Sex Pistols and India

I know I have turned into a Comments Loser. Not because I don’t wanna, but work/life/commitments just allow so little time on all the things I want to do, and something has to give. But I get e-mails with every comment, and I read them all.

My post last week talked about India, and several of you asked about that trip, so I wanted to do a quick post on it.  A friend of mine who has been there before wanted to take people she liked and knew well with her, people who hadn’t been there before and could rough it and wouldn’t be whiners.

It had really never occurred to me that I wanted to go to India until she asked me.  Once I was asked, I knew that it was one place I had to go.

We’re flying into Delhi, then we go touristy to the Taj Mahal. Then it’s off to Bagdogra by plane with a jeep to Gangtok. This is all in the Sikkim region, north of Bangladesh and east of Nepal, south of Tibet.  So we spend a day in Gantok, then jeep to Pelling, hike to a lake (I’m getting a little worried about what altitude we’re at here), then hike to Yuksom, another hike to the waterfalls and a monastery.

Then we leave this area, fly back to Delhi, take a train to Hardiwar, then we are in Rishikesh for 2-3 days, then back to Delhi for shopping in the markets, and then we go home.  I know, right?  I have my books on India that I’ve just started, and I’m really overwhelmed at just how different this is going to be from my regular life.

I’ve seen Eat, Pray, Love.  I’m not a huge fan of the movie or Julia Roberts, but it has its moments of personal clarity that did incent me to pick up the book so I can get past the Julia Roberts irritation to try and appreciate the story on its own. I think the India section in the movie could have been a lot better.  I mean, did she really just hang around the Ashram for four months? Who does that? I’m not the Ashram sort at all, though a week or two there really does sound lovely.  But I’d never do an ashram or monastery or anything for months without equal amounts of time exploring the country.

The movie version of Eat, Pray, Love makes me think of Etat’s Sex Pistols scent.  A lot of buildup to something great, but it feels more like a washed-out version of something else that was so much better in the original.  I had a lot of hope for Sex Pistols, especially after the brilliance of the  Tilda Swinton fragrance, which I adore, but it feels like ’70s or ’80s men’s cologne, and I don’t mean that in a good way.  Gail told me it would be a disappointment, but I kept hoping for weird to show up – bubblegum, urine, spunk, anything? I’d stare at my arm the three times I’ve tested it, knowing there was more to it.  Alas, ordinary, already done is all there is.

More India tips from those who have been there.  Or tell me the biggest ordinary disappointment from a perfume you’ve had.

42 Comments

  1. Yep. Whole time at the ashram in EPL. But (if you believe the book) she wasn’t just “hanging out.” She was doing some pretty heavy duty spiritual training–work, meditation, yoga, etc. Her original plan was to stay there a month and then travel, but found herself at a strange juncture and, as her friend told her, “If you stay here, you’ll see things that’s make you throw rocks at the Taj Mahal.” The whole idea was that it was a spiritual journey, rather than an outward, travelling kind of journey. FWIW.

    But lucky you, going with someone who knows her way around! I’m dying to go to India, but can’t imagine doing so without having friends to visit, or help me travel. Even from here in my living room it’s an overwhelming country!

    • I totally get the spiritual part of it. I think long-term do nothing but that doesn’t work for me personally, but I know a lot of people who do and get a lot out of it. My attention span would wear out far too soon. 🙂

      I know, I’m so excited, and Allison is a great guide. I wouldn’t have gone on my own or taken the kids without going there first with someone who’s been there. Just too overwhelming!

  2. India has always been a country that fascinates me, but from afar. I am not going to go of my own volition! I’m an armchair traveller to any country that isn’t Italy or France, basically! (OK not quite, I DO visit the US and Canada).

    Rishikesh makes me think of the Beatles and the Maharishi in the 60s.

    After my frightening experience yesterday in the London Amouage shop where they proudly applied a droplet of their most expensive attar on my wrist which promptly smelt like acrid poo for the rest of the day I am happy to be back in normal scent today, really. I think it would have to be Shalimar all the way for me, though, were I ever to visit India.

    • ROTFL! Sounds like the experience I had at JAR where after sniffing Jardenia I was afraid I might have to excuse myself to the outdoors.

    • I’ve had that happen, and it just is a stunning setback to your psyche. How can they come up with something so horrid in such a posh shop?

      I know how you travel, and that’s my kind of traveling. This is the most roughing it trip I plan to go on in my advanced years. I figure I better do it now before I just can’t imagine wearing a backpack around for luggage.

  3. A suggestion for Eat, Pray, Love–If you can get the audiobook, do that. Elizabeth Gilbert has such a lovely voice and charming manner that, although I liked reading the book, I loved listening to it.

