Thanksgiving will be here in a couple of days. At this time of year I like to reflect on what I am thankful for. When it comes to my international experiences, I am grateful for the various opportunities that I have had over the years to visit India for academic conferences and travel. Of all of the places I have been, India is one of the few places that still affects all of my senses: sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch. Why? Because India is an amazing land of adventure, architecture, and artistry.
When experiencing adventure, probably one of the greatest adventures that my husband and I embarked upon was our camel safari in the Great Thar Desert in northwestern India. For 5 days we traveled through the parts of the desert in the Indian state of Rajasthan. We visited the ancient cities of Bikaner, Jaipur, Jaisalmer, and Jodhpur. We camped out in the desert as well. My camel and I became fast friends. I nicknamed him “Pokey” because he plodded along slowly while my husband’s camel thought he was running a race to the finish line every day. Riding a camel is not for the faint of heart. It takes some skill to get in the saddle and stay on it as your camel gets up on four legs. They also do not have a uniform gate like a horse. And…they like to spit at you when they are upset.
India has amazing architecture as well. The most iconic building is, of course, the Taj Mahal. This white marble mausoleum was built in Agra from 1632-1648 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is decorated with flowers and leaves made of inlaid precious and semiprecious stones. When viewed in just the right sunlight, they look almost like live plants. There is also an outer courtyard with gardens and reflection pools. (You’ve probably seen the famous photo of Princess
Diana sitting on a bench in this area.) The Taj Mahal is a UNESCO Heritage Site as it is considered the best architectural achievement in Indo-Islamic culture.
And then there is the artistry of the people of India. Their artistic works have stood the test of time. Amazing paintings and carvings are everywhere you look. Exquisite fabrics and beautiful pottery can all be found. Of course there are traditional dance schools and music venues as well. One of my favorite things to do is go to recitals at these schools when the students graduate. India has a long history in the arts that stretches back to the third millennium BC. It is a multicultural mélange of the various groups that have inhabited the country for thousands of years.
In conclusion, I challenge you my dear readers, to reflect on your own experiences this Thanksgiving. Which ones are you the most grateful to have had?