper understanding of Yoga in Goa, and finally landed in the Ahmedebad airport last Friday… all of us express an inner desire to see the best of ourselves and our beliefs in the world around us. We want to prove with our actions an inner truth that lies within us. We crave deeply in our hearts to show this to others through: material possessions, charitable donations, volunteer work, organizations we join, recognizations (awards, trophies, medals), our status or position in a company, and even our own art.
I noticed it was beautiful not what people were doing or how they were doing it, but rather why they were doing what they were doing. Why had someone who had lived most of her life in London now make handcrafted paper in Pondicherry? Why had an Austrian couple who had stable jobs back home leave everything to open up a creperie in Goa? Why had an auto rikshaw driver in Kerela left his poor village to make a living as a driver in a wealthier state? These were all stories I encountered on my trip that had one common thread — there was an inner truth as to why they were doing what they were doing. From the outside it may look like someone is just driving, or someone is just serving crepes, or just making paper… but deep down there’s a story, there’s a reason, there’s a purpose within all of us.
Where we find beauty, we find inspiration, we find meaning, and we find ourselves.
Pondicherry and Auroville was devasted just 3 days before I had arrived by the largest cyclone seen in over 20 years. Neighborhoodds looked like impoverished ghettos, with trees collapsed in every direction and crumbled concrete walls blocking the roads. Power lines were hanging open across storefronts and many areas were being cleared by large tractors. The botanical gardens, which I was told was normally much more open was now shrouded by fallen branches and looked more like a lumber yard. The cleanup crews had cleared much of the streets and Auroville was still accessible even though 70% of the trees had been knocked down.
Here are pictures of just some of the destruction:
Among all this destruction, there was a beatifully and artfully placed authentic French Boulangerie, a French Bakery, still open called Baker’s Street.
From the steps of the shop you could see a collapsed roof, an open drainage system that was filled with green water, and debris littered across the street, but this well-known shop had placed their sign further out into the street and opened their doors to the smell of freshly baked baquettes and pastries.
The contrast was stark and noticeable, like a white lotus flower rising out of darkest depths of a pond. I noticed something amazing in that moment about India that I had failed to realize — most of India is actually like this. Anyone who has visited India is well aware of the dusty air, the dirty streets, the endless traffic, and the pollution that is everywhere. But there is always some nice-looking shop in the middle of all of this. Typically these are the shops mentioned in travel guides, the shops locals know well, and the highly respected ones in the community. They could be well-known silk shops, jewlery shops, or restaurants, but they are all very noticeable from their storefront appearance with the contrast of everything around it. Even in the more developed areas of India, you see this on some level.
This is no different than our own experiences in life.
While others may just see the murkiness — the difficulties, the challenges, the hard work, find the beauty in the little things around you and cultivate your own vision from the depths of uncertainty. Create those things in life that will allow your own lotus flower to bloom into this world.