India Was Love At First Sight For Me: Croatian Professor's Travelogue

Ina Stašević, Professor from Croatia

Ina Stašević, Professor from Croatia 


I live in a picturesque town near Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. I work as a senior lecturer at the University.

I live in a picturesque town near Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. I work as a senior lecturer at the University. I have a penchant for culture and art. That is why I always love to travel to distant destinations. Eight years ago, I visited India for the first time. During my two-week stay in India, I had the opportunity to visit numerous historical and spiritual centers in the northern part of the country. Everything, starting from the rich architectural style of castles, impressive temples and religious monuments along with the stimulating aesthetic and spiritual atmosphere impressed me every step of the way. Enriched with vibrant colors, across different historical periods, India has always fascinated me with its vibrant appearance and its joyful and spiritual way of life. Right from the very first encounter, Indian people, richness of its history and the diversity of its culture fascinated me. I fell in love with India. It was love at first sight for me!

India has been my long cherished dream. I have never felt so close and connected to a country, although I have travelled to many exotic places in the world. For months after returning home, I remembered and relived the encounters on the street with ordinary Indian people. In my mind, I was once again navigating the picturesque streets of Delhi and walking through the many rooms of the royal residence in Khajuraho, accompanied by the sight of numerous monkeys. I was sitting on a bench in the shade looking at the fascinating Taj Mahal while experiencing spiritual peace. Even today I can feel the tranquility I experienced while sailing on the holy river Ganges, looking at the coast and the tall buildings of Varanasi and numerous people at the ghats doing their ritual washing. Along with the sound of musical instruments and prayer coming from the shore, the sun peeked out of the water behind me, and with a cacophony of sound, smoke and smell, a new day is born. India fascinated me and so did the simplicity of life, satisfaction with small things, tolerance in diversity and spirituality of its people. The smiles on people's faces enthralled me. In its incredible diversity, India is a land of motivating harmony. I knew I would be back here. That desire was constantly smoldering in me. And it finally came to fruition thanks to the Government of India and the Embassy of India in Zagreb.

I am a member of the International Women's Club in Zagreb and thus I have the opportunity to meet women from all over the world. I go to numerous celebrations and cultural events. So I had the opportunity to be at cultural events organized by the Embassy of India in my country and participate in the celebration of World Yoga Day. It was in one of these events that I had the opportunity to admire the traditional paintings of the wife of the Indian ambassador, which again transported me back to India.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to spend three months in India under ITEC training in Hyderabad, a very famous university city. I was thrilled to know that I would be returning to India and make my dream come true. I would have the opportunity to live at least briefly in a country that has so fascinated me. This time, I would visit those parts of this vast country that I had not seen before. I was given the opportunity to get to know India, its people, customs, culture, art, lifestyle, diet and all that is so different from the Western lifestyle. With daily commitments at English and foreign languages University - EFLU, there were times and opportunities to get to know life in the southern part of India. The rich cultural life at the University allowed me to see dance and musical performances by numerous art groups. Girls dressed in lovely, colored sarees danced with graceful movements to the sound of traditional Indian instruments. I participated in meditation and yoga exercises taught by experienced masters of this art. It was, for me, a new philosophical view of a world in which I became deeply immersed and which permeated my body and my mind. I felt like I was changing for the better. Here the smile refused to go from my face. That simple human gesture, the smile, is so much missed by people in the west. The smile is in the soul of the Indian people.

I used my stay to get to know Indian cuisine better. By going to one of the many restaurants every day, I had the opportunity to taste a variety of Indian dishes. From biryani to dosa. Every dish for me was too spicy. Even when I requested to prepare a less hot meal, the result was the same. Over time, I got used to it and enjoyed eating it, always diluting the hot spices with cool yogurt. I was pleased by ordinary things. Drinking coffee bought from a street vendor and talking to people who gathered for morning tea, sitting with my friends on the steps in front of one of the temples at the beginning of the new day watching the passers-by and the numerous vehicles that rush through the wide streets, or buying a pineapple from a street vendor in the Market Place in front of the University. These were ordinary life situations in the fascinating environment of medieval buildings and the street vibrancy of modern India.

