Bus to Rishikesh

.Stop the bus! Stop the bus! ” It is full moon. I have been in Mc Leod for more than a month. I really do not want to leave but it is time. I board the bus with many other people who are now friends. Buses have a narcotic effect on me. I always sleep. The roads no longer scare me. When the rough, hollow sound of a crash happened I did not fully comprehend. I just hear people screaming “Stop the bus! There was an accident”. It takes a while for all of us to comprehend. Someone crashed into us. Someone in the back is unconscious and bleeding. There is a turmoil, windows had exploded. Some young girls come shaking forward ” We need an ambulance”. Israelis move back, they start shouting orders. We need scissors, tissue etc. I also hear the gentle voice of a Canadian inviting the victim to stay, to come back. I cannot look, i do not move I do not want to move out or back. I am just quite amazed by how life is fragile, and how in any circumstance people unite to go beyond themselves to help. I remember my Indian friends telling us not to leave in a a full moon. The moon now shines brightly through the window when we still do not understand the dimensions of our accident.

The Tibetans in the seats next to me seem less impressed. I ponder whether life and death is more natural to them. My thoughts wonder back to Dorjee and Tashi, my Tibetan friends in Mc Leod. Tashi who was a monk for 15 years asks me before i leave to write a message to feature on the table of the restaurant he serves in. I do and lift the table to put under the glass. He follows me removes it and puts on another place. The place where he eats everyday. “I will miss you everyday you know!” I am moved I have tears in my eyes. My friendship with Dorjee is that of jokes in the breakfast. He is not that fluent in English and I understand through time his parents are sick and need his help. Dorjee, who I wrote about before, escaped Tibet as a political refugee. We could never really understand what happened under his smiley eyes. He told me the story of his escape, the two months walking in mountains, about the two children he found crying alone on the way and brought with him. He cant be that old and now he takes care of two children. When we climbed the mountain and he sang mountain up and down collecting the trash tourists left behind I developed this love for Dorjee. This kind of affectionate feeling you have for people who seem so good that they dont seem to feature in the fiction of reality. Couple days ago he was able to contact a friend in Tibet. This friend was able to reach his family. His family is illiterate, and so only now after 4 years did Dorjee hear his 4 sisters and one brother had gotten married. He was so happy, but a happiness that does not explode or modifies too much his natural smile. The following day he is able to talk to to his friend again. This time to find out his father had passed away two years ago. It is so incomprehensible to me the whole notion that I do not know what to say. Dorjee ‘s eyes change a bit, but he keeps that smile in his face. I wonder what is it that goes behind that smile. I wonder but do not want to intrude. I do not fully comprehend. We all love Dorjee,  his kindness is truly inspiring.

“Let me kiss you, open your mouth” The canadian voice brings me back to the bus. I look the Tibetans and know fully well that face expressions dont truly translate what people feel.  I hear the Canadian voice, of the girl of pink hair who to me right now embodies love. She is a typical new age person. She is there under a man she does not know trying to keep his mind with us. The Israelis use all they learn in the army. I who hate the army find that once in my life I actually was happy to have someone who was a combatant with us. It does not matter to them blood is everywhere, that there is a gash in the head of this till now unknown man. All it matters is that all of us now in the bus can hear he is choking in blood. We all want him to live. As the moon goes away the ambulance arrives. The man is carried out and the girl in pink hair goes with him to hospital. The rest of us stay in a mid nightmare, dream state. The day starts to rise. Outside a Canadian takes the guitar of the man who is now in hospital and starts to sing. We all seat by the road in silence. Somehow united by this tragic event. It could have been much worse is all I think about. The day is beautiful. It always puzzles me how life and death, beauty and tragedy just coexist. And as I seat on that road listening to the music I am able to understand a bit more the smile of Dorjee and Tashi. It is a smile of those who have truly embodied impermanence and compassion.  It is not that the feelings that makes most of us cry and shout don’t exist on them. It s more like this awareness that we must keep going and with a song and a smile in the face it is easier to give the next step.

