Goodbye India, Hello England!

It’s been an emotional year, in so many ways! I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has followed my blog and sent me messages of support, I cannot find the words to express my gratitude! Thank you! I couldn’t call this year easy, living in India as a foreigner takes a lot of getting used to, but it’s been worth it because I was with the man I love. As I wait to leave India for six weeks, I feel an overwhelming spectrum of emotions.

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I am a sensitive person on a regular day, so today my emotions are on uberhypersuperdrive. I feel sad to leave my husband and Alfonso, excited to see my family and friends, I am dreading the journey itself, I am anxious about a multitude of things and I am happy that I have lived here a year, proved people wrong and not given up.

I have numbed to the culture shocks and I don’t get as angry when I’m followed by strangers because of the colour of my skin. I have found precious strength in faith, I have discovered a certain degree of understand but the living in a joint family and therefore being unable to have personal space and control over my life has made me weak. India is known as the land of contrasts, I can certainly agree with that! 

So as I sadly leave my love behind in India for six weeks and miserably attempt to hold back my tears, I am so happy that I will soon be reunited with the other loves of my life, my family and friends (and decent cheese sandwiches).

You’ll hear from me, from England!

Lots of love, Lauren x

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Girly Problems in England vs. Girly Problems in India

1. ‘Oh no, I’ve walked around with my flies down all day and no one told me’ vs. ‘Oh no, I’ve walked around with my bindi wonky all day and no one told me’

In India I don’t wear jeans, I wear Indian suits. These suits come with draw strings and are covered by long tunics making it impossible to forget to pull up your zip after using the bathroom. Unfortunately, traditional Indian wear it not without its embarrassing problems. Finding out you’ve walked around with your bindi stuck to your eyebrow all day is very annoying.

marathi style pearl nose clip ring sindoor tikka

2. ‘Rubbish, I can’t go out, I can’t find any shoes to match my outfit’ vs. ‘Rubbish, I can’t go out, I can’t find a chunni to match my outfit’

When I first moved to India I was told by my mother-in-law that I should wear a chunni (also known as a dupatta) at all times, even in the house. It took me a while to work out why but it is to cover the shape of my bust. Balancing the material over my shoulders can be difficult and hazardous. I’ve caught my chunni in car doors, dragged it along the floor, dropped it in my dinner and it has even fallen on the flame whist cooking dinner. I cannot leave my bedroom without one, I’ve been told it is disrespectful. The frantic pulling out of cupboards when I cannot find a chunni to match my outfit gives me the same feeling as when I couldn’t find the right shoes for an outfit in England.

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3. ‘I wish men wouldn’t shout vile things at me’ vs. ‘I wish men wouldn’t take photos of me’

A girl attracting a crowd of men staring, taking photos of her is not uncommon in India (Indian girls and foreign girls). In England,  it unlikely that you will have anyone taking photos of you but instead, you may get leery, sexual comments shouted at you from across the road from a group of (usually drunk) men.  So many different ways to objectify women, which is worse?

4. ‘You look really pale, are you ill?’ vs. ‘You look really pale, you are so beautiful’

In England we use sunbeds and bronzers to look beautiful. In India we use bleach and white powder to look beautiful. Is the grass always greener on the other side? I once told an Indian aunty that we British love a tan, it was like I had just told her that we love to drink urine, she gave me a look of confusion and disgust!

5. ‘I have to do sit ups to look good in that bikini’ vs. ‘I have to do sit ups to look good in that saree’

The rolls of fat I have on my back are grandly accentuated when I wear a saree. They live in that small gap between the blouse and petticoat. They bug me, so, that ‘summer bikini workout’ in cosmopolitan magazine will not go to waste, it can be used as my ‘saree workout’!

Sulis Minerva & Saraswati

I was lucky enough to be born in the most (in my opinion) beautiful city in Britain. Bath is a city with a divine ambience, superb elegance and a fascinating past. The city is famous for its grand Georgian terraces, beautiful Abbey and the Roman baths. To me, Bath is somewhere I will always hold close to my heart because of the friends I have made there, the special times I have spent with my mother and the ways its history has intrigued me. This week I found myself saying goodbye to Bath before I move to India, as I slowly walked around the places that hold the fondest memories.

