An account of leaving; and an ode to India!
26.08.2012 - 26.08.2012 33 °C
Goodbye India, Farewell Old Friend
I rose early in the lovely Zik-Zik guesthouse, showered and rechecked all my gear.
Once you leave India, thats it -the earliest you can return is in 2 months time.
This isn't the last time I will leave India, I'm already thinking of my next trip… the many places people gushed about, that I missed.
There was a knock at my door at 5:00am, my driver was right on time.
His smiling face was the quintessential Indian trademark…
"Hello sir, are you all set for going?"
Yes and no.
I instinctively waggled my head to say yes and smiled.
On the way to Leh airport my driver told me about his excitement for the Dalai Lama's impending speech at the Leh temple.
He asked where I had been in India… I recounted the states that I passed through:
Delhi, Maharastra, Karnataka, Goa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, West Bengal, Sikkim, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir
"Oh, wonderful, so much to see!" He exclaimed
Yeah, it has been amazing.
If you let it, give a little, learn to adapt… and embrace your surroundings India will open it's heart to you.
It is by no means a perfect place.
There is abject poverty, litter, a (albeit slowly dissipating) caste system, corruption, occasional misogyny, etc..... and everything is OLD - from the trains to the ye olde rifles that the military officers carry in the train stations.
However as a traveller, these things do become are mere observations in the grand scheme of things.
Learn the head waggle, smile in the face of difficulties, join in on some chanting, sing without warning if you feel like it…
when the bus inevitably breaks down, start a conversation with the old man next to you - he will have very interesting stories to tell, guaranteed.
We approached the army barricades at Leh airport - with the smiling soldiers shaking hands to greet the new blessed day; the enormous snow capped Himalays loomed overhead… encasing Leh like a big mountainous smile.
As we launched into the air, the view of the mountains were astounding.
The plane flew THROUGH the valleys rather than above… a gorgeous and wonderful experience.
Through the magical flight, I recounted the past 6 months…
- the glorious beaches,
- the wondrous, enormous mountains and exciting trekking…..
- the confounding train systems…… TATKAL!!!!
- topsy turvy logic!!
- amazing ashrams and learning the ancient path of unity (yoga);
- the wonderful dhamma (working patiently, persistently, ardently, diligently)
- the huge varieties of religion and devotion practiced so openly and passionately;
- the delicious food
- the ancient wonders
- the sheer generosity and selflessness , (including for neighbouring countries),
- the amazingly intricate music (thanks to my patient tabla teacher);
- the friendly yet firm haggling
- the many, many adventures
- ….. and all the wonderful friendships made along the way
Aside from guidebooks, reading Shantaram is probably the best preparation for visiting India. Within a complex and riveting story, it accurately describes the culture, national psyche, train systems and even the administrative mundane to the tea.
You may wonder:
"is this for real?" ......or....... "how can a country like India inspire such prose and passion?"
Believe me...... it is, and it can.
I understand Linbaba, I really do!
I slowly meandered through Delhi's wonderfully modern and spacious international airport (just one example of India's rise), towards the transit counter.
The customs officer checked my Visa and looked inquisitively as if to ask what I had been doing.
He may be unaware of the myriad of wonders at his doorstep.
Living and working in India indeed seems to be a struggle - to look beyond your daily tasks, family, even town is a luxury that many cannot afford.
He stamped me out, I didn't have to say anything.
Thanks for the most amazing 6 months of my humble life. You are a truly stoic, resilient, insightful, diverse and and welcoming nation. Your awe inspiring terrain - from the wondrous Himalayas to magnificent beaches and dazzling cities; your overt and musical spirituality, work ethic and perpetually smiling faces will all stay with me, from this life into the next.... and beyond.
It has been a blessing to make so many new friends - locals and travellers alike, to share in this great experience.
The great teachings of Osho, Sivananda, Goenka, etc make this world a better place to participate and relish...... Jaya Ganesha, om namah Shivaya, hare Rama, hare Krishna..... Om mani padme om! Shanti, shanti shanti...
The journey isn't over yet.
I have Laos, Europe and Nepal to go. Stay tuned.