Thursday, May 21, 2009

Telling Talisman



Sacred serpents coiled around their clutches of eggs yet to hatch in rock caves had the faithful attending in droves to offer their prayers. Some dubbed them ‘suckers’ while others merely found some value for astonishment and surprise. I felt both; legend of the ‘Guardians of Taras’ floated and the cliff next door with the elephantine protrusion added still more gravity  to the story. Yet when I drove past that road I did not feel the need to actually go out and check out the serpents firsthand. People were still hurrying up and down the road from where the snakes lay. What am I gonna do even if I went up there?  My lame thoughts came and went, and with that, I was already kilometres away from the scared premises, my son in deep slumbers and me lost in great mental numbers.

I did make a trip to Taktsang though, and found myself panting and praying at the Guru’s Holy Cave. The trip ended with a throw of the dice at the deity’s chambers. The Venerable Singye Samdrup was generous, and gave me a dice of confidence to carry and call on during the coming days that I was gonna travel. The day arrived and I departed Paro Airport with a heavy heart, a sad recurring case every time I leave the kingdom I malign so much.

 

In-flight, fears of the future, immediate and relative, started hatching their own eggs. Had I been a good son during my yearly sojourn back home? A good brother? A good uncle? A good cousin? A good friend? A good husband? A good Bhutanese? A good Buddhist? A good person?  The answers were shouting out in unison, a loud collective thunder roaring ‘No’! That didn’t feel too good, but worse still were my irrational worries about stuff like how would I get to the Royal Embassy of Bhutan? In an auto-rickshaw or an ambassador car? Would the embassy guest house ensure me a room? What if they didn’t really get my half baked reservation? And how would I spend the 48 hours I had at my disposal? Wouldn’t the heat and the pollution be too discomforting? How would my son react to Delhi’s surroundings? Would chicken be safe enough to eat? It was a nice comfortable flight to Delhi.

 

 

The first hurdle of finding transportation to the embassy was solved by a chance encounter with an acquaintance I barely knew; she was travelling westwards and had a pickup arranged for her by the embassy. We could join her, ‘Fantastic’ I said and started worrying about the rest of the fears left on my list. The immediate one being, ‘Now that transportation has been solved, what about the accommodation? Arriving at the embassy, I was pleasantly surprised to find out they had indeed had a reservation in my name, though they had had to downgrade me from the ‘suite’ to the ‘deluxe’ room. The going rate was Rs. 2000 a night for two occupants, since I was with a minor, I only had to make do with a 1000. Thankful and surprised, we checked in. I showered while my boy watched Mahabharata cartoons. To double check that it was really my name the room was booked under, I walked over to the reception and asked the man behind if there were any complications with my reservation, ‘No complications’, he replied. ‘No complications?’ I ventured again, totally surprised, ‘No complications’, he shot back, a wee bit amused and cheesed.

 

The rest of the day passed by like a snail on a sprint, a turtle on the run. The hot and humid Delhi midday heat kept us off the streets, and the deluxe room was really a living room in disguise, nice fat couches and two good beds, with a Flatron T.V to keep us entertained. The kitchen was good, the chicken even more delicious. ‘Not sick, are they’ I asked the reception man, ‘Not at all’, says he and soon enough me and my boy are chomping chicken curries. That done, my fears and their associated worries came back like good old friends. How do we spend coming days? How come the tickets say I am leaving two days later than scheduled? What do I do once I get back to my adopted working country? How do I cope with this, and with that? Night came and I couldn’t wait to get moving, two more days seemed like forever. So many hours to kill! Next day arrives and I’m still caught up trying to figure out how best this day will pass. I look at the tickets and there is still another good 24 hours before we get going to the airport. Another lethargic day trickles by and it’s sheer boredom. Finally dusk gathers, the birds go quiet, and my boy’s asleep as well. I sit on the couch watching football. It’s late at night, midnight, and then the T.V goes blank and zaps. I curse and head for the bed. I’m almost dozing off when it hits me. I looked at the wrong dates! Our flight departs tonight at 1:50 in the morning and it’s already 12:30! There is pandemonium as I sit up in horror and start throwing everything into the bags, look for the reception man, find him snoring, wake him up, tell him to prepare the bills and call a cab. He can’t find the food bills, so I pay him for the room and 500 for whatever we ate, wake up my crying son, get into a Maruti van, and head for the airport with ‘Baza Guru’ on my lips.

It’s a real tussle trying to get a sleeping five year old, a trolley to roll and documents to show with just two hands. We get to our airline and find a long queue of passengers and baggage. An eternity descends when I’m at the counter. The airline man takes another eternity before he declares, ‘No seats’!

Three hours and three thousand mental clogs later, we are boarding Turkish Airlines to Istanbul on an empty economy row. An hour later in Istanbul, we are boarding Austrian Arrows business class to Vienna. In Vienna, we are compensated with a neat 1200 Euros for the inconvenience caused and arrive in Amsterdam, in peace and in one piece.

I just had to think of the Venerable Singye Samdrup, and knew there was something more to deities and dices, serpents and eggs.

 

 

 

   

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