And it Never Fails…

February 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

January 10th:

Oh, tuk-tuk drivers… it’s a love/hate relationship with every single one. When I arrived in Agra, I walked out of the train station to find a sea of drivers ready and waiting. Is all I could hear is, “Hey miss, right this way”, “Hey miss, very, very good price for you”, “Hey miss, me know good hotel”, and my personal favorite, “Hey miss, he’s no good.” One person saying that, fine. Twenty, not so fine. It’s enough to make your head spin. Personally, I almost always go with someone who isn’t jumping down my throat. This time, my selection was a young man by the name of Shabu. He was calm, spoke decent English, charged 20 rupees less than the guidebook suggested, and he didn’t try to pressure me, which I appreciated.

While seated in the back, he handed me a small notebook with several entries from travelers alike. After flipping through it, I thought he might be able to offer a good suggestion for my evening meal. I said that I’d prefer to eat where the locals do, and he said he knew just the place. On that note, I asked that he return to fetch me in a few hours.

He arrived just before sunset and took me on a quick spin around the city, and then to see the backside of the Taj Mahal (AMAZING…more on that later!), where there’s no entrance fee. After that, he offered to take me to the train station to sort out my ticket for Varanasi, which is next on the list. He was so incredibly helpful and patient, and best of all, he let me drive his tuk-tuk! As a kind gesture, I offered to buy him dinner, to which he declined, but opted for some tea instead, and joined me at the table. This is where things went south…

Our conversation quickly went from where did you grow up and how large is your family to why I am traveling alone, do I like massages, and what is my relationship status – let the red flags wave! Somewhere in the middle of our twenty questions routine, another man seated next to us, grabbed my leg from under the table and attempted to remove my shoes and socks! What the hell!?! I practically leaped out of my seat. Long story short, my boyfriend is now my husband, I didn’t finish my dinner, and I ended the night on an uneasy note, curled up in my bed, missing home. Deep breaths.

Travel by Train

February 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

January 9th:

I had my first experience with the Indian railway system and let’s just say I’m still in shock, some five hours later. Yes, it’s extensive, expansive, and relatively inexpensive, compared to most forms of transportation in the area, but yikes! Luckily my introduction was brief, as I arrived in Agra after only three hours. Had it not been for the cute little girl tugging on my ponytail, kissing my hands, and insisting we play patty-cake, I might have jumped out the window.

The station was a zoo. I stood there trying to make sense of it all, when a gentleman approached me and asked to see my ticket. When I confirmed that he worked for the railway, I handed it over, and he proceeded to give me directions to the terminal, along with some fatherly advice: don’t talk to anyone until seated – no exceptions. He made very clear that every man beyond that point had ill intentions and that I was to look down, ignore everyone, and most importantly, not let go of my bags for any reason. He forgot to mention the metal detector ahead, so you can imagine the look on my face when I had to place my bags on a conveyor belt surrounded by 100+ on the other end.

I dropped my things, made a run for it as if I were Usain Bolt, and literally shoved me way to the front in order to claim my things! Sometimes it’s the simplest of tasks that cause your heart to skip a beat.

It’s difficult, because the train was something I would have loved to photograph, but doing so would have been very risky, with elbows flying and feet kicking. After all this time, I still don’t know when it’s worth taking a chance with my gear. Maybe next time. I did happen to snap a quick shot of the little girl, thanks to my iphone. Such a doll.

Indian-girl

I’m in India!

February 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

January 8th:

What a journey. After twenty-six long and uncomfortable hours, my plane touched down in New Delhi, just before midnight. Anything over four to five hours has me tossing and turning, but luckily I had Ginger Ale and horrible Richard Gere movies to pass the time – yay! I tried to get some shuteye between Seattle and Paris, but a (curious?) French lady across the aisle took an interest in me, and decided to pass the time by staring my way. With only two feet between us, it made it virtually impossible to focus on anything.

On the last leg I was temporarily seated next to an old Indian man who wanted to go through my belongings, read my notes, and kidnap my book. It was a refreshing change; I’ll happily take that over staring contests any day. He talked and talked, but the only thing I understood was that he resides in Boston and is visiting family for the next two weeks. Other than that it was all gibberish; just because someone speaks English, doesn’t mean it’s the same language.

Our time together was short lived, as a stewardess eventually offered me an aisle seat up the way. At that point, I thought I was going to have to pry my book out of his hands in order to get it back. What a cute little fellow.

I was spent by the time I arrived at my guesthouse in Paharganji, also known as Slum Station – local’s words, not mine – so I called it a night. As I drifted off to sleep, listening to the sound of stray dogs wreaking havoc in the streets, I did my best to fight off the feeling of loneliness. The first few nights are always the hardest when on your own and away from home.

I awoke the next morning feeling well rested and ready to explore. Walking into the street was like landing on the moon, or so I presume. It’s a very different world here. The congestion is mind boggling. I’m not sure how anyone gets anywhere in a timely manner… or at all for that matter – Saigon has nothing on this. The air is thick and heavy, even though it’s cool, and after a few hours roaming the streets, a slight burning sensation took over my nose. I’m guessing that’s not a good sign.

My wandering proved fruitful, as I took in much more of the city sites than I had originally intended, and all were enjoyable. First stop was the Ghandi Memorial Museum, which turned out to be the highlight of my day. Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948. Shortly after his death, collectors began searching all of India for anything of importance, so that a center could be created not only to commemorate him, but as a way to bring life to his teachings. They did a wonderful job. Walking off the grounds, I couldn’t help but feel moved… in a way, we’re all guilty of fighting the wrong battles, with the wrong tools, and for the wrong reasons. What a truly beautiful and remarkable human being.