Triund

We are in the middle of the clouds. Every step to be there was a bit harder. Every step we ached, complained and laughed a bit more. We cant really see any thing. We don’t know for how long it goes. And I cannot contain my joy. We made it to the top of the mountain. Carrying Djembes, guitar, trumpet, ukulele, flute and songs in Hindi, Tibetan and every other language. We are more than 15 people there. Tourists and locals I never thought when I started to organize the trip that all this people would come. Madi, at the time asked if he could join. Madi the owner of the tent I talked about last time. I smiled and said that obviously he could come. He sighs and says he also wanted to be part of the party, not be working but part. So that night the tent would close. I look around on the top of the mountain knowing these clouds would eventually disappear. Maybe at night, maybe in the morning.

We make a fire and we seat around it. Dorge the Tibetan political exiled traditional singer starts the cry of the Tibetans, Simona the beautiful german doll follows on the trumpet I sing in my own rhythm. HOw could I contain all that joy? We are all there? This is no longer tourists being served by Indians. They come not as guides, they come as friends who want to also be part of the music, of the party, of the celebration of humanity. Most of us have spent here almost a month. We know the secrets. The Israeli boy now knows much more bossa nova, and I can sing in Hebrew, and Hindi. The complexity of the relations become more and more wide open. They all come to me. What should they do about this or that? I watch the INdian boy who was forced to marry in a arranged marriage where he met his bride in the wedding fall in love with a foreign girl. I watch her try to rationalise as much as she can. I feel the pain, the pain of their impossible love. The secrets come my way. And the world of traditional societies are worlds of secrets.

I am at the top of the mountain and I cannot contain the joy. I love these people. Sooner or later we all have to leave, it is seeming to be sooner than later. But not that night that night we celebrate. We dance, we chant, we laugh. We wait for the stars, we wait for the sun. As the clouds go, we can see more imponent mountains behind. There are horses, and mules, and it looks like Scotland. The clouds go, but the sun does not dare to show itself. NOt yet. It takes time in India. All takes time. I seat in a rock in the edge of the mountain. The older Waldorf school teacher shows up with his ukulele. He teaches physics but now he sings “here comes the sun”. And the sun comes, and bathe us with its beauty. How can I contain so much stories?

Can I pour them down the mountain? Can I pour my feelings ? Instead I close my eyes and try to meditate. There is so much going on. SO many cultures, so many songs, so many stories. I try to empty myself after all I am in the land of Buddhism. I stay for as long as it takes to empty out a  bit more. But then I cant any longer. I hear the music and now I am less in the mood of mountains then I am of people. I come back to them. I come back to life and music and dance. I can empty out later.. now we still have the time to share cultures, to share this friendship built in a month. A month back home is nothing, a month in India travelling feels like a life time. Every feeling travels inside like an explorer. Everything goes deep under the skin. We all know that we will have to take the steps down. In aching legs, swollen feet, and blistered toes. Some jump and run down the mountains others stroll. Dorge sings the Tibetan cry, we imitate. The clouds come back, we stroll through them. They are mysterious they are precious, they used to be confusing.. now they are not. Now I know that behind them lies always the imponent mountain. I take every step with confidence that even when you do not see the path it still lies there. I take every step knowing that in the path we find the way.

Walking in a Different Rhythm, Mc Leod India

To me It feels like a Beduin tent. It is not. The walls a made of bamboo and the roof is in colourful yellow, orange, and red cloth. There is barely no light. We seat in cushions on the floor. We are at the top of my guesthouse. A guesthouse surrounded by many others in a very touristic village. Inside the tent it feels a world apart from the Tibetan in exile village I spend the days in. Three men from Rajastan who seemed to have jumped out of a picture of National Geographic with their long moustaches, their piercing eyes and their traditional instruments seat in the corner. The Israeli boy who studies classical composition in Jerusalem and plays like a Brazilian bossa nova tells me these musicians are amazing. I seat in silence. i look around and notice with some joy that I now know every single face, every Indian, Tibetan or tourist name. They know me too. I feel joy I am in place enough to be able to break the rules. The man who plays this string instrument i have never seen before starts to sing. He stands up and like a character in a fairy tale he sings from within. It sounds like that voice has hundreds of years, that before it comes out like a gypsy cry that it has travelled every corner of his body. The other two men squat next to their traditional drums. The cry is calling for them, so their fingers gently start to caress the leather of the instrument, they move faster and faster and eventually an explosion of music happens.

