Monday, 22 October 2012

As the Fat Lady Slumps Exhausted

As the fat lady slumps exhausted to the stage floor, it is time to bring this little exercise to a close.  I have really enjoyed the whole process of writing to keep in touch with my friends and family and at the same time exposing my thoughts to a wider audience.  It speaks to the frustrated journalist/writer/communicator/big-mouth in me and amuses me no end.  The Internet is a remarkable tool.

I spent my last afternoon, as predicted, in packing up my bike and preparing my stuff for the return.  I had failed utterly in my search for the interesting gifts.  Whether this was lack of effort on my part or lack of interesting stock on the shopkeepers parts I can't say.  I then had an interesting evening with another eclectic group of souls I found living on the roof of my hotel.  It just goes to show that India is more full of surprises than anywhere else in the world.  At 23.00, bike in the taxi's boot, I headed for the airport. 
The streets were alive with people and lights celebrating the start of Calcuta's Durga Pouja.  Entire buildings were draped with strings of coloured lights and elaborate temporary temples were packed with Bengalis.  In the darker corners the poor still slept, their ragged covers over their heads.  Dogs roamed and cows settled down by the sides of the roads to ruminate.  I sat back in the corner of the Ambassador taxi and watched the city pass by.  This trip to India, my fourth, had been a special time for me and had opened my eyes once again to a host of themes.  I had endured some physically testing days and some mentally testing ones as well.  I think I had seen a slice of India in all its beauty and with all its contradictions.  From the burgeoning glass towers of Cyberbad (Hydrabad) to the absolute poverty of many urban areas.  From adverts where happy people consume sophisticated products, to the simple tragedy of the old man holding the head of his dead cow by the side of the road.  From the worshipful gaze lavished on my 21 speed bike, to the dab of ghee on the feet of a temple statue.
I hoped that this trip would be some kind of closure for me.  For years I have buttonholed anyone who would listen to me about my dreams and desires for travel.  I think I had become a bit of a bore on the subject and it really was time I put my money where my mouth was.  So when my ever patient wife said "well just get on with it then" I was trapped.  Trapped by my own words, with no excuse but to do it, or forget it.  So 4 weeks ago I found myself alone in India and today it is all behind me.  When asked "what have you learnt about yourself" I can say just 2 things at the moment.  1. I am not as physically strong as I once was, but I still managed 1,654 kms in 20 cycling days so all is not yet lost.  2. I know that I have no excuse whatsoever for not being content with my lot.  This knowledge won't stop me complaining, which is probably in my nature, but it does put my petty worries in perspective.  There are probably other things which will come out of all this over time, but for the moment those two are pretty good.

Some people who have read this blog think that I have not enjoyed myself, but they are wrong.  I have had an amazing time, but it is always more interesting and more amusing to write about the things which go wrong, than the things which go right.

In Conclusion.

Low points:- Feeling too sick, tired and hungry to go on only 24 kms from Haldia.  Being without the presence and support of the three people I love the most in the world.  Having to turn back and take the coast road after getting horribly lost.
High points:- Meeting some incredibly kind people in the most unlikely places.  Blasting through the Indian dawn with Pink Floyd on the mp3.  Arriving in Calcutta despite wanting to give it all up just the day before.

Thank you for listening.
A room with a view.

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