That sub-continent has held me in its arms since I was a child. In two weeks, I will make the arduous trek to the northern Punjab for a month-long retreat near Jullundur.
I can’t wait to leave behind the technology, the phones, the texts, the white and black noise of our western world. I will have no contact except for emergencies.
Last time I volunteered in the clinic as an RN. This year, I might put my proof-reading skills to work in the ashram office.
I share this prose poem with you.
Perhaps you might “feel” the emotion that drives me to undergo a 36 hour journey to a village half-way across the globe. I’ll think of you when I’m on the ten hour train ride from New Delhi to Beas. I know I’m a romantic. But when India calls, the romance calls.
Dreaming of the Ganges, Again
The brown river ribbon wraps around red banks of Punjab soil and meanders in sluggish rhythm to the whooping of wild peacocks. Silken robes swish behind me in a meditative march but I dare not stare at another’s contemplation. I do not know who walks behind but he feels safe, the feet have the same rhythm as mine, a slow slipping of toes up and down, down and up, balanced in the soft, stinking mud-water river’s edge.
On the opposite bank a sitar moans atonal chords and picks deep into memory, raising the magic of childhood chai from street vendors, the sweet aroma of onion- filled chapattis and salted smoke from ground ovens (where bakers sometimes fall in and disappear forever)
White magnolia sweetness and sliced papayas soften the fragrance of skinny dead dogs muted where they fell on city streets. Mango juice and rotting lettuce waft their odors across the peacocks whose tails paint the color of blood woven with hints of cobalt and emerald, filtering sunlight juxtaposed against the flocks of one-legged cranes.
Two paths twist into the distant hills and a pilgrim climbs, one measured step at a time, ascending an inner Everest to the call of a higher voice, the magnetic Himalayas, their curved graceful lines charting a cloudy horizon, a soft merging, like tinted hills on canvas, a pilgrim’s charcoal rubbings…
Cinnamon and cloves spiral from steaming chai in my cracked cup
I taste the acrid grit from last night’s cremation
tiny bone fragments crunching under my feet
I put my hands together to pay homage
To the ancient land
cinnamon, red tamarind, cloves and masala dripping from an overturned beggar’s bowl like the dripping dew in dry season
distant scent of sun-dried sheets hanging in cool air after last week’s monsoon rain and the coursing of little rivers through my veins
a bleeding out of humanity’s heritage,
thousands of years of solitude,
like fractured light seeping through thunder clouds
like a spark from the lightning that never sparks
or the sweet sound of jingling rupees in a child’s pocket
The sun sets under my dangling feet—
itsruby reflection in the Ganges.
**** ***** ****
We’ll talk when I return….
Palms together. Kaye