Why do Foreigners Like to Visit India? Song of India: Book review

Song of India: Tales of Travel and Transformation is a book written by Mariellen Ward, based temporarily out of Toronto, Canada. Temporarily, because she keeps visiting India, every now and then. In her book, she conveys what India could offer to foreigners and why many foreigners like to visit India. Though a Canadian, Mariellen is not exactly a foreigner – India is almost her second home!

“People don’t go to India to experience India; they go to experience themselves in India. They go to pit themselves against the crowds, chaos and poverty. They go to test their egos, which India alternately builds up and smashes apart in the blink of a street child’s eye. People go to India knowing that they will be forever changed…”

Powerful prose, don’t you think? In this book, the author writes how India has been a fascination right from her childhood and how she finally decided to explore India on her own – partly to overcome her personal grief and partly to re-learn and revitalize her soul. The book is more than a personal journey – it’s a transformational account, as she succinctly puts it.

She writes about what she experienced during her first landing in India, she writes about her experiences while volunteering to help Tibetian kids in Dharmashala, she writes about the majestic Ganga river and the powerful effect it has on anyone who dares to touch her shores. More importantly, the author gives a lot of insights about Yoga, the primary reason that brought her to India –

“Swamiji explains there are two conceptions of yoga. The one that is popularized in the west is that yoga is something you do. According to Swamiji, however, ‘Yoga is established in your understanding and attitude; it is a way of life. Yoga is living with a yogic attitude – naturally with simplicity. When that attitude is born, you are a yogi – no matter where you are’ “

She writes about her early morning yoga sessions amidst the scenic Himalayas, she writes about how old Bengaluru mixes effortlessly with the new IT city, she writes about her first bus journey in India, she writes about what traveling to Jaisalmer in the middle of the desert feels like –

“The sand dunes rippled in a rhythmic dance. The night sky filled with more stars than I had ever seen before. The only sounds were the gurgling camels and the whispering silence of a warm breeze that brushed my skin and reminded me this wasn’t a mirage. Infinity stretched in every direction, including within”

Poetry, written in the form of prose! Did you ever think that a journey is complete if you just visit the tourist spots and return home? You’ll change your mind if you read this book. The place doesn’t really matter – to the author, her calling was India. What matters is – what a journey can do to you and how it can transform you from within, which is priceless. I’ll leave you with one more small reflection from the book,

“What is the spiritual aspect of life? It is probably different things to different people, but to me, it’s a chance to be quiet, to spend sometime on inner reflection and to think about the bigger questions of life – in other words, ‘what’s my purpose in life’ “

Many of us are afraid to ask this vital question to our own selves – Because we are afraid that we may never get the answer. Traveling to India can break that fear, take you out of the comfort zone and make you realize the naked truth that was always before you – There is no way to overlook that truth, while in India.

A good book that you should read whether you plan to come to India, or not.

Destination Infinity

What is your favorite book about India? Have you read any?

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20 Replies to “Why do Foreigners Like to Visit India? Song of India: Book review”

  1. It is like grass is greener on the other side. Foreigners want to visit India. Learn yoga. Willing to be cheated by fake swamijis. Majority of Indians want to visit foreign country, work there, earn lot of money and live a comfortable life.

    With value of $ being more than Rs.65, more foreigners will be visiting India.

    1. Spirituality is a complex subject. It’s the Indian version of self-help books and talks that you might see abroad. Why else would ashrams and preaching events get so much crowd?

      I too considered yoga to be a form of physical exercise, but now I understand that spirituality sort of completes it. It’s easy to say that people get cheated by fake-swamijis. But it’s difficult to quantify why they approach them in the first place. I wound’t say that all spiritual gurus are fake – it’s our responsibility to identify the right people/organizations.

      I can also argue that people are cheated by capitalists – MNCs and other large companies. But companies operate because they provide some value. Similarly, spiritual gurus are needed to fill in a certain gap that capitalists can never fill. They too offer some value to the society.

      I feel that a balance is required – between capitalism and spiritualism. Either of the two, in overdoses, could be lethal. But it’s only my opinion.

      Destination Infinity

    1. Yea, the contrasts and rawness may help foreigners experience themselves. I guess it’s the same to Indians – We need to visit abroad to experience ourselves, as well!

      Destination Infinity

  2. An excellent review of seemingly a good book as I haven’t read it.
    There can be a variety of reasons for visiting India but a small few
    Come here in quest of inner peace and possibly go back with a better
    Understanding of life and its purpose.

  3. A very awesome review ! It is fact that foreigners like to visit India for spiritual and yoga learning. But it is sad that by the time they leave they see numberless beggars on the streets,pick pockets, cows , dogs and what not, even in the capital city of India.

    1. Well, all that add to the contrast – It’s not necessarily bad. Sometimes, people need that shock to come to terms with life and realize what is happening elsewhere. The thought horizon is broadened a little bit and they will start appreciating what they have. The meaningless pursuit of wanting more, more and more is going to land people nowhere.

      Destination Infinity

  4. It sounds like a book I wanted to read now… interesting notes from the book and your explanation enhances. Think it is available in e-book also, will get one soon.

    1. Yes, it’s available as an eBook. Get a Kindle if you want to read eBooks, the reading experience is much better with it, than with a mobile/tablet/computer monitor.

      Destination Infinity

    1. Good question. People can’t find peace anywhere in this world. But what they can do is, they can get exposed to a culture that is totally different from theirs in order to understand/appreciate their own culture, better. And learn something new. That is what they get to do in India.

      Destination Infinity

  5. Peace is inside yourself. You can get it in your place itself wherever you are. She came here to forget something, to escape from something. So, she looks for something for some distraction. Ours country is entirely different from theirs. So this place is a good distraction. Ours is definitely a unique country. It is great with all odds, I feel.

    I had read ‘discovery of India’ long back, when I was yound and liked it at that time! Nothing else I think.

  6. I agree with what SG said.
    They associate India with yoga, saadhus, spirituality etc. Even in the movie “Eat Pray Love”, she comes to India and works under some saadhu. I wish they would appreciate India and come to India for some other reasons.
    Book about India. I don’t remember reading any.

    1. That reminds me – I need to read that book, ‘Eat Pray Love’. I feel people want to learn more about Yoga and Spirituality from India because it gives them something that they miss in their own place. Too much materialism is never going to give much peace – our mind needs other things as well. Irrespective of how good/true these spiritual gurus are, we cannot refuse that they are trying to provide people with that essential element missing in their lives.

      Destination Infinity

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