A note on my three blogs

A note on my blogs

(1) vio; in love with india - this one is the main blog about my Indian adventures, which started in 2005. I don't write much on this blog these days because I prefer to write privately in the confidential blog. But check out the categories and the index to figure out your way. I have kept some older posts not about India but which I still find interesting or relevant in Old words. Also check out my new, fun category Only in India in which I post photos of funny, unique, Indian situations...

(2) vio; sounds of india - this is my blog of sounds, because India wouldn't be as incredible if it was not so vibrant and just so full of incredible sounds!

(3) vio; confidential - this an extension of my main blog in which I post entries I do not want to reveal to the entire webspace for privacy or sensitivity reasons. You must receive an invitation from me and then accept the invitation to be able to read it. You may email me if you are interested in receiving an invitation.


Friday, 24 October 2008

Avec Micha

Last Sunday I took the road again; I left my father's house to go to Fursac, a small village near Limoges, in central France. (The train journey seemed so quick and smooth after a year of Indian travelling!) I hardly know 'my own' country besides the north and the south, my father being from northern France and my mother from Corsica. I always lived in the north, going to Corsica or southern France for summer or whatever other occasions, up until I was 17. In between the two extremes I have hardly visited any place; I can only think of somewhere in the Alps when I was 8 and 13, the Massif Central when I was 9, Auvergne when I was 16, and near Bretagne at 19. Apart from that whenever I have had time, since my early teens I can only remember having spent it abroad.

So apart from spending a week with Micha, it's kind of interesting to visit a new place in France. Even though it's a tiny place, surrounded by woods and trees and nothing much to do apart from going for walks with the dog and food shopping.

It is so lovely to see Micha again. I hardly recognised him because when I left Auroville last January to go to Khajuraho he had become so skinny and weak from a long episode of 'consciousness shift' that had drawn out all his energy. Most of my time in Auroville he had hardly been out of his room, had almost stopped eating, had been sleeping most of the time. When I left Auroville I had seriously wondered if it was the end of Micha, I had been worried about him.

And at the train station, on Sunday, Micha was a lot more robust, hiding behind a coat and a hat and a new beard too. I hardly recognised him. I am surprised by his health and vitality now, for a 75-year-old man. He is truly amazing; and he dances like a silly boy with his dog; and he sings and whistle all the time, and he plays his guitar. He truly is an immortal little child in an old man's body.

And so we meditate and practise our Yoga everyday, and he tells me countless stories of his amazing life like he knows so well how to - he is an amazing story teller - sometimes for hours and I forget the time. and we go for walks with the dog in his square 28 year-old car; there is river and lake and many trees and fields and a cold but sunny weather that makes the greenery shine with energy and love. After a year in india iI had forgotten about the beauty of automn and its falling multicoloured leaves, too. We go for wallnut picking in the woods, looking through the dead leaves for the most beautiful ones. We laugh a lot; I tell some stories too though I'd sometimes rather shut up and listen to his all the time. We share music, and I practise my violin, and eyes closed he listens in awe to the CD of my violin teacher. I help him with bits and bobs that annoy him on his computer and we try out making useless videos on his camera. I look after him, cooking buckwheat pancakes which he eats making funny sounds showing me that he loves them, oh and I cut his hair - and trimmed his beard even; that was a lot of fun, as I had never cut hair so short before - a little experimental, certainly not at all regular, but it worked somehow, making him look like a little boy with well-kept hair once more. We watch funny movies and comment on the news on TV. He tells me more stories, of Auroville and Mère and Sri Aurobindo, and the many women he had in his life, and of his children. I really am amazed at how vivid his memories are, of stories that happened in his childhood 60-70 years ago, his school-years, or in the 70s when he was a hippie travelling to India through Crete and Turkey and Afghanistan in his truck, oh and his drug trips. And a couple stories about German soldiers during World War II when he was a small boy, too. It reminds me of the movie 'Green Fried Tomatoes at the Whisle Stop Cafe' where the old woman recounts her life story - the film - to a middle-age woman as their friendship deepens. It is wonderful to be here.

