After the Mist

I find myself awake before dawn, I am staying in the Desert city of Jaisalmer, in a stunning Havelli built into the medieval walls of this hilltop stronghold, built by the Mughals as a base from which to earn wealth from the caravan routes crossing the Thar Desert.
Sleep was once a given for me, I would sleep soundly wherever or whenever I needed to, but for the present those times have gone, now I manage at the most a couple of hours at a time, then wake, my sleep is broken by dreams and unresolved thoughts. This night has been no different, I have left my room, and sit wrapped in a blanket on the high ramparts of a thirteenth century tower high above the newer city stretching out below. A thick mist covers the town, the air though in the Desert is damp and clingy, it’s more like a London Fog than the Thar Desert.
The first signs of movement stir in the distance below, a few figures move below like ants, a lone bike passes in the road periodically headlights in the gloom, as dawn approaches in the distance I hear the Muslim call to prayer, a quarter of the Cities inhabitants are Muslim, the remainder Hindu.
I feel strangely dislocated from my surroundings, the place is magical, I ask myself why I am unable to be here now not just in my body but with my mind, but my thoughts carry me back to England, part of this trip has been a conscious effort to escape, but I sit here and realise that I have not escaped my thoughts. My unease, maybe my dis-ease is in not letting go, not letting myself be free. I tie myself in the bonds of the past, with the people I have left behind, both those met recently and those known for many years. Have I made a mistake, should I have stayed in London with my reality?
As I sit uncomfortably with my thoughts the dawn arrives, the mist slowly lifts, then I notice a large hawk , just a few yards away from me on the Fort wall, it stares out over the ramparts as I do, but it’s gaze is fixed on a flock of birds circling, the hawk takes to the skies, it circles high above the flock then swoops down. I am immediately moved to the present, my thoughts go with the Hawk, I watch it swoop again and again, each time it fails to capture its quarry, but somehow I am captured by the moment, I am moved to the present, nothing from the past matters, I am just here and now and in a strange way, whilst witnessing a potentially life and death struggle in the avian world I find the passage of time watching it utterly calming and perfect.
This same process has happened many times during my trip to India, at times my mind has been churning over the past and then people or places or incidents have picked me up and pulled me to the present, to the moment.
I booked into a Havelli late one evening, I was greeted by an old chap, “I am the Assistant Manager” he said proudly, my son is the Manager, I am retired from my job he explained. I was a school principal for forty years, now I receive a pension from the Government of India. He was a grey haired short man, with a beaming smile and kind eyes. I warmed to him immediately.
He told me his name, I regret not having remembered it, but he went on to show me on a wall, photos of his parents, he told me the dates his mother and father had died. When I told him I was from England he was quick to reply, “Ah, England, many people here remember the British in India with good memories”, he pointed to his fathers photo, “My father always said that when the British ruled India it was better – the Law was the Law, things worked properly with the British, not now, the law is bad, everything is corrupt. “
Riding pillion on a motor bike down country lanes to a remote farm was a great experience, I had not thought in anyway that I would be remotely interested in riding a motor bike, but that journey has given me a desire to get a bike, or at the least if I go back to India to do part of my travels this way.
Talking to people in India likewise has moved me on, got me to the present, at least for a while, from Masseurs to Sages ( its difficult to tell who does what here at times ) A masseur with a twist, who’s services were used by my companion rather than myself shook my hand, stared deeply into my eyes for a long time and then simply said to me, you must think with your heart, not with your head, too much thinking with your head not good. Maybe he says that to every Westerner he meets, but somewhere in there was a rather profound logic, let your mind tie itself up in the knots of memory or what was, or what the future holds and you lose the present, the life you are in now.
It is impossible not to feel alive in India, not to be in the present, my lesson is to live beyond what was, to accept what is now and to be open to that which is to come.


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