Our rental car bumped up the mountainside roads in Kousani, India. The crumbly road bent in a way that you were thankful that your car had not tumbled into the forest.
I held my camera.
Trees. Birds. Fields. All preserved in pictures… a desperate attempt to never actually leave.
Then, I glimpsed the legendary Himalaya Mountains through the lens. The mountains glistened in a way that any photograph looked shabby next to their awe-inspiring visage.
There was a little cafÃ© that was built tall and skinny just so customers could climb up for an amazing view. After our eyes had their fill, we continued our journey.
Next stop: Taj Mahal. I heard a lot about it but I was ready to experience it.
A bit of history behind the Taj Mahal: One of the Seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal took 22 years to build in Agra, India. The marble building is perfectly symmetrical.
That day, the sweltering heat was almost tangible. It pounded on my limbs. It stung my bare feet walked on. A rule says that no grubby shoes are allowed on the antique marble.
I knew the heat was worth it when I looked up at the massive, marble mausoleum in front of me.
The Taj Mahal of the pictures was not the same as the magnificent structure I saw then. In a picture you cannot capture the feel of the smooth marble.
I could not believe that long ago, a worker was standing where I was now, laying the flawless marble I was standing on. He had none of today’s construction equipment. Did he have a helmet or gloves?
How did they buff the marble? How did he cut so precisely? How did he get up there?
So there I stood, so many decades later, marveling at that King and his Queen, and the laborers and their work.
A little temple in Almora, India is full of hopes and bells. In front of the temple, bell shops are ubiquitous. Almost everyone who visits the temple buys a bell to hang from the ceiling. I walked to the temple holding my shiny new bell.
Once you enter- if you are like me- your mind starts whirring with numbers.
Ten thousand bells – this is only the entrance.
A hundred thousand bells – “Look at the ceiling!”
My inner number machine exploded.
There were huge bells that were the size of a large melon. There were cute little bells that were the size of a small lime. Every bell was different.
Each bell was a person. How many of these people had I seen before? Would we meet again? Would I recognize them?
Generations of bells were hanging off of each other. The oldest ones were not visible behind the layers of younger bells.
Overlapping, overwhelming, over-my-head bells.
But, more extraordinary than the bells were the letters. People tied papers, which held their aspirations, to their bell.
Some were long wishes- maybe 2 full pages. Some were short- a scrap of paper. Some were handwritten in Hindi or in English (and many other unrecognizable languages). Some were typed. They were as diverse as the people behind them.
I sat down and wrote my dreams neatly. I tied my wishes to my bell, which still hangs from the ceiling.
As we left the temple, a breeze passed, and with it came the sound of perhaps a million dreams.
Leaving India was a bittersweet goodbye. I wouldn’t miss the heat and flies. I would miss the inspirational views.
All in all, it was a very pleasant holiday.
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