And I can't help but think of the time ahead too - but should i? - trying to get organised for the days to come. Early next week I will go to Paris, stay at my cousin and meet other family members probably. And hopefully even meet two friends I have not seen for 10 and 20 years respectively. Then onto germany to visit my sister and her family. I spoke to B finally; there possibly will be a good gig where we can meet somewhere in Europe. Plans slowly taking shape as the days come, falling into place in their own accord - and I won't have the choice - as always it will work as it will.

Yesterday was a difficult day, things falling on to me again, being discouraged and slightly disturbed - though I can see the issue is thinner as it used to be. the present as always is the only way. Still it's nice that Micha is with me, like a second father, perhaps he was one in a former life? I love him dearly, like a father most surely.

The energy is good here; his house a little like an ashram with the greenery and the quietness around helping me with Yoga and meditation practice. I am glad I have my Yoga mat with me, and I am surprised at how little I need to eat as if the energy alone was feeding me.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Life goes on...

I have been back from India for a week now.

Life is good. I have finally saved my entire Livejournal since 2002, onto Dad's computer - to burn a CD later, that with all my Indian photos and videos. It took me ages. But it was very very interesting to go through the journal again; how trivial my life seemed around 2002-2003, up to splitting up with Nathan, discovering Buddhism and Yoga philosophy, the difficult 2-month depression in early 2005, and work, and learning Swedish and going back to university for the MSc in Developmental Linguistics, and Mr Wong's love and the care home, and buying the violin. And of course my trip to India that really started when I started deepening my Yoga practice, around the time I left Nathan. I read posts of 'thinking of India' as early as January 2005. A great retrospective, how welcome now when recentring myself etc. In the end I move a lot geographically and may sound unstable going here and there and in this and that direction, and I know my sister has told me many times that she has difficulty following my life journey, but really there is a definite steady, reliable direction. It's been a few years now since I can tell there are only three things that sum up my life aspirations; they are:

- Yoga/meditation
- Music/violin/singing
- Helping others

That is all. Nothing else. And all three support and deepen one another; all three are part of one and the same thing, following Dharma, doing what I feel I am supposed to do in this Life; progressing on my path, one step at a time. It is very simple and clear.

So I have been able to carry on with my sadhana as best I could. Every morning up on waking up I sit in meditation; practise Reiki on myself, and do some Yoga. I started yoga again more seriously since I left Rishikesh. I have found my Yoga mat again and it sort of makes it a lot easier. I have some distraction wanting to follow my family's routine; but it works still with some determination. I practised Reiki onto my little sister the other day. I was initiated to Reiki last month in Varanasi and it was the first time I gave Reiki to someone else. It was interesting; I didn't know how she would react to this 'new, mysterious' thing - giving energy with my hands. She hardly laughed; and half of the time she had fallen asleep anyway. After the 'treatment' I asked her if she had felt the energy; at first she said no, but then she kept saying that it had been so good, it had been nice on her painful knee, and she had felt some heat in places. My step-brother wanted to see and he peeked through the door; I could hear him laugh, but I didn't get distracted. After a year in india I find myself more centred with these things, Yoga, meditation, Reiki; focusing on my inner-world. I am not distracted by their curious stance, I have more confidence in myself. I get less and less peer pressure (from my family) into leading a conditioned lifestyle, too; I can breathe. I do feel I have gained a lot of maturity and calmness somehow, and I feel a lot kinder, less judgemental towards myself. Iit is nice!

Last night, at choir with Little Sister, Father and Step-Mother (they go to a choir every Tuesday and I am going along with them to keep myself into some sort of singing practise - and also to share that with them), the conductor was going through a difficult part of the song with us, soprano. He told me at one point, to show the other; 'You, sing it, you did it really well'. I was so much taken by surprise that I opened my eyes very wide in amazement - it lasted some seconds. I was unable to sing it alone (old singing phobia here we come?) and everyone laughed at my bewildered look, but somehow inside I was very calm, observing myself as well. I was unable to sing in front of people, not feeling fear or discomfort but because I felt unsure of the key on my own. I was feeling I didn't sing well that night, either. So I asked my little sister could sing the part with me, but started laughing, and somehow it was clearly impossible. Throughout the episode though I remained completely calm, like it was perfectly ok to be taken by surprise like that and to not be able to do it. My little sister kept laughing at the incident but I carried on with the choir as normal, calmly.

And so there is Yoga and meditation and Reiki and singing.
And violin, of course!

