“This rather simple epitaph can save your hide your falling mind:
Fate isn’t what we’re up against there’s no design no flaws to find.
There’s no design no flaws to find.”
-The Shins, Young Pilgrims
All things considered, the 45 hour train ride under the emotional condition I was in wasn’t all that bad. It was by far the most crowded train I’ve been on yet. There’s a rule that people can still board a train if the train is full, and this can mean not everybody gets a seat. On this train, it meant that for 2 nights, some people slept on the floor, which is a really really dirty place to be here. I luckily had a bed up top, so I was sort of removed from the madness, but anytime I had to go to the bathroom, I had to literally climb over and on people, sometimes from berth to berth, like a monkey on a jungle gym. That’s how crowded it was. Insane.
When I arrived in Varanasi, more than anything I needed friends and familiar faces, and I knew just where to find them. They didn’t immediately recall my name at the Elvis Guest House, but they did remember me, and I was had the warmest greeting by the owners and all the help and support in the world. They put me in a room twice as nice as the one I’d stayed in before for the same price and drove me all around town on a motorbike to banks and stores and anywhere else I needed to go to get my wallet situation sorted out and never asked for a cent. The offered to lend me as much money as I needed. It was really great to be there. I bought a cheap but cool mantra ring on the street. One night I went out with Lala and a couple of girls who were staying at the hotel and was explaining that it had been a rough couple of weeks but that things were looking up. At “looking up”, I made a great, broad gesture with my hands and flung my ring into a pile of cowshit and trash.
The last time I was in Varanasi, I spent the night under two blankets wearing every article of clothing I owned, bought scarves to wrap around my thighs, and STILL couldn’t sleep for the cold. This time, it was too hot to think. You sweat standing still in places you didn’t even know you had sweat glands. Hot. For kicks, I went to see Lala’s family Baba. It was a good experience, even though I felt like he got a few things wrong about my past and personality. He said I was emotional, can you imagine? Overall, he said I didn’t have any major problems in my life, and he did seem to understand that my biggest obstacles were romance and jobs. So he made me a talisman for that. Here’s hopin’. Apparently I don’t get a steady job for a while, but when I do “fame and fortune, no problem”. Der.
In Mumbai on my way down to Goa, I met a guy from Norway, Evert, and he mentioned an interest in heading to Sikkim (as was I). He took the train and met me in Varanasi and then we went on together north, towards fresh air. We encountered some trouble entering the State of Sikkim itself because of a holiday and were forced to go instead first to Darjeeling, home of tea.
Darjeeling is a beautiful place, very reminiscent of Dharamsala in both natural surroundings, architecture and people. It’s chalk-full of Tibetan culture which means the best momos I’ve ever tasted. We ended up spending more time there then planned because we were both trying to figure out our plans for getting back to our respective countries, he leaving one day before I do. Still, if I had to waste time somewhere, it was a nice place to be, and I did eventually escape to Sikkim as was the goal all along. We arrived last night. You need a special permit to get in, but it’s free and easy and the drive is outstanding though crowded. Right now, we’re in a small town that reminds me of the old west, minus the Indians and Alicia Silverston posters in restaurants. I’m excited to see the Buddhist gompas later today and then maybe test out the momo fare in this region. I have one week left in India.