Every so often I hear stories of people traveling the exotic lands (invariably India) in search of spiritual awakening, and they claim to find it – mind you I’m talking about average Joes here, not the kind that exchange autobiographies over chinks of champagne and the occasional blob of caviar their tiny mouths will hold. Well, if its that easy then I want it – not spiritual awakening or the caviar per se but even an epiphany would suit me just fine.
It certainly seems like I stand at prime position being Indian and all to launch, glazed-eyed into “Memoirs of a beautiful people” or “A 1001 insights into Kamasutra” or “Musings from the foothills of the Himalayas” – well, you get the picture. I speak out of despondency when I say that I got diddly out of those trips that I have made religiously every year for the past 7 years, frequent flyer miles – not complaining about.
I was talking to a girlfriend of mine the other day, a bride-to-be so oblivious of the perils that await the bedazzled duet with shimmers in their eyes and nothing but the burden of a cello in their hearts – gaiety filled her demeanor as she described a well planned trip via Frankfurt (oof if only Muthu had sent in our schengen visa applications on time) off and away into a sea of eager kin, hungry for a fleeting first glimpse – pride in their eyes, not only from seeing the apple of their eye descend the escalator wearing the whitest of tennis shoes, but also of having an uncle in the family whose sole influence on a certain member of the customs department would see the couple through a dreary immigration queue. I look at her naivete, churning up visions beyond the curtain – I want to say to her “Beware my innocent! You know not what lies beyond – clouds of pollution that fog the streets of human cognition, endless drivel dotted with mindless repetition, reason completely lost in dead habit….under-handed shenanigans, egotism, nepotism, ….fly away little bird your nest is no more”, instead what comes out is a meek “take plenty of pictures!”
I’ve decided I have had enough. Here and now, a journey begins – if not the holy land, driving through appalachian West Virginia to Indiana should still make for a meaningful sojourn.
Armed with the powers of the AAA plastic, 18 hours of Striptease in an audiobook and music from the likes of India Arie to MJ to an unknown spewing -music- like- stone- rubbing -against- ground glass artist, some mind-numbing futuristic Bhangra-rap thrown in for good measure, I crank up my faithful Honda. It is an odd moment this – the ever-fluttering mind knows not what lies ahead and yet there is focus and a sense of purpose. I would call it blissful oblivion but there is excitement and the intellect is herding perceiver and feeler to keep those wheels of my body in motion. Holy curds! Have I just reached step one of spiritual realization?!—— I’m just getting ahead of myself…
Ignoring the sometimes perilous ascent due to dense fog and the groaning of my aged Honda, I must say -that Blue Ridge mountain range with its pristine presence, boasting its challenges, cherishing its solitude, yet offering its natural bounty simply blew my mind.
The ascent is slow and I let myself ponder on the whats and the whys, India Arie is crooning – I am not my hair I am not this skin….”What exactly did my ma mean when she said I was the lucky star that would stick my hand in a pot of mud, yet find gold? How come I haven’t become the world renowned healer-singer-artist that I was raised to be? Am I on the right track? How would I look if I colored my hair deep fuchsia?” From the depths of this muddle a song floats out and tickles my lips and we all know how ironically liberated one feels to have control of the wheel yet lose control over ones vocal chords…
Oh I’ve been to Georgia and California
And anywhere I could run
Took the hand of a preacher man
And we made love in the sun
But I ran out of places
And friendly faces
Because I had to be free
I’ve been to paradise
But I’ve never been to me…
…never been to me-e-ee-e-eee….Maybe that’s my answer—- maybe I should stop sticking my hand in those mud pots. The rest of my journey is as uneventful as can be although it feels like Ive had a shovelful of drama (not to mention I’m a bit wiser on the inner workings of the gentlemen’s clubs ) but I would do it again, in a heartbeat. I feel inquisitive as I think about my friend -she must be honeymooning in God’s own country- what kind of awakening would she have had? Or would she? As for my own self-unfoldment let me just say in all pomposity that its a work in progress. Or, there might be something in those holy lands after all – that said we’ll just have to wait for Musings from the foothills of the Himalayas to find out.
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