After treating myself to a delicious snack of sambusa, it was time to visit Humayun’s Tomb, also known as “Mini Taj”. The structure was commissioned by Emperor Humayun’s wife, Hamjida Banu Begum, in 1562 AD. Take the Taj Mahal, paint it red and then shrink it down in size, and you’ve got yourself Humayun’s resting grounds! It’s quite amazing, really. When I go, just put me in an incinerator and call it good. Nice and easy. No tombs or temples needed.

Last but not least, was a stop at the Lotus Temple, which is a Baha’i House of Worship, completed in the early eighties. Seeing as how it wasn’t within walking distance, I caught a ride from a friendly Indian gentleman, who went by the name of Noel. We chatted about family and his life growing up on the outskirts of Delhi. He was even kind enough to treat me to a cup of chai. I tried to pay, but he insisted. When we reached the temple, he turned from his seat, looked me dead in the eyes and said, “Now you listen here. You be careful. They will try to steal your camera. They will try to steal your shoes. They will try to steal everything you have. They do not care. You hear me, okay? Okay? No care here.” It was on that warm and fuzzy note that I exited the car and crossed the street with care.

With Noel’s words of wisdom ringing in my ears, I opted to enjoy the view from outside. After all, I only brought one pair of shoes.

Tomorrow it’s goodbye Delhi, hello Agra.

A few of my favorite quotes:

“To give pleasure to a single heart, by a single act, is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.”
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
“Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”
“Where there is love, there is life.”
-Mahatma Gandhi

(_________)

November 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

Some days you wake up fully inside yourself. Every beat, every breath, felt. The simplest of tasks seem heavy. Breathe in, breathe out. One foot forward, now the next. Move your mouth, up and down – swallow. Every movement and motion a mark on the map – a painful reminder of your current state. You know where you are, just not how you got there.

It’s hard to recall what ones anticipatory image of something was, once on the other side. I’m no longer sure exactly what it was I was hoping for, but I do know that it was something wholly unfamiliar – beautiful, even. Like a new color, not a mixture. No trace of blue or yellow or red. What would that look like? How would it feel? I have some basic understanding of light – how it can only be broken down and refracted into its seven constituent hues – and even though I know that the physical world makes the existence of such a thing essentially impossible, I’d still like to see it – to feel it – if only for a moment.

m.a.p.

October 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

Across a bar, across a room, across an ocean

Heart beats, stops, breaks

Pull apart, make me listen

 

Mouth is moving, words come out

See-through patches, sewing shut

Tiny holes to open wounds

 

Feel your needle, slight of sting

Stop

 

Slow it down, push rewind

Bring in breath, hold it tight

Press through past to find the present,

You

 

Full of light, light is life

Tiny seeds to help us grow

Pull the thread, close it shut

All but new

 

Heart is beating, whole and steady

I am free – finally free

 

Light is life, life is love, love is you

August 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

Fill empty spaces to make myself whole

Pages, heart, rooms

 

Untie, disconnect, set adrift

Look back, empty seats, no hands

 

Time passes, words lessen, almost gone

Was it real, is it real, am I real?

It’s Not That Hard…

July 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

We can’t choose how others treat us, but we can decide how to react. It’s our actions that define us, not our words. We are what we do, not what we say we’re going to do.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned thus far, it’s that making a conscious effort to treat those around us – regardless of their role – how we would want to be treated, it will most surely result in a better quality of life. Be nice. Tell the truth. Ask questions. Give your time. Open doors. Say thank you. Say you’re welcome. Give compliments, and learn how to receive them. Pick up the tab every once in a while. Write letters, and not just to others, but to yourself, too – it acts as a compass when you lose your way. Be thoughtful. Admit your mistakes. People change, plans change, but a certain degree of loyalty matters.

m.s.p.

May 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

I sit here, hands clasped, heart-strings tethered

Closed eyes, I hear you

Small voice, tiny hands, broken heart

Similar, yet different

Both waiting, floating, drifting – apart

 

Time, they say

Faith, you mean?

Still nothing, I know

 

Air flows, chest rises, no beat

Hollow, I ask?

Patience, they say – listless

 

Life passes, always moving, looking backward – out of reach

The Need to Feel Needed

May 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

Sometimes in life, is all you really want is for someone to need you – to validate your very existence – to give you a reason for letting your feet touch the ground, once your eyes have opened. Lately, in all of my reflection (and confusion), I have come to loath the idea. I don’t want to need, or be needed. There is a certain level of responsibility associated with someone needing you – depending on you – one that can’t be taken lightly. In my experience, it never ends well: someone always ends up hurt, or even worse, disappointed. If I had to choose one feeling that is worse than all the rest, it would be that: disappointment. Nothing can wear you down, quite like it can. I’m not sure which is worse, though: being the source or the recipient.

One + One

November 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

“It’s an illusion to pretend that we can bridge the gap between your thoughts and mine. For you, every person is like a planet and two different planets can never become one. Two people together will always be: one plus one. I preferred to think of us as bubbles, because when they touch, they merge into one another. But now I know what you meant. Two people together will always be one plus one.”

Reading those words was like reading my own. As my eyes shifted from left to right, then back again, I felt exposed. Her words, connected to my thoughts by a similar experience, held a significant weight. Lately, it seems like everyone wants in – to pry, pick, and prod. We spend our whole lives learning how to protect ourselves, each building walls to an invisible fortress, uniquely our own. The thing is, the whole point, is that no one is invited in. Not then, not now, not ever. Yet somehow, we all secretly wish for a certain someone to breach those walls, fully knowing the damage they’ll likely cause, once they do, if they do.