Thursday, March 19, 2009
I am sitting in a little cyber cafe in the industrial part of Bombay close to the international airport. The temperature is 32C and the air is dirty, hot, and sticky. I am writing with a much leaden heart as today is my last day here in this amazing country and I am truly very sad to see this portion of my life end. I had a really tearful goodbye with Martin this morning in Benaras, and have been feeling wobbly ever since. I did, however, perk up on the Indian Airways flight from Benaras to here as they were playing non-stop Janet Jackson videos from the late 80's and early 90's....only here in India!
I have spent the last few days in Benaras just chilling and getting last minute stuff done. Martin is heading to Bombay tomorrow as he is going back to London on Saturday, and sadly couldn't accompany me here as he has loads of stuff to do for his last night in Benaras. We spent the whole day yesterday running all over the place trying to tie up loose ends, and since this is INDIA it always takes much longer than anticipated. I had to try and figure out how to get all the stuff I accumulated over the last few days either in my bag or shipped back home. Sadly I had to leave a few things at Martin's friends' home (like my carpet :( and some clothes) but that only means that I will have to go back. And go back I will. Definitely next winter. My bag which was feeling pretty empty after I shipped stuff back home in Jaipur is completely and utterly filled to the brim and is weighing over 20 kgs. Once I get to Thailand I'll have to send another shipment home methinks.
I am off to Thailand tomorrow at 5:45 am. I have to be at the airport for 3:30am which means I should be up by half 2. I was awake almost the whole night last night because there was a crazy house party next door and I was also feeling laden with sadness so I spent the whole night tossing and turning. Not even the bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne that we drank made me pass out. So I'm feeling sleep deprived, sad as hell, hot and bothered, and happy. Quite the range of emotions. I have absolutely no idea about what I am doing in Thailand- I left my travel guide at home and my guest house that I had previously booked and paid for for my early March 3 night accomodation has not returned any of my emails re-confirming my booking. I don't know where I am going to go, where I will stay, even how much money I have at this point!!! But it's all a part of the adventure, even though I am sure that my parents are really unhappy with me at this moment after reading this! I am not feeling Thailand at all and I think I may see if I can come home early. I may try to get to Ko Samui and try to head to a yoga ashram there. I'm not into the big beach scene and since I have been spending alot of time thinking, being, and talking about spirituality...the whole beach scene makes me feel a bit sick. So I think yoga may be a good option, and I can also get some exercise!
I went to the temple last night at Manikarnika (burning ghat). It was a really special evening, not only because it was my last night in Benaras but also that the Baba Naganath (who I wrote about in my Kashivashi blog) had returned from a few weeks stay in hospital and was there to lead the evening AArti. He is still on his hunger strike for the Ganga, and is on day 240 of fasting. Naganath is obviously as skinny as a rake but he seems like he is doing alright and was moving around like anyone of us. It is really amazing to see the human body functioning under such deprivation. I think Naganath will take this to the very end...he is really commanding alot of attention for this cause. The biggest polluters of the mother Ganga are the US and Europe owned chemical plants that are dumping huge amount of toxic chemicals in the Ganga and rewarding the municipalities richly with lots of money to turn a blind eye. Never mind the fact that the Ganga is the holiest river in the world, and that the Hindu faith revolves around it. Martin shot a 10 minute video of Naganath in hospital talking about his hunger strike and the problem with the Ganges and it will be posted it on Youtube with English Subtitles. I will post the link when that happens.
I have so much to thank India for. This experience has been some of the wildest adventures that I could never have dreamed nor expected, and I can't believe that I ever had reluctance about actually coming to India. I have personally experienced some of the deepest sense of peace and happiness I have ever had here in India. On the flip side I have also confronted much negativity and darkness. I am grateful that I came back to Benaras in the end as I left with a bad taste in my mouth and my week back there has erased alot of those bad memories. I am leaving India with a major chai and biscuit addiction, an automatic head wiggle when talking, having Namaste burned into my vocabulary, a possible tuberculosis cough, and accepting that India really is the most chaotic, stressful, aggressive, beautiful, giving, hilarious, and maddening place in the universe! The land of organized chaos time and time again.
This country is a land of extremes- from the street child pulling burning plastic out of a midroad fire to the fancy SUV's that cruise the back lanes, from the dirty and matted hair of a tribal woman to the proud way she carries water back to the village. This country is technicolour at best and almost like an acid trip at times. The biggest gift I have received in this trip is the closeness I have come to accepting a level of faith and trust- I have never really thought much about faith in the past beyond the ordinary but here in India it is prevalent everywhere. Cars with dashboards Durgas screaming for a safe journey, the shopkeeper that won't make a sale until he finishes his opening Puja, the family kept shrines that dot most corners in Varanasi and represent almost every Hindu deity. Flashing fingers sparkling with astrology derived stones to increase wealth, shift dodgy planetary alignments, pearls to keep calm and full of self-assurance. Necks heavy with charged malas and charms. Babies with heavily kajaled eyes and red protection bracelets. From laughing Babaji's drinking 17 cups of chai to the heroin ridden ones shooting up in dark corners...this country is again rife with contradictions but is always governed by some level of faith.
I have had the immense opportunity of getting past the snide money maker Babas and meeting some of the real deal ones here in the temples. I have had alot of help from Martin who has undergone quite the spiritual transformation on this trip especially and I feel very lucky to have had such experiences. Being at the evening Aarti as the only woman in a dark corner of the Manikarnika temple is an experience that I will never forget. The acceptance I have been given has been most humbling and affirming. I didn't come here to find a Guru but instead came to realize that the real Guru is truly yourself.
This land is truly Incredible. Go and see it for yourself.