Oh Hello Water Buffalo

Last week, I had the opportunity to take a mini vacation with my love and his band mates to a little town called Igatpuri, located just over 100km outside of Mumbai. Igatpuri is a picturesque little hill station in the Nashik District of Maharashtra. It was so perfect to get away from Mumbai for a couple days and escape to the silence and simplicity of rural India.

The road trip there in the back of a Mahindra Thar SUV was both exciting and relaxing at the same time. There’s something magical about open road, the sunset at your back, and the thought of spending time out in the country that is enough to recalibrate your inner compass. (Excuse the blurry photos below. They were taken out of a very shaky moving vehicle.)

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Photography has always been sort of a latent curiosity. More recently though, I’ve decided to dabble and explore. So phone camera in hand, I venture out in search of inspiration at every turn, on every corner, behind every door, and through every window (and I mean that quite literally, as you will see below).

Off-roading into the hills of Igatpuri was a dusty experience but one that I won’t quickly forget. We parked the vehicle and decided to trek higher up. Trekking isn’t what I would normally consider “hiking” in North America, which usually happens along a cleared off trail. Here, there was no “trail” except the one we were making up as we made our way across the hillside (think: the final scene of The Sound of Music except maybe not as epic). Breathe in too deeply and you’ll get a lung full of dust. But it was worth it because the view on top was breathtaking. (Get it? Lung full of dust, breathtaking? But seriously, it was beautiful.)

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After trekking up into the hills, we went for the swim in the lake. So, the “lake” looks pristine in these pictures, but it was actually quite muddy. But the whole crew of us jumped in anyway and swam the better part of the afternoon away. I have to admit that I was a bit grossed out by how murky the water was, the little insects around, and all of the tiny water snails and other creatures at the bottom. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, the water was too hazy to see anything below the surface. But the murky water wasn’t the most disturbing part. Not long after we decided to call it a day and dry off, we saw a herd of water buffalo wade in to bathe, in what looked like something straight out of National Geographic or the Discovery Channel. (I didn’t take any pictures of the water buffalo, but I did take some of the cows grazing in the area.)

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I was thoroughly unnerved at the thought that I had basically gone swimming with water buffalo. In fact, I was equal parts disgusted and fascinated. I have to say though, I was also proud of myself for not chickening out. It was good times. And I took an extra careful shower immediately afterwards. Best part? I now have another wild story for the books.

So much more happened in our two days away than I have written about here. But it was fun to share a glimpse of it. Grace and peace everybody! Go forth and embrace life!

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P.S. Creative Sabbath, and follow my travels on Instagram!

© Copyright Benita Grace Joy 2016


Creative Sabbath

It has been two and a half months of questioning my sanity since I left everything familiar to crash headlong into the chaos of Mumbai. My nomadic history means I’ve accrued a staggering number of past lives but this particular shift has been the most blatantly daring of them all. Toronto was perfect for me in many ways: I had a kick ass job, an amazing friend circle, my highly prized independence and the freedom to be me in all my weirdness. Toronto was a bold move in 2009. This move to Mumbai, on the other hand, can more aptly be referred to as curiosity on steroids.

Since the question is buzzing in everybody’s mind, let me be frank. I moved here for two reasons: love and love. First, love. Yes, seven long years of the most epic romantic saga of Hindi movie proportions that you never heard of because the world wasn’t ready for us. I’m not even being sarcastic. But we’re officially tired of  doing the long distance thing and we’re ready to take the next step. Second, love. I was born in this city and fell in love with it as a 12 year old and then again as a 24 year old, and have wanted to come back ever since. I’m only sorry I couldn’t make it happen sooner.

The other question most people are more comfortable asking is some version of “What are you doing now?” To which I shrug and unconvincingly respond: “Nothing?” My success rate on killing viable conversation material is 100%. Clearly, I need a better response, but it’s hard to figure out what to call this thing, this in between, this neither here nor there. Because it isn’t “nothing”, and it has taken a while to figure out the something that it is. But I finally have a name for it. I’m calling this space my Creative Sabbath.

A Sabbath is essentially a period of rest. My reasons for wanting to take some time off are complex and personal, but I will say that it often feels like I’ve lived an entire lifetime in my thirty years. Sabbath means adopting a lifestyle of rhythm and respite, contentment and calm. In making space for rest, I find myself naturally drawn to creative pursuits, reverting to the passions and curiosities of my childhood and picking up a few new ones along the way. I’m rediscovering the creativity that was sidelined in a mind that has become all too pragmatic and technical over the years (see A Letter to Creativity). And it has been wonderful.

