I don’t have to get it straight

June 23, 2010

Leaving the Local Intelligence Unit S.S.P. Office (I forgot to ask what S.S.P. stands for) I feel less sure about my future dealing with the Indian border police than when I entered the office. The day started with sorting, gifting really. A backpack that some store in Bangalore (maybe Adventure Worx, I can’t remember) gave me as a free gift, Herman Hesse’s Siddartha, some oils that I’ve used and treasured for months, a pair of nice sunglasses and extra hand sanitizer. Extra weight and bulk which I’m sure I still have more of.

Anyway, I retrieved my lock from the Sikh temple where I left it, picked up my dirty laundry (dude said ‘power out, no clean’), and ate lots of ice cream and chocolate at the new Cafe Coffee Day here in Nainital. After making plans to meet up for a trek in three months, I left Girish Bhatt, Director of Hilltop Tourist Point and headed to the Local Intelligence Unit. The first official; instructed me to leave for Delhi today to apply for an extension on my visa. That didn’t appeal to me, so I spoke with the lead investigator and he told me that I’d have no problems at the border. Exit papers are not needed. We’ll see…

The following recursively defined series is what I think of when I go through difficult time:

u1 ε R, ui+1 = -½ui

As the number of terms increase, the series approaches zero from the positive and negative sides, just as the most productive learning situations. The fraction can be decreased for slower learners or increased for faster learners, but it must be between 1 and zero. I have a hole in my heel. Part of it was cut out during a pilgrimage in Than. A rock in the desert. This keeps making its presence felt, just as my inability to travel smoothly without challenges. My train ticket from Hospet to Bhuj was canceled automatically since it was waitlisted (which I failed to notice when booking) and I didn’t confirm it.

Luckily, many people accommodated me in the sleeper class by letting me sit with their family or friends, and two guys slept together so that I could have a bed at night. Each time the conductor came, my neighbors would tell me to go hide in the toilet for 15 minutes and they would knock when he had passed. For my ticket from Bareilly to Kathgodam, I booked for the wrong day, bought a general ticket, waited eight hours plus four more hours since the train was late. Again, I was accommodated by kind passengers in sleeper class.

One of the Singhs at the Sikh temple aolng with Girish Bhatt informed me about the 2:30pm bus to Tanakpur from Nainital which would pass through Banbasa, the town nearest to the Nepal-India border on nthe Indian side in Uttarakhand. At 1:50pm I leave the park bench where I’m reading The Savage Detectives by Robert Bolaño and at 2:01 pm I’m told that the bus to Tanakpur left at 2:00 pm.

No problem!

I jump in a bus for Haldwani to catch a bus to Tanakpur. When at Haldwani I’m told eleven times that the Tanakpur bus will come at five. Two Indian guys take responsibility for me and take me on a bus before 5:00, which turns out to be a bus to Bareilly, but we’re getting off at Kichha. A short cut? Once we get to Kichha I find out that the Tanakpur bus left at 5:30 and it’s 5:33.

This is when I decide that the alpha man of my two ‘helpful’ Indian friends has caused me a problem and I tell him so in a loud voice so that about eight other Indian guys come stand around to closely observe the foreigner making a scene. Expectation is the mother of all of my disappointed children. The analogy is the closest I will come to admitting a space for celibacy in my life. I have to stop fucking around with expectation.

After my scene has come to a close, the two guys responsible for me (of couirse the produces another bastard) get on a bus with me and I ask, ‘Is this the bus to Tanakpur?’ and they and everyone else waggle their heads and I don’t know the answer. One of my caretkers gets a ring on his cellphone, says something about a carpenter, grabs his friend, goes out of the bus and the bus drives away with me waggliung my head with headphones on. The last stop is Khatima, where I argue with a jeep driver for a Rs. 50 ride through a river and to a Rs.200 fan room in Banbasa.

It’s nice to sit in someone else’s room and stare at a map saying, what the hell?!

June 23, 2010

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Visa problems?

June 22, 2010

I have most likely made a huge oversight. I don’t have paperwork for exiting India. Who knew you need permission to leave the country? My visa expires in two days… time to make some phone calls.
Unde habeas quaerit nemo, sed oportet habere.

