14 November 2011.
My large suitcase is re-stuffed for departure to India, and somehow I’ve cleaned myself up, gripping furniture pitifully along the way. Pills and tea are not the ideal breakfast, but I don’t trust anything else. The feeling is sadly familiar – the breakfast of champions! I used to jest, drinking from a bottle of Pepto-Bismol – and I wait to leave, breathing deeply as the minutes pass.
Kathmandu flashes past the car windows, a stranger; at last I stumble from the car, and pull both my battered grey case and battered grey self to flight check-in. The fluorescent wash of lights is simultaneously too bright and too dim; it hollows out flesh and drips uneasy shadows onto tile floors. I am obviously still not well, and shiver as I look around. Other soon-to-be passengers are wearing the ivory scarves of Nepali farewell, and others are wearing marigold garlands and rice tilaks. Thoughts of the somayajña begin to surface; I shake them loose. There would be a terrible irony in binding myself, by memories of ritual.
I pass through through several security checkpoints, at which I’m patted down and scanned by people; one woman feels the rudrākṣa bead hanging at my left side but lets me through without question. I find a chair while waiting to pass immigration, and a soft-spoken, sweet-faced young woman asks me about my home. I think of all of the places I’ve lived and wonder, as I have many times before, if I truly have a home…After a few polite remarks about Canada, I ask about hers. She tells me about her country Bangladesh, that it is beautiful, that I definitely must see it, especially at this time of year. Her husband smiles at her from the line; I am warmed by the tender affection I see between them.
Another Westerner in the queue drinks coffee, another has a small cup of chai, a third is finishing an apple before the next security check. They look so vigorous and cheerful; I feel weak and small by comparison. And I muse morosely that, after illness on the journey from Canada to Asia, and now the sickness in Nepal, I’ve gone without meals for nearly five of the first eleven days.
I barely register the actual flight to Delhi, nor the landing and de-planing, and am incredibly grateful that the immigration lines this time are non-existent. It takes less than fifteen minutes to clear Customs. I book the earliest flight possible to Bangalore, the next morning at 6 a.m., then decide to indulge my weary body with something so unnecessary it still boggles my brain to remember it: a fifteen-minute chair massage, at the airport. But it’s simultaneously soothing and invigorating and I can’t regret the expense, even though I am dozing on the floor just a short time later and probably un-doing all of the good it did. There’s time and a stable Internet connection to book a hotel online, too. I rest knowing that all is arranged, though certainly not all is well with me.
I think of Indra, and ruefully ponder how silly I feel, to worship one of the strongest Devas in the pantheon while being so weak myself. Is it the hope of his strength that moves me, or an ill recognition of my own? If God is everywhere, then why did I choose to do this; what need moved me halfway around the world to hear his songs? And what still binds me to sickness and delusion – what in me still doubts when I say to myself, I am not this body?
I am not this body, I repeat the thought, and something deep feels soothed to discard the joints aching on scratchy airport carpeting. I am not cold, I am not dejected nor depressed; only this shell, this self knows sadness. The Self is bliss.
Thoughts begin tumbling in a vague cascade.
Know Me alone; I think this is best for man, that he should know Me.
Passengers are reminded not to leave baggage unattended at any time–
If someone knows me, his world does not grow less by any action of his, not by theft, not by murder, not by the killing of his mother, not by the killing of his father. Though he has committed any evil, the dark colour does not leave his face.
Then all of those security checkpoints were as useless as they seemed?
I am the breath, the self of awareness: so worship me as immortal life.
I breathe, more deeply, more steadily. Is this worship or relaxation?
By the breath one attains immortality in this world:
Air India flight 43 from Chennai is now arriving–
By awareness one attains true resolve.
So, ignore the noise and rush. Awareness. Breath.
It is the guardian of the world, the overlord of the world, the ruler of the world.
Please report unattended baggages to Airport Security immediately. Thank you for your cooperation. Namaskar–
One should know: it is My self. One should know: it is My self.
I have the uneasy sense of dreams when I wake at two, with four hours remaining until the Bangalore flight.
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