Creative Sabbath means that I’m reading, writing, walking, thinking, picture-taking, podcast-listening, daydreaming, adventuring, praying, contemplating, meditating, rediscovering Jesus, finding a better pair of interpretive lenses for reading the Bible, learning Hindi, and dabbling in randomness, among other things. I’m learning to trust love. I’m learning to trust my instincts. And I’m learning to just be. Most importantly, I’m learning to sit with the tension long enough to find that, at its core, is peace that passes all understanding.

Mumbai is the kind of city that makes you want to punch somebody and write poetry all at the same time. Strangely enough, that place of feeling slightly unhinged is where creativity often begins. The vibes are intense. The feels are all there. And this is how I know that when things get hard, escaping isn’t the solution. Fear can make you do all kinds of “safe” things. But fear will never take you where you need to be. Because in the middle of this chaos, when I close my eyes and find my center, there is a distinct sense of peace in knowing that I am walking my path as authentically as I know how. And that slightly unhinged feeling doesn’t scare me, because it is where I feel inspired, creative, more alive, and more open to life and the possibilities.

So here’s to officially inaugurating my Creative Sabbath. I’m excited to finally have an answer for when people ask the question. More than that though, I’m excited to see where this path leads.

Grace and peace, dear ones.

P.S. Letter to Creativity

Dear Mr. President

[This is a guest post by a very good friend and absolute sweetheart of a girl, the one and only Priyanka Thaddaeus. It’s a letter to President Barack Obama that she sent him last year. In light of all the negativity towards him from certain groups, I thought it would be good to share something lighthearted and positive.]  

Dear Mr. President,

I have been meaning to write to you ever since I arrived in the United States for my postgraduate degree in 2012. I’m sorry I never really got down to it until now. Over the past seven years, you must have received thousands of letters similar to mine. I don’t expect for mine to warrant a reply, but I just wanted you to know, as an international student who came here aloft the conventional American dream – the reality of which has been everything I’d hoped for! – I am truly grateful for your presidency.

Thank you, President Obama.

Thank you for taking up office with the sole purpose of working for the people and keeping up that vigor for two entire terms. Thank you for holding and maintaining the honor of this office. I wish you could stay longer! As hard as gratitude is to come by today, I am so thankful for having been educated in an America that has been free, just, safe, and equal under your leadership.

Thank you for balancing justice and equality and knowing which goes where first. Thank you for always allowing human values and love to trump religious segregation and constructs. Thank you for showing compassion and standing strong when everybody goes against you. Thank you for your steadfastness in helping combat climate change. It saddens me that more often than not all the good you do goes unappreciated. What you’ve taught us is so important, and I assure you sir, history will be kinder to you.

But most importantly, Mr. President, thank you for being a leader with an exemplary family life. Watching you, Mrs. Obama, and your daughters gives me hope in the humanness of people, irrespective of the posts we hold. Thank you for your humility.

I’m 24, and when I see the grace with which both Malia and Sasha conduct themselves, I cannot help but comment on the impeccable upbringing imparted to them. They are strong, beautiful women – you must be so proud!

I extend this gratitude to your entire team in office who work hard every day to make the lives of people easier in ways big or small, and to your family. I do hope I get to meet you, Mrs. Obama, and your daughters someday!


Priyanka Thaddaeus

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I’d like to think of myself as an open-minded free thinker. With a long way to go! Professionally, I’m a passionate but slightly procrastinating Aviation Safety ENFJ, and when I’m not knee-deep in safety reports and aircraft investigations, I’m reading or listening to the very real human experiences of people, which continue to peel away at my 24 years of ‘religious (in)stability’. When I’m not being obnoxious about why I affirm evolution, climate change, LGBTQ/animal/women’s rights, and my pro-choice way of being, I’m working on living as an example of Jesus who’s prime commandment was to love—no questions asked (and certainly trying not to judge). And when I’m doing none of the above, I’m traveling, gorging on good food, petting someone’s cat, craving chocolate, poring over my Google Nexus, being thankful for my family and life, or refusing to confine the magnificence of God within the four walls of the Bible. Our universe is too beautiful, too intricate, and too volatile for that!