“Ohm Away From Ohm”: Part 7

Seven: The Crown
The highest chakra is full connection to spirituality and to ourselves. It is pure bliss. It is inner beauty.

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I re-entered the desert town of Amritsar with a different person’s eyes. I could now see things outside my narrow field of vision. To see as the locals see, I had to accept the ugly parts of India as life, or else miss the beauty living within the chaos. The heat was absurd compared to the cold of the monsoon, but I was prepared with a beautiful Indian scarf to wear and cover my shoulders, instead of being forced to hide under a thick fleece jumper. I wanted another tourist experience before leaving India, and ventured to the Golden Temple, one of the most famous Sikh pilgrimages in the world. Getting to the temple showed me just how large a city Amritsar was compared to the villages up North. No small markets on the side of the road, but now there was a metropolis, with buildings stacked on top of each other, outrageous drivers, and too many people cramming on the sidewalks. Everyone took our shoes off maybe 20 feet from the entrance to the temple (which made my Western hygienic sensibilities a bit nervous) and walked on foam mats with all the barefoot pilgrims. The plastic sheets of the walkway opened onto a scene more majestic than I could have imagined. The aptly named Golden Temple glistened in the surrounding water, kissed by the strong mid-day sun.

I was quite literally the only person with Caucasian skin visiting the temple – a new experience for me, even after a month in India. Sadly, some silly teenage boys followed too closely behind me as I walked around the parameters of the Temple. They made a game of trying to touch my bag or my arm, and were innocent enough; I could only be annoyed. But after a few offers for dates and coffees, I felt I was intensely being stared at, possibly judged, on display. I became self-conscious, aware that I was a very white and single woman amidst Indian and Sikh families. I wondered if they felt I shouldn’t visit a place so sacred to their culture and their religion. I wondered if any travellers could truly make that determination in a globalized world. And I wondered if this was just a risk that I had signed up for.

Early the next morning, I returned to the tiny desert airport. Now, there was a cute market with fresh food at the entrance. With a little sentimental sadness, I was aware that I would soon be in a place where everything was familiar and comfortable, where I looked the same as everyone else. I put my tiny rucksack on the belt for inspection. And was lead into a cubicle for a body scan. The security woman asked how I had enjoyed India, and seemed worried I had travelled on my own. I assured her I had met good friends straight away. With an honest smile, she asked, “And are you married?” I replied, “Not yet…” with enough honesty to please her. I made my way to an empty seat and waited for the Air India plane to board. Nothing left to do but absorb what felt like a lifetime of experiences. I had found new pieces of the puzzle to happiness, enlightenment, and possibly life. Aware that I had overcome fears. Travelled alone. And that I could come back to India anytime, more ready to enjoy, to learn, to love, and to somehow better show gratitude for the gifts I have received.

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By Madeleine Kelsey Levine