Quite frankly, I have gone numb.
I am sitting in the Delhi Airport waiting for a flight back to Mumbai which is still nearly 6 hours from boarding.
I am exhausted.
The bus ride down from McleodGanj was not horrible, but I cannot say it was "comfortable", and I may have had 4 hours of intermittent light sleep (dozing is more accurate) while sitting partially erect, head occasionally flopping off to the left.
I do have to say, the full moon over the Himalayan foothills and the soft pink glow of the peaks made my heart swell.
And the line of lights that is McleodGanj, strung out along the hillside as we descended towards Lower Dharamsala...even remembering it now brings on a feeling I cannot describe (and you know how I love to describe).
So the full moon sailed over India and the bus chanted mantras all the way to Chandigarh...gears exactly the same timbre as the low monks' chanting emanating from temples and monasteries...
Two Bollywood films played at the beginning of the journey, and then we stopped for dinner. I ordered one naan...one stinkin NAAN (a simple tortilla like bread)...and of about 40 people present, I was served dead last, and almost missed my bus!
I think this was the universe reminding me of the lessons I learned (started to learn, apparently) in McleodGanj.
Either that, or it was "farewell Dhasa (Little Tibet)" and welcome back to India.
Back on the road, "Law Abiding Citizen" was popped in the DVD and played til after midnight.
There were then a few hours of quiet. On the plains, moonlight pierced a thin veil of smog, silhouetting tall leafless trees rising against a flat blue backdrop.
We stopped at a seedy Indian bus stand where the toilet watchman wasn't letting me get away with not paying the 2 rupee fee (I don't even think there is a US equivilent for 2 rupees, it's so low)...so I had to run back to the bus across the dirt through a crowd of leering Indian men...joy. Well, perhaps an American woman wearing a salwar, a khata, and Tibetan Buddhist prayer beads running with toilet roll in her hand was simply too much for them to comprehend!
At 4am, like clockwork, the bus drivers decided it was morning and Hindi music pervaded the coach, along with groaning from numerous seats.
My seat-mate, 70 year old Australian adventurer Pammy, disembarked along with most of the Tibetan passengers at Manju ka Tilla (the Tibetan colony in Delhi). I stayed on with maybe 5 other passengers bound for ISBT.
ISBT...the thought of it made me shudder. My only other experience with it was arriving from Jaipur after dark way back in late November. I remembered a huge, bustling, crowded, incomprehensible terminal with no signs in English and no English speaking help.
This stop? We were unceremoniously put out on the side of the road amidst a swirl of auto-rickshaws, drivers virtually grabbing luggage from travelers, shouting "Rikshaw? Auto rikshaw? Hotel? Airport?" My attempts at speaking full English sentences with them failed...again. "Airport? Domestic? Ek sau pachas?! (150)"
Oh hahahaha madam.
Ok fine I'll pay you the freaking 300 rupees just get me out of here! Two young local girls piled in with me and my bags and we careened off into the Delhi sunrise.
I could not see much out the "window", especially covered as it was by a whipping tarp which reeked of urine. I remember seeing the Air Force base and, as we neared the airport, a huge expanse of what looked like really nice apartments...until I realized that the entire expanse was abandoned. Pink and golden light filtered over the scene, softly high-lighting empty windows and what were once streets now filling in with weeds and dust. A bit surreal.
So now I sit in the waiting area of terminal 1D, having stuffed myself on KFC (yes, that's right, KFC) and black currant ice cream, having bought an Elle Decor India magazine which I'm saving for the flight...people watching, uploading pics, killing time...
And mostly fighting off feeling. I cannot allow myself to really think about the past 48 hours, yet. About all the beautiful, kind, loving souls who came with me to the bus station to send me off, even ones who were going through emotional trauma much greater than my own...
I am incredibly blessed.
I am loved. I belong. I have a home in the Himalayas, and people eagerly awaiting my return.
THAT is what I came to find, halfway around the world from where I started. I never dreamed I would find it in INDIA, in a Himalayan hillside community where many of the people can only speak to one another with their EYES for lack of words in one another's languages...and where EYES speak far louder and more clearly than words...