A view from Cafe Coffee Day in Almora

I’m talking with Bhart at the tourist information center below Cafe Coffee Day in Nainital. He tells me that two days is plenty of time to get my situation rectified. We’ll see. I go to the police station to inquire about exit requirements for the Nepal border crossing with an employment visa. They tell me to go to the Local Intelligence Office. I will have to go in the morning since it’s closed, so I can stop worrying about visa problems for the rest of the day.

It’s time now to beg for another night. Last night I stayed at Gurudwara Dharmasala, in the hall, with many Sikh devotees, for a small donation. I got a locker and a space on the floor big enough to sprawl out on. I arrive at Gurudwala, take off my shoes and cover my head with the supplied cotton handkerchief and walk in to speak to the same young man that registered me last night. He is very evasive towards me and keeps saying ‘one night only.’ I tell him that I understand that there are pilgrims who are staying at the hall to visit the temple and I will sleep outside if he’ll only let me keep my bags in the locker. He refuses. I continue to beg until I realize that I have to figure out a plan C.

I put my boots back on, return the handkerchief to its orange and maroon pile and walk to get a cigarette that I would have and tell myself ‘this too shall pass.’ The guy at the small stand speaks English, so I ask him which part of the woods is the best place to sleep. He tells the guys in the back who are playing cards what I asked them and they all laugh. He tels me about several expensive hotels, over Rs. 400. Customers keep coming and I keep stepping aside, making sure that I’m not standing in front of any chips or snacks. In my continually broken conversation with the three guys that rotate from the card game into the cashier position and then back into the card game, I finally am told that there is one place called A-von Hotel which offers dorm accommodation. I make note of the confusing directions and wind my way through the streets of Nainital until I find the hotel and ask the manager for a bed in the dormitory.

It’s not surprising that the manager tells me that they don’t have dorm accommodation and that their cheapest room is Rs. 2500; I am a foreigner… money bags. I ask him where else I can go, ‘Is there a roof that I can sleep on? I don’t mind sleeping in the woods.’ He asks, ‘Cabin OK?’ ‘Yes! Cabin!,’ I tell him, not knowing what a cabin is to him. A guy from the kitchen takes me up and shows me two cabin rooms the size of mattresses that have windows. I say ‘Perfect! How much?’ ‘I just kitchen,’ he says.On the way down I see a hall filled with mattresses. I tell the owner downstairs I want to sleep in the hall that I saw. He charged me Rs. 200, which is way too much, but foreigners traveling to Nainital in the high season get ripped off. Everything is relative anyway.

June 22, 2010

Train to Bareilly

June 20, 2010

I’m getting used to being stared at all of the time, but even though I expect to have eyes on me, the feeling that accompanies it is still discomfort with a dash of disgust. It’s really creepy to me when a guy is staring at me who’s sitting next to me. Indian men have little idea of the ‘man space’ that American men expect. I sometimes have a man pushed up against me, but on his other side, there is plenty of space for him to move over. Then there is the guy who is leaning forward a bit with his head turned so that he can stare straight at me. This happens often when I’m reading a book and even though I can see him staring right into my face, I don’t take my eyes off of the book, but keep[ reading and let him get a good look. One day it will be beautiful ladies staring at me at I’ll be an expert at playing hard to get.

The train ride from Bhuj to Bareilly keeps my skin moist with sweat. The open windows let in a hot breeze while the overhead fan blows that hot air around. The enjoyment comes only from knowing that I paid so little for this trip. If I was with a companion, I would go by A/C sleeper class, because I am in no mood to converse in this humid and stuffy train. The train car is at maximum capacity and many more men in dirty and clean white shirts and women in colorful saris glistening in sweat, yelling and pushing past each other gives me a feeling that a sanctuary is necessary for any semblance of contentment. I always have booked upper berth so that I can climb up and have privacy whenever I feel overwhelmed , but I was feeling experimental when I booked this ticket for lower berth and felt stuck. Stuck. Luckily, as the afternoon sun began to bake the inside of the train, the upper berth passengers all abandoned their seats and I jumped up before anyone could throw their luggage on the bed above.

I spend hours alternating between short sweaty naps and reading a few hundred pages of The Savage Detectives. Not being able to sit up on the upper berth bed, I lay on my right side to read the left page of the book and my left side for the right page. Having a better memory, maybe I could keep from turning continually by reading all of the left pages, then the right pages and then piecing the story together.

Getting water was another adventure. Running out of the train as it came to a halt, I had to literally push old ladies to get water after I dumped the boiling hot old water which was already in my bottle.

Bhuj

June 19, 2010

In Bhuj, The Omelet Center on Station Road is the place for breakfast if you aren’t a vegetarian. They offer free range eggs and, like everywhere else, flies.

Around the corner about two ‘blocks’ down there is a motorcyle rental shop where you an get a Hero Honda for Rs. 350 per day to explore the villages of Kutch. Make sure you either have a puncture kit or are ready to walk your bike to a village with a mechanic. I had no kit, so I walked my bike to some village that starts with a B.

Crap. I’m outside Bareilly railway station and I just realized that I booked my next ticket for this morning, which already passed. The next train is scheduled for 4:50 am. It’s the 20th of June, but I thought it would be the 19th.

Dhordo and Than

June 18, 2010

I’m sitting on the ledge of the roof of the four story Shiva nath of the village of Than in Gujarat.

I’ve had a fear of heights, but not now. The wind blowing hard, pushing my body towards its final motions, only makes me feel more confident in my ability to trust in my circumstance. The moments I’ve had here have been so overwhelmingly warm that I needed to be up here to process and reflect.

Now it’s time for sleep.

The man who runs this place seemed upset that the sadhus share their chillum. Oh, I couldn’t sleep without remembering this man. He threw the bed cushion and pillow that were provided for me when he saw that I had stacked two cushions for myself. I didn’t realize that he and another traveler were also sleeping on the roof. When I said hello to him in the dark after his display of anger, he acted so kind and brought me another pillow and cushion so I would again have two of each.

It seems that so many foreigners come through this place just to stay the night and do not show any appreciation for the temple of Than and the hilltop pilgrimage temple.

Every picture I took was appreciated. Every time I wrote, they smiled.

Prior to reaching Than, I drove further north to the village of Dhordo. Visiting this village required me to obtain a permit from the Bhuj police station since Dhordo is very close to Pakistan.

Walking into Dhordo, the first people I saw were a group of children. I tried to take their picture as they had such beautiful eyes and faces, but when I took out my camera they all ran into a building. A stern man approached me and informed me that they were going to Arabic school to study the Qur’an and then stared at me intently. I said As-Salāmu  Alaykum and walked further into the village.

Wandering around a small labyrinth of earthen homes, suddenly a beautiful girl popped out staring at me with a big smile. Even if she could have spoken English, I would have been lost for words. She could have trapped me in Dhordo with her beauty, so I fordced myself to look away and move on to take a few photos of the village’s water pumps and reservoirs.

water level measurement tool and well in reservoir of Dhordo

Upon leaving Dhordo I saw a shop selling cold drinks. In forty-five degree Celsius weather, I become quite the beverage consumer, so I picked up a sweaty bottle of orange soda. That’s when I met Elias and took him on my rented motorcycle to his farmhouse.

Elias and his horse

Bhuj on bicycle

June 17, 2010

Bhuj on bicycle was good for my weak left knee. It’s an easy place to get around and find what your looking for once you visit Aina Mahal and get a map from Pramod Jethi.

I cycled the day away visiting this place and that tea stall, drinking tea made from buffalo milk and playing bansuri for five Bhuj police officers inside the station. Once one person knows my name in Bhuj, everyone within 100 yards knows it within two minutes.

I definitely suggest experiencing Bhuj and its surrounding villages.

Driving to Than from Dhordo down familiar and unfamiliar roads, I pass a lori on a narrow eastern strip of road. As I passed, the driver held out his hand and I put up my hand to grab the cigarette he was holding, which would later be broken and smoked with the buffalo herders.

Stopping at the Tropic of Cancer boarder sign I took out my camera and noticed the kickstand was lying on the ground as the bike kept leaning towards the road. Having no bolt, I secured the stand with a strong stick. It must have been a noise that caused me to turn around and look into the shrubs to see buffalo herders.

I made my way to say hello and enjoy fresh fresh buffalo milk chai over and open wood fire. These guys were so giving and enjoyable to spend time with.

Ahmadabad cocoa tea

June 16, 2010

Ahmadabad on foot flew the first twig of the nest which Gujarat has is my heart. After dropping my bags in the Ahmadabad railway station cloak room, I took my Rs. 2 toilet and Rs. 5 bucket shower and was ready to venture out into the capitol city.

Walking down the sides streets, I saw an older man sitting on a storefront stoop. I sat down, put my palms together and said jeshi Krishna. I think he enjoyed hearing those words coming out of a foreigners mouth. Three or four hours went by before I left that block. So many guys came to talk to me, ask me where I’m from and listen to me play the Hindi song Pal Pal or the one raga I know on the bansuri. I was given many cigarettes and cocoa chai. I ended up visiting an internet café, Akshardaam and returning to the railway station for a bucket shower before my train to Bhuj.

Shedding Expectations

June 15, 2010

I got friends Lord, but not today, cause they done washed away. It’s light out. Did I miss my stop? Where am I going? Oh yeah, I’m going to Bhuj and I forgot to rip the map out of my Lonely Planet book. They should really split that tome into north India and south India.

I didn’t miss my stop. I can tell because the guy sleeping across from me sees my confusion and waves me the universal sign which indicates to me that everything is alright. I must have told him I’m headed to Bhuj. Why am I going to Bhuj?

In Bhuj. I suppose that the Rs. 110 room that I am sitting in was reason enough to spend a few days here. The ceiling fan keeps sweat from beading.

In each place that I’ve spent the night, I’ve left something that I don’t really need in an effort to shed some weight and bulk from my baggage. I also hope to shed worries and expectations other the way. I had finished reading ‘I Sat By the River Pierdra and Cried’ feeling unaffected. It was highly recommended by Josh, the dharma bum trash-eating anarchist. I did thoroughly enjoy reading ‘Siddartha’ by Herman Hesse, which I believe was gifted to me by my Aunt Bridget and Uncle Jim.

Hampi

June 14, 2010

I met Sydney and Jean Marie after checking into some guesthouse. They are Parisians, so I asked for a cigarette and we became friends. Comparing Chirac’s ability to speak well in public to Bush Jr. sealed the deal. We drank bhang lassi and traversed the majestic ruins of Hampi.

two bad-ass Parisians in ruins

I was fortunate enough to have brought my bansuri. I was able to get a cheaper rate on three tilakas after playing a simple raag.

When it came to visiting an island, the foreign visitors haggled too low for their one way ticket. The boat boy was nowhere to be found when it became dark and the three miscreants needed a cheap ride back. After one hour of yelling across the river, a fisherman was summoned and the foreigners found a lone woman to feed them.

Many chess parties. We parted in a tired haze.

For more Hampi pictures reflecting my lone wanderings and interest in erotic carvings click here! This link will only work for my Facebook friends… so comment below if you want to see the pics but cannot.

Rumi “Whispers of the Beloved”

March 11, 2010

I cannot sleep in your prescence.
In your absence, tears prevent me.
You watch me My Beloved
On each sleepless night and
Only You see the difference

Looking at my life
I see that only Love
Has been my soul’s companion
From deep inside
My soul cries out:
Do not wait, surrender
For the sake of Love.

If you can’t smell the fragrance
Don’t come into the garden of Love.
If you’re unwilling to undress
Don’t enter into the stream of Truth.
Stay where you are.
Don’t come our way.

All year round the lover is mad,
Unkempt, lovesick and in disgrace.
Without love there is nothing but grief.
In love… what else matters?

Love is our Mother and
The way of our Prophet.
Yet it is in our nature
To fight with Love.
We can’t see you, mother,
Hidden behind dark veils
Woven by ourselves.

Do you want to enter paradise?
To walk the path of Truth
You need the grace of God.
We all face death in the end.
But on the way, be careful
Never to hurt a human heart!

Do you know what the music is saying?
“Come follow me and you will find the way.
Your mistakes can also lead you to the Truth.
When you ask, the answer will be given.”

The Master who’s full of sweetness
Is so drunk with love, he’s oblivious.
“Will you give me
some of your sweetness?”
“I have none,” he says,
unaware of his richness.

You know what love is?
It is all kindness, generosity.
Disharmony prevails when
You confuse lust with love, while
The distance between the two
Is endless.

This Love is a King
But his banner is hidden.
The Koran speaks the Truth
But its miracle is concealed.
Love has pierced with its arrow
The heart of every lover.
Blood flows but the wound is invisible.