We left Manali, in pouring rain and a sea of mud, on the overnight semi deluxe bus for Delhi. It was far from deluxe but the journey was relatively comfortable. At 6 am the next morning, the conductor wakes us from sleep yelling in Hindi, “last stop, Delhi!” Two hours ahead of the scheduled arrival, the bus deposited us beside a metro stop, at the far end of the line from our destination, Gurgaon. The newly built-out metro is the jewel of modern Delhi – efficient, safe and clean – it is the solution to the city’s population and traffic overload. Ridiculously cheap, it’s affordable to everyone. We travel 42 km for a mere 27 rupees each!
Our five days in Delhi reunited us with our Indian family. Since, the inclusion within this family is very special to us because neither one of us are part of a large family of blood relations anymore. And we really do feel part of the family, not guests anymore. The conversation drifts in and out of English and Hindi without any special awareness that we don’t understand Hindi. We’re not special, we’re included. Maybe because they’ve all traveled abroad, it’s not so strange to develop a friendship with a foreigner.
Gerard comments that he is neither dreading nor excited to return to Boston. “In fact, I don’t even think about it,” he says. To a large degree I share his feelings, although in my usual mental overdrive, I’ve definitely begun to project – the little things I miss if I choose to go there – our soft bed, my yoga class, brown rice, weekly Satsang, the garden waiting to be replanted – but nothing that important that it can’t wait. I know I’ll be very happy to see friends again, but they are not part of my immediate life right now. And then, a few minutes later, I’m thinking about India next year, already planning our next visit. Gerard refuses to go there with me; he’s content to deal with the matter in hand – going home. “The only reality is the present,” he reminds me.
While flying back to the US, I’m hanging in a state of limbo between two realities – India and Boston. Our friend from Rewalsar, Frederic, who travels back as far as London with us, is so much part of our India experience, and keeps us rooted in that reality longer than might be the case otherwise. Frederic exchanges seats to be able sit with us on the flight. I reflect on the friendships we’ve made traveling. A spontaneous change of plans took us to Rewalsar where we met Frederic. Is the encounter random or destined? I believe it’s destined. And the fact we’re traveling back to London together is further proof.
A week later:
We’ve now been back for almost a week. India is such a large presence that it doesn’t fade from our consciousness quickly. Our street seems quiet, but it also lacks the vibrancy. It’s so convenient to drink water out of the tap and brush your teeth without filtered water – but there aren’t half dozen ‘pure veg’ restaurants on our block. It’s nice to have a closet full of clothes to pick from – yet our little case was all we needed. A friend asked me, “Why do you go to India? Is it to escape from winter?” Well yes, it’s a cheap escape. But it’s much more than that…the attraction to a country that is so large and so diverse physically, economically and spiritually is powerful. To quote, the Mexican poet, Octavio Paz, “India’s diversity is created by extreme contrast – modernity and antiquity, luxury and poverty, gentleness and violence, a multiplicity of castes and languages, rivers and deserts, plains and mountains, cities and villages, rural and industrial life, centuries apart in time and neighbors in space. To those of us who are attracted, India can be addictive.