Two years ago I lost my job to the economic tsunami called the recession. A month before that, my mother, my only surviving parent, died due to a sudden heart condition. I had to move out of my beautiful, massive, sea view pent house on the 35th floor, to a shanty little locality and live in a musty ground floor apartment that felt more claustrophobic than a moldy steel vault. I was completely frustrated about where life suddenly took me. I was forty and had enough. But had I? My wife decided to leave me exactly ten weeks later. She said something about having “fallen out of love”… but to be honest, she needed to go find someone who could provide her all the creature comforts that I could no longer afford. I was devastated, depressed and confused. I had no siblings and all the friends I had mustered along with my high flying life, were jet setting in an orbit far away from Loserville.

I was so alone that even saying hello to a passerby on the street seemed comforting. Heck, even my reflection in the mirror felt like company. I just needed to be around people. To feel some warmth. To be comforted. But none of this could be ordered online. I sat all day watching TV and one day I saw a documentary on India….there were so many people milling about on the streets. Brushing against one another as though it was the most normal thing. There was colour, sunshine, warmth. It seemed so overwhelming, so alien that it became magical. All this time, I never once considered going to India as I much rather preferred the south of France, Spain or Tuscany. But at that moment I just knew I had to get there. I got rid of most of what I had, took the money and headed to India.

India assaulted my senses. Overpowered them. Captivated them. Everything that happened to me seemed so distant, as though the vibrancy of India made it fade to a pale past. I decided to explore the country from the south to the north… sort of like a metaphor of my own life, which would someday head northwards again from this bottomless southbound spiral. I spent the first few weeks in Kerala, Goa and Tamil Nadu living in really cheap places spending not more than ten dollars a day on food, travel and stay. It was tough. And it was horrible. I spent nights in the most depressing places, travelling in the most overcrowded public transport and falling sick as a dog time and time again. And it was hot, humid and sticky almost everywhere I went.

I finally moved up north and landed in New Delhi on a low cost air carrier. The train ride would have taken over two days and at this point, I needed some semblance of dignity in travelling. I spent two nights there and left for Rajasthan. En route I stopped at the Taj Mahal in Agra.Standing in front of this monument of love, I saw more couples huddling and posing together for pictures, than I had ever seen anywhere in India. New married couples, middle aged ones, old ones…just people who were on a journey of togetherness and love. Neither of which I had any more. Something in me just snapped while I was there. From nowhere, the flood gates of my memories crashed opened and tears streamed out like the burst fire hydrant of my heart. I just sat there and sobbed while people gathered, laughed, giggle, pointed and even took pictures of me.

What followed were some of the darkest days of my life. I got back to Delhi and checked into a hotel and stayed in the room for days. Just crying mostly. And drinking whiskey in between. When both the tears and the booze ran out, I pulled myself together, took a shower, wore some clean clothes and headed out. Something dawned on me. I was in India, so why on earth was I just travelling here and there instead of actually doing some spiritual programme that might really heal me and help me cope with my losses. I did my research. Looked like everyone was heading to Rishikesh or Dharamsala. I chose the first and went there. I did the “India thing”, lived in an austere ashram with many foreign tourists who all seemed to have attained nirvana. Slept o the floor, went to an Indian style toilet (hole in the ground with no running water), listened to lectures by bearded mean in saffron robes, ate lentils and rice all the time and felt worse than I had to begin with. This was clearly not for me. I wanted to be healed in a more calm, less chaotic, more comfortable environment, by someone who spoke my language (more than verbally). Someone who could make me relate to and consider what they are saying. This was just a hippie haven! Ashrams dotted the landscape like ants. There was no peace here.

Having had enough of the Hindu ashrams, I thought a nice tranquil Buddhist town may just the place to get my shot at spirituality. My next stop was Dharamsala. Little Tibet, as it’s called, home to the Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama is exile. Visited by Hollywood celebrities. I arrived there by bus, with a hundred images of the tranquil town floating through my head. And lo behold — traffic jams, horns, crowds, shanty buildings like little cardboard boxes erected on every square foot of space available.

I checked into one of the many shoddy hotels and strolled around to see what I could do here. Posters, banners, leaflets jostled for space on walls and on counters of shops and restaurants. Each one with a different spiritual offering. I made my way to the Tushita centre and booked myself into a meditation and Buddhist study course. Soon I found it’s claim to fame was its “western teachers”. I found it completely odd that one needs to come all the way to India to learn from the western teacher. The centre was spartan, devoid to anything much except a load of attitude given by the few Tibetans who were obviously used to having their egos pandered by the wide eyed, almost completely western followers. In fact the one Indian student there seemed to be invisible to all of them and all her questions will always brushed aside. I felt quite sad for her and I realized that this was just another devoid of any genuine love and essence of spirituality.

I was glad when the course got over and spent another day observing the functioning of this Tibetan refugee town. Everywhere I could see, the white man was looked upon as a ticket to a brighter future. Monks latched on to bewildered Caucasians in the hope of getting a ticket out of here, literally. One monk befriended me and even offered to make me meet the Dalai Lama if I could afford his “fee”. This was bollocks. This place was just a full blown scam, where modern monks (if one must call them that because of the robes they wear) carry laptops, talk non stop on their mobile phones and don the latest accessories creamed off the gullible and “mis-giving” tourist. Is this what I travelled all the way form across the world for? So when I get back home I would have absolutely no money or peace of mind. Was this whole spirituality deal in India just a well marketed sham?


By yanam49

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