we said good bye at the train station. we are supposed to meet in 24 hours in another city. a train and a plane will take me there, first west and north to delhi, then east and south to vizag. i bought my tickets ahead of time. he has no tickets. he is going to wait at the station to look for trains, to try to meet there one way or another. but this is his country. he says, "don't worry, i'll come out", and makes a motion of being born.
he helps me load my bags on the train. we do not hug because that is not the custom for men and women in india. always it seems eyes are watching. i am aware as a white woman of not wanting to bring more attention to myself. i think my purple bra strap has slipped and is showing, and that is shocking enough. so we wave goodbye in the doorway of the train, exchanging secret smiles with our eyes.
i sit down and begin to let my mind wander. then i feel a tap on the window behind me. i turn, there is his hand pressed to the window. i press mine back and then he is gone. i see his tall head bobbing above the crowd until it disappears. "there is no space, they all choke each other", he had said when we were fighting our way to the train through the mass of bodies, thick as a bloodstream. maybe i will see him in 24 hours.
inshallah means, god's will be done, but it can't really be translated into english. it implies a whole culture and faith. deeply engrained patterns of time as old as the deserts. it also means, i surrender to what is meant to be. to destiny. to chance. i surrender to fate. to the will of god, to the will of nature, to the will of all living things that fill the earth. i surrender to the influences of the elements, the weather. i surrender to the influence of the heavenly bodies, the way the moon pulls the mighty ocean. i surrender to the invisible interconnection of all things and the fate we share together.
i bought my ticket last minute and i don't know where my sleeping berth is. i am so tired my eyes are burning. i find an empty berth and lay down to wait for the ticket man to come help me. i fall asleep immediately. i am woken up by a woman saying it is her berth. i am sleepy and disoriented. i wander to another train carriage. the train sways beneath my feet. i can see black velvet night and the moving earth between the gap of the train carriages. i find another empty berth and hope i won't be woken up again tonight.
i open my eyes and feel the train gently rocking my body. side to side. i check my cell phone for the time, 6:30am. travel is disorienting. it makes me aware of how little i control. i must allow myself to slip into the stream, to give my body to the swiftly moving current. like swimming, it is easier if i relax and give my weight to the water. then i am supported and carried on.
the naked flourescent bulb is next to my head, it illuminates the train with an unromantic eye. the sellers begin walking through the aisles, singing songs of what they have to sell.
"chai, chai, coffee, coffee"
omelette, bread, omlette, bread"
the travellers before me are murmuring in hindi. the woman is not saying words at all, just a sing-song, "ha, ha" to let the man's voice know she is listening. she sounds like a bird, maybe a parrot. when i do not speak the language around me, i am reminded that words are just auditory symbols we have agreed to have a common meaning for, to communicate. underneath all the language of words is another language of emotion, tone and vibration.