Recently there was an article about Bath in a Marathi newspaper that my husband’s grandmother reads; this article was about the healing waters of Bath. This made me smile so much, what were the chances? The only hot spring in Britain, the waters of Bath are something I have always been fascinated with; the mystery, mythology and miracles.

Bath was originally named Aquae Sullis (waters of Sulis) by the Celts because of the sacred hot spring found in, what is now, the heart of the city. Sulis, the British goddess of wisdom and healing, was worshipped at this hot spring thousands of years ago. When the Romans came to Britain they found the Celts worshiping Sulis at this sacred spring. The Romans soon realised that the goddess Sulis had similar powers to the Roman goddess Minerva (goddess of wisdom, medicine and magic). These two Goddesses were then combined to become ‘Sulis Minerva’ and both Celts and Romans, side-by-side, worshipped her at the spring. Around this sacred spring a grand temple and complex of baths were constructed during approximately 54 AD, most of which still stands today.

People from around Britain and the entire Roman Empire came to bathe in the sacred waters to benefit from their healing powers and to worship Sulis Minerva. Over the centuries the Saxons and Georgians too recognised the powers of the waters. This sacred spring still flows with the same naturally hot water, just as it has done for thousands of years. I have been lucky enough to bathe in the magical water myself and to see the remains of the Sulis Minerva temple. The modern spa uses the same naturally hot, mineral rich waters bathed in by the Celts and Romans thousands of years ago. Bath is a magical city, you can still feel presence and see the evidence of its history around every corner.

One of my earliest memories is running around the Beazer garden maze. It is small maze next to the river, a place I would love to to go with my mum. Sadly, it is looking a little worse for wear these days but it still has the power to bring back feelings from my childhood and you can still see small children racing around. I can remember the excitement of reaching the Roman style mosaic (sometimes with a little bit of cheating) in the middle of this stone paved labyrinth.

The mosaic features the head of the Gorgon at its centre, the Gorgon with snakes flowing out of his mane of hair and entwined together in his beard. The Gorgon is a mythical creature killed by the Greek hero Perseus with the assistance of the Goddess Athena. The Greek Goddess is considered to be same deity as the Roman Minerva, both having the same attributes. After killing the Gorgon, Perseus then gave its head to the goddess Athena and was then regarded as a symbol of protection from evil. The image of head of this Gorgon is seen directly above the entrance of the Sulis Minerva temple to protect worshipers.

Around the head of the Gorgon on this beautiful mosaic, which sparkles with small gold tiles, are six apses depicting various aspects of Baths British Celtic Roman heritage. These aspects include Goddess Sulis Minerva scattering flowers, dolphins, Orpheus, Pegasus (the winged horse), the Minotaur and Blaudin (the legendary founder of Bath 10,000 years ago who is said to have been cured from leprosy by the waters of Sulis). As I child I would pretend to be Sulis Minerva flying around the maze on the back Pegasus, trying to slay the Minotaur. I really love this place and I cannot wait to take my own children here to have their own adventures on this small patch of grass, next to the river in the centre of Bath.

Before I left Bath, for the last time before I go to live in India I made sure stopped by the gift shop. I bought a small glass bottle containing some of the sacred waters of Bath to take to India with me so I will always have a some of the water with me. I also bought a Christmas decoration for my new home, the first of many I hope to hang on my Christmas tree in India next Christmas. A beautiful decoration of the head of the Gorgon, the same Gorgon which protected the temple of Sulis Minerva and also found in the center of my childhood memories.

The Celts and Romans saw the similarities in their goddesses and worshiped them together in harmony. The two different cultures of my husband and I have also combined. I can even see the similarities between Sulis Minerva and the Hindu goddess of wisdom, Saraswati, who is associated with flowing water. 

Isn’t that something!