The night yawned and it became Wednesday. I’m sure the sun rose in the 10 minutes it took to collect my suitcase, before trundling out into its hazy dawn. I had landed in Bangalore. 

When people asked me what I was doing this summer, I always replied: ‘I’m going to India’. I knew, after much research, what this meant logistically – a visa, vaccinations, flights, linen shirts – but I didn’t believe I would ever actually get there. Partially because of the many months it took me to get a visa. But largely because I considered India to be only a possibility – a possibility out of my reach, deserving of awe and wonder. 

The transfer from the airport was filled with awe and wonder. Despite my physical presence, my surroundings still felt so remote, literally and mentally. I was not a part of them, cocooned in a bumpy car, watching dogs fight at the petrol station, cows resting roadside in four-post shacks and beautiful pink houses with green edges.

After the first day of being overwhelmed, jet lagged, sick, stopped by cows, jerked by potholes, I quickly found that it was a ‘small world’. As an intern in an international school, I immediately met British teachers, one from Devon and another from Prestwich, who remarked with familiarity on the Manchester Metrolink ticket in my phone case. On my second day, a Warwick University representative visited whose wife ice-skates at Doncaster Dome. It made me feel culturally safe, which was not something I wanted from the trip. 

Many things here are different from my home life. Yet I thought I would be able to feel the difference, a new way to experience living that would be tinged with an edge of magic. I suspect my expectation of being completely removed from my home world was spiced a little by literary representations of the English in India, like E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India. Forster’s journey takes his characters to ‘another world’ of sensory confusion, muddle, and intensifying racial tensions, whereas I hoped my journey would bring majestic clarity. Maybe traveling to a new place reveals more about the place you just left, rather than inspiring a new state within the traveler. Maybe traveling away from a familiar state to an unfamiliar one can’t be represented by going to India. It takes 10.5 hours to fly to Bangalore, yet it took me seven hours to get to Orpington, Kent, on public transport from my house. 

I’ve been here two weeks now and I thought I would feel like a drop in the ocean, the world wide, me small. I thought I would feel Otto’s idea of the numinous: mysterium, tremendum et fascinans, facing an unknown presence that evokes fear and fascination simultaneously. But please don’t think I’m not impressed. I’m very impressed. The trees are beautiful, the houses are beautiful, I love the cows. And I did feel a shadow of what I was expecting when, at the weekend, we saw the monkeys wake up and climb trees covered in mist. 

I thought I would be feeling God continuously. That’s why I was excited about seeing the monkeys and the mist – I felt it, a world existing outside of me. I find this ‘it’ hard to describe, so I have been calling it God. (I actually feel ‘God’ might not need a capital letter because it sounds way too much like just a person). When I say I’m looking for something that feels beyond, that makes me feel small, ‘god’ is what I mean. I conceived god as more than I could ever imagine. Like everything I could imagine enveloped by everything outside of my head, my self, my limited perception. Infinity. All time. Outside of time. “His unbounded Now”, as C.S. Lewis wrote in The Screwtape Letters. Everything that has ever been, was, and could be. Every possibility. That than which no greater can be conceived (Anselm).  

Maybe when I am in nature, not in a school, I will feel the vastness of everything of which I’m only a small part. The sense of resting briefly on God’s thumbnail. I thought I would be feeling the noumenon alllll the time, not all this semi-regular phenomenon. But I’ve only felt it in nature, which shouldn’t surprise me, because that’s where I feel God anyway. Not at an international school where they serve French toast for breakfast.

You might have thought that a girl from Rotherham, meeting a man who has ice-skated at Doncaster Dome, in Bangalore, would intensify her belief in human connection, and God. Yet God for me was always about what I would never have the right ‘eyes’ to see. I have seen a lot of people. I had not seen any India, then I flew across the world, landing on the twinkling lights of Bangalore, and saw a bit. It was magical, yes, but it was no longer beyond my imagination or physical body. I’ve experienced a bit more of the tangible beyond and it has slightly dulled the unknown’s shine in my mind. It can never be dulled entirely. 

I have not settled my own God question yet. I’ll probably have to fly back for that, where at home the vast internal worlds of the people I’ve met here will only be accessible through my internal world. Travelling has made me want to travel more; I want my small body to attempt to see this world’s great bigness, to think about this bigness in all possible worlds, it all encompassed in the pinched fingers of that which they call God.