When I finally took again my viola and beautiful violin 'Devendra' I got extremely confused. the viola is so big; I tried to play it in indian-style posture (sitting cross-legged, resting its neck on my right foot), it was so large that I had to rest it on the floor instead. It also seemed extremely loud, but most of all the viola seemed superfluous now that I prefer tuning the violin low pitch - almost down to the viola's pitch... So I have put the viola back in its case for now...

And then I took beautiful 'Devendra'. Its sound felt so much fuller than the cheaper violin I had in India! I had forgotten! Its strings were all floppy and I had to retune it completely - western-style to start with - but its sound, and the now seemingly extremely high-pitch western E string startled me! With some time, and with help of the piano, I retuned it though, and played a little western-style to refresh my memory. It felt so odd; and playing it in western-style posture, tucking the violin between my neck and left shoulder, the loud and high sound went, unbalanced, into my left ear only. I love the sitting Indian posture because the violin sits more balanced between the two ears - and not too close to one ear compared to the other. I played my old duets again - it was not too bad: I was rusty but not too much, still it felt odd and not very fluid. But playing western-style now is sore on my neck. Aand so I put my beautiful violin back into its case for a few days...

It was yesterday when I was going through my Livejournal, and especially reading about how much I had loved my beautiful 'Devendra', that I felt silly not to play on it again, just because I felt I should have one western and one Indian violin, and because I feel I'll go to india soon where again I wouldn't take my beautiful violin - so best to carry on with the one I use now. Sod it. I restringed my devendra with the indian strings, tuned it more easily than i had thought I would given its new, full sound, and started to play it indian-style. Suddenly I remembered that - although a trivial point perhaps - 'Devendra' is actually an Indian name and so it should be played 'Indian-style'. And I played and played, and got used to its full sound again, and low-pitch it's even nicer, and I hadn't played on 'Devendra' for so long and never 'Indian-style before and still it was not detuning itself as I played, as if it was meant to be played Indian-style...? That's probably my over-enthusiastic mind playing tricks on me but nevermind...

I was rediscoving my long-forgotten, favourite CDs, too, and how much I had loved playing onto them before I left India. And Sopor Aeternus and Francesco's Banchini's music, which were my favourite music to play onto, seemed to be even easier to play with my new sliding skills and on a lowly-tuned violin. It was joy, joy, joy... just joy.

A friend of mine I haven't seen for three years is miraculously(?) back in northern France and wants to record music with a violin. He is my only friend who shares deep love for Francesco's music, too. We will meet tonight.

And so life is going well. But I cannot stay here too long of course - I have to do the things that I want to do too, that is to visit important friends on my journey. Sunday I will go to visit Micha, my 75-year-old friend I met in kerala and with whom I spent much time in Auroville. He is like a second father to me. He is going back to India at the end of the month and I want to see him before he goes. And I may see Mmorgane, whom I met in Auroville too back in January and who was like a friend I had known all my life. And then I will go to Germany to see my twin sister and her newly born child, a baby girl. And then I hope there will be B'ee, too, who is on tour in Europe... when time comes, and if life grants me to see him again. It would be lovely to see him again though, and good to see how I feel about him...

Friday, 10 October 2008

A retrospective

Since I got back from India, I've been spending most my life in front of Dad's computer. The day after I got back, I spent time to download and retrieve from the Internet all my pictures, and to sort them out. The work is not quite finished yet. Yesterday I spent 6 hours writing my previous entry about vipassana, hospital stay, and meeting Ramesh Balsekar.

Last night, over dinner, my father suggested that I should save all my Indian blog entries off the Internet in case they get lost into space. Of course! Why hadn't I even thought of it myself? I had thought finally I had finished most of my work on the computer and would finally seriously start practising violin again. Instead, it's now mid-day, I'm still in my pyjamas and I've spent all morning going through all my journal. I was going to retrieve all my Indian entries, but then of course - where should I start? - The journey didn't start on 13 November 2007; it started a lot earlier. I started posting ideas on going to India in the beginning of 2007. So I went back and back and back - and decided to save ALL my journal since its beginning in November 2002.

