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  • Writer's pictureSahib Singh Sadana

A soulful trip to North East India by Andrea Ambrosi ( Guest Post )

Travelling yields a peaceful, happy and a relaxed state of mind. Solo travelling multiplies that feeling. When you travel alone, you set your mind free of all the chaotic thoughts and the mind automatically inclines towards positive thoughts. It relieves the stress off our minds and exposes us to the diversity and atmosphere around us that often goes unnoticed in the daily buzz of our lives.

Travelling to a new or unfamiliar place boosts your confidence levels. You want to know, learn and explore more. You are generally more receptive in a new surrounding than you are at your regular habitat, your observing skills sharpen and you always gain a better experience of the place. We often rely on other people like friends or family to help make our decisions. When you travel alone, there are circumstances when you have to make a choice, and it has to be a choice of your own. Solo travelling teaches you to be dependent on yourself and choose what you want. This kind of travel experience allows you to enjoy every single moment the way you want to and be in your own carefree state of mind.

Travel may not be easy for everyone because travelling includes a constant change of the environment but if you surrender yourself to that, you will feel an extraordinary connect with every new environment you are exposed to. Once you feel that connect, travel will no longer be a storytelling experience; it will become a part of life, a way of life. The diverse cultural display, expand and create a warm space in your heart. Most solo travellers look for freedom, but my experience brought to me, unconditional love,

Northeast India it was, where I tasted the fruits of solo travel. Northeastern India has immense cultural diversity and their tradition is beautifully preserved within the wilderness of the place. A few of the places here might seem underdeveloped for someone who has an urban upbringing. These states include places that you may not have heard of or seen on the map. I would say that they’ve guarded the treasures and its beauty so well that way. They might not be used to the concept of solo travelling which is why they consider you as a part of their family and show so much love.

Let me tell you what took me on this wonderful journey. Rupali, a friend I made while I was at Rajasthan, India. Rupali is an amazing person from Assam, currently working in Delhi. Following the intense week we spent together in Rajasthan, she invited me to join her festival celebrations at Assam the following month. I was overwhelmed and thought that this was definitely a chance I would not want to lose.

I had been in India for nearly six months now, including a two-month internship at a tourist office. I never had a chance to be with an Indian family and observe their daily routine closely. I had my first and best experience with Rupali’s family. They were so kind and loveable that I never felt out of place. To be honest, Assam wasn't the first Indian state on my travel list, but it had me falling in love. Today I couldn’t be more grateful to have been there.

Let me tell you how I got there and how I spent my days there. I had to take the train to Kokrajar from Siliguri, the closest train station from Nepal border. There were cold winds throughout the journey. I was the only outsider on the train, everybody was looking at me with curiosity wondering where I came from. It wasn’t too long before a bold person broke the ice and spoke. Asking where I was from had to be the first question, and so it was. I told them I was from Italy. As soon as I mentioned Italy, I heard a little girl whisper to her mother, “Idli? Is she from Idli?” Idli is a south Indian dish made of rice. I couldn’t stop laughing, yet adoring that little child’s innocence. Other questions they asked me about my marital status and where I was heading. When I told them I was going to Kokrajar, they were surprised as it is only a small village and wasn’t really a tourist place. There were inquisitive questions from the people and it was fun talking to them. I already knew that this trip would be an experience of a lifetime.

Once we reached Kokrajar, we went to Rupali’s house which was built in a typical Assami style and where I had the warmest welcome ever. Chai and a few homemade snacks were served in their living room. They had their curiosities too. I answered their questions having Rupali as my translator.

Dinner of course was delicious. I learnt something new about the Boho culture at the dinner table. They have dinner in batches when there are a lot of people gathered. The guests and old people are served first and then the rest of the family members would have theirs. They also honoured me with a handmade scarf at my welcome. The Indians believe in “Atithi Devo bhava” which means that the guests are equivalent to God. They surely follow that right.

I wondered to myself that if just the start of my trip could be so enormous, how much more massive would a deep dive into the authentic Indian culture feel. I was really excited for the next ten days I would be spending there. There was elegance in the way they would talk, look at each other or do their work. It was so beautiful to watch them and even though I didn’t know their language, the way the spoke was soothing to the ears.

Have you ever “been drunk” of the kindness you found around to the point that you would almost feel emotionally dizzy? That’s exactly how I felt there.

The family got together and had a special celebration of their own kind. This used to happen often earlier but considering the youngsters moving out to study and work, the frequency diminished. I was lucky to witness and be a part of it too.

A picnic was organised. They brought all that they needed to prepare their snacks, tea and lunch. They cooked their incredible Assami food and I followed every step of the cooking process. These people were adorable in every way. I could only imagine how amazing it would taste once those flavours exploded in my mouth. That was the best Indian food I’ve ever had.

On one of those days, we went to the forest to celebrate life with nature. Dancing is fun, even if you can’t really follow the beats. I had a lovely experience of dancing to the Assami music in the middle of the forest wearing a beautiful green dokhona (traditional Assami attire).

Happiness was expressed and experienced among nature. There were Rubber plantations all around. We had a walk through them and when we got tired we sat by the riverside with our feet inside the water. This seemed to be such a simple way of relaxing but it was the purest. I felt surrounded by the freshness of nature and the goodness of mankind.

I was taken on a tour of the village one day. We had breakfast that included Samosas, kachoris and Chai. They were scrumptious. We stopped by some stores to get things for the friends we were going to visit. I was truly amazed by the people at every place I visited.

The traditional village houses were made of bamboo, mud walls and thatched roofs. They lived with such simplicity and had no kind of greed in their hearts. The handloom had weavers who would do their work with smiles and giggles. The fabric they weaved looked so colourful and lovely. The sticky rice was something new I noticed the people making.

I learnt so many things from them and this place thus became the best school I’ve ever been to.

I cannot put into words and do justice to the way I felt here. Every day I spent here taught me new things. Every day was so high yielding that I was tired by as early as 7 p.m. in the evening. It was an unfamiliar way of living for me, and I did all that I could to adapt to it in the best way possible. This trip was the most meaningful part of my journey to India. Had Rupali not invited me, my trip to India would have been incomplete. I’m so grateful to Rupali for giving me the most joyful experience of my life.

India is all about colours, music, spices and richness of hearts and spirits. All these details make India fascinating, educative and romantic. It is magical how they adapt to the modern era still having their roots in their culture and tradition. India is a land of all good things in diversity. My most soulful experience was in the Northeast of India.

To be honest, Travelling to the Northeast of India could be hard and frustrating when you do not know the language or are from the well-developed cities, but the people and this place has such a magnetic power that draws your attraction and warms you up all the time.

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