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chilling with the Muslims in Delhi

I'm a student of religions.
I actually don't know how it happened, while, at the same time, it is quite clear how and why.
my mother is a Catholic, and the first few years of my life, I was surrounded by non-religious people. the cut was deep, between my home-environment, and what went on outside of my house.
I despised her religion and religious thinking; still- when it was time for me to study- it was such a natural choice. it fascinates me deeply, spirituality, religions, faith, God- and especially its expression in the world, as it is coloured and spiced by local flavour.
one of my best friends, during my teens, was a thai Muslim. her family spoke much about Islam and its beautiful and good sides- quite the opposite from that which we later have been fed through media and common fear-based ideas. I absorbed their teachings and I found Islam to be one of the most beautiful, and yet simple, teachings.
but I never felt as if I could enter Islam, when I was travelling. there were always restrictions around the mosque; I was not allowed in. Muslim society did not seem to like me, a single, Western woman.
except in India.
during my studies, I focused on religions and philisophies of India. they were far away enough from the religion of my mother; so in a way I opposed her (like a good teenager should!) but still, it was the same thing.
and I found myself in Delhi for several weeks, first in 2006, and later in 2010. both times I was magically drawn inside the mosques. they called me inside- I was thinking, ooops, I'm not allowed to be here- but actually, no one said anything about my presence. they allowed me to hang out, observe, take pictures.
religion in India is like nothing else, and it expresses itself like nowhere else in the world.
there is so much of everything that it is almost impossible for opposing sides to fight. ok yes, there is a conflict between Hindus and Muslims- I know- but in daily life, it seems as if all religions are actually living in peace, side by side. they all accept each other.
I loved hanging out at the mosques. I went there for the morning light and for the sunset light. I went there during prayer and in the afternoon for relaxing from the busy, dusty streets.
people were curious, open, and at the same time, kept their distance while doing their prayers. this, to me, was a break from the norm in India- particularly Delhi- where I was almost never left alone, able to just observe. but here, I was allowed to just be, breathe, have space, and stare as much as I wanted without provoking unwanted attention.
I felt so welcome here, like I was part of a bigger religion- LIFE.
the beauty of the Grand Mosque in old Delhi is absolutely breathtaking. I have the feeling I am in mysterious sagas where sultans and kings have walked and prayed.
this little girl really caught my eye. I went up to her and asked her father if I could take her picture. he was very proudly nodding, and tried to push her towards the camera. she was very shy but still, she looked straight into the camera.
as the sun goes down behind the minarets, the sky is coloured by magic purple, which adds to the feeling of that a thousand and a night-fairy tale- feel. many people gather at this time for the sunset-prayer, and as the muhaddin starts to brawl through the broken speakers, people take their position for prayer.
everyone who has visited India knows about the feeling that everything is just one big mess. one big nothing, one big everything. one big soup, one big swamp. it is hard to distinuguish and separate too dramatically here, as it all flows together, like a huge river.
religions are the same in India- they all express themselves differently, but first and foremost, we all feel how, in their essence, they are all one.


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