“It is true that even across the Himalayan barrier India has sent to the west, such gifts as grammar and logic, philosophy and fables, hypnotism and chess, and above all numerals and the decimal system.” — Will Durant, American Historian
Too much time, and don’t know what to do? Or maybe the better question is: trying to figure out how to give life meaning?
Choose a subject, any subject. Something that’s intriguing, odd, funny, fascinating, gross, weird, stunning, whatever. Now write it down and think of more subjects. Make a list. Get as many subjects on that list as you can. Here are my ideas:
- humpback whales
- United Arab Emirates
- the Enlightenment period
- different shapes and types of snow
Next, pick a topic from the list. Your decision can be based on the half-hazard close-your-eyes-and-point method, or it can be a deliberate rendering of events weighed out on paper. Just choose. This choice will be your Project: over the next seven days, your job and homework and passion is to learn and live everything you can about this one topic.
Once you’ve chosen your topic, ask the important question: how can I be healthily obsessed with it?
Obsessed? You’re meant to immerse yourself in this “topic” until it surfaces in your dreams, until you subliminally speak its language and bring it up at every conversation, until you understand a world you’ve never understood before. This goes beyond obsessed. This is about hearing the gods’ songs and following suit. In simple words: signficance, purpose, meaning.
For example, live and breathe and dream India for the next week.
Start by typing “India” and “image” into a search engine, and study a thousand photos of the country, each picture more colorful and reflective and stunning than the last. Replace the word “image” with “amazing facts” and dazzle yourself with what you didn’t know. (Had you any idea that India gave foundation to math long before the world knew how to count, giving birth to a numbering system?)
Once you’re finished searching the web (and hopefully taking detailed notes), look up an authentic recipe and cook up an Indian feast. If cooking isn’t your thing, eat at an Indian restaurant. Make sure to order a sweet lassi for everyone at the table (a smooth and sweetened yogurt drink) and plenty of naan bread. Main course: consider your favorite curry, a vegetable plate of aloo matar, and chicken tandoori.
You can’t know India without knowing Hinduism. The Hindu belief is a colorful, complex, deep and multi-layered reflection on life and how it should be lived. It’s the oldest religion in the world. Sure, understanding Hinduism might be too broad a subject for a week, but do your best: read about their gods (especially the blue-skinned Krishna who teased priests and got himself into trouble as a youth), visit Hindu temples, and spend time with a Hindu priest.
There’s so much more to learn. There always is. A week is never enough. What about the freedom-fighter Mohammad Gandhi? What about Bollywood and her romantic movies? How about a look into the sari and other fashions? What of the bold, thickly colorful artwork that draws us all to her shores? The music, the festivals? And her people? Oh, the list goes on! Before your seven days are up, don’t forget to memorize a quotation in Hindi, find an Indian pen pal, learn about the lovely roles of henna, plan a vacation (even if you’ll never go), and learn how to draw Ganesha.
Make sure to record everything you find (words, online images, photos, poetry…keep a running journal).
There’s an expressing in Hindi that ends this article well:
“तुम जिहजारों साल,साल के दिन हो पचास हजार.” The quotation means, “May you live a thousand years, and may each year have a fifty thousand days.” It’s a blessing for long life.
When the next week starts, choose a new project and start over.
May you live a thousand years… and never run out of projects.
(Unfortunately my knowledge about India is sorely limited. I apologize if I’ve misspoken about any fact or detail.)
“If there is one place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India.” — Romain Rolland, French Scholar