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