The Journey Om

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One of the great things about life on the road is following the paths that lead you to back to yourself.  Being thrust headlong into the experiences of life and survival keep you from settling into grooves and routines that prevent you from changing.  With nothing to tie you down, you can shift yourself with the breeze, following your heart and your destiny.  Your whims can become reality, as you don’t have a job, or a mortgage, or soccer practice at 4.  Every moment becomes a chance to learn and grow.  There may be a lesson here in learning to live a life where this is always the way of things, but as I keep learning, this is also a part of our individual journeys, to find meaning and fulfilment in every moment.  As the Zen saying goes, before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.  After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

Having gained some insight into the methods of Ayurveda, Theresa was ready for a change of pace.  India had provided her with plenty of opportunities to test out her photographic skills, which was a passion she had been developing since before we set out on our journey, but she felt there was something missing.  Books can only teach so much about what is essentially a hands-on skill, and so she sought a guru of the photographic image.

What better place to find a guru than in India?  Prasad Prankar was the sort of man who gave the impression that there are no worries in life, that every moment is a celebration, and that every person is special and wonderful.  Looking a like a miniature Indian Jeff Daniels, his demeanor was contagious.  He found everyone fascinating, as if he realized that each person is worthy of fascination, an interesting story to be read, with a great tale of their own to be told, and he used his lens as a means to capture those stories.

From what Theresa told me, his classes were informative and fun.  His knowledge of the camera was handed down quickly, but in a way that sunk in deeply.  I was amazed at how much Theresa was learning each day, and marveled at how one person could convey so much information in such a short period of time.  Moreover, I enjoyed hearing about her classmates.  The dynamics of groups are always fascinating in foreign lands, with people from several countries and customs all trying to find common ground.  That which is common in our human experience shines in those situations, and our personal idioms become even more pronounced.  The bored rich German housewife thought her camera phone was adequate to distill moments into memories, and in some sense, this was true.  But at what point does the art and science of capturing light become the mandate for growth and learning?

Prasad’s house was similar to a townhouse, wedged into a corner between other similar dwellings, with a common courtyard in the back.  It was his ancestral home, which I assume means that the property had been inhabited by his ancestors, as the home was less than a hundred years old.  It was filled with strange antiquities, mostly pushed into one or two rooms to make room for his photography equipment and studio space.  Ornate wooden trim and paneling gave the place a Victorian feel, which seemed strangely appropriate in downtown Mapusa (pronounced mahpsuh), which was a colonial town from the early days of European settlement in the region.

Mapusa was about a half hour drive from our Villa, and although I could easily make the drive daily, I can’t say that I really wanted to double Theresa up on my bike on the winding rural roads, passing by the recycling stations where hundreds of people sorted through great piles of garbage by the side of the road.  As brave as I had felt thus far driving in India, every moment was an opportunity to practice full-on total focus, a nerves on edge experience.  Doing a drive like that every day for a week was more abuse than I felt my nerves deserved, and tempted fate far more than I would have liked to.

As an alternate, we hired our other favourite drivers, George, and his cousin Choudry to ferry Theresa back and forth every day.  They were reliable, interesting young locals, and as Catholic as the Pope.  I think Theresa wanted to ride in their car just for the pumping techno tunes they always had going in the car, and to watch the colour changing plastic Mary idol on the dashboard, who stood side by side with a statue of Ganesh.  When asked why he had two completely different religious idols on the dash, George laughed and replied, “It keeps me covered either way.”

Their fee for this harrowing daily trek?  120 Rupees each way.  About 3 dollars.  You can’t even get into a cab for that much in Canada.  And the value for preservation of life and limb was well worth it.  Perhaps having multiple idols had some merit to it after all.

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