I lay down to rest last night and the word ‘forgiveness’ sprang up. I thought we were going to be writing about my relationship with dad. My lined yellow pad was close at hand. The next instant I was in the Bombay (currently Munbai ) airport. Our plane from Athens had landed late and there was no traffic into the city. While waiting for morning, some of us travelers introduced ourselves.
I spoke with two young German travelers, who were heading to Pakistan. I had taken the Sivananda Teachers Training Course in NYC years earlier and had stayed and taught at their ashram in London. My intention was to do the same at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre in Trivandrum, Kerala. This was my second trip to Asia. The first trip was to Vietnam, to kill in support of Democracy, and I wanted to start in a familiar setting.
The couple had been to India previously and I asked them about interesting places to visit. They told me about a place near Bombay where visitors didn’t talk, sleep or eat and some went crazy. Parents had to come and take some of the children home. The crazy place struck a chord. We got off the bus the next morning and parted ways. I registered at a hostel and reserved a place in the next 10 day Vipassana Retreat Center at Igatpuri, near Bombay.
Those first few days in India were very challenging. After being told for years not to eat or drink anything in this country, there I was walking around that first afternoon, in sweltering heat, through throngs of bustling brown bodies, and about to drop dead from dehydration. My first drink in India was coconut water from a freshly beheaded green coconut. After awhile I was eating at local places with locals, using my right hand, off of banana leaves. So much for believing what you are told, before experiencing it.
That first time I stayed in Bombay for just a few days. I went down to Goa, where all the hippies were living and spent time sunning on the beach nude. Native tourists disembarked from their busses and took photos of the foreigners baking in the noonday sun. They, men, women and kids, waded into the water fully clothed. I don’t recall if they got back on their buses dripping wet. A case of different folks, different strokes.
The 3rd class train ride, (first of many) down south to Trivandrum was a jolting experience. There wasn’t an inch of open space, anywhere. There were folks on top of the cars, between the cars, contorted in the luggage racks and packed up against each other like sardines in the can. There were pigs, goats, chickens and maybe other animals mooing, squealing, squawking and joining in the cacophony of human chatter and train rumblings. After a short while I began to meet and commune with other folks, locals and travelers, on the trains.
I may have to rearrange the sequence of noted events. I am removing the dusty webs from events 30+ years ago.
As I sit here finger tapping away, train stories are floating to the surface. There is one I recall now. I was volunteering at Mother Teresa’s Center in Calcutta, and working in the TB ward. Every evening our small group met to discuss what had happened that day. Mother Teresa walked in. The room fell silent. She stood next to where I was sitting. Her hands were gnarled and appeared arthritic. She thanked us all for being there, said she had just opened up an AIDS Center in New York City and asked us to pray for its success. She then blessed us all and closed the door behind her.
There I go meandering again. The train story!
There were two sisters from Wisconsin volunteering at Mother Teresa’s Center. My birthday was a few days away. They wanted to give me a surprise birthday gift. The first time I took a First Class train in India was in Calcutta with these two women. The train, only three or four cars was virtually empty. The underground ride was only 3 or 4 stops, but very few locals could afford the ride, about a dollar I think. The surprise turned out to be one I have never forgotten.
More later. It’s 9:56 PM, New Years eve and the explosives are beginning to frighten Kaia. Exploding fireworks always remind me of Vietnam, so I consistently avoid them. The VC blew up our ammo depot and the rounds exploded for days afterwards. Memories, memories, memories.
Gotta go console my canine companion.