I quite enjoyed reading my very first entries - even though they seem so far away now, a lifetime away. And before my year in India I was feeling very silly about having a journal, somehow, keeping most of my entries privatised, because they all seemed trivial or crap or meaningless. Re-reading the entries or even writing them would often make me feel ashamed and uncomfortable, yet I had urges to write from time to time, the entries that are there now.

Today when I re-read the entries I am very happy I wrote them all; just feeling lucky that all this exists. I no longer feel silly to read them, but nonjudgmental, loving and kind to myself.

One entry in 2007 caught my eyes immensely; I had completely forgotten about it and was very very very happy to read it again: the one i wrote on 7 February 2007, the day before I turned 30, which I had spent so much time writing, found beautiful, yet somehow had been completely unable to put out on the journal: if a few people could read most my entries, this one I had kept completely private. Today when I re-read it though, I feel so blessed and grateful that I did write it; I feel like me-back-then is a close friend, and I am telling this friend, myself, with deep love and compassion: 'No, wait, it's great! Beautiful! Why do you feel ashamed about it?!'

So today I will make it public; open, yes, like I feel good to open my heart out now, and it feels lovely and liberating...

It is a retrospective on my life; when I wrote it at the time, it had just happened out of me.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

My last (rather intense!) week in India

So, where did I leave it off? I was going for a three-day silent meditation retreat in Nagpur, halfway between Khajuraho and Mumbai...

Meditation retreat in Nagpur
The three-day retreat was pretty 'ordinary', as far as what my inner voyage was concerned. Not overly difficult nor overly easy (of course not!) A little like my first retreat, not like the second where I had been hammering that hard pain in my back with my mind crying everyday and had been able to identify what I was working with. This time I didn't know what was coming out, though perhaps from the pain in my right hip the work would help my sitting posture for the indian violin? I would have to see when I pick the violin again? Tsss... But don't try to analyse with your mind, it's a distraction! Go back to your meditation! And so there was a lot of pain in my hips at first, but it quickly moved to my knees and then my neck and then back to my knees. Thoughts were passing quickly. Interestingly though, during the first evening's discourse, teacher Goenka said that because only old students can go on a three-day course, all students around you work seriously so your meditation progresses more quickly. This means one can work through as much impurity as one would on a ten-day course!! I really liked the idea... Saving seven days of work and pain! I could perhaps relate to this because the emotions and thoughts and physical pain were passing and going and changing very quickly, as if they had been moving in 'fast-forward' mode.

Now, vipassana environments and settings are all the "same" everywhere. Centre in the countryside, 10-15 km away from the city. Same timetable of ten-hour meditation from getting up at 4am to going to bed at 9am. In silence, orchestrated by the ringing of bells or a gong. So somehow I felt like on very familiar grounds. There were dormitories but I had given a room for myself, with private shower even. In silence I could almost forget I was in india; the women couldn't rush to me and ask where I was from madam, since they couldn't talk to me. But through the rigidity of vipassana rules, the indian ways could pierce out, sometimes funnily. Some women were clearly still speaking together. Rules are slack in India - to say the least - you know. Like the lemon water at 5pm - our only food intake in the day after 11am. It was so full of sugar that I almost spat it out. And then to ask for "nibbu ka pani, cini ki bina" i.e. no sugar in my lemon water!! Breakfasts were typical carbohydrate heavy plumps made of rice or semolina and banana, that made me crave the wonderful stewed dried fruits I got in the vipassana centre of England!! And despite the fact that I was always asking for no-chilli food, I could never make out whether my food was really cooked in a separate pot because it was still spicy. At the end of the retreat when I started speaking to people I suddenly remembered where I was. I was sitting in a chair with a group of women around me; all wanted to shake my hand and know all about me. Full of wonder at my speaking Hindi. I realised then once again that I had opted without trying for a very Indian, non-touristic place. The centre manager told me that very few Europeans came here and so the servers were not so accustomed to meeting our needs, and the place was more simple than others. And I had always had to go and speak to the male meditation teacher, because the female one spoke no English. But it was OK for me, of course; I was half-Indian by now... Throughout the meditation though I had felt how much the lady in charge was doing all she could - sometimes far too much - always concerned to make sure that I was OK, as though I had been her vulnerable little girl...

And so the meditation retreat ended quickly. I had decided I would then go to Aurangabad, further on the way to Mumbai, in order to visit the Buddhist caves of Ellora. I had not visited any touristic sight in over six months, but I was going to indulge in some sightseeing to finish my trip, yes...

Growing infection in Aurangabad
At the end of the retreat the centre manager had given me perfect instructions on how to get the bus to Aurangabad and so that went perfectly smoothly. However, I had had a spot on my right cheek near my mouth; I had been fiddling a tad bit with it and in the last hours of the retreat it had started to get infected... During the very last hour of meditation it was becoming big and red and it started to hurt me. I knew what to do from a previously infected spot and what medication to take once we'd be back in Nagpur city so I didn't worry. In India, with the heat and sweat, bacteria spread very quickly, and fiddling with your spots is a very bad idea indeed...

Back in the city before catching my night bus to Aurangabad I went to a pharmacy and bought the antibiotic tablet. I took one and I mixed some of one tablet with water to make a paste and I applied it onto the spot - like had worked fine before. The bus was a sleeper bus. A comfortable bus, a bus that I found fun because it looked a little like the buses glamourous musicians travel on when they tour, you know. As soon as the bus started though I realised my misery: my berth was right above the back wheel... Each road bump made my whole body jump! And then despite the antibiotic the spot and the pain kept growing; at one pipi-stop out of the bus, I had no change and had to beg a shopkeeper for some ibuprofen. I didn't sleep much that night obviously. When I arrived in Aurangabad at 6am, exhausted, I had to bang the hostel's door to wake the owners up so they'd let me in; I went straight into my room and fell asleep for some two hours. When I woke I was Vio: half-woman, half-hamster!

My cheek had swollen so much from the infection, up to my eye and all the way down to my jaw-line. I scared myself in the mirror. It was painful but also very uncomfortable because the infection took a lot of space in my face. I ran down to the housekeeper's office in tears and asked him where I could go to the doctor's. He and his wife were quite an old couple who always looked concerned and compassionate for me. Despite my concern (I had to fly back to France four days later!!) I did realise my luck: the spot had started to grow right at the end of the meditation retreat; otherwise I would have had no doctor and it would have been hell to try and meditate. And now, right opposite the youth hostel stood a clean nursing home/hospital with good doctors, they said. I crossed the road into the hospital and begged for a doctor. I was too early; I had to wait. I started crying even more, I was so impatient to see someone who would reassure me and start a treatment! Eventually, one hour later, a doctor - hands in gloves! - examined my cheek, and prescribed me some strong antibiotics and a painkiller/anti-inflammatory and a anti-acidic liquid and a fourth tablet I forget what for. For four days. Still in tears I phoned Vijay who spoke to the doctor because he wanted to know what was going on. It reassured me that he was involved. I was alone in a big city I didn't know and with no company.

That first day in Aurangabad I didn't even know where to go for food, and it was hot outside and I didn't want to go out far not to sweat on my spot. I rested in the dark hostel, cried a lot, rested some more focusing on my breath as much as I could to keep my mind somewhat clear and relaxed, I relied on the kind hostel-keepers to feed and look after me, and I read and gave Reiki to my spot. I returned three times to the doctor's because in the meantime another small spot had started to grow (I never touched that one and it never became a problem but in my worry I thought everything was going to go wrong) and my face kept growing bigger and bigger. When I went back in the evening there were no doctor though and - "Receptionist, please phone a doctor for me so I can ask them what do do!" - I was so impatient to see my face shrink that I held the firm belief that the medications I'd been given didn't work. And "should I not put something on the spot?" And "how do I clean it?", and in the middle of my sobs, ten times "But I have to go to Mumbai and fly to France in four days!!!" And 'Please I don't want to scare my dad at the airport!" And 'Vijay please speak to them from the phone for me", and and and... Eventually I saw another doctor who said "If tomorrow night it's not better I'll give you the address of a good skin-specialist"...

The following morning my face was even more swollen, up to the upper eyelid now, and my cheek was so big it looked like it was hanging from my face. The tears returned and once again I crossed the road up to the hospital, again too early, begging the receptionists to phone the doctor I had seen the previous night or at least to give me the address of the skin specialist. Eventually thesaid doctor agreed to come outside of his shift and see me. That relieved me greately so I went to wait outside to happily eat my bread/banana for breakfast followed by medication, and believing that I would be OK this time and I'd stay calm, yes. When I saw the doctor one hour later, he agreed that I looked worse although I was pretty serene and fine now and everything was not hell and I was going to be OK soon, yes, yes, yes.

But then he said something that really scared me and made me burst into tears once more. He asked me; "Would you like me to admit you into hospital?"!!!! WHAT?? HOSPITAL!!!?? NOW!!?? My dramatising mind of course made everything sound worse than it was. A stay hospital, alone in India three days before I was due to fly back home, with a horrible hanging cheek; in my worst moment I even wondered if I was going to be operated to remove the crap inside me... Besides the doctor told me that my spot was located in a dangerous area near some nerves that go into the brain - anywhere else on the body would have be OK. Silly sausage, the words "dangerous area" couldn't leave me for a while... On the one hand the concept of being admitted to hospital alone in India scared the shit out of me. On the other I was going to have people look after me; the doctor was promising he'd look after me personally and his brother worked there too etc. - I'd be better than in my dark hostel where they could only cook bread, omelet and chai because there were only two customers. So, in tears I went back to my room, in tears I packed my bags, in tears I told the hostel-keepers that I was going to bigscaryhospital, and in tears I instructed my rickshaw driver to drive me to bigscaryhospital. Once in the hospital, in tears I gave my name and did all the formalities, in tears I reiterated to everyone involved that I HAD TO FLY BACK TO FRANCE FROM MUMBAI IN THREE DAYS and that I wanted my daddy to recognise me at the airport, too. Then I calmed down but in the following room they took me to I saw that syringe pointed at me, and in tears I asked 'WHAT'S THAT?!' before realising - "Duh!" I'm getting blood tested. And finally once in my room they took my blood pressure and then I collapsed for two hours of relieving sleep.

I had asked for a semi-private room because of course I wouldn't stay in the free un-intimate dormitory, but I didn't need a room alone that I found too expensive anyway. I was paying 200 rupees for my room, just like in a guesthouse, hihi. Across the separating curtain I was sharing the room with a 60-odd year-old woman who looked quite poorly and kept sighing loudly. Her grumpy-looking husband was sleeping next to her bed on the floor, and she had many visitors. That reminded me well that I was in India, and it kept me entertained. It was interesting to be in an Indian hospital and to share my room with an Indian woman - that too was a new insight into Indian culture. I have to say seeing my neighbour also helped me put things into perspective and calm down. Of course I was OK and had never been that bad. And I was now in hospital and so I could let go and 'surrender to the people looking after me' and I had a bed, and the hospital didn't provide any food but the floor manager arranged the floor guards to buy food for me from a nearby hotel, all I had to do was give them the money required. I asked for rice and non-spicy daal and salad and got just that, with a huge amount of tomato and cucumber and carrot and onion that I couldn't even finish. It was a lot better than myself trying to find a good place to eat in that big unfamiliar city. I had quite a few visitors too: obviously I was subject of curiosity in this hospital. The nurses and the assistants and the cleaners and the senior doctors and the junior doctors and the surgery doctors all came to see me. Whenever a doctor came to see me he was followed by some ten other people rushing to stand behind him, with folded arms and looking at me with great seriousness and curiosity. Not so much staff came to see my neighbour because I guess for them she was quite ordinary!! It was funny; most of the medical staff wore a blood-pressure 'thingie' around their neck just as if to look more serious or credible, or as part of their outfit.

In the end, apart from confirming from my blood test results that all I had was an infection and that my body reacted well, the doctors had to do nothing. The medication was taking its effect and my cheek was slowly deflating. Obviously by now I had completely let go of the idea that I could visit the Ellora caves. And I had given up the idea that I could go and visit Ramesh Balsekar on my last day in Mumbai, too. But at the end of the first day a doctor said I would be released the following morning, so I became really excited at the thought that I could go to Mumbai on time to visit him - Ramesh Balsekar accepts visitors between 9 and 10.30am everyday...

