Malaria dream

Yesterday morning I arrived in Calcutta. I was reading The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh on the train, an exciting book on malaria disease, delirium and nightmares, coincidences and synchronicity, all set in Calcutta. As I started my rounds in the city I felt the dynamics the book was talking about. I met an Italian woman, a personal disciple of Osho. She was a natural healer, who gave me an interesting teaching on tantra and relationships and told me she is on the way to the Nicobar Islands to write a cookbook. Her first yoga teacher happened to be Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche. Then I went to Kalighat, the place where Sati`s finger fell on the earth, and found a Kamaccha Devi picture on the road. In the afternoon I visited the Birla Art Academy, and saw a market behind, where there was a Bengali painter sitting with his scrolls singing the Ramayana. He was just the kind of storyteller I came here to find (this is his photo:). ChitrakarnThen on the metro a guy came up to me saying ‘this is the fourth time I see you today’. It was true, I also noticed him in different parts of the city. (Calcutta has 12 million inhabitants). In the evening I read the Telegraph, the local newspaper where a proud article said that India got the 8th place in a survey where the question was “how often do you have sex?” The article was emphasising how India has a much better rating than Britain in this respect. And who got the first place? You wont believe me: Hungary. It`s hard to imagine when I remember those gloomy faces on the streets of Budapest. This morning when I walked down on Park Street, a waiter stopped me from the restaurant where I had dinner last night saying, that I should visit Mother Theresa`s House, it`s not far. I walked and walked, maybe even for an hour, it felt like an endless hike in the heat, but finally found it. It turned out that Mother Theresa`s beatification ceremony will be this Sunday in Rome and a sister of charity showed me the room where she lived. Then completely exhausted I sat down in Barrista Cafe, where an old Bengali man came over to my table for a chat, and told me his life story and how he met the Dalai Lama in `59, when His Holiness arrived to India. Then I met a young Bengali guy in the Oxford bookshop (had to buy a book by Tagore:), who took me out for a drink, and told me he is a fashion designer in Japan, just came back for holiday, and he would take me around on his bike tomorrow to see some scroll painters and collect some Bengali patterns. Then I went to the library of the Asiatic Society to find a book, but instead I found the Acta Orientalia on the shelf, the great Hungarian academic journal with Professor Wojtilla`s article (my Sanskrit teacher from the university). These are just some of the events of the last two days. I don`t know what I`m doing here, it`s too fast, too random, too much for my brain. Maybe it`s all just a malaria dream.


Nature and imagination

I am back in Banaras after a trip to Tibet, but my mind is still there trying to replay the moments, retasting fragrances, colours and sounds. There is a picture coming to my mind often these days, the moment when we were about to reach Nyalam (a Tibetan village near the Nepali border). From the endless plains of the rocky desert plateau the road descended into a deep gorge with a river at the bottom. And the dry air of the Tibetan highland suddenly changed into the moist air of the Indian subcontinent. 

And then I saw a tree, a sight completely absent for days. And then many more trees. I was overwhelmed by joy as if I was reaching home after a long journey. I was touched when I recalled the boy in Eric Valli’s Himalaya film, the little chieftain-to-be, when he saw the first tree in his life. Many thoughts rushed through my mind, about trees I have seen before, the sacred trees of India, banyan and pipal trees, tree worship. Then I thought I should catch this moment, I should be able to explain or describe it with words or pictures what that first tree near Nyalam meant to me when I looked at it, but I could not put it into words. And today in Benares, sitting in my room reading, found a piece of poetry by William Blake who I think somehow made it: ‘The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.’ (The photos show the landscape before and after Nyalam)