So this is the first non running blog post I’ve done in a long time but I feel it’s important to explain why I’m currently in India and why India means so much to me.
That’s easy; my Granny.
She was born and brought up in India and her love for the country instilled in me a burning desire to see it. I wanted to experience it for myself and for her. The stories we shared every time I came back will be something I will never forget. Everything I am because of living in India is rooted in her. She passed away a few years ago but I still tell her the stories.
So, wind back the clock to early 2007 when I packed my bags and headed off to a place I had little to no knowledge of called Dharamshala, a refugee settlement in the foothills of the Himalayas. I had signed up to be a volunteer English teacher in a Buddhist monastery, next door to the Dalai Lama’s monastery.
It’s safe to say that I was nervous, having never left Europe before and feeling shellshocked from the human pressure cooker that is Delhi, I began to have a crisis of confidence. But, as the 13 hour bus journey neared its end and as I saw the sun rise above the Himalayas for the first time I knew I had something incredible ahead of me. The next five months were full to bursting with life changing experiences, heart stopping moments, staggering beauty contrasted with crushing bleakness and I learnt more about the world and myself than all the previous years of my life put together. I came back a different person than when I left and not just because of the facial hair that I had grown.
During my time at university I would often save up my beer money and head back out for a few weeks for a spiritual checkup and to see the friends and adoptive family I had made out there. It wasn’t until after university that I would truly live there all over again. I had planned my future on a 2.1 (a graduating grade in the UK that is the entry requirement for most graduate jobs), I knew I was going to have my work cut out to achieve this as I was always way out of my intellectual league in the university I was in. Having counterbalanced that by doing as many human rights and charity societies as I could, my time was thin and my self-determination thinner. I got a 2.2 (the grade below) and all the doors I had planned to walked through slammed loudly shut. So I packed my bags and headed back out to India in search of something I didn’t quite know yet. I had planned to write a book documenting the harrowing life stories of Tibetans living in the exile community I called my home in Dharamshala. At first I did well, getting a few people to agree, but the difficulty of wanting to tell your story versus the risks to your family still in Chinese occupied Tibet caused speed bumps and roadblocks.
So one day I wandered in to a newspaper’s office and asked if they had any work going, I had done a lot of student journalism while at university (another reason that I may have not got a 2.1) and thought it was worth an ask. Within the space of a few minutes I was sat at a desk writing my first story. The months I worked for The Tibet Post were incredible, covering stories of hope from the Dalai Lama, to the protests and self immolations within Tibet that tore me to my core.
So why am I here now?
India has defined me, much like running has, and will always be a huge part of who I am as an individual. I will constantly be drawn back to my second home. This time, however, I’ve had family in tow. We’ve been travelling around India seeing where our ancestors were born, lived and ultimately died. We’ve flitted across Northern India, from Hill Stations of the Raj to the banks of the Ganges. As I write this we are in Dharamshala staying just meters away from the monastery that welcomed me all those years ago.
I’ll be back in England in a few days, back to running and back to reality but for now, in these few short days, I’m happy living in India once more.
Next Race: Milton Keynes 20miler
A wonderful insight into your travels. Are you still in journalism ? A job I always dreamed of trying through my photography, never quite happened. Some photos from your travels would be great.
PS it’s freezing here, id stay there if I was you.