My spirits are high. I am divinely happy. I am ubelievably close now. Yet being so close to Bhutan does not explain what I am experiencing in the way of happiness. There is something about India – the place is charming me…the place is demanding me…
Why am I charmed?
It could be that India’s streets are full of bicycles. Or maybe that the food is largely vegetarian and I can get involved with local food without compromising my food values too much. Then there are the rich aromas and enchanting colours that greet me around each corner. Of course it could be the ease at which one can tap into the spiritual and cultural depth of this place – be it through crossing the path of a holy person or a holy cow, or crossing a holy river, and into a holy city.
Yet it always comes back to the people. Notwithstanding that I understand the things encountered to be an expression of the people and their interactions with one another and the environment over millennia, what charms me the most is how welcome I have been made to feel. There is deep curiousity in the adventurer on the bicycle. There are unhesitating offers of food and shelter, desires to hear about my 16-month story, and cameras are often quick to come out. There is connection, natural and unforced, and where there is connection there is joy.
Yet not without deep challenge
The streets may be full of bicycles, but the roads are the most manic and harrowing that I have been on since this trip began. I may be in a personal food heaven but in practicing the clean-hand dirty-hand system (no cutlery here, so I eat with my hands; no toilet paper, so I use the bum gun) and though it brings consciousness to my hands I am often worrying about my own hygiene, as well as that of others. As electrifying and delightful as the aromas and colours can sometimes be there are also smells and sights that have brought up feelings of disgust. There may be spiritual and cultural depth but there is also visible poverty and struggle. And as for the people and their well-meaning curiosity, a moments stop can have me surrounded; a casual stop for some tea and suddenly there are a dozen or more eyes watching my every move.
India on a bicycle is demanding. I wonder how I would have fared had I not been riding for so long and near the end of this journey. I see craziness before me. I could feel deeply anxious. I notice a little rise in fear often. Instead I deepen into trust as I’ve learnt to do, and I just watch, accept, and appreciate. I feel happiness – the deep meaningful sort. On an edge, looking at unknown parts of self, stretched, but not too much. I can flow through it.
This is India and I am immersed. I must be fully me. India demands it.