Mahendi, Smoke & Chai...

Every moment here I am reminded that, no one is ever really alone in India, despite the odd feeling of foreign isolation. One week in, and already I know...with a deep understanding, that one can never really plan for or predict what a day here will hold. I'm learning much about surrender...about trust...and letting go. Going with the flow and learning with each step are really the only options, so I'm doing my best to remain present...open to anything...free-spirited yet cautious.

My time in Agra was...well...both wonderful and challenging. Perhaps the best way to recap is to share a bit from my journal....

*8 October 2009

Still in Agra...today's heat feels slightly less oppressive than yesterday's, but my clothes feel all wrong...clinging to me in all the wrong places...contrasting sharply the vibrant, light-weight fabrics that so beautifully drape the women of India. The sounds of this city are becoming familiar...the incessant beeping of horns...the spinning of that most essential of luxuries, the ceiling fan, forever whirring above my head...the delicate clinking of bangles, an echo of gentle movements...and Hindi, that beautiful alliteration, forever swirling past my ears......always, voices can be heard.

I'm 'taking rest' in my room, having moved from the quiet zone, near the Taj Mahal, to a quaint little place called Hotel Deepak on Fatehabad Road in Talganj. This place is less expensive but far more charming and the owner, Raju Gupta, seems like the sweetest of men with a smile that never dissipates or fades.

Thus far, my time in Agra has been anything but solitary as I have been well cared for by a gentleman named Sanjay. Ravi (the guide that brought Zach and I to Agra) assured me that I was in good hands, and I am beginning to believe him. I have had many unsure moments, but doing my best to listen to my gut, asking the question often...'Can I trust this man?' More and more, I do, but I am still on guard.'

 Too many minute details could fill this space, but...suffice it to say that, I was well looked after, despite my cautious skepticism. That moment of revelation, when the underlying motive was revealed, the moment in which I knew for sure what it was they really wanted...it simply never came. Still...these were my sentiments as I pondered the weeks surprises....

'The generosity I have thus far experienced has been entirely unexpected and, sadly, it's difficult to know how to receive it. I find myself always questioning....why are they being so nice to me? Why the gifts? Why the endless stream of complimentary Chai?...and breakfast...and lunch & dinner? That has been my struggle...how to accept graciously and gratefully while questioning their motives. Sanjay assures me that, I am their guest...it is their duty...but the skeptic in me has a hard time believing that. I keep waiting for that moment of revelation, that I hope never comes. I find this inclination to mistrust more than a bit disturbing...uncomfortable....sad. I so want to believe in the possibility that, quite simply, they are good-natured people who want me to feel welcome. But I suppose I can't expect myself to trust that after less than one week in this country. I suspect I'll relax into it as time passes.

For now....I'll simply continue has I have been....cautiously present...careful yet friendly...confident yet soft.'

Now...after what seems like too much time...this entry that has taken me several days to pen, feels already outdated and incomplete. Each day holds so very much...and my detail-oriented brain longs to retain all of it. But some wiser part of me knows that this is truly impossible.

Never have I seen so many perfectly brilliant moments unfolding with such beautifully fluid continuity. I oscillate between awed bliss and terrified bewilderment...marveling at my shocking ability to embody each sentiment so fully and so authentically while simultaneously experiencing its precise opposite so clearly and unmistakably.

The learning curve here is so very steep...and falling into India's chaotic rhythm is both intoxicating and horrifying. I have incredible moments of success, when communication seems seamless, despite a marked lack of verbal understanding, and subsequent moments of bitter failure, when the transfer of pertinent information seems as unlikely as pouring water backwards up a funnel. Yet...somehow...I manage. Through choppy translations and colorful pantomimes, I work it out. Anyone who knows me well can likely predict my difficulty when it comes to downsizing my vocabulary...but, here....even the simplest of words seem too complex.

So I find myself forever hovering at some wobbly precipice, grappling with a need to be understood, and wishing that such a necessity didn't exist.....wishing that I possessed some unlikely, super-human power to understand...to know and be known without the sticky barrier of differing languages.

Instead...I fumble haphazardly onward...feeling at turns unstoppable and unsure...certain yet doubtful....fearlessly apprehensive...the intrepid, vacillating gypsy.

*Tomorrow I leave for Haridwar, then onward to Rishikesh. I've been aiming myself in that direction for four days now, but India has apparently had other plans. A brief revisit of Delhi has been lovelier than I have words for...yet equally frustrating. Again....I haven't enough knowledge of the English language to properly summarize all that each moment holds, let alone outline the breadth of each day.

Until next time...I'll absorb what I can, and regurgitate as much as possible in the entries that follow.

For now...crickets beckon....the fan, still spins peacefully overhead....and tomorrow, so ripe with magic, waits patiently for me to awaken to its brilliance....