I feel like a living fusion of Eat Pray Love meets Wife in the North—a forty-something Australian woman living in an Indian village because life had to offer something more. And it did: I get lost and found on a daily basis in India. That’s what it does to you.
My husband and I (sounds very royal, I know … sorry about that) have lived in several other countries. He’s from Denmark, I’m from Australia. He tried Australia, and though he liked it, there wasn’t much of a future there for us. We moved to the States, where I worked as a manager in a publishing company. Great experience, great company, great people, but wrong time, wrong place, wrong part of my life to be there. Everything was a dead end. Then someone very dear to me died, and suddenly life was all up in the air. My husband went to Sweden (where he’d lived for years) to renew his visa; it was around the time of September 11 in New York, and when he tried to get back into the country he was met with so much red tape he couldn’t get back for months. I was alone and nothing was going right. After a few months of waiting for him, I threw it all in, sold everything we owned, and went to Sweden to meet him.
We sat in his yellow wooden cottage in the woods, covered in snow (us and the cottage) and talked about the rest of our lives. We settled on India, because we both loved it, we were both spiritualists and felt our roots were really here, and because we could afford to live there with the money we had and only work part time. We decided on Bombay—a pretty stupid decision, really, as it’s undoubtedly the most western and expensive city in India. Three days after arriving we were sitting in the hotel, facing each other.
“I can’t live here,” I said.
“Nor can I,” he said.
“Where shall we go?”
“Where do you want to go?”
I told him I had had enough of decision making and was in no fit state after the events of the past year to make any kind of life decision, and it was all up to him.
Mayapur would have been the last place I’d choose; it was too much of everything and all of it—well, most of it—too close for comfort, at least in my mind. But he wouldn’t argue: Mayapur it was.
And over seven years later, it still is.
Only I haven’t really got my head around living here. I feel like it’s the only home I have, but that I don’t belong. I love it with every cell in my body, yet always long to escape; when I’m not here I ache to return and sometimes cry at night with missing it. And I have absolutely nowhere else to go, nowhere I want to go, nowhere I wish I could go.
It’s a magic place, it’s a wondrously spiritual place, and it’s the most amazing fortune to be able to live the way I do in the place I do. I live at a pace that allows me to move slowly through life and appreciate every single thing. The downside with that is that sometimes you notice too much. Yet there is so much to be found in solitude, in the core of one’s heart, in quiet contemplation and introspection, far from the madding crowd (except when I go to Calcutta on a shopping trip …).
Unfortunately, the human part of me rails against the smallness of so many things that I am up against; I struggle to live here, and when someone asks why I do, I think, “Well where else would I live and what would I do?” It’s not that I don’t have choices: this is my choice. Then I wonder why I bitch about it and struggle to let myself surrender to the inevitability that this is truly my home, it is where I belong, it is where I live, and it is where I’ll die.
There’s something wonderful in that, and even if some days—most days—I miss the point, am too dull to appreciate it, still it is there, and when I look at the craziness of the world, I am humbled at the beauty of the life that has been given to me. And I decide to shut up and get on with it.