“The only thing more unthinkable than leaving was staying; the only thing more impossible than staying was leaving. I didn’t want to destroy anything or anybody. I just wanted to slip quietly out the back door, without causing any fuss or consequences, and then not stop running until I reached Greenland.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
I had heard about Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2006 Memoir “Eat, Pray, Love”, but never got myself intrigued enough to read it. It was only very recently that I watched the book turned film, with the same name, starring Julia Roberts as Gilbert, and didn’t feel quite stirred up about it. What was it about “Eat, Pray, Love” that set thousands of people off on a journey of self-discovery, imitating the steps of Gilbert? What was it that made hundreds of people write testimonials titled “Eat, Pray, Love, Made Me Do It”?
When I recently got back to India from an Italian Cruise and made unexpected plans to head off to Bali with a friend, I decided it was the perfect time to give it some thought and find out.
While I was on the Italian ship, stopping at Italian ports almost every other day, I did get to explore, interact and experience a lot of Italian cultures. Something I truly enjoyed, was the Italian dinners, which were usually 3-4 hour events, with multiple courses, a lot of entertainment like singing and dancing(yes! we would even get up to dance before dessert) and always included the customary waving of our white table napkin in the air. This is why I’ll never understand why they decided to depict Julia Roberts, having a boring bowl of pasta all by herself, and eating a pizza quite half halfheartedly at a local pizzeria with her friend. Apart from eating, I also did pray at the most glorious Basilicas in Rome. Touching century-old church walls, feeling Holy silence and the vibrations of prayer and positivism was a remarkably spiritual experience.
While In India, mainly being my home country, and home to one of the richest and most flavorsome cuisines in the world, I have truly enjoyed delectable food here, and wish that Julia Roberts(as Gilbert) had spent less time frowning about how she’s finding it hard to pray, and taken time off to explore Indian cuisine! As for praying and finding love, I’ve had no problem doing that in India. I have my doubts about whether I’d book a ticket out of India if I aimed to eat, pray and love.
As for my final destination, which was Bali, it was assuredly a lovely place. I had some lovely Babi Guling and Bebek Betutu(crispy crackling duck), our breakfast bowls were most interesting with snakeskin fruit and flavored yogurt, and their local cocktails were amazing! We didn’t get a chance to meet our medicine man, like how Gilbert met Ketut, But I did stumble upon a scroll with quotes from The Dalai Lama on it and visited a lot of sacred temples which gave me a lot of spiritual insight. As for that hunk that Gilbert found in Bali, I certainly didn’t find my lover boy there, and I’m quite glad I didn’t head out with that mission in mind!
And so, after completing my own eat, pray, love circuit, I’d say, I would like to disagree with Elizabeth Gilbert. I’m glad she found herself this way, but I’d like to say, I feel no need to book a plane ticket and hop off on a plane every time I feel like I need to discover myself. The chances of finding good food, spirituality, and love in another country, hundreds of miles away, are the same as finding and creating them right where you are. When it comes to traveling, every country has it’s own “eat, pray, love” arena, and country hopping just may not be that essential.
As for finding yourself, perhaps there’s no point searching outside, for an answer that lies way within.