Hyderabad is a charming city with grand architecture. The compound is Indo-Islamic architecture with Gothic elements of Victorian Britain. The city is mostly dominated by large public buildings such as town halls, courts, universities and train stations, whose fronts are dominated by beautiful decorative elements on the semicircular and pointed arches of the buildings. The symbol of the city is Charminar, a splendid historic monumental building with four minarets dating from 1591. I thoroughly enjoyed the view of the city from the top of the minaret of the ornate Charminar. The building is a symbol of rich heritage and is a grand architectural composition. Each minaret looks like a lotus flower. On the west side, there is a colorful bazaar full of items with fantastic sequins. Sequins on fabrics, sequins on colored glasses, perfumes …. There are also exclusive shops with pearls and jewels around. It is an ideal place for lovers of shopping for beautiful women's jewelry. In the jewelry store, I chose earrings, necklaces and pearl bracelets for myself and my girlfriends. Shopping in India is a special experience. Sellers are courteous, polite and restrained. There is no aggression that I have seen in other countries. They are dedicated to the buyer, ready to show her everything that interests her and not hurrying her into deciding what to buy. As I bought a lot on my arrival, I was greeted with joy and a cup of tea. I must recall that the largest Koh-i-Noor diamond, which adorns the crown of the United Kingdom ruler, was excavated near this city.

I also visited the magnificent Chowmahalla Palace. The interior of the palace is marble with imposing arches decorated with Persian ornaments. The walls and ceilings of the palace have wonderful impressive carvings, chandeliers of multicolored glass. It gave me a nice glimpse into their lavish lifestyle and the glittering past.

I visited the Golconda Fort, an impressive 13th-century building known as the "Round Hill" in the vicinity of which is a diamond mine. The solid and massive buildings on which the walls are carved Hindu deities. Stunning architecture at every step. The climb to this fort is demanding because of the many stairs. But when one reaches the top of the fort, the effort is rewarded with extraordinary views of the white city. The sunset from the top of the fort is fabulous and at the same time, scary. In the evenings, the city is beautifully illuminated, so the long return, with a cheap taxi, seems quite relaxing.

Of course, I also came across one of the many festivals at India. The Harvest Festival Pongal is one of the more important Hindu festivals, celebrated as an appreciation for a good and rich harvest. The day before the celebration, early in the morning immediately after the bath, the women hand paint the entrances to their houses with lime powder in different colors. On this occasion, the cows are decorated as sacred animals with bells, bundles of corn. On this day, women cook rice and milk in the clay vessels to which they add turmeric and all this is offered to the Sun God.

I was fortunate to be in India at the time of National India Day celebrations and Holi celebrations. An unforgettable experience is colored in myriad colors! There was also a decent celebration of the founding of the EFLU that I attended.

The Government of India had allowed me to tour some of the sights in Hyderabad and nearby cities. I visited Ramoji Film City, where I spent one day in the world of Bollywood, one of world's largest film producers. It was an amazing experience to see all the behind-the-scenes activities and live scenes of stunts masters.

One of the special experiences was a three-day trip to the ancient city of Hampi in southern India. It is well known for its palaces, temples and other historical monuments. The ruins of Hampi are a huge historic open-air museum. There are rich architecture and religious monuments in the former capital of the Hindu kingdom of the Vijayanagara dynasty, which ruled southern India from the 14th to 16th centuries. During the tour of the city, I focused on its history, medieval architecture as well as the social life of the local population. Temples and palaces along with splendid sculptures, are magnificent and are true works of art with their unique Indo-Islamic architecture. These are truly architectural wonders. The magnificent temples stand as giant outdoor artworks. Carved in stone, it was hard to believe that they were handcrafted centuries ago. I was particularly impressed by Virupaksha Temple, the oldest temple in Hampi. Temple Vijaya Vittala is beautifully decorated with carvings of gods and goddesses on columns. In it, I found refuge for meditation and thinking about life.

Everything abounds in life here, specially the people, dressed in vibrant colors, burning incense to attract the goddess of wealth and prosperity. There are stalls of food, Indian jewelry and more. My nostrils absorbed the aroma of fried bananas, freshly brewed tea, perfume, lemongrass oil and who knows what else. In addition, my eyes noticed the beautiful scenery I was passing through, dogs sleeping on the street, and social long-tailed green parrots in the trees that sounded very nice. The sound of prayer bells intertwined with chatter in Hindi and Tamil. Walking barefoot through the temples, I felt hot marble floors with my feet and spotted grass on the lawns. The touch of the roughly hewn stone of the old buildings connected me with the ancient past of this beautiful city. And finally, I tasted the candied fennel seeds. All my senses have contributed to make this journey perfect. Visiting Hampi is the highlight of my journey as for us Europeans, it is in one of the lesser known parts of India.

I am grateful to the EFLU for this incredible education. I have learned a lot by enjoying the wonderful hospitality of the host. I have made new friends from numerous countries around the world. I feel personal achievement, greater security in communication and freedom of expression. It was a great opportunity for my personal development. I am immensely grateful to the Government of India for allowing me this unforgettable experience.

Finally, I expressed my gratitude for my stay in India by publishing my experiences and experience in four articles in eminent newspapers in Croatia, although I am not journalist. The peace I have gained in India I can express with the traditional Hindu greeting, NAMASTE!

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