Photo of woman carrying bundle in rice paddy

Working in the rice paddy fields of Alleppey

Photo of women in market scene

Women looking over ceramic wares offered at a street market

India 2012: Shanta Crowley Surrenders to the Journey

I have always said that everything happens for a reason even if we don't understand why it is happening at that very moment. Months preceding India, I had no direct answer for all of the individuals who asked the question, "What do you guys plan to do in India?" other than we just had to go. Naysayers were sprinkled everywhere warning my husband and me of the impending danger of traveling there for such a length of time. Just before the decision to go, the contract ended for my two-year job, my husband was unemployed as well, and my car died on the highway on my last day of work. Yep. Everything seemed to be headed south, yet the plan to go to India, especially given the difficulty with finding jobs, seemed like an ideal progression.

Tea worker on a plantation

Plantation tea workers make an average of about 150 rupees per day, the equivalent of about $3 in the U.S.

What drew us to India in the first place? Was it the poster of the Taj Mahal that I placed in my first office? Was it the fact that my husband planned to go to India five years prior to meeting me? Was it Indu Sundaresan's book with magnetic images of 17th century India? Was it my husband's apartment that had visual and literary reminders of India at every turn? We will never know, but on the morning of October 14, we arrived in Delhi around 4 a.m. I paused in amazement and shock -- were we really in India?

We had no family or friends there but trusted the word of a guy named Vishnu with whom my husband had been corresponding over the past couple of months via Facebook. Were we nuts for trusting someone we just met on Facebook? Possibly, but taking such a chance was required for such a journey. The five-month adventure started off with my first-ever yoga/meditation retreat, which took place in the Himalayas. It was so cold I refused to remove my clothing and slept in many layers in my sleeping bag. Another adjustment was ushered in during our visit to southern India, where the heat crept into the 90s! We had an itinerary that was loosely based on our first month in India, but we threw it out upon realizing that sticking to a plan just did not work.

My original intentions included taking pictures of India and coming back with a yoga certification. I invested in a good camera before leaving and paid a deposit for my spot in a yoga program. Being in India and navigating adjustment to the culture, the amazing food, and the people, and many things that I could not quite put into words, I decided to just let go of what I thought I was going to do ... let go of the plans to receive a certification and allow the journey to just take me wherever it may.

In between riding 20+ hour trains, being involved in a rickshaw accident, and making many friends along the journey, I managed to take 12,000 pictures. "Surrender" is only a snapshot of what I saw, felt, and experienced in India, and hopefully I am successful in sharing my intimate experience with Brattleboro. The exhibit will be shown from August 3 through the end of September, with new pieces to debut during the September Gallery Walk.

Copyright 2012, Gallery Walk, Brattleboro, Vermont

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