    • Agreed. I didn’t read the book until after I saw her speak.

    • You know, I’m enjoying the book, and I can relate to her on so many levels – the trauma of divorce, or sorting out who you are without a man. I’d been in one turned-bad relationship or another for 30 years until two years ago when I was really single for the first time. It was amazing figuring out who I was without some assh– guy or another to tell me who he thought I was. 🙂

  4. What Sweetlife said. Two weeks ago the Sunday travel section of the Wash Post had three veteran travel writers give commentary on the three places she went and how she did it. The India travel specialist said basically that she did the trip that makes the writer insane — go hole up in some ashram in some tiny town the whole time you’re there and never see India at all.

    • Well, I think what’s confusing is these are actually two completely different trips! If you are going to an ashram or monastery you are not actually going to INDIA – the place just happens to BE in India, with all the attendant spiritualism, etc, that a place might exude because of its locale (and the philosophy of its inhabitants) – am I making sense there? If that same philosophicl/spiritual experience could be had in Fort Wayne, IN, a true devotee should have no problem checking in there…right?

      That being said, India seems like such an exotic place that I would find it difficult to go there and not explore the country.

      xo >-)

      oh, on the perfume disappointment: I would have to say either Serge’s Eau thingy or….Chanel’s Eau de Cologne. It’s gotten to the point where I hold 4711 as the standard – and most all else in that genre is found wanting (except for Guerlain’s Imp, which refines 4711 just a tad)

      • I agree, Musette. Plus, it’s not like the Taj Mahal won’t still be there next year, you know? But whatever place you got to at the ashram, because of meditation or life circumstances or whatever, that will definitely change.

        EG totally acknowledges that her choice may seem strange or wrong, and lays out her reasoning for it, so I’m not sure why the India writer was so irked. Maybe she’s met too many white ladies looking for spiritual enlightenment who go to ashrams and then think they’ve “been to India”? I can see that. But I don’t think that’s the case with EPL, however you feel about the book or her journey as a whole.

        • I think that’s what irked the writer, and … okay, I guess I see the writer’s point. How the heck can you go all the way to India and not see any of it? I just feel (judgmentally) like it’s a huge waste of opportunity.

          • I agree – except! We’re assuming that there is an interest there. I have lots of pals who go to spas in really intriguing places – and they never set foot outside the spa! Weird but their whole purpose in going to (insert country/city here) is to go to that spa. I think much depends upon what you are looking to ‘get’ out of the journey.

            xo >-)

          • Hey, judge away! If you want to throw the book against the wall because you can’t stand what she’s saying or the way she’s saying it you have my full support! And I can see how it looks like a self-indulgent waste. But I support her right to make that choice. She gets paid to travel and write about the places she goes. Lots ‘o opportunities.

            Aimee makes a good point about spiritual tourism below, and usually I’d be all over that too but, I dunno. I mean, the guru of the ashram had classes going in New York, other places around the world. The ashram exists for people to go there… It’s complicated.

            Damn. Never expected to be the great defender of EPL!

      • That’s what I was thinking! I couldn’t do a monastery or ashram in lots of places in the U.S. either because the beauty of everything around me would just call to me and make me stir crazy. Maybe it’s not as hard to do it as I think it would be, but an hour of yoga 3-5x a week is really all the meditative practice I can handle without bumping into the limits of my own skin.

    • You know, I sounded like I was criticizing how she did this, and I’m not. i couldn’t be in an ashram or a monastery for longer than a week in any place in the world! I admire her for doing that. Maybe I should try harder. 🙂

      I’m in Italy with her in the book now, and I really love the Gelato parts. I just want to go to Florence for two weeks and get Gelato 3x a day or so instead of eating and then polish off a bottle of wine for, um, vitamins. Figuring out how I can do this is more of a problem.

    • I’ve heard that. You guys will be among the first to know. AT 50, how much is there left to change of me? 🙂

  5. India is a very intense place. After two months there, I couldn’t wait to leave, but a year after that, I couldn’t wait to go back (which sadly, I haven’t done yet). Oh, and don’t discount the Taj Mahal as just a tourist spot–it’s incredibly beautiful, & the light there is amazing. Photos don’t do it justice.

    • Two months??! I’ve heard people say that over and over, the first trip was love/hate or just hate, but they start yearning for it and are completely in love the next time they go.

      Taj Mahal I expect to be stunning. It’s like Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon. You can ignore it and think you don’t reallly need to see it since you’ve seen a picture, but until you stand at the edge of both, you just don’t know how truly big the world is.

