Perhaps prematurely, halfway through our journey through northern India this month, I’m going to breech the topic you’ve all been waiting for — and one I’ve been so hesitant to yield to given it’s cliche nature: “eat, pray, love”. I have already dealt with eat (from experiencing local, organic vegan Indian food at its finest to grappling with what I’ll later explain as the “poverty paradox” and later grappling with my own ‘eat’-born illness). I have begun to explore pray (enhancing my yoga practice, an ongoing quest). However, before I come to these two topics in detailed future posts, I’m going to start with love. Half the reason for the lack of chronology is that I’m cut short by the holiday we all know and, by nature of it, love: Valentine’s Day, but the other reason is that I have begun to wonder today if it all should start with love anyway?
Without consideration of time, it so happened that our schedule worked best to plan a weekend trip to the Taj Mahal this Valentine’s Day. After an overnight drive by taxi, we arrived just shy of 9am at the wonder of the world itself. Luckily, we were blessed to have a driver that speaks English and so introduced us to a reliable tour guide who brought us through.
The intricacies of the structure are beyond phathemable. It is one of the 7 wonders of the world not just for it’s sheer beauty, but the technicality of its beauty; the mindblowing symmetry of every angel of it, the elements of gems from all over the world painstakingly hand crafted into billions of pieces to make the every petal of every floral deisgn it houses, the cleanliness of the pure white marble that glisens in the sunlight and the simplicity yet gravity of the story behind its 22-year-long creation.
In appreciating these aspects of its beauty there is no arguing that it deserves a place among the 7 wonders, but I wish to suggest that conception of such a wonder begins with the biggest wonder of human nature and existance entirely — that of love.
What drives a one to concieve such a structure? Did its creation even measure up to his passion for the women who requested it? If posed with the option to have her back in the flesh to love for a time longer and never build the wonder of the world, would he have opted for her? I’d like to think so. I’d like to think that as great as the Taj Mahal is, all ~12 stories of it, his passion, perhaps obsession, and love had no measurable limits in its comparison.
At the conception of all passions, actions, creations – is love at the foundation? Are we driven by anything else? One might say, yes! Money! But, I imagine the workers that slaved for 24 hours a day to place every floural design just perfectly on the walls of the Taj were driven more by the fact that the money in exchange for their labor might feed the mouths of their loved ones. Yes! Desire! But I argue that for one desiring to succeed at a task such as constructing the perfect gem flower, the desire to achieve or to succeed is built on a foundation of self-love, the feeling experienced when the action is taken, the pride in accomplishing the task at hand. Yes! God! But I’d argue that if one is striving to live a life that God would commend, they are driven by their love for him. Yes! Humanity! But is it not a love for each other, for a better world to live in that we offer this answer?
Maybe I’m an idealist, but for today, Valentine’s Day, I’ll let my heart chakra dominate this one and keep love as my zeroeth wonder. As such, I treated myself to a “rainbow stone” ‘promise ring’ this V-day as a reminder to myself of my own love for my own family, my own passions, humanity and the bettering of the world as we know it, and… arguably most fundamentally… myself.
Addendum: After writing this during the ride from Taj Mahal to Jaipur where we planned to stay the night, our driver pulled up to our hotel, the Marriott. Admittedly, we planned to indulge ourselves with a stay here for a hot shower, contamination-free food and a warm bed as a treat given the budget of the 5th star hotel pails in comparison to US Marriott prices. This was a tough decision because we have spent many a day passing by citizens of this country who can’t even afford a true roof over their head or more to eat than bread and milk, nevermind, even the cold shower we were blessed to have. However, with a humble sense of gratitude, we pursued the indulgence of a hot shower. Despite our reservations to indulgence, we seriously had no idea just what we were in for. Our buffet dinner including wine and our luxurious modern marble tile shower hit the spot beyond belief. Maybe the universe rewards those who truly appreciate love even just through gratitude. Filled with this sense of gratitude and LOVE, we were able to retire to bed refreshed and feeling more blessed then ever before with a novel perspective on the true bare essentials of life. Again, boiling down to self-love, I reflected inward and sent a huge prayer to the universe to acknowledge my happiness – bahot bahot kus (sp?) – very, very happy (in Hindi), thank you, universe.
And so it goes… after I started with love, eating and praying were just a short journey behind… quit literally.
Happy Valentine’s Day from me, through the gates of the wonder of the world itself, the Taj Mahal, to you. And so, I pose to you… Might the zeroth wonder of the world be love?
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