It’s hard to believe that I’m sitting here in the airport in India, just passing through, and that I’m not really going to spend time in this place that I love. It’s hard. Life is this way for me often, where I love what I have, and I also want something else. I can easily be torn with indecision between wonderful options. In Sri Lanka, as you read in my last post, I was stuck. I was just plain done and in need of rest, and thus I opted for the ease and relaxation of my father’s home in Thailand. In the airport here in Chennai (since I had originally planned on going to India and bought a ticket here, then adding a connecting flight onward to Thailand), I just spent the last 3 hours with a danish woman who is leaving India after spending the last few weeks here. She showed me photographs that she took in Tiruvannamalai (Tiru), the place I was going to go on this trip, and I so clearly remembered why I love the place so much and why I really wanted to go there. I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but I love it there, and I love it here in India.
Just getting off the plane and walking through the airport I couldn’t help but to feel my love for this place. I felt it distinctly in my feet and in my heart. And then meeting Camile here in the food court where we pooled our few rupees to share some masala dosai, idli and chai, I saw in her eyes the purifying magic of India (This picture isn’t the best in capturing that essence, but it’s a good approximation – I took one on her camera that is much better). There was an unmistakeable glow in her being that I know very well, and that I felt and really embodied for myself the last time that I was here last year. For awhile this evening it was actually difficult to have eye contact with her. When I mentioned that to her and we explored that, she suggested that perhaps her eyes were reflecting something in me. I dismissed that, suggesting instead that they were reflecting something that was in me, something in me that had germinated in India early last year and fully blossomed upon my return to the United States. It is the glow of being alive, of being full of love, of being love, of caring about the other, of kindness and concern, of goodness. I saw those in her and I miss that about me, yet I am beginning to remember it very well.
So here I sit, in Chennai, a mere 4 hour bus ride from Tiru in this land and and among these people that I love,a land bred of spirit and devotion, a place devoted to spiritual evolution. I miss this place, and I’m here. Strange paradox, but it’s very true.
(a short while later) I’m sorry dad, I didn’t want to tell you I was coming to visit you until I was sure that I would be there, for I didn’t want to disappoint you, and now that I have landed in India, this place once again is pulling me into its arms like a long missed lover with whom no words need to be shared. I feel as I have no choice but to honor this calling in my heart to be here again, to “Be” here again. To “Be.” Forgive, please, but there was something in this woman’s eyes that brings tears to mine now that she is gone, for she was right in fact, they are reflecting something that is in me, not just something that was in me, but it is in me, it is me. I am that Love, and somewhere along the way through the cold and unfriendly streets of Istanbul and the sweltering poverty and emotional struggle of Sri Lanka I managed to lose sight of that.
My brain works so hard to try to figure things out sometimes, should I do this or that, should I go here or there, should I move on or stay? When my heart speaks, I need to listen. And my heart is speaking. Stay here, listen to me, trust me,this is home right now. Stay, trust, remain.
I took a taxi at 11pm from the airport to the main bus stand in Chennai and my driver was a championship caliber LeMans driver. I counted as he passed 45 different cars on the way (not to mention countless buses, tuktuks and motorcycles) and not a single car passed him. It was an impressive display of graceful weaving, precision drafting, pinpoint honking and controlled recklessness and he’s one good sponsor away from auto racing fame. Here’s his picture outside the bus stand.
If you haven’t ever been to India, I don’t know that you can have a conception of how much happens after hours. Nearing midnight, there were thousands upon thousands of people arriving and departing on buses with probably 70 active buses in the station at any given time. It is an amazingly efficient system of transportation here. My bus ride was a 4 ½ hour ride in the wee hours of the morning to Tiruvannamalai and all along the way, many shops were open, and people were milling about their lives. Before the bus was full I paid a 2nd fare so I could have my large bag on the seat next to me. That way I wouldn’t have to worry about keeping tabs on it during the ride and also so I wouldn’t have to sleep sitting upright but could rather have my bag to lean on. It was a wise choice as it was only an extra $1.40, but I felt a bit like a western jerk after I awoke part way through the trip to find people sleeping on each other, sleeping all over the aisle floors and even sleeping while standing, with my bag comfortably slumbering on a seat of its own.
I arrived into Tiru at 4:00am and simply hung out in the bustling station for about 45 minutes, drinking chai, eating bananas, and just sitting there among the throng and breathing in a little of India. A tuktuk ride later and I was at a guest house where I stayed for part of my time here last year. Luckily for me they had a room available for a couple of nights. I’ll have to vacate for the full moon (large pilgrimage) night on the 29th, so I’ve got to work on finding another place which may not be so easy.
My first stop this morning will be to find an open internet cafe to let my father know that I’m not in Thailand as promised. It feels really nice to be here, but I’m definitely feeling a little guilty as well as I really wanted to see them and I know they were excited about seeing me. Hopefully, I’ll get to see him as well still on this trip before heading back to the states.