Tall tales of India are not in short supply. Herodotus tells a unrolls a fantastic yarn about ants bigger than foxes who dig up gold as a by product of their burrowing. Skilled camel riders, calculating the appropriate time to do so, storm into the desert when the heat is the highest and the ants are in their burrows to snatch this gold up. They must time this precisely, or the ants, who in addition to their absurd size can run faster than a camel, will give chase.
In a tall tale from the even further east, Journey to the West was a 16th century travel adventure in which a monk is sent Westward from his home in China to the far off and exotic land of India to retrieve the sutras. Under the protection of several monsters (the most notable of which is a Monkey named “Aware of Vacuity”), The monk encounters a series of strange impediments, including avery angry personification of a river, but reaches his destination of Vulture Peak, and brings back the sutras to his homeland.
Even modern folks have tall tales to tell. The Indian culture center is one of the oldest in the world, and there are some (who many call crazy) that think that India may have already experienced a modern age, complete with manned flight, journeys into space, and submarines. The proof they say, is in India’s own Ancient literature, the Vimanas, and that the knowledge of these things was lost to men for tens of thousands of years. There is an old crack that everything ultimately comes from either Greece or China, but this claim certainly has them beat.
In my own journey to the Indian Subcontinent (why do they call it that anyway), I find myself at once prepared for the peculiarities of the place and apprehensive; will the reality, along with the influence of the West in the last few centuries diminish the other-worldly-ness of the experience? We’ll see, but I’m still going to keep my head on a swivel for giant ants, raging rivers, and ancient rocket ships, just in case.
This is the beginning of a travelogue of India. Posts tagged with JTTE (Short for Journey to the East), are entries in this log. Feel free to follow along.