I was very well looked after in the hospital. When I finally understood that my case had not been serious, they had solely admitted me in the hospital so I'd recover quickly on time for my flight, I was very very grateful indeed at how they had considered my problem. The floor manager especially was very very good to me, he even spoke with me in Hindi to keep me practise, and he joked a lot; I could go and see him anytime I needed anything. My main frustration during this one and a half day in an Indian hospital was the irresistible "Indian-style timekeeping"... In the morning of the second day I had been told a doctor would check on me in "5 minutes" then I could leave the hospital. One hour later I went out to ask where the doctor was and was told that he would come at 12 noon. Slightly discouraged I went back to my room. But then it was 2pm, and then, actually there was a conference on hernia that finished at 4pm so the doctor would come after that, and eventually he came at 6pm. It was 6pm on 5 October. I was in Aurangabad, 10 hours away from Mumbai by bus, and I was flying in the night of 6 October. I wanted to do all I could to meet Ramesh Balsekar before my flight; I had been thinking about this for months...

When I was finally released I had no money at all because I had not been able to get to an ATM before my admission. (By the way, my whole stay with room and food and care and medication cost me 3000 rupees, that's about 50 euros, hihi.) So my good friend the floor manager got a hospital guard to drive me to the nearest ATM on his motorbike! They were so kind!!! I had been prescribed another two days of medication, to make sure I would be OK all the way to France. When I got back to the hospital, the floor manager called me a rickshaw and made sure the driver went to the right bus stand and for a reasonable price. I left full of gratitude. I thanked him from the heart; "dil se", I said in Hindi.

On the way to Mumbai, and Ramesh Balsekar
I first heard of Ramesh Balsekar six months ago from Michael, one of my travelling companions on the first two months of my Indian journey. He too went to visit him before his flight from Mumbai back in April, and I had loved the photo he had posted on the internet, I didn't quite know why. Looking at it now I also realise I had kept an altogether different image from the man: younger, stronger, somehow... I had liked Michael's idea of concluding his Indian trip with the visit of this man, even though I knew nothing of him and had no real motivation to check the website Michael had suggested me to check (www.advaita.org) because I don't like reading long passages of text on a screen... A few weeks later, in the Rishikesh ashram, my Russian-American friend had spoken to me of a book called 'I am that' - talks by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. "You should read it"; he had said to me. From what he was saying about the book, its wisdom, I was inspired. The following day I had gone to a bookstore to see if I'd be motivated to buy the book if I saw it. I had literally put my eyes onto the book as I had entered the shop and so I had bought it. Then, in May, I went to the yoga retreat and learnt about Vedanta from my Sanscrit-swami-teacher, which is actually the same as Advaita. Later I read and did like the book. Then my Russian friend disappeared but I met him again a couple of month later in the ashram, end of June. Now he spoke to me about a book by Ramesh Balsekar, who actually was a disciple of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj... I remembered Michael's photo and the connection was made. Two realised men, but simple householders, who had had visitors everyday in their houses in Mumbai. I wanted to go too.

When I left the hospital the rush resumed: I arrived at the Aurangabad bus stand and went straight to the counter to get my bus ticket. "Last bus at 8.45pm", the man said. It was 7.45 so I had time to go for some food before the bus. I had asked the man about five times for the bus' schedule - "Yes, 8.45." He had said each time. I went to wait a little, sitting by the right platform. After a few moment I double-checked the bus ticket: "8.15" it said!! It was now 8.14 so I ran to the nearest bus to ask someone when exactly the bus to Mumbai was. I had 10 minutes the man said; I asked him if I had time to go to the toilet, he said yes, and I jokingly said he should ask the bus driver to wait for me should the bus arrive. While in the toilet, I remember thinking that if 'Indian-style timing' is slow and frustrating at time, at least one cannot miss one's bus... When I returned to my platform I went to see for the bus and looked around: suddenly a man (another one I had never seen!) came to me shouting 'Madam, it's your bus! Seat number 5! go, quick!"!!! I couldn't believe my ears; how the hell had he known!? I ran to the bus, already departing, and hopped onto it - as best I could with my big heavy bags. All the men were quickly helping me and I was amazed at how kind they all looked to me. I had almost missed the last bus on time to meet Ramesh Balsekar, but I had made it...

