A FAREWELL TO ASIA
Trip Start Jan 15, 2011
43Trip End Mar 19, 2011
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Where I stayed
On a plane.
What I did
En route to Vienna.
I thought of the friends I had made - Iloh and little Mark Jr., Toshi, Ram, Deepak, Aman, Anup, Raj, Sadiq, Danesh, Arun, Parvine, Robin, Moolchand, the guys at Bali Joe's and all of the others.
I set candles afloat on the Ganges adrift from the cremation pyres a mere stone's throw away, and watched spirits soar from the burning corpses as families mourned their loved ones, while downstream the nearby pounding of drums and the Brahmins' chants created the intoxicating vibrancy of the Ganga Arti
Crowds, crowds, crowds dissolving into great spaces of desert vastness. Filth. Garishness. Beauty that's pure. Beauty that's ornate. A marraige of all that's garish and tasteful flashing past me in the blink of an eye. The wonder of the Taj Mahal, bold and masculine yet delicate as an upturned teacup of the finest bone china. Mysterious forests and gardens where magical and sacred rituals reigned supreme. The most bejeweled palaces in the world next door to the most wretched slums. Cows and camels vying for rights of passage with human pedestrians in the streets. The thrill of straddling the back of a motorbike zooming into the unknown through blackouts in villages nestled high in the Himalayas. The exclusive worlds of the dhobi ghats and the dabbawallas of Mumbai. Elephant Isle, home to monkeys and wild dogs but no elephants. The world's tallest sundial. The Hindu Wheel of Life. Buddhist prayer wheels. Rubies, amethysts and erotic temples. My first taste of yak meat and pickled hemp and a renewed love of curry
I was embracing all I had set out to do, and more! A tear formed in my eyes. I thought of Jim in the seat next to me. Of course, it was a stranger, but I closed my eyes and we were back in the days when we traveled together. He was with me now. I could feel him. I just, perhaps selfishly, craved his physical presence next to me
I learned both of us had lived in Varanasi. I know I didn't write about this when I was there. I'm still processing it. Too many unwarranted memories of that city, so foreign yet distantly familiar, too many returning images of an ancient past...
Posted, outside a tent encampment, perhaps standing guard, in the balmy darkness of night during a tribal war, sword in sheath at my waist, my comrades behind a nearby tent flap discussing strategy. Lying dead from disease in a grand room of white and gold, it's northern wall open to the elements facing a river - our palace - while my wives mourned over me, one of them Jim...oh yes, there have been MANY lives together in different capacities.
Too many tidbits of information I remembered about customs and beliefs, gods and deities, temples, tastes, colors, sights, smells, sounds, the memory of koshi slowly coming back to me (remember koshi?)
Or maybe I just imagined it? That I wanted, needed so badly to keep alive the spiritual connection with Jim's soul that I created it? I do know this much. Each and every one of us creates our own reality. And this is very, very real to me, so I know it was real. Beyond my awareness until it was too late, I had fallen in love with India. It had not only gifted the one thing, the very purpose for this wayfaring mission and what I needed to hold onto the most: an inextricable link to Jim's spirit. Stealing closer and closer toward the skies over Europe, I feel the imagary of this ancient land begin to drift away as in a dream. I must never let go!