I took a 3 hour bus ride.
It took 1 week of being in India to turn dread into eagerness. Something had happened to me in Bali – something to do with having a driver and my Scoopy. With no potential of long bus or train journeys, I’d softened.
The trip began seamlessly. The auto-rickshaw driver hauled my bag into a moving bus (where it was stowed behind the door), I was pointed to my seat, the bus filled, wheels still moving. And I sat there grinning. I was the only blue eyes on the bus. I had been nervous about this? With Radiohead filling my ears, I felt like this was the golden travel moment I’d been waiting for.
I don’t recommend eating a whole watermelon before any bus ride. Bladders are the reason I will always choose trains over buses! When the bus stopped, I faced my ongoing conspiracy panic – if I pee will they wait for me and will my bags still be here when I get back. I dilemma’d. For awhile. Then I jumped off, picked my way through mud asking several people for directions. When I came out, the bus was moving, everyone was looking out of the window at me, and yes they were waiting. My bag was still behind the door. My fear, due to my lack of languages, coupled with traveling alone and having no one to watch your bag/stop the bus leaving without you, was vanquished! It sounds like a tiny thing, but I knew it had been creating caution in other areas of my life. My mojo had been sliding..
Even when the bus stopped 4 km before the station, and I walked across the very long ass Shastri Bridge, carrying ALL my bags, my grin was luminous. I felt like a traveler again.
My first sight of The Kumbh Mela was better than any christmas. it was spread below me in every direction, as far as the eye could see – incomprehensibly huge. This gig had taken some serious party planning. There were thousands upon thousands of people pouring in, all you could do was to join the flow. Families and villages kept hold of each other with cords, strings and sarees. They refused to be separated, often running, barefooted to keep up with their group. Usually with sacks on their heads. They brought with them cooking pots and firewood. Rice, wheat flour and vegetables could be bought on site. Chapatis handmade from scratch were standard fare. (What would the west use as basic sustenance? I can’t imagine anyone carrying cooking equipment, fire fuel or hand making anything.)
Voices from the ‘lost and found department’ over the loud speakers constantly updated the crowds on people who were ‘lost and innocent’ – with regular updates of people happily reunited – by the time I left the tally was over 40,000 people! I’m told there are many Bollywood movies based on ‘separated at the kumbh’ stories, and reunited there again, years later as adults.
1st class and 5 stars do not a traveler make, any more than resorts or package deals. This doesn’t mean I’m romanticizing travel, or that I don’t like nice clothes and clean teeth. I love staying in beautiful places, but not because of the name or value. I needed to feel ALIVE, vibrant and engaged again. You can put no value on creating that kind of space – where you are open to fresh synchronicities, thoughts and people!
I was lost and found.