12 and 13 November 2011. Some of this writing is from that time; some of it, I’m writing now.
I had debated going up the hill one last time, to touch the empty śālā frame and gaze a while, but it was cold, and my stomach protested the idea. I am a nervous traveler; even the knowledge that a journey lies ahead is enough to churn my gut. So I stayed in my room and readied my things for departure instead. My suitcase was just long enough to fit the saffron flag, which I wrapped very carefully.
The car arrived on time and took me uneventfully back to Kathmandu, the smooth (and depressing) journey ending right around lunchtime. Fortunately, there was a restaurant a two-minute walk away, an organic/fair-trade establishment with excellent food. Tiredness was catching up to me, though, and I ate quickly, trying to ignore the strange wooziness in my head and stomach. I wandered the streets of Kathmandu, so confused and overwhelmed by the noisy crowds and beeping cars and narrow streets, a jarring contrast to the wide mountain silence of Panauti. That night was dinner again in the same place, and then, that’s the last I saw of Kathmandu proper.
It turns out that my morning difficulties weren’t stomach butterflies, but the beginnings of the worst stomach flu I’ve ever had. I’m trying to be honest in my blogging, but will spare readers the exact details.
It was humbling, though; one can think of sickness and even demise in a detached intellectual way, until the body goes haywire. Suddenly, the fear of pain and mortality is very immediate, and most decisively irrational. Shaking and sobbing from pain, unable to keep medication or even water down, I realise that I am halfway around the world and feel shame at wanting very badly to go home.
Somewhere in the worst of it, the thought occurs to me that I could be quite ill indeed – but then again, at any time I could become quite ill or even die; it is only illusion that props me up with feelings of invincibility in daily life. I astonish myself by closing my eyes and calling to Indra, trying to fill my thoughts with Him instead of pain. He is in my mind when I finally drift to an uneasy sleep. It is a relief to escape from myself for even a second.
I knew there was a temple to Indrāṇī in Kathmandu; I had planned to go there. Instead I was awake all night, only finding rest around 8 am, and spent the entire remaining day and night in bed, taking nothing but hot water and medication. I need the sleep, the respite from the cacophonous roads outside of the four walls, a reprieve from conversation and distraction and motion. I don’t even have enough energy to be disappointed about the temple.
I have a flight to Delhi on the 14th. I must make that flight, else the delay could cause problems with my Nepal visa and my travel plans from here on, not to mention costing a lot in itinerary changes. The plan from Kathmandu was to travel to Haridwar and stay in an āśram, immersing myself in the simple delights of meditation and yoga for several days. However, I’m now weak and floppy like a wrung-out dishrag, and since even standing for too long is difficult, to say nothing of āsanas, I decide: Haridwar later, if at all.
(To finish posting about the yajña, here is an article about the ceremony, published a few weeks later. It’s a lovely write-up, and the photograph of the priests around the kalaśa is so wonderful.)
It was worth it. All of the difficulties – saving for the trip, rescheduling flights after the yajña’s dates were announced, the long and arduous travel, even the awful sickness after – feel like nothing when I think about the experience.
I leave Nepal behind, taking memories and a bright banner with me, and shakily prepare for Delhi. Instead of Haridwar, the next destination is Bangalore.
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