After seeing the ‘Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ that was filmed in Jaipur, I was so inspired, that for days, I sorted through boxes, sleeves and carousels of transparencies that I had taken during my own trip to India in 2001. I culled the 1200 or so images, whittling down the numbers for scanning on to DVDs.
It was this wonderful film that made me realise I should make a book about my own visit to Jaipur in Rajasthan, and Dharamsala in northern India.
On the back cover of my book Every Great Journey Starts Somewhere – Seven Days in India I wrote: “When opportunities arise, no matter what, grasp them with both hands…as I did”. I meant it. For this is one thing I have learnt over the last ten years, to honour everything that happens in your life, no matter how small or mundane.
Seeing the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel sparked something within me on that cold night when we went to The Theatre in Leatherhead in Surrey. I was transported back to those seven short days in April 2001. The film worked for me: it woke up the colours inside me, and reminded me to grasp opportunities.
In putting together my pictures and writing the text of Every Great Journey….. and re-reading my old journals and half-filled notebooks I found a missing link – between the four articles I wrote and had published to fund my trip – the stack of transparencies that have remained in cardboard boxes for ten years – and how my life is now, always looking for a bigger picture in everything I do.
As a writer I find my mind works best when it shifts into what I call marketing mode – feeling free – looking for solutions – finding clues – going with the flow – being inspired by anything and everything – finding the unexpected – acting on simple impulses – stirring up the grey matter – being grateful for being alive.
My friend Gail and I chatted in her den this morning. We watched the pouring rain through the patio doors. Indoors it was warm and cosy and I hugged a mug of tea. Gail leafed through my book about India. She reminded me about the time in 2001 when I was preparing for my seven-day visit to Jaipur and Dharamsala.
Out of the blue she told me that my story and what happened to me was a bit like the 1998 film Sliding Doors starring Gwyneth Paltro and John Hannah. In the first few minutes of the film we see the ‘heroine’s’ life split into two. And throughout the rest of the film we are to-ing and fro-ing between what would have happened in each version of her life. Her whole life changes in a split second when, after being sacked from her PR job in London, she misses the Tube-train to take her home. One part of the film follows her catching the train and seeing the consequences of getting home and finding her bloke in bed with another woman – the other part, when she misses the train, shows how she gets mugged before landing a lowly-paid waitressing job.
Gail’s assessment of my life was fascinating. What if I hadn’t been to the fishmonger in Bookham that winter’s morning in 2000 to interview him for a possible story? What if I hadn’t crossed over the A246 Leatherhead Road at the exact time that I did? After all, the Buddhist monks only stood begging for food outside the supermarket until midday when they went off to eat. If I had crossed the road a few minutes later I would have missed them. Timing is everything.
I came home from Gail’s in wondering-mode about 2000, and about our conversation.
What if I had never met Tenzin Josh, never learnt about meditation or the Dalai Lama, never visited Dharamsala, met Tibetan monks or the Tibetan Children’s Village?
Twelve years on from that chance meeting with two Tibetan monks in our village I wonder what I would be doing now…
In my new book: Every Great Journey Starts Somewhere ~ Seven Days in India:
…I wrote that my visit to this wonderful country “really did happen as a result of a fortunate series of chance meetings between 2000 and 2001. It was a time when my life was going through a period of great change and I had just embarked on a new career as a freelance writer”.
“A Comma in Bookham“, the story I wrote about the Buddhist monks in my home village was published in the Surrey Lives section of the Surrey County magazine in April 2000 – the first of a run of my stories about people living in the county of Surrey that they published…. stories that seemed to crop up by chance.
That year I heard about a vicar at the church in our village with incredible skills as an escapologist, and the only man known to have escaped from a straitjacket whilst tramplining! I photographed him, wrote a story, submitted it to the editor of the Surrey County magazine…another acceptance in the Surrey Lives slot. …
Soon afterwards I spotted a man in the bushes close to the lay-by on the main road that runs through our village. It was hard for me to ignore activity…anywhere! The guy was hedge-laying – a feature of the British landscape…..and …the story became another feature in Surrey Lives.
