My last few days in India have not been what I had hoped. I suppose that a last hurrah at the Golden Temple and parties with friends in Amritsar just wasn’t in the cards.
Food poisoning. There is nothing, my friends, nothing like food poisoning in this country to make you homesick. Horrible, intense food poisoning no less. I think I threw up nearly thirty times in a 24-hour period, accompanied by severe diarrhea. I had a high fever and was sweating out of nearly every pore of my body. The headache and body aches couldn’t really compare with the knives stabbing me in my stomach, so I hardly noticed them.
My friend Ravinder Singh went to the chemist to get me some medicine. It promptly made me throw up again. But knowing he was checking on me from time to time as I lay moaning in my bed made me feel safer, because certainly he would get me to a hospital if it looked like I was on my way out.
Two absolute angels showed up in my life. Siri Atma Kaur and Balwant Kaur, both from South America, stayed up with me rubbing towels dipped in ice water over my body to draw out the fever. Balwant gave me a few hours of reflexology to try to stop the vomiting. They spoke to me softly and gently, keeping my mind off of how sick I felt. I literally fell asleep on them. After a beautiful night’s sleep thanks to these angels, I’m strong enough to go to the airport at least.
Thanks, India, I think. You have a way of cleaning the poisons out of people. (Although, the reverse is also true, for you always have a way of putting poisons into people.) When I was studying with Ustaad-ji one day, he looked at me and said “Ramdesh Kaur! You have to clean, clean, clean your insides! Clean your body! Clean your mind! Only then will you be able to sing!” I guess I wasn’t moving fast enough for the universe. I’ve never been the best housekeeper. India thought, “I know! I’ll clean her up!” and promptly polluted my body just enough to make me think death was a possibility and then pull me back.
What an end! If nothing else, it helps mitigate the nostalgia. It is easy to romanticize India. Easy to make it a land of red and pink saris, of painted elephants, of sadhus with their hair wrapped up into rishi knots of the top of their heads, of naughty monkeys cavorting in the branches of banyan trees, of magical rivers and hidden caves. It is all of these things, but it is also the opposite. It is a land of incredible poverty, of terrible corruption, of extreme pollution. Anything you can say about India is true, and at the same time, the reverse is also true. That is, of course, one of its greatest lessons. It’s all God, all the time: the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly. Most of these states are just human judgments anyway. Let go of judgment, and you feel the presence of the Divine.
Ek ong kar: the creator and the creation are one. You and I are one. Thanks to India, I’m a leaving a little cleaner than I came. Thanks to Oneness, so are you.