(Written years before Eat Pray Love).
The bus honks its way through villages brimming with women in multi-coloured saris and roadside markets busier-than-ants. We beseech the driver – who must have a miracle for a bladder – to stop. Three hours of begging later, he slams on the brakes.
I run for it, taking the deepest breath, into an Indian roadside latrine splattered with shit, three feet high. I rip my trousers down and pee. “Shit”, I think. “I have to breathe”. And I do.Stumbling outside, vomit all over my feet, wretched tears ripping apart my heart, I am at breaking point.
In the last 24 hours I’ve lost my dad, my boyfriend, my favourite motorbike and any sense of who I think I am.I started this journey five months ago, puffed up with snobbish city bravado. I swapped it for sanctimonious charity and soon had a hundred-rupee-a-day habit giving to any-beggar on the street capable of stretching out a limb.
I stare at those limbs in disgust, wondering how such gnarly contorted forms could actually be attached to a human body?? Then I see these bodies laugh, and genuinely celebrate a passing kindness and it fills me with a new kind of wonder.
I wonder, too, if I will ever find peace. I book into in an ashram… Meditation classes…I discover I can’t shut up for even a second and an inner rage I never even knew I had. Hmm. This is supposed to be encouraging.
I enlist, therefore, in “The group of last resort”.Three weeks. My self, a bed and a whitewashed room. Food left at my door. No outside stimulation whatsoever. Internal only.By day two I am comatose with boredom. Chewing my sheets and swaying back and forth. By the end of the week I am Blissful for no reason. On day thirteen, paradoxically, and then, with a week to go…IT HAPPENS!
I discover the …THE LABEL…sewn on to my blanket. But I will NOT read it. I will not. No outer stimulation. I agreed. But I steal more and more furtive glances over to the letters on that tempting sensuous soft, satin label,
I realize all I am is choice.
If I read, it’ll surely ruin my chances of re-incarnation, but at this point I’m so bored, I don’t care if I ever come back. I give in. I read.
“Country of origin, Indiaggghhh…
There is remorse. There is also savouring each and every curlicue letter and profound meaning between the lines…
Lifetime warranty?!##@!@!!?? I howl as I leave that dungeon, days later. There is NO warranty, no guarantee. EVER. Just flickers of real enjoyment in the midst of whatever heaven or hell I can learn to accept.
Try explaining THAT to Mark. Mark, who’s loved me for a decade while I’ve bitched, won awards and invited over to dinner any supercilious prick who’d further my career. Today, he carries news on the overnight flight from London he can only bear to break to my face.
We meet at Mumbai airport. He is overcome with the city’s diesel fumes, I am overcome with his sincerity – a quality I don’t have. I realize I’ve never really given myself to him and it’s like a bullet to my heart.
On our hotel balcony overlooking a lazy murky river, he breaks the news. My father is gone, riding the 1950’s Enfield motorbike I’d had so carefully restored for his 60th birthday. Mark holds me as I weep. For two days. For the last time. More breaking news. He’s in love with someone else.
I stand beside an Indian road-side latrine. A butterfly lands on top of my left flip flop, unaware of its dazzling blue iridescence, oblivious to my recent regurgitation.
Now I know the only thing I’ve ever known, since before I was even born. I love this butterfly, perched tenderly on the vomit of my own Self. THIS is the stuff that makes the world go round.