Radha Rajagopal Sloss
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India Beyond the Mirror

India
Beyond the Mirror

by Radha Rajagopal Sloss

Click for larger view of front and back cover

It took us a year of planning and reading to get our trip together. The basic thread we would follow was Indian temple sculpture and ancient ruins. This led us to three separate circles, two in the North and one in the South, linked by airplane. We drove a total of eight thousand miles in three months. Our daughter Tinka, a Sanskrit major at Berkeley, was with us the whole time; our son Robert, a math major at Wesleyan, spent his five week winter holiday with us on our Northern trip, on which we were also joined by two friends, Franklin Lacey, a playwright, and his wife Gladys.

Durga: Mahabalipuram, early 7th C
Durga:
Mahabalipuram, early 7th C
Fatehpur Sikri (Akbar's City) 16th C: Hall of Private Audience
Fatehpur Sikri (Akbar's City)
16th C: Hall of Private Audience

Ajanta: Naga King and Queen (6th C)
Ajanta:
Naga King and Queen (6th C)

We planned every mile of the trip ourselves and then turned over our proposed itinerary to an agent in New Delhi who made the reservations and provided the cars and drivers. Three or four people to a car proved feasible financially and a good investment as there happened to be a total air and rail strike throughout most of our stay in India and with our allotted time we would have been unable to reach many places we wished to see without private transportation. Also the cost of transportation was often balanced by savings in accommodations as we were able to find inexpensive lodging off the beaten track.

Ganges Mist
Ganges Mist
Great Stupa at Sanchi
Great Stupa at Sanchi
(3rd century B.C. to early 1st C)

Temple overlooking the Ganges
Temple overlooking the Ganges

But above all, it was our initial investment of interest and investigation in working out our own trip that often sustained us and kept us going in moments of weariness, illness or discouragement. For me there was yet another thread to follow. My father is from South India, my mother American. I look more Indian but feel more American, as this is where I was born and have lived my whole life. In this first trip to India what would I find about that half of me that had never set down roots? It turned out that the most important discoveries for me were those to which any traveler to that country is subject. But my experience was certainly highly colored by my background and appearance and therefore different in many respects from that of my family and friends.

Lake Rajsamand near Udaipur
Lake Rajsamand near Udaipur
Yakshi at East Gate, Sanchi
Yakshi at East Gate, Sanchi
(early 1st C)

Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram (early 8th C)
Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram (early 8th C)

It is easy to be blinded by our own reactions, often reflected back much sharper than the puzzling and unfamiliar images surrounding us in a strange land. Yet those visions that are most rewarding are those that lie in focus beyond the mirror.  

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please e-mail Radha at radha.r.sloss@gmail.com.

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