I feel it inside. I first watch it petrified, in total stillness as if suddenly I was transported to a tale but then the rhythm overtakes me, my body wants to follow that cry, that drum, that tale. I know the place enough, my body knows the faces, we have all laughed together foreigners and locals for enough nights for my body to know that I am allowed to do the unthinkable i stand up and i let it overtake me. i dance. Then comes my beautiful friend Rotem, and then as in a explosion, like in a Kusturica movie foreigners and Indians start a frantic dance that travels the night. You can see through the movements we all come from different countries. Some countries allow for rhythm to go to different parts of the body.

I watch little Ibrach, 6, the son of Madi the owner of the tent, the restaurant, the gentle kind man who everyday cooks whatever i ask him. First I asked from the cushions nowadays from inside the kitchen. That is what time does to you. You get accepted in the secret places. Ibrach is 6 and when i first tried to invite him to dance he shyly runs away. An foreign girl interrupted my gentle invitation. One that had been being built through days, through hiding faces behind veils, saying hellos from far away, eventually shaking hands. While I am there slowly taking the time of Ibrach she grabs him to dance. He runs. She laughs and asks me to help her scare him into dancing. I want to explain her that you cant scare people into music. You have to let the music come within. I know well enough that we just have to wait. I had seen little Ibrach dancing in the corner several times. He would eventually dance… at some point, when time and people would have made it acceptable for his fully formed brain to accept the burning desire to move inside his little body he would come. As more and more people surrended to the music I suddenly see Ibrach in the middle of the Indian men. His body moves like that of a little sahib. Opened arms as if he is already at 6 enclosing the world. I love seeing the people dancing. The indian men go crazy. All that captured tension, all that sexual frustration that rarely finds relief is released in this dance. I love this people i think. I look at Aze, the men who looks like atartuk. The magician of the tabla. He is too contained to jump around like the rest of us. he seats in the cushion moving his fingers to the table in the rhythm. I like Aze a lot he had moved me beyond belief a couple days earlier.

I who through the years had lost my connection with music reencountered in India. Every single night I played a bit more, I sang a little more. Aze, who is an amazing musician, tried to accompany me in the Indian drums. In the chaos of this jam sessions, I little by little tried to encounter the Indians in their time, and they tried to move in brazilian rhythm.

In the official organised jam session, Aze came to tell me he wanted to play with me. I was happy I had observed through the days he was the only person who really listened. he had this kind of relation with music of a life time companionship. I sat and took the guitar, and timidly started to play. Aze brought his tabla, this Israeli enchanting boy who moves in bossa nova rhythm asked me to join us. And so for the following hour we coming from 3 continents walked together. Where is it that we meet?, how is it that I move my internal rhythm a bit more to match theirs. India, middle east and south america. I tried deeper and deeper to walk internally in different steps. My voice sang in different parts of my body, and the whole world seemed to have stopped to exist we just played, we encountered each other in music. When something like this happens it is so hard to put in words. Aze who could be my father told me later he was a tabla professor in university but had not played in 5 years and he had brought his tabla that night to play with me. i was moved. i was shocked. i am not musician I explained. I know so little. ” But your music comes from within. Thank you.” I had tears in my eyes. This was an older men, a lifetime living in music. That night made me famous in this town. The brazilian girl who sings. So now in the tent I could dance. I had learned to play a different world, and dancing to it was just like one step further in this journey of cultural and human discovery. I looked around aze drumming, Ibrach dancing, Tibetans jumping and the beautiful Israeli boy listening like a real musician does in total stillness. i had no idea what that Rajastani man sang about. it seemed so immaterial. there in this tent I saw all cultures come together, with all the beautiful cultural shades they can come. But what overwhelmed me was to see once again that it takes not much more than watching and listening to encountering our overwhelming fundamental humanity.