I fell in love with India long before I travelled there. On a visit to the British Museum in the late 70’s I came upon an exhibition of Indian miniature paintings. It was the most exciting exhibition I had ever seen and it was then that my obsession started and I knew I had to travel to this exotic land. In 1983 I made my first trip taking my older daughter along. My husband, said he would never go to India and thought I was foolish and reckless to take this trip.
As soon as we boarded the Air India flight the experience called India began. I had no idea why the various passengers – dressed in Indian garb – had particular markings on their foreheads but I knew we were headed for the most romantic and mysterious place on this earth. And I was not wrong. Departing the plane, the heat and smells were incredibly different. Then we were whisked away to the Taj Mahal Hotel in New Delhi where the air-conditioned lobby was graced with an enormous bouquet of tuberoses and their wonderful fragrance filled the air. A few days later I wired my husband with the message: “More fantastic than my wildest dreams” and the journey was just beginning!
We were part of a group sponsored by the Horticultural Society of New York so a few days later we flew to Kashmir where we spent five days in luxurious house boats while visiting the gardens which had been so prominent in the miniature paintings I had seen in London. My imagination was fertile and I could imagine the emperors being entertained by the dancers with sitar and tabla music filling the air in these stately gardens overlooking Lake Dal. Images of the early morning trip on the lake to the flower market, linking up to a wedding barge one night and the endless haggling with the sellers of fakes and treasures are still very vivid.
Then on to Agra, Kajaraho, Veranasi, Jaipur, Udipur. I particularly loved Fatipur Sikri because I could again imagine life being lived in this space. I was sure the Taj Mahal would disappoint. No, it is most magnificent structure in the world.
Of course, I found India to be a place of creative craftspeople and I started collecting, which after 4 trips to India and to all corners, is quite eclectic but for me they are great treasures. And incidentally, my husband went on the next three trips and became as enthralled as I if not a bit more so. His favorite meal became a vegetarian thali served on a banana leaf in restaurants where we were the only Westerners.
On my first trip I was very taken up with the wooden snake the hawker showed us as we sat on the bus outside of the Red Fort in New Delhi. I didn’t buy one because we left before I could finish the negotiation but on my second trip, it was the first trinket I bought. It sits atop a small, carved platform in my kitchen where I see it daily.
In Southern India I collected bronze figures, stone statues and wood carvings. Who can leave Orissa without at least one set of the charming painted wooden figures of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra? I have shawls from Kashmir, veils from the deserts of Rajasthan, embroidered bags with mirrors and cowry shells from Gujarat and paintings on silk and also on old worm eaten paper from Rajasthan. Then there are the dung figures from my South India trip and the Benares wooden figures from Varanasi that I put out each Christmas. Ganesh, the god of good fortune, graces my home in textile, brass, wooden, stone & paper images. My favorite jewelry all came from my travels in India.
These treasures surround me and keep me close to that place called India. My memories, though, are my greatest link and I keep hoping I have one more “to the other side of the world” trip left in me.
After my return to New York City back in October 1983 I opened my suitcase and there it was – unmistakably, that smell that first greeted us when we stepped off the plane 4 weeks earlier. Maybe it was just a memory but momentarily I was back in the land of mystery and romance.
Janice M Moss
1154 Delaney Avenue
Orlando, FL 32806
|Small places cannot be correctly located in these maps. May we request/suggest that you look into Google Maps for the location of these places in the particular States of India. Thank you for your understanding.