Saturday, April 5, 2008

Calcutta for the last time


I have been here far too long. I know I should go, I know I should move on...

People have asked me so many times what the most difficult part of traveling is. I can state without any hesitation that it is saying goodbye. To people, to places, even to the security of your own little room that comforted you for so many days.

As nostalgic as I am I feel I must go. It is no longer morally acceptable for me to linger on in a city where most people come to volunteer in the many charity houses. Doing nothing makes me feel of an elite I do not wish to belong to.
Every other person asks me where I volunteer. I have to say 'nowhere'. It makes me feel ashamed and a disaster-tourist. If you've ever been to Calcutta you will know what I mean. But I was not in any state of mind to help others when I came here and now it is too late to start. I have been in India for nearly two months and only now, here, finally, I feel lighter. The burden I was carrying around is slowly evaporating. The pain of my past is healing. And the illusion I once thought was the truth is now clear. It was never what I thought it was, it was never going to be that either. It just took me about two years to see that. Sometimes we only see what we want to see.

When one sets off to travel in a manner called backpacking, and with no other plan than to go with the flow, one must also have a certain state of mind. If you want to dive into another world and see it without judgment, feel it without fear, hear it without finding it deafening, taste it without getting sick, in short, just live it, one must have peace of heart. Calmness is necessary as it stills the mind and gives it a platform on which you can walk quietly.
This deep-rooted trust in life is necessary to overcome the society-cultivated fear for all that is unknown. A fear that, if you are not careful, takes hold of your heart and deprives you of your vision and rational thinking.

When I arrived I was euphoric, a few weeks later my first test on this trip came. Everything of material value was stolen from me. Whether it was just a matter of bad luck or stupidity (I'll leave that in the middle) it did get me out of my comfort-zone of illusion. It put me back with my feet on the ground with smack that hurt my entire being. After that everything became blurred by hatred, self-pity, pain from the past and fear of the future and in the present I was constantly balancing on the edge of reason. I spent weeks in what could qualify for paradise but I didn't see it.
I couldn't understand how so much bad luck can happen to one person. Although I am young and healthy and apparently have nothing to complain about, my family is not. If you care about someone than their struggle is your struggle.
As for my own life .. I seem to make the wrong decisions all the time leaving me with an amount of time wasted on things that have appeared not worth fighting for. I have loved deeply and I have believed blindly. It was one way traffic as it appears. I have recently learned a hard truth: people lie. And you never suppose it's those who are closest to you ! They say all the right things to gain their position, then use your kindness as their ammunition, to shoot you down in the name of ambition...
Now I need to learn how to forgive. Him and me.

Calcutta is good for healing. It puts things in perspective when you see my neighbours struggling for their space at night and know that when the rain came in the middle of the night last night, they are running right under my window to find shelter, probably being too late, leaving them to sleep on moist mats under damp blankets. They only eat once and will not take any food from you because their stomachs will grow as will their hunger. But they are lovely people, who work and live like us, fall in love and marry and love their kids like we love ours. They are kind and undemanding, funny and sweet and are always ready to offer you a cup of tea. But when curfew arrives and you have to go back to you room in the hotel you feel uneasy and angry at a world that is big enough for all of us but badly divided by a few of us. Other than that they are just the same.

My travels will take me up north. To the mountains and to fresh air. Closer to Nepal, which I cannot enter because I have no more visa since my passport was stolen. But I will be able to feel it, so close, in the Shiwalik hills at 2200m. Mount Kanchenjunga with his 8591m towers over the valley.
It's the worlds third highest peak. On clear days one can see the Mount Everest as well. Speaking of prominent greatness.

I send you all my love, missing you at times wishing some of you were here to share this beautiful land of extremes with me. One day, one day ....



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