Monday, June 14, 2010

"Love of one and love of all merge together in love, pure and simple..."

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj: "Love of one and love of all merge together in love, pure and simple, addressed to none, denied to none. Stay in that love, go deeper and deeper into it, investigate yourself and love the investigation and you will solve not only your own problems but also the problems of humanity. You will know what to do. Do not ask superficial questions; apply yourself to fundamentals, to the very roots of your being."

Ah, there are dreamy quotations (I happen to love this one) and there's the application in daily life. Last week I was in a restaurant and noticed an old white-bearded Westerner eating his meal near me, hunched over and shaking very badly, like he had some serious problems. Two different young tourists sat with him and I thought maybe he was part of a group. As the second tourist, a young woman, was trying to help him stand up, I asked if I could help. She was clearly relieved and said, basically, "Great! See you later!" My new friend John asked if I wanted to talk, and I got an earful. He looks about 70, but is 58, and he's been living on the road, without roots, a home, or family, for 42 years! He was an only child, his parents are gone, and most of his extended family was killed in the Holocaust. I had to sit very close to him and strain to hear, since his condition (likely Parkinson's) prevents him from talking very loudly. He only got the disease four years ago, and otherwise looks to be relatively fit. He carries a laminated photo of him and the Dalai Lama embracing, and says his "thing" is to travel India visiting saints. I told him I was glad he could add me to his list. He didn't think it was so funny, but more importantly, I did. He's looking for a cure for his condition, and is quite confident he'll find one. He said, "Do you believe in miracles?" I mumbled something that even I couldn't hear.

I was stunned to find out that he's traveling by himself, even though he literally can't get himself out of his chair without help, and can't climb stairs. We're in the frickin' mountains - and there are stairs everywhere - including to his room, which is a 20-minute taxi ride from the restaurant up a steep hill. I thought, this guy is either the most courageous or the nuttiest person I have ever met. He may be a bit of both. 

So it's now 10 p.m., the restaurant is closing, and he really needs to pee. I helped him out the front door (there are stairs!) and across the street so he can pee in the gutter. (It's dark, and we're in India.) Then he got sort of stuck, neurologically, and said he can't go backwards very well. "Can you pick me up and turn me around" he says? Um, no I can't, you're too heavy. It starts to rain, and we slowly navigate back to the porch of the restaurant, which has now closed. He asks me to call his friend Kenny, who's coming to get him, and he doesn't know how to use his new mobile phone - it's the first one he's every had, and it's two days old. So I call Kenny - who turns out to be the first young tourist I saw him chatting with. Kenny doesn't answer. Cut to the chase:

"Are you sure Kenny is coming?"

"He said I could stay in his room tonight. There are thieves where I've been staying and I don't want to stay there anymore."

"John, it's 10:30 at night. This isn't the time to be sorting out your room."

"I thought it was sorted when I talked to Kenny."

Half an hour later, and ten more calls to Kenny, all unanswered: "John, I don't think Kenny's coming. You need to go back to your own room tonight."

"I don't want to. There are thieves there, and they came into my room the last two nights."

"Can't you lock your door?"

"I've had my door open every night for two months."

"Then lock it, and they won't get in."

"But I can't sleep without fresh air in the room."

Oh, criminy Priscilla! "Then don't sleep! Lay awake tonight and sleep tomorrow!!"

"Call Kenny again."

Forty-five minutes later, and I don't how many calls to f-ing Kenny: "John, you need to get into a cab and go home. You can't stay on this stoop in the rain all night."

"But I don't feel safe in my room. Will you come in the taxi with me?"

"No, I won't."

"I'll find someone else. I don't trust the Indians. That's why I never do business with them. I don't want them to know where I live."

"John, every Indian within a mile of your house ALREADY knows where you live! It's 11:30 at night. Who are you going to find to help you?!"

"Call Kenny one more time."

Eventually a lovely Tibetan woman assisted me in getting John to a taxi, and told him the taxi driver was her good friend and to trust him. Then she whispered to me, "Get his license plate number!" She didn't even know the driver. 

When I got home at midnight, exhausted and wet, I was just spinning about the whole thing. I could have gone with him in the cab. And I could have met him the next day and helped him to breakfast. And I could be helping him all day ever day. But I'm not. I've seen him several times since then, and I usually walk the other way. 

What would you do?

Still too much love,

p.s. I'm in Delhi now, flying tonight to Singapore. More later!

These lovely kids were just playing in the woods. I don't know where all the green came from.
IMG_2551.JPG (720×540)

This man is making dee-licious sweet lassis out of yogurt. In this shop they put them in the refrigerator and serve them very cold. So good!
IMG_2592.JPG (720×540)

Shocking but true: I love this kid.
IMG_2604.JPG (720×540)

IMG_2605.JPG (720×540)

A Tibetan boy in Dharamsala.
_MG_50139.JPG (720×480)

This little girl was a joker.
_MG_50147.JPG (720×480)

"I'm not a joker! She's the joker!"
_MG_50151.JPG (720×480)

Someone saw and asked if I got this kid to pose. Maybe someone knows how to do that, but not me. He's just been scolded by his mother and didn't want to look up. He's so precious.
_MG_50153.JPG (720×480)

This is the view of a small part of Dharamsala, as seen from the roof of the Dalai Lama's monastery. It shows how it's set against the mountains. Behind the camera it rolls down to the plains.
_MG_50155.JPG (720×480)

I included a photo of these prayer wheels in the last newsletter, but I like this shot better.
_MG_50157.JPG (720×480)

The locally famous trek to a place called Triund. It's about three hours walking to go up, and about two hours coming down. It's a beautiful setting up there, and the steep angles make it seem like you're way up in the mountains. It's less than 10,000 feet elevation (3,000 meters) but you can feel it as you climb. A group of these goats are on top of one of the shepherd's huts.
IMG_2643.JPG (720×540)

This is my friend Kailash as we approach the top.
IMG_2666.JPG (720×540)

And this is looking down from the same spot. There was some celebration going on at the Shiva temple higher up the hill, and lots of locals were walking there on this day. We'd started the walk in the city-looking part of the photo in the upper center. Wayyyy down there.
IMG_2668.JPG (720×540)

IMG_2720.JPG (720×540)

This is a very wide angle shot showing tiny wildflowers in the foreground.
IMG_2725.JPG (720×540)

These two young women were carrying loads of sand and gravel on their heads to fill a cement mixer. For some reason I was really wondering about what goes their heads, working so hard at a job that probably pays around $2 a day. Why am I able to flit around the world while they have so few choices? Not because we're so different, that's for sure.
IMG_2748.JPG (720×542)

This is a popular hike from town that takes about an hour and a half. The water is melted snow and COLD! Or so I'm told...
IMG_2704.JPG (720×540)

The photos can also be seen here: