Having thoughts about death: two bus rides I can’t forget

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Having thoughts about death: two bus rides I can’t forget

March 6th, 2010 · 2 Comments

Outbound journey:
Yesterday, I rushed to catch the 11 am bus to Delhi to attend the Sathsang with Sadhguru. As I settle into my seat, I get a call that it might be called off because of a recent death from a car accident. It momentarily snaps me out of my i’m-in-a-hurry-can’t-think mode, and I get off the bus to make a call to confirm that the sathsang is still on. I cajole the conductor to just wait one minute for me to finish the call, and re-board when I get the green signal.

After the usual 6 hour journey spent half dozing, I arrive with plenty of time to reach the sathsang venue. I manage to negotiate a decent price for the auto ride, though the driver doesn’t seem to have a clue where we’re going and asks other drivers every ten minutes. Almost an hour passes this way, and we’re nearing the destination. I see a sign to turn right, but it’s not the right one. I see another sign to turn left, and I am filled with relief. Waiting for the third sign, which never came, we drive interminably down a narrow lane lined with walls and farmhouses behind them. It is almost a European quaint, except for the impending nightfall and my clenching heart–few people around, I can’t find the house, no street lights, angry auto driver…

Finally a motorcycle driver and a phone call re-directs us back the way we came. Driver bhaiyya is saying something like “You don’t know anything about Delhi, you just got here, you don’t know where we’re going, I shouldn’t have listened to you,” etc. I feel upset, but realize it was just the release of the pent-up tension I was feeling at not finding the destination. We reach, and I feel utterly stupid for having lost awareness of the gravity of mortality and the fleetingness of life.

This feeling stays with me all night, as I’m continuously reminded: Life is so fragile, any moment it could go. But after being with Sadhguru and other Isha meditators, I’m filled with such an intense energy that it was hard to go to sleep. I read some of my friend’s copy of “Eat, Pray, Love,” skimming the passages for “Richard from Texas.” I had just met him last month at the Isha Yoga Center. Though the encounter was brief, his charm and wisdom were unmissable.

Inbound Journey:

I had a comparatively more leisurely morning, but still rushed to eat and get on my way again since I didn’t know how long it would take to reach the bus station. I arrived with plenty of time, but still managed to give myself a stomachache.

As I near Jaipur, I come online to see that “Richard from Texas” has also died. Then our bus slows down as we pass a totalled car, getting flipped right-side-up from the ditch in the center of the opposite-bound lanes. A group of villagers have gathered as the rescue team. How concerned these people seem about the travelers, who they’ve never met; how forgotten they are by the rest of the world and the march of “progress”. I stare at the looming hill behind, a huge, sandstone precipice jutting out at the top. My “Why?” seems to hang just above, getting tossed about in the sandy winds. The stones seem so wise, to know much more than I ever will about death.

We’re nearing the station and they switch on the lights. Sitting just behind the driver, I witness a touching ritual that must be commonplace with drivers across India. The conductor’s face is upturned, hands together and open: he’s reciting something. So I glance in the direction where he’s looking and am not  surprised to see two silver gods, encased in a plastic box and mounted on the wall, and a couple colorful stickers of more gods below. I look back at him; he brings his hands over his head like he’s pretending to smooth down his hair.

It makes so much sense that it’s almost humorous. Of course the roads are so treacherous that only the gods can get you through alive.

But that’s just the sad part: relying on make-believe when the distance between life and death is the same as that between awareness and unawareness. One careless act can cost precious life.

And we are the gods with the tremendous responsibility and burden to bear: being aware.

Related posts:

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  2. Yoga is…

Tags: religion · rural india · spirituality

  • http://www.thechroniclesofa.blogspot.com Anupama

    Was sad to read that Richard Vogt is dead. He was to make an apperance at Tampa, FL.

    Good picture of the skewed two-wheeler!

    To add, there is nothing wrong with the ritual he followed. But will he realise you cannot substitute it for driving properly. Too many people make that mistake! Sad.

  • bexband

    Hi Anupama,

    Thanks for visiting & commenting! I’m not sure I understand though what ‘ritual’ you’re referring to…