Wednesday, November 5, 2008

India Journal, Part 2

The auto ricksaw somehow easily finds the dentist's office-- i'm impressed when they find any address in India, since the street names, numbers and directions always seem so confusing to me. I get there 30 minutes before my scheduled appointment and before the office is open. A worker is washing the front steps with water. I go and sit down in the waiting area. A few minutes later the driver of the taxi from Vrindavan that is supposed to meet me there shows up-- one hour early. I guess he has no other gig today. He also comes into the waiting room, looking for a power plug to recharge his mobile. These days, even some ricksaw wallas can be seen playing with their mobiles. (Does anyone actually call them?)

The dentist arrives. He is devotee-friendly, a nice guy and trained in Holland. I am sitting in the dentist chair less than 8 hours after landing in Delhi. He does his work while i listen to Prabhupada on my iPod. (It's a great survival tool for the dentist.) As soon as the appointment is complete i pay my bill by giving the receptionist nine 500 rupee notes and she shakes her head from side to side after counting it to indicate i have paid the correct amount ( i had a two hour appointment). Then i'm off in the subcompact taxi to Vrindavan. The 130 kilometer trip is familiar to me. Getting used to the traffic again is always an adjustment-- especially when my driver decides to go against the traffic-- going south on the northbound lanes of the national highway, to save a few hundred meters while playing chicken with oncoming cars and trucks. I chastise him for this, but it doesn't seem to matter to him.

It's still hot in this part of India in late October and i'm drinking more water than i drink in the West. After a 3.5 hour drive, which includes a stop at the beloved roadside cafe, Hari Om Dubba, we reach Vrindavan, past billboards advertising high-priced apartments for sale. The housing bubble has not yet burst in India it seems. The immediate challenge facing me is to clean my room at Yamuna Kunj which has not been used by anyone for 18 months. I am shocked when i unlock the door and find 5 cm (2 inches) of dust on the floor and most of the furniture, along with extensive webs and a few very large spiders on the walls and ceilings. I have no choice but to start sweeping it out with a straw hand broom i had kept in the room. I use a wet cloth over my nose and mouth to filter the dust. It's the spiders i'm afraid of, not knowing if they are poisonous or not. A devotee downstairs assures me not to worry-- even the scorpions are OK he says-- only Australian scorpios can kill you. Just use the broom to sweep them into an empty bucket. I feel a bit of an intruder to kick them out, but do it gingerly, so as not to cause them to take revenge on me.

It takes about 3 hours for me to clean the room and unpack a few essentials i had kept there-- like a battery operated light for when the power goes out. Miraculously, it still works after sitting uncharged in my almira for 18 months. Finally i try to shake the dust off my two thin cotton mattresses, and assemble my hi-tech mosquito net on the simple wood bed. It's 8 pm and i'm exhausted. I have just enough energy to set up the net and climb into it before falling off to a deep sleep. In the early morning around 5 am, i hear the sounds of kirtan parties chanting as they walk past Yamuna Kunj on the parikram marg. It reminds me that yes, i'm in the holy dham, far from the maddening material society. I know that it's better to be here, in bed, hearing the kirtaniyas, than to be out there, anywhere, doing just about anything that produces karma. It's my first morning in the dham and i have 10 days ahead of me. I enjoy the moment and the hope of recharging my spiritual life in a natural way, and blissfully drift back to sleep.

No comments: