The train arrives at 4:10 a.m. sharp. Rickshaw drivers divide, rapidly scanning the platform of dispersing passengers. I am an easy mark. Setting the wheels in motion the rickshaw rides the chunky waves of turbulent pavement into the waking city. Jarring jolts reach up to meet the tires at the peak of each crest until finally we reach the periphery. Navigating narrow back alleys, we move on foot toward the ghats. Plodding through piles of rotting trash, assaulting strong sharp stenches of urine suffuse the expanding humidity, consuming the senses and assaulting the mind. Cows fire runny bombs at the ground; gutter dogs scavenge decaying refuse; smeared blobs of thick black sludge clot the way.
A guesthouse is taken out of desperation. Exhausted and hot, I’ve no desire to slog through another obstacle-ridden passage and the rickshaw driver is losing patience, despite his vested interest. I shower and head out into the steaming afternoon sun now pushing a muggy haze through the city’s veins. The city crawls with connections: gems, textiles, gods and drugs. Temptations with a price tag. Every man with a vested interest. Every man with a brother. Competition in the tourist barren streets drives hunger to the extremes, embodiments of rats in a maze.
My only wish is for escape.
Confused in the network of backstreets, dizzy, hot and sticky, I am stuck in the labyrinth, lost. I can’t find my guesthouse. The city is teeming with sweaty men looking to make a buck. From every crevice they slither through the cracks. “Silk. You want silk?” “Do you smoke? You want hash? Cocaine?”
Finally, I find my way back. Power cuts rip through the afternoon heat; generator engines churn. A sweat soaked, deranged sleepless night sends me fleeing into the arms of sanctity. I move to a hotel. Deep within the Assi Ghat, I crave the sterility of normalcy and the protection of a staff, albeit small and zealous.
Finally able to draw cool air, I spend the day sheltered from the outside world, hidden in air-cooled refuge. The heat however has taken its toll, sapping all motivation and wrecking havoc on my metabolism, now staggering to a meager crawl. After months of meditation, firmly established in my routine, my practice is heading toward derailment. I am struggling.
I question choices made. Caressing the dark recesses of my psyche loneliness tells me, I alone am responsible for my choices and things could be different. Fear, anger and frustration shove their way in. A worthless pursuit of the unattainable. Is this my quest? It is in these shadows a battle ensues.
I awaken and force myself to meditate. It’s not silent and it’s not pretty; but I do it. I then force myself to do Yoga. Something happens. Like stepping through a cleansing film, relief washes over me. Sitting with this feeling, I dissect the last seventy-two hours.
I think about my practice. Six years ago, if anyone had told me that Spirituality would enter my life as a focus of existence, the messenger would have surely been deemed nuts. Practice isn’t separate from life but I am constantly forced to evaluate my reasons for making this choice — and it is to experience the freedom of self-realization. There are those who look upon this quest as seeking God but I prefer the term liberation. I am seeking liberation.
And it’s a bitch.
~ by Christine Fowle