Shi(f)t happens

“My little personal crisis”. Sounds familiar? We live through tough periods, at times, without much stress, while something seemingly insignificant can shake us up ruthlessly. Sometimes, you think, it just occurs, out of nothing. And it is not a thing you want to cry to a friend about. It is just for you. Suffocating. Burning.

Reaction? We numb it. Punish ourselves. “I am miserable, and my life is fucked up.” Sleep over it, and try to put it to the darkest depths of our memory, never to recall again.
Transformation is painful. When snake grows new skin and gets rid of the old one, I’m sure it must be uncomfortable. When a butterfly breaks free from its cocoon, it cannot fly straight away, its wings are too wet and weak for a period.

Blank spots are still there, whatever self-aware we might be. Some situations unveil our hidden selves, make us face our true ego, shakes up our sense of personal identity. These learnings usually feel rather unpleasant, not that they are negative, but because we never thought about ourselves this way. And those eyes-opening experiences never leave us as we were, they affect the way we think, the way we behave. They transform us.

To draw the line, personal crisis strikes when transformation takes place. Why shall we call it crisis then? Yes, it does have its pain, but without the pain of giving birth, there would not be a miracle of life. As Brene Brown calls her nervous breakdown “spiritual awakening”, I suggest we call our personal crises “personal transformations”, “encounters with consciousness”, “inner turning points” if you wish.

Insights are appreciated.

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Colorful people

Have you ever felt like a candy mountain? That’s exactly what I felt like, when colorful torrents were coming down from me as I was taking a shower. Who told that fairy tales are only there in the books? For three days, I became a character of a very funky fairy tale.
If you think that I’m on drugs, that is not exactly true. The truth is that Holi is a mega colorful Indian holiday, but Holi in Vrindavan (town where Krishna spent his young years) is just an alice-in-wonderland-sorta-thing.

While in the States, I’m quite sure, one would be taken to court immediately for randomly throwing colorful powder on people walking by, Indians seemed to be quite happy to have a pink face, red hair, yellow cheeks, and Easter egg style clothes. A have never seen so many joyful people in my life. Even disciples of an ashram we were staying in, normally being smily but reflective, were excited like kids, as they got all wet and pink. Genuine, deep happiness.

In the evenings, as the sun was setting, locals were gathering on the stairs of an antient looking abandoned temple. With fire, flowers, candles, with dances and chantings, they were performing the ritual of worshipping the river. Monkeys climbing the walls and foreigners rolling around with their cameras were the reminders that all happening there was real, here and now. After it became dark and the ritual was about to finish, I joined the circle of worshipers, and was blessed with some silver bucket that a man in a long white dress with a long white beard put on my head. Not that it made me feel more holy, but for some short moment I became one of them – no matter what the color of my skin or my faith was.

The ashram I was staying in was a community of Krishna devotees, with disciples from various countries, mostly German speaking Europe. Everybody had their Indian name, wore a white robe, and was involved in surrendering to Krishna. In contrast to their brothers and sisters in Europe, those were fitting to the environment and didn’t seem affected. Constant presence of a smile on their face and softness of the voice seemed to be rather spiritual. In general, when you compare put on a cross Jesus and dancing among women Krishna, dark mystery of churches and Indian temples with their happy colors, funeral-like singing of “Jesus mercy our sins” and cheerful or at least reflective chanting of the religions of India, an answer to the question of why poor Indians are happier than wealthy westerners becomes evident. One doesn’t need to be religious to feel the impact that religions make on our lives, most of it is already in our genes and collective history.

On a ride

Going on a journey. It’s very much like riding a roller coaster. In the beginning, you feel scared. You fasten all the security belts, hold firmly with your both hands, and hold a breath as if in an attempt to become smaller. As the ride goes on, you cool down, relax, loosen your seatbelt, and enjoy the thrill of your experience with arms wide open.
The ride I’m having does have its thrill. Not the one usually mentioned in numerous articles about India. Having arrived with expectations quite low, I knew about what’s going on in the streets, what is the reality of the country. On my ride, I focus on the things that are important for me: culture, habits, weird little things that make up our lives. And it’s thrilling.

I’m getting stuff to think over, that is also a part of the ride. Just like in “The Pilgrimage” by Coelho, which I have just finished reading (that was a book for an occasion, so to speak), it teaches me its practices, gives me its challenges, shapes my worldview as well as self-perception, questions me. Explains how to “fight a good fight”, literally. What is left is to discover the secret of my sword.

