The money collector on the bus adamantly made sounds with his mouth that I could not interpret, but I understood his swishing hand waving me like a fly off the bus. I fell out of the crowded heat into the same heat and yes, it was crowded. There is no difference between what is within and without. The vendors and street folk paid no mind to my flustered presence; drenched in my own liquids, all my possessions on my back like a turtle, and my overheated rosey cheeked pale face. I attempted to orient my body with no luck, since I had no idea about anything. Having faith in the steward of the bus I was under the impression that I was in Tiruvannamalai. I had no idea where the Ashram was in relation to my position. I needed to sit. All of my senses of perception were still moving as if I was in a massive bus barreling down the crazy winding road through the somewhat organized chaos of India.
So I walked down the street seeking.
(As I sit right now at my desk in Portland, Oregon with music playing and typing on my computer in the light of a chill autumn, I cannot see this dream of a place, yet I can feel it and truly, literally see it on the periphery of my gaze.) I remember the orange of the earth and road. I was in the mountains now and the rocks were red orange like a late summer sunset. I remember all the action on the street and storefronts, all the signs, and the feel of my eyes fluttering, searching for something.
Food, food grounds you, right? And I was hungry for some of that dosa with the red curry and coconut spicey stuff. I saw a place that looked busy with indian folks. Actually, there were no westerners anywhere that I could see. I walked in to the establishment, my backpack bumping into posts and things. The place was very full, but there was a table in the back corner just in front of where you wash your hands before and after eating. Before, you want clean hands for eating, after, you have dirty hands for washing. Usually it is a long sink made of stone or cement with 4 or 5 spigots in a row. I clambered to the back table and sat down with a humpf. The waiter man came and waved his hand at me to open my banana leaf and wash it off. They were always waving their hands and yelling at me, but their scowls always had a tinge of a smile in them. I did as he suggested and he threw down a pile of rice that he scooped out of a three vessel container made of thin stainless steel. (All the pots and plate ware is made out of this material). He held it from a ring shaped handle on the top, so it hung like a lantern. He dolloped a curry over the steaming rice and two kinds of chutney, as well. I began scooping it up with my hand and attempting grace with this foreign action.
There was a lot of commotion in the restaraunt, many people and when I looked up I noticed a group of about eight or so people standing and staring at me with blank expressions on their faces. A whole family with extended relatives (and they probably all lived in the same two room home) thought I was something and I will never know what that something was. I smiled and waved hello to them. This, in general, had been working brilliantly for me (and the other). Every time, literally every time, I went out in the world, whenever I met someone’s gaze I would smile and the furrowed brows would lift and their mouth would widen into the most tender smile. But not here, not today.
So, I have been practicing Yoga (broad subject there) for close to twenty years and I still can’t seem to dismantle the deep and well established river of the ego. I was getting extremely self conscious and uncomfortable as they began pointing, whispering, laughing, and scowling with no smiles hiding in the creases. I have to admit my heart was breaking.
My main motivation in life is to be kind to others. Sometimes, much of the time, most of the time, I fuck up and learn. May my mistakes leave others unharmed, please!Here in India, I didn’t know where I was, and I had no friend beside me, and since they didn’t know who or what I was, neither did I. I stood up, picked up my bag, and with a big smile on my face, knowing they didn’t understand my language and lingo, I said, ‘Wow, thanks for making me feel so uncomfortable and weird. I think I’ll go now.” and then I waved goodbye and blew them a kiss.
Like I said, I fuck up, and learn.