I arrived at 6am in Mumbai after a bouncy night on the bus (seats, not berths this time). Again I was exhausted. I went straight to the Salvation Army hostel; I wanted a bed just for a few hours, and to sleep before I'd go to meet Ramesh Balsekar for 9am. In the end there was no checking-in before 9 and I found myself looking for another hotel with two guys who had arrived the same second I had, one of whom lived in... Edinburgh! We went round in circles to try and find a hotel with an indian man who was clearly trying to rip them off on the way. When I realised this I went back to the Salvation Army hostel, which I knew was cheap and convenient from spending a couple nights there a year before. In the end I never had to check-in; i could just 'borrow an emtpy bed' from the dormitory and keep my luggage in the store room. I had a very relieveing shower too. I never slept again this morning anyway because my spot decided to burst out... You know, when you get out the yellow or white from a zit. Except it was a massive, huge, monster of a fucking spot, and it took me almost an hour to get all the shit out of it. It was absolutely HOR-REN-DOUS!!! It took so long; I wonder what the other women from the dormitory were thinking - What is this new woman doing, just dropping her bags down and filling tissues and tissues of shit in front of her mirror?!? But I was so happy and relieve all this crap was leaving my body... Eventually the shit emptied out by 9.15 and I hurried to get a taxi. Mumbai is so freaking huge. I started to forget I was in India, with those clean and wide roads and those skyscrapers across the seafront.

I arrived in Ramesh Balsekar's house - relieved - I would see him finally! As I got in I was warmly welcome by one of his students. It was a lovely room filled with some fifteen listeners. A talk orchestrated by two students asking questions, about astrology, Hitler and the war, the world, and of course that whatever you do something will always happen anyway. All you have to do in this life is do what you feel, what you're supposed to do. I didn't (consciously) learn much from the talk, yet somehow I was very happy to be there, feeling blessed to meet this enlightened mind/body complex of 91 years old who looked very much like a little boy trapped in an old man's body. He spoke lively, with no teeth, and he laughed and smiled a lot. I didn't quite know why but I was very happy to be there, and, like Michael, I was very happy to end my Indian journey with such a visit. At the end of the talk I got one of Ramesh's book; with some students we went for lunch; one student gave me another book. I had planned to buy a few things to bring to Europe before flying, but Mumbai was so massive that I would have had to take long taxi rides and all Ii had energy for was to go and get some strings for my low-tuned violin. Then I went back to the hostel and crashed for some two hours of sleep on a borrowed bed. Then I went to check internet, I wrote my last entry from India and I went roaming the nearby streets of Colaba tears in my eyes, for a short while. I phoned Vijay goodbye and went for some dinner. Whilst I was waiting for my food, my violin teacher, who I had thought was in Europe but had not gone because of visa problems, phoned me to say goodbye. I was so moved that I burst into tears once more. From the day I was travelling alone in India my time had been orchestrated around learning violin with this man; now he was last to tell me goodbye, literally an hour before heading to the airport... I didn't cry anymore after that. Perhaps because deep down I know that I will go back soon...?

Oh and Dad recognised me at the airport, and he hardly reacted when I said I was just out of hospital. I've finished the course of antibiotics now and I look fine; the spot is almost gone...

Monday, 6 October 2008

Goodbye, my beloved India... (for now...?)

I arrived in Mumbai this morning at 6am by night bus. I am going to the airport in three hours. I feel odd and I feel not that odd. I don't know and it doesn't matter; all I have to do is feel it.

Last night, in the bus stand of Aurangabad I took some notes from all that happened in the past week, because I wanted to remember everything so I would be able to post it on this journal later. But there is so fucking much - I just cannot believe how much happened in just a small week. The vipassana meditation retreat already feels like a month ago, because all the rest was so intense that it made me forget it all. I don't have the energy to write it onto here now though because it would take too long. I hope I will still be in the mood when back in France but we will see.

The meditation retreat was good. The funny bit probably was when I met the scorpion in my bathroom - almost reacted with equanimity, carried on with my shower with great awareness of the whereabouts of my visitor, but did point it to the course manager when she came round ringing the bell for meditation... She went "Oooooooh..." and called another woman who picked it up with a broom and the biggest bucket and then through it away. "Dur", I requested (meaning 'far away'!)

But anyway. I should go. I don't want to be in front of a computer screen - though I don't really know where to go until I go. Perhaps I will go to the seafront, looking at the Mumbai skycrapers in the distance, which have already made me feel a little bit like I am back in the West...

I will land in Brussels tomorrow morning. My Daddy shall pick me up, with my coat in the car. Ha! Ha!