  6. Wow, um, really? You’re asking who hangs out at an ashram for four months like that’s freakish? People who are serious about Hinduism stay at ashrams for many months doing meaningful service and spiritual work. I haven’t seen the movie, but when reading the book I was torn between sympathy for the sometimes engaging (and honestly suffering) narrator and annoyance at the brand of smug, privileged spiritual tourism she seems to embody.

    • Annoyance. Total annoyance. She began to annoy me, I think, right after she was done binging on gelato. If she’d stayed in Italy I think we’d have been okay…

    • No, not at all! I know lots of people do that and for longer periods of time, and I admire their ability to do it. It’s just not something I could do anywhere, but especially if I’m in a country I’ve never been. I have to sit and absorb a country to get a feel for it, which is what traveling is about for me.

      Sorry if I sounded judgmental. I just couldn’t picture doing it, and the movie did not seem to “get” that part of the trip as well, except the friend she made there from Texas, who was a cool character. I haven’t gotten to that part of the book, so maybe it will make more sense.

      I shake my head at friends that do silent retreats at monasteries for two weeks too. I just can’t quite imagine doing it. I’m glad someone can, just know my own limitations.

  7. I was in Sikkim several years ago for ten days of trekking and *really* loved it. The mountain landscape is so gorgeous and impressive — seeing how people live, farm and travel on such steep slopes is a real treat. Which is also to say that those jeep trips can be long, so take advantage of every bathroom break that’s offered.

    You probably already know this, but Sikkim was an independent country until the 1970’s when India “annexed” it in response to various border/power issues with China. Sikkim is thus much more similar to Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet than to most of the rest of India.

    I’ll stop here with the usual travel advice about comfortable shoes, but please feel free to email me directly if you want to discuss further.

    • Oh, yeah!!!!! I’m even more excited. I was so glad that was the area we were spending the most time in, everything about it just calls to me in some really deep way.

  8. Like Occhineri says, India is intense. It’s incredibly crowded and noisy, the traffic is absolute madness. In the cities the garbage is everywhere and stinks to high heaven if you end up in the wrong neighborhood. And steel yourself for the always present and heartbreaking poverty.

    It’s not an easy or comfortable vacation, but you will either swear to never ever to go back or you will be fascinated by the crazy contrasts. I spent two months there and in the end it wore me down, I was exhausted and sick and couldn’t wait to escape to the cooler regions of Nepal. But I want to go back. I hope you will feel the same.

    • We’ve only got brief stays in the city, thank goodness. I just don’t want to do that at all for a long period of time. I expect my heart to break in a thousand pieces too many times in just the short time we will be there.

      Two months, too? I can picture myself spending two months in Italy, but that’s about it. Well, years in Costa Rica, but that’s different. 🙂

      • I hear you (re: the heartbreaking poverty)- I’ve lived in India almost all my life but the extreme poverty is heartbreaking and something that is impossible to get used to..It’s always a struggle to reconcile the beauty and the poverty..

  9. Have no interest in seeing the movie, but I enjoyed the book well enough when I read it a few years back.

    I had no trouble at all believing that after a brutal divorce she could stay at an ashram for 4 months; I should have done the same! I projected too much I suppose…I found it more difficult to believe she could cozy up to one man, let alone two, so soon afterward. I was so shell-shocked after my divorce several of my gay friends had to sit me down and remind me I had no need to wall them off!

    Sikkim is probably the only region of India I could tolerate….not a fan of heat! I sponsor a young child there, and hope to get to meet him someday. Godspeed.

    Perfume disappointments…Rose Oud and DelRae Coup de Foudre….loved Pure Oud and am a rose whore, so I had high expectations……it seemed weak and wan to me. DelRae is one of my favorite houses; I have loved everything they have put out so far….and ditto.

    Looking forward to hearing all about your journey.

    • that Coup de Foudre was just so………:-< I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting - but it wasn't :-< xo >-)

    • I guess there was a period after my divorce where I would have happily hid out anywhere to lick my wounds and did run away from home for a week at a time. Four months, though, I dunno.

      Her plunging right back into two relationships so quickly minimized the impact of some of the really insightful stuff she got to for me as well.

      Now, for Xavier Bardem, I’d definitely make all sorts of exceptions.

  10. Oddly enough one of the biggest initial disappointments was also an Etat Libre: Tom of Finland. I have grown to appreciate it more (though not enough to purchase one) but it’s whispering of freshly-showered dude chewing Doublemint really didn’t do it for me.

    • I kinda liked Tom! I didn’t get the minty freshness whispers at all or minimally enough that it didn’t bother me. Sex Pistols was just a little too much Grey Flannel meets Fleur du Male, but not in a way that I wanted to watch.

