ad astra per alia porci

exit music
July 1, 2009, 2:58 pm
Filed under: diary


Six Pence None the Richer’s Kiss Me floods my ear canals as I sat cross-legged, leaning backwards on a clean, smooth steel bench, gazing down the entire outer hallway of Bangalore International Airport at the clear blue sky squarely picture-framed at the end. I was waiting for the baggage checkin counter to be in service. The temperature was perfect at 28 degrees, with winds streaming gently through the hallway and my hair.

It almost too good to be true, after 50 days in India and Pakistan. I felt a welcomed and rare sense of blissful peace, a feeling almost always absent during this hectic and trying trip. It felt odd, strangely alien and it was almost numbing. It was the end of my longest, craziest and most dangerous ever soujourn into foreign lands, and endings invite introspection.

Curiously enough, this was the first time I plugged in my mp3 player and listened to music during the trip, and it came right at the end where I probably felt the least need to engage in aural escapism.

I struggled to find the reasons. Was it excitement and the sense of the unknown, like that present for most of our Chennai-Calcutta train ride, our first experience of Indian Rail? Or was it fear, like that which puntuated my Goecha La trek whenever the throbbing headaches and breathlessness rear their ugly heads? Or was it just the sheer heat, like that which suffocated us in Lahore? Or is it a bit of all? The boundaries beween my memories melt and they coalesce. Sieving for reasons seems futile.

Yet I crave for rationalisations. It can be safely said that a significant proportion of the tri pwas filled with discomfort and boredom, be it from the sweaty and stuffy bus rides or unwelcomed bouts of illness. It would be dishonest to say that I did not expect myself to survive the trip before or at anytime during the trip proper. I would never engage in anythign that spells certain death or injury.

That said, I also expected India and Pakistan to take its toil and leave some sort of scar, in particular on my health. And it did. Diarrhoea was the constant black dog in the corner and when I wasn’t emptying my guts and losing my body weight down India’s toilets, I carried a stomach that was queasy, bloated and cramping, all at the same time. My alimentary system work in incomprehensible ways now and danced out of step with the rest of my body. The relentless smog has also affected my respiratory system; since leaving smoggy Lahore I have been wheezing and coughing and hacking yellow phlegm laced with blood.

Yet I would not trade any of my experiences during this trip for any degree of compensating comfort, however tempting it might be. On hindsight, it was thoroughly worth it, even though I would probably respond otherwise if I was asked about it while panting my way up Goecha La or freezing the night in a shaky tent at the bottom of a windswept valley.

Perhaps this is the nub of it. Physical discomfort and illness are the price for spiritual understanding, opened eyes and a broader worldview – quid pro quo for another lesson on the world, myself and human beings. Suffering itself was part of the experience, the learning. And I am grateful for all that I have seen, heard and felt everything during the trip.


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