Life stories, those are precious as well. My host in Chandigarh is *that* sorta guy. After having spent 5 years studying physics in the UK, he’s going to ride a bike towards Nepal. There he will be teaching locals to build earthships – sustainable houses made of tyres and other waste materials. They are also independent in terms of water and energy, and even food. Watch the “Garbage Warrior”, if you got hooked up by the idea.

To end on a less philosophical note, a bonus fact. Most of the elderly population of India are ginger. Just because they dye their grey hair with henna, the same color tattoos are being made with. That makes them stand out, having in mind all the Indians have black like night hair.

Amritsar

Oh, this sweet feeling of being fooled… Wherever I go, I feel like they always are ripping me off. This 100 Rs ricksha seemed like a fairly good deal though. I wouldn’t go far along no-name streets, would I?

“Can I get an accommodation here? You know, like to sleep,” – I put my palms close to the head as if I was sleeping. The guide book was saying one can get a free bed at temple facilities. Not exactly a bed was it that I got, but it was warm and (thanks mom and dad for the color of my skin) under the roof.

The next day I spent in a sorta vegetation, getting used to bazillions of people in colorful turbans (Golden Temple in Amritsar is a mecca for the Sikhs) and constant chanting of the Holy Book, translated from the Temple to all its premises. Being on my own was never an option though, one cannot escape from people asking to take a picture together with you and “where are you from” conversations.

The following day was marked with me having got some poisoning from the food in temple’s free canteen (happens when you serve 40.000 people 24/7). No toilet drama, just maybe some fever at night. “Welcome to India,” as a fellow co-traveller noticed. Sadly, it prevented me from going to nearby Indian-Pakistani border to cheer Indian guy outshouting Pakistani guy after the flag down ceremony – those two countries compete even in volume of the voice.

Bonus fact. While couples behave pretty modestly over here, guys like touching each other and even walk holding hands, which is merely a sign of their good friendship (against crooked interpretations of the foreigners).

First steps into the unknown

It’s been 3rd day of me travelling, and I’ll be finished only by tonight. First impression: it’s not that bad. My only unfulfilled expectation is that people would speak at least some bad English.

Some 33h ago I got off the plane. Tiny airport building was finishing with the last official. Beyond the door, there was noise of small dark people, grabbing every person walking out of the airport and taking them somewhere to the morning darkness. Few minutes of hesitation, realisation that not many other options are left, deep breath, and I’m outside.

Through the window of my small taxi cab, I saw people cycling along the road, women carrying bowls on their heads, and small half-ruined buildings. A mosquito was silently cruising from me to the driver. All these villages on the way resembled the ones in Spain, or in Italy, or was it only my desperate attempt to convince myself it was no different here. But it was.

Being the only white person at a train station, I felt I was being looked at by every person, except for maybe those lying on the ground with their heads covered. I walked aimlessly here and there, and then decided to sit down and read a book. Holding to it looked somewhat safe, it was my portal of escape in some way. I remembered myself scanning foreigners on the streets back in Europe. That what it feels, being an alien.

Train was late for half an hour. My try to make friends with neighbours was not really successful, neither my attempt to stay awake and look through the window. I clumsily climbed up to my berth, and took a set of naps, interrupted by the conductors bringing trays with food. The only thing that looked somewhat familiar was rice. I tried the consistency of two other dishes with a spoon, gave a glance to my neighbours eating, another glance to the tray with food, and told my stomach to man up.

Delhi looked much more chaotic, but much more less scary. I already was in my element. As I had to get from one railway station to another, I tried to fix a rickshaw. Answer ‘yes’ to all of my questions, most of which required some open answer, was not really convincing, so I decided to find the way on my own. Suddenly, a car appeared. “Pavel?” My host (I’ll come to visit Delhi few days later) knew I was coming with this train, so he was so kind to meet me and drop me to a station I was supposed to continue my trip from. His current surfer who was together in the car appeared to be much more adventurous and courageous person than I, which gave me some strength and inspiration. As he was Australian, we discussed best ways of eating vegemite, tipping hijras and the poor, he mentioned he heard of an exceptional quality of Lithuanian honey.

My train to Amritsar is leaving in one hour. “We wish you a happy, comfortable and safe journey”