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…