Seven Reasons why Western Women Love India
When I did my yoga teacher training the question was asked — “what first drew you to yoga?” Most people’s answers were the usual shallow and vain ones — to get a six pack, to achieve handstand, etc. There is no wrong reason to come to the mat — which is exactly what the point of the question was. However, I was the only one with the answer, “It’s what rich white ladies do, and since that’s what I wanted to be, I figured I should do yoga.”
I grew up pretty poor — receiving the food drive twice — but never went without. Now I have achieved my education, a great career, and generally the life of privilege that I was determined to have. So, it was a crowning achievement to reach rich-white-lady-goes-on-yoga-retreat-to-India-to-find-herself status. I fucking made it! I was doing my own personal Eat,Pray, Love to really stare my mid-life crisis in the fucking eyeballs.
Like the white cliche that I am, I loved every minute of it. I felt so alive. I felt adventurous. I felt vulnerable and utterly taken care of. I felt peace like I’ve never felt among chaos like I’d never seen. This got me thinking about what, exactly, is the draw of India to Western women, in particular. So here you are — my feeble attempt to put into words the experience of India. It will not even be remotely close to the beauty of the experience.
*necessary disclaimer: I am one white woman who encountered specific people in Vrinadavan, Delhi, Mathura, and Agra. I fully admit I am making sweeping generalizations based on my specific experiences so don’t write me anonymous hate mail because you think I am speaking for all white bitches who go to any part India. I know that. Let’s move on.
- Passion. The people I encountered in Northern India were unabashedly passionate. In a society where we desperately try to save face or keep up appearances, the raw human emotions and utter fervor with which Indians do anything is incredibly attractive. I saw Indian men sweep a floor with more passion than I’ve seen some of my friends’ husbands kiss their wives. Hindus worshiping at their temple (which in Vrindavan they do multiple times a day) was a full body experience. A gift to witness.
- Sheer humanity. There is no hiding from all aspects of our humanity in India. From the literal shit and trash in the streets to the most stunning white marble architecture — right next to one another. Beggars moving out of the way of a shiny Mercedes. Babies asleep in their mothers arms on a motorbike. There is a beautiful honesty in how public all aspects of humanity are on display. We are all all of it.
- Singing men. Again, coming from a society with suffocating definitions of masculinity, hearing men of all ages shapes and sizes let joyous melodies escape their lips was oddly comforting — a reminder that the emotions of men are as elegant and powerful as those of women. From humming favorite tunes to belting out morning prayers, I automatically felt connection with these melodious men.
- Sensuality. Many women experience the world with our bodies — whether we are attune to it or not. So, the various smells, vivacious colors, the feeling of marble underfoot, the aromatic spices and the singing men create an instinctual opening. This is how India gets inside you.
- Order. Right or wrong, the caste system and gender roles are defined in India. Everyone knows their place. Roles are clear and accepted. There is no toiling over what just is. While it clearly has its issues, it also sounds like a fucking relief.
- Shopping. There is no way to describe the joy of a shopping trip to an Indian clothing store. I remember a blur of pashmina scarves and with every request (blue! fancier! longer!) the shop keeper pulls an option from a library of fabric and hoists it in the air so you can assess it as it billows down to a pile of luxury. Not to mention, the bargain prices — even after a white lady tax, you can go insane in a store and not even spend $50 USD.
- Magic and Danger. Truly around every corner you can find yourself in a scary situation (like when I was stuck on a road median by myself at night in a crowd of thousands having been separated from my group) or utter magic, like stumbling on the Rangaji temple with its endless carvings and courtyards…both experiences incite sheer aliveness under the skin.
So I get it now, and like the privileged white chicks that came before me, I will always speak of India as a magical place that you really can’t describe, and I’ll begin planning my next trip back so I can feel the magic again.