|Subject: Post Script
Date: Sat, 12 Aug 2000 05:31:55 -0700 (PDT)
So the suspense is over. In my hands at this moment
is my return ticket to America.
I arrive on flight 8544 from Atlanta to Charlotte at 7:00 P.M. on the 29th of August. A reception will be held at the Cress Residence in Charlotte beginning around 9:00P.M. (inshallah) This is purely speculative, cause who can rightfully believe that A plane trip from India to America takes only nineteen hours. I leave at midnight, and arrive at 7:00 pm the same day. Rediculous. If I were walking it'd take a little more than a year! So if you believe in printed dates, be there. Otherwise call 704-366-8118 for more information.
What a poignant and awesome sight it is when you consider the implications of this here ticket. Return to the other side of the planet via Paris and Atlanta, both places I've been... But now, it means I'll be completing a full trip around the world. I came via Seattle, Korea, Thailand, Delhi, now I leave Delhi, Paris, Atlanta, Charlotte. Whew, its exhausting just to read it.
And it means leaving from a life of leisure for work. For leaving the surreality of this existence for the surreality of Charlotte. I've been here so long this place seems normal. It seems logical to assume the reentry into American Culture will be equally bizarre as my arrival in India.
Speaking of which, I'm now seated across the alley/street from the hotel where I stayed my first night in India. I've been shocked to discover in the last few hours (I've only been in Delhi a few hours) that I was totally wrong about the place. When I got here I was totally shocked to be in India. The shops seemed so strange, and it seemed so dirty, and it seemed so authentically india. It felt like a small town instead of a big city. Now, back again after ten months, it seems nothing like India. It seems like Chinatown: a first world rendition of the old-world culture. It seems clean, well managed, proffesional; hell, not only does the email work all the time, but places actually take credit cards. I'm even 15 minutes from a McDonnalds. You're trying to tell me this is India? well the power does go out every few hours, but that's about your only clue. Besides they have full size cows and oxen in the streets, not the normal pony-size cows. And where are the monkeys. Maybe I'm just not seeing them. No, this is Thailand; this isn't India.
I'm sort off laughing at myself over my initial reaction to this place. Then it was all so threatening and exotic. Now its completely westernized and totally normative, predictable, and seems very safe. Sure I was offered heroin by a Tanzanian this afternoon, but what do you want? This is the backpacker's central station in India. more than half the outbound flights are from here, and much more than half of the travellers in India have stayed at least a night here in Pargange at least on a train layover. Its really nothing like India. Or is it? I think my judgement is completely dubious at this point, besides I have two other things I want to talk about.
First, in the last email I said the "Sar" in Amritsar meant place. I was wrong. It means a tank (reffering to a constructed pond of water for agricultural or civic use. Its derived from the word Sarovar, which undoubtedly shares roots with the russian Samovar, which if I remember correctly from Anna Karenina is the thing they serve coffee in, with the alcohol flame on the bottom. I'm not bothering to look it all up right now. But that's not the point. Amrit refers more specifically to the nectar of the Gods, which when drunk bestows immortality. Amrit-sar is the fountain of youth. Which is ironic. The history of the sikh religion is inseperable from the period of time of the Muslim Invasions, and even in 1984, the government of india shelled the temple precincts when they were trying to secceed punjab from india and reunite the historically united Lahore and Amritsar which, like Kashmir, was divided between Pakistan and India. The Sikhs have been slaughtered along communal (religious/cultural sectarianisms) lines from the very beginning. If not the Muslims, then the British or the Hindu. So there's been thousands of dead and much blood poored upon the floors and into the waters of the Golden Temple's Tank in Amrit-sar... the supposed fountain of youth. Oh well. Its India. A true Indian religion.
The next thing I wanted to add in post script is that there was another Bombing going on while I was writing the last email to y'all. I arrived in Srinagar three days after the previous bombing, just after a cease-fire was offered to India by the Hizbul Muhajadeen. The day I left, the ceasefire was called off. The next day, the militants in Kashmir lobbed hand grenades at the State Bank of India/Police (military) headquarters. The grenades were to scare off the civilians. The car bomb came shortly after. So while it scared off the civilians, the journalists came running. One was killed along with 10 police, who where standing near the car. 27 more were injured.
I guess I wanted to mention this to emphasize the importance of timing in travel. Timing influenced my intuition or logic, but timing is certainly everything. I was playing with the phrase "travel is the space between the bombs" but "the bombs" doesn't quite convey "da bomb" a'la hip hop culture, comming from my pen (terminal)But read it both ways. What do you do when you're in between destinations, or at your destination, in between seeing the sights. That's essentially travel. Travel is also best constrained to the space between the bombs, and the only way to avoid those situations be it in Harlem, Yugoslavia, or the Tenderloin, is to trust in God to lead you down the path that's winding correctly. Synchronisity is your only defence on the road. travelling alone intensifies that truth, and also gives you recourse to nothing but intuition in your decision making. I've started talking to myself again. Generally that's a bad sign as its building a habit of schitzophrenia which may be hard to break when old age sets in.. but what can you do when you've no one to talk to and you're really entertaining yourself to boot?
But that's not the point either. The real message here is that timing really paid off. Upon my arriving in Srinagar and seeing the line of military vehicles and policemen always standing around, I immediately realized that the place was a prime target, and walked around the back way whenever possible, and crossed the street every other time. Intuition of a dog's nose... The ability to smell trouble. But then every dread locked hippie knows to avoid large groups of police anyway. Like wolves, alone they're harmless. But when they're in packs their brains shut down and they are constantly comparing the size of their fifth appendage. Avoiding groups of police just has a different significance when you're wandering around somewhere where the revolution is actually occurring as we speak, and guns and bombs are going off every day.
So the adventure continues even after you leave a place. Three states are comming into existence the month after I leave. This means that I'll have been in those states, but not been in those states also. THe month after I leave, my map is official outdated. Sure several cities have changed names, but when the states begin to bifurcate, its time to buy a new map. Mine, being held together by tape more than paper fibers, is due for replacement anyhow. If it were an oil filter, my engine would have seized long ago.
So I'm long winded. There's nothing to do here! Tour the Red Fort, Moghul Palaces, old Mosques and temples, blahblahblah. Fuck it, I'm going to McDonald's for dinner! How often can you say in your life that its a genuine treat, never mind an exotic experience, to eat at McDonnald's. For the last ten months, nearly every day I've eaten rice, dal (mung bean or lentil soup),and Subji (vegetable curry). I'm not complaining. I will continue this tradition if I find my self cooking again. Its the only way to be vegetarian as far as I'm concerned. Spice it up with salad, achar (pickle), chapathi, and curd...errr yoghurt, and you've got a genuine feast, generically called "Thali." So yah, McDonalds. Why do I feel a cold breeze on the back of my neck everytime I say that word?... We'll see. I don't know if I'll actually have the guts to do it anyway...
Anyway, the Sikh Guru Nanak is staring down on me from the left. He didn't have any problem with bloodshed...
Now I've nothing more to say. So I'll just go. Bet I can even get WINE in this town. As many ashrams as I've been in in the last few months these thing are like saying, "I think I'll go bomb an elementary school and mug a priest when I'm done." Strange how fast one's sense of right and wrong can be shifted. The Sikhs actually consider smoking to be a sin. So I had to walk down and around the block so as to not offend the sanctity of the temple. No smoking within sight of any part of the complex...
Enough of this bored rambling.