  11. One of my favorite books on India written by a real traveler and without the “Eat, Pray Love” fluff is Here Be Yaks by Manosi Lahiri. It’s a good book, you should read it. I’ve lived in India and traveled extensively through the Himalayan region, my advice is: be prepared for anything. India can be a culture shock – there is a lot of poverty and illness, but great beauty too. It is an interesting contrast. Make sure you take electrolytes with you in case you get altitude sickness. I’d also advise taking handwipes, straws to drink from, and Flagyll as well as Cipro antibiotics. You’re in for an amazing ride.:)>-

    Cheers,
    Ashne

    • Ashne!!! I’ll pick up that book – just went and ordered it. I have like five right now, including the Wanderlust and Lipstick book, which covers a lot of customs and what to expect stuff, which gets me a little more at ease with just how culturally different this will be. I’m stocked up on so much stuff, it’s ridiculous. But it can only fit in my backpack, but straws and hand wipes and portable toilet paper are at the top of the list. I’ll just do one change of clothing to make sure that happens. 🙂

  12. Wowza! India sounds incredible. I have to get there in my life even when I know there are other places I want to see in my lifetime but may not. I almost went to India as an exchange student way back, but I went to West Africa for eight months instead; I’m not really disappointed about that, but I still wonder what the alternative would have been like (blame one boring-assed professor and one really inspiriational one for the plan change).

    Sikkim seems like it will really be roughing it in a little-visited area. Awesome. I’d also love to get to Bhutan someday, but that’s really unlikely unless I marry a millionaire. I’m definitely envious and can’t wait to hear about it.

    On the ashram subject, I’ve done meditation with an organization that has retreat centers all over the world, and I’d love to go to one of their big pagodas in Thailand or Burma for ten or twenty days, but yes, I’d need to see other parts of the country too.

    Eat, Pray, Love? I’ll end up seeing it, but Julia is definitely not my favorite. I’m just hoping there’s some tourism/scenery porn.

  13. One more thing – (I’m sure your doctor has told you about it) some people use Diamox for high altitude sickness.

  14. The India trip sounds fun but sooooper hectic!!

    If you go to Delhi- do go to Old Delhi- It is supposed to be wonderful! (I lived in Delhi for 9 years but didn’t explore Old Delhi much and I regret it! But ofcourse I was a kid.)..Old Delhi will also be where you might find some old school authentic attar stores.

    And if you like that sort of thing- Delhi Haat is a nice shopping spot: .

    Also, If you can find a place that uses mineral/distilled water in their ‘gol gappas’ – you have GOT to try them..they are fried hollow dough shells filled with potato, chickpeas and a tangy-spicy tamarind-y water). Even though the tastiest gol gappas are the ones sold on the street- I would probably (obviously) not recommend those- though I have taken that risk and fallen sick too..:)
    Delhi will probably be HOT, so carry a huge sun hat with you..

    Carry a lot of mineral bottled water with you (but ofcourse) and mosquito repellants.

    If I think of any thing else -will let you know..I haven’t been to Delhi in like 10 years and I am dying to go there again.

    I enjoyed the eating bits in the Italy part of ‘Eat Pray Love’, especially since I read it after just having gotten back from Italy..

    Gangtok is supposed to be gorgeous- have fun! My husband and father have lived in the North East part of India and they say that it is one of the most beautiful parts of India (in terms of natural beauty). Arunachal Pradesh is another place that is supposed to be beeautiful and untouristy and untouched..

    Have fun, Patty and keep us posted!

  15. Hi Patty, I am late to this party, as it’s been a busy summer and I’m just now catching up on my blog reading. For all I know, your trip may have already commenced.

    I was lucky enough to live in India for 4 years. I cried the first six months I was there, then eventually cried when i had to leave. I’ve lived in several countries since, but can state unreservedly that India has left the biggest imprint on my heart. The people were the most open and accepting of foreigners in their midst. Sadly, I wasn’t really into perfume when I lived there, because the place is sensory overload.

    Yes, there is poverty everywhere, but if you open your heart and mind you will see people who live in appalling conditions with grace and dignity. I didn’t spend much time in the part of India that you are going to, and I envy you.

    I got my haircut the other day, and the youngish woman was telling me how she went to Spain and France, how terrible everything was, and how she couldn’t wait to find a McDonalds. Why do people like this leave their secure little boring worlds? It’s lost on them. (Yes, I’m judgemental!). You are woman of my own heart, Patty, with your wanderlust. Have a great trip!

    And by the way, when I was trying to adjust to life in Bombay, or Mumbai as it is now called, everyone recommended that I read City of Joy. It’s a oldie now, but the French author really captures the spirit of the people that live in what can only be described as squalid conditions.

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