I can’t quite remember exactly how Gardens and Guests came about. I think I may have heard something on local radio about Derek St Romaine, a Royal Horticultural Society Gold-Medal winning photographer, and his wife Dawn who ran a B+B in their Surrey home. I probably then phoned them to get my own take on their story… and towards the end of the year it was another article in the Surrey Lives series – with a story about their gorgeous garden with its numerous nooks and crannies and private corners, and where, at every turn, there is something different. Secret arbours, ornamental hedges of rosemary and cotton lavender and a hosta inferno in a dark corner as you snake around the garden.
Thinking back, this was a significant time in my early writing career… honing my skills… and at the same time posting articles to the Writers Bureau College of Journalism in Manchester, with whomI was following a freelance journalism course. I was finding that gardening and the great outdoors were popular topics with magazine editors…well, they were for me! I kept my eyes and ears open for snippets of anything that I could turn into stories.
This is where my sister Diana makes an appearance in my story. We chatted regularly on the phone about this-and-that. During one long conversation she mentioned her ex-husband had found a niche market for the diaper-shaped garden tiles that he was producing in his garden shed in Stoke-on-Trent. It sounded like my kind of story. Diana and I arranged to travel the 150-odd miles up north to meet her ex in his garden shed. The meeting for some reason had to be cancelled. But me, being like a dog with a bone would not let an opportunity disappear into thin air……more later
The story I am going to tell on this blog is not just about my 7-day trip to India – it’s more than that.
…to the author of a four-page article in a respected daily newspaper, in just a year.
It’s the story of how I found myself ‘pushing the boundaries’ …against all the odds … never giving up.
You may like to click on my Hebridean blog briefly:
and scroll down to:
An Inspirational Journey – Please Join Me
Here you will gain some insight into my writing career. And here you will start to see how I grab every opportunity that materialises in front of me…and still do.
In the post you will read how I wrote about a fishmonger – it turned out to be a life-changing article for me. But what you won’t read is how on a winter morning, three months before the article was published, I walked into our village to ask the fishmonger who was serving in his shop if I could write about him. Minutes after speaking to him I stepped out of the shop, walked across the car park, crossed over the A246 Leatherhead Road and immediately saw two Buddhist monks standing outside the local supermarket. They were begging for food. Being nosey I asked what they were doing!
Tenzin Josh (left of picture) explained it is customary for monks to beg for food when they are away from their monasteries. “The act of giving to a Buddhist monk is beneficial on three counts: the person who gives feels good; the monk gets to eat; and any left-over food is given away to the needy”.
I learnt a lot about Buddhism that morning and how meditation, which takes up a lot of a monk’s life, does not necessarily mean sitting on the floor cross legged with your eyes closed – you can meditate lying down, standing up or sitting in a chair. Being conscious of everything you do – walking, eating and talking can be good meditations.
Tenzin Josh and Tenzin Gendun thanked me for my interest and hoped they had put a ‘comma’ in my day to pause, ponder and reflect. Before we parted company Tenzin Josh said that if ever I was in India to call on him in Dharamsala which is in the foothills of the Himalayas.
I thought a trip to India was most unlikely.
A story I wrote about my meeting with the Buddhist monks was published in the April 2000 edition of the Surrey County magazine.
Please feel free to ask me questions as I take you on my journey.
I hope you enjoy my tale about one monk’s Marmite…coming soon…
PS: Some call it fate, to some it’s synchronicity, others say it’s serendipity, but as I stepped out of the fishmonger’s shop that winter morning, I had no idea that my simple article about fish would lead me directly to the story about Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in the UK.
My new book, Every Great Journey Starts Somewhere, is a collection of photographs I took in India during a seven-day visit, accompanied by quotes, captions, and notes I made in my journal.
You have probably heard the word ‘serendipity’…this wonderful flying-visit to India really did happen as a result of a fortunate series of chance meetings between 2000 and 2001. it was a time when my life was going through a period of great change and I had just embarked on a new career as a freelance writer.
My book is a picture story of how a Buddhist monk, a stone merchant and a businessman all led, in their own ways, to my trip, and how I discovered a sense of adventure I never knew I had.
Every Great Journey Starts Somewhere will delight all who love India or have visions of travelling there, are fascinated by unheard-of places and tribal outposts, and will inspire anyone to go with the flow of events.
When opportunities arise, no matter what, grasp them with both hands…as I did.
On this blog I will share some photographs taken in Rajasthan, and Dharamsala in the foothills of the Himalayas, and excerpts from my articles that were published on my return to England after the trip.