So there's Julia Roberts in the role of Elizabeth Gilbert, author of author of "Eat, Pray, Love", in the movie of the same name. She journeys first to Italy and I am thinking "been there done that," somewhat, in some Mediterranean country anyway, and yes it was a wonderful out-of-country experience.
Then she treks to India, where the bulk of her soul searching takes place and I, who ended up liking the movie more than I expected to, watched with something like fascination, thinking, "nope, haven't been there or done that." Not yet, anyway, but who knows...
Because we're sort of into India, which keeps showing up.
The United States ranks as the No. 1 source country for foreign visitors to India, according to India's Ministry of Tourism, ahead of the United Kingdom, which not only ruled it once, but also is much closer. (Bangladesh and Canada rank 3rd and 4th if you must know. It's all here: http://tourism.nic.in/)
It's true that the U.S. is much larger than the U.K., but even without comparisons, consider that arrivals from the United States to India totaled 329,147 in 2001. That number has increased every year, reaching 803,021 in 2009 and accounting for 18% of all foreign travelers to the mystical country.
Apparently, one of the reasons Americans visit India is for health care. India has become one of the top five "medical tourism" destinations, according to reports in NuWire Investor, an online site about worlwide condominium investments. The site reports that "American patients have travelled to India for procedures such as Birmingham hip resurfacing, which was previously unavailable in the U.S., and has only recently been FDA approved. Medical tourists also journey to India for procedures that carry high costs in the U.S.; for example, Apollo Hospital in New Delhi charges $4,000 for cardiac surgery , while the same procedure would cost about $30,000 in the U.S." (http://www.nuwireinvestor.com/articles/top-5-medical-tourism-destinations-51502.aspx)
And this month, the NBA is all over India, with Orlando Magic's center Dwight Howard visiting the country to launch some sort of program designed to boost the country's interest in basketball.
None of which would have interested me if it weren't for "Eat Pray Love", in which one particular scene of India caught my attention. There's Julia Roberts in the taxi ride from the airport, which virtually makes us hold on to our seats as the driver speeds through traffic congestion in a city seemingly without lanes or traffic lights. Along that ride we see India alright: chaotic, crowded, poor, intractable. India has been on the big screen before -- "Ghandi", "A Passage to India" -- but this kind of realistic visual is more of late, as in "The Namesake", and of course "Slumdog Millionaire."
It's like we're really getting acquainted with India, beyond importing its food and outsourcing our jobs, and we no longer need a sanitized version of this country in order to relate to it. The mainstream has always embraced yoga, and even meditation to some extent. If well India's problems seem enough to unnerve a sitting Buddha, it also seems to cradle a wonderful spirituality we've imported for a long time. But we're going further in now, contemplating the source and all its layers. We'll take the chaos along with the Ballywood channels, and some of its health care, and we want to do basketball with them.
Guess we're engaging more of our chakras with theirs. It'd be cool if it all made us here a little less chaotic inside, while India became a little less chaotic on the outside.