Here I sit in my Mystic Jaiselmar hotel room, comfortably cocooned by my fluttering mosquito net (not actually necessary but I love it!), AC is off, just lying flat in my bed, laptop aboard my belly atop the cushiony blanket separating me from the heat of the computer, fighting myself to write, wanting to capture and share even a milinugget of what I’ve been experiencing, yet wanting to just lay back to process and breathe.
So many places to go on this ramble, head racing with all of them, separated by a steady thread of gratitude. Thread makes me think of the thin, fine lines of gold ornamenting the paintings of royal life scenes on display in the art collection at the palace museum in the impressive Fort of Jodhpur.
Amazing I could focus at all on those colorful paintings, each scene a festival of its own, when distracted by the parade of colorful saris and the intriguing women meandering the same historic walls. The men too, their well-worn handmade shoes or their leather- toughened feet, each with life stories to tell, capturing my curiosity. Many of them are journeying from across the Indian states, by foot, bus, rickshaw and any way imaginable, to the Baba Ramdev Temple/Runecha Dham for a pilgrimage festival celebrated each year. I stared out my car windows between Udaipur, Jodhpur and Jasialmer to endless scenes of pilgrims, carrying their tall flag and appearing contented by their extensive journeys.
So yes, I lay here in bed trying to write after a dream-like camel excursion through the breezy desert of Jaisalmer, the small city which now tops my list of warm (or shall we say bikram-style HOT) India welcomes. So little yet so much do here, I’m nowhere near ready to move on tomorrow, despite my strong confidence of yet another fascinating roster of experiences coming my way. Not unlike my life in NY, I feel the need for more hours in my days, more days in my week and so on. Finding a time for writing when there’s so much to experience and process, both awake and at rest (such active dreaming here) is among the challenges I feel unbelievably blessed to have. And so as you read this blog, please know this writing reflects a mere tiny morsel of the rich experiences, connections, relationships, lands, tunes, and all else I am taking in here. Perhaps the most impactful and raw of moments shall never make it to these pages and screens.
Hard to know where even to start but in the interest of getting this out, I shall share just a bit, in the hopes that I’ll return to write about each experience in greater detail.
I must say I’ve been a bit been blown away by how much of my DA’s office work I’m carrying with me on this journey. As I roll in magical sands of the desert dunes, stretching each part of my body and feeling massaged by the sand-forms themselves, feeling the mystic breezes and staring up at a brilliant sky of shooting stars (which I can now say in German and Hindi!), I think endlessly of the many victims/survivors I’ve worked with over these years, and pray they are somehow receiving the healing energy from this incredible source that I’m sending their way. A few individuals in particular are ever-present in these surreal encounters, including some of my colleagues (both prosecutors and advocates) who I felt connected to in a whole new way when sharing my news about this trip.
There is so much for me to process and write about this topic and I hope to do so in a thorough way – whether its about vicarious trauma, the ongoing process of our work (even post-paycheck), or something more general about being a social worker and the power of positive energy. The extent to which these individuals are with me on this trip has been striking, and in a beautiful, positive way.
The people I’m meeting
Each individual I’ve connected with is undoubtedly worthy of her/his own entry. How I hope and pray to somehow find the time to make that happen! I am beginning to meet some more travelers and am quite satisfied with the caliber! Aside from a couple of couples, they are all solo women travelers (full article/blog entry on this coming one day soon!)
Some key characters from the last week or so (amazing how much time has gone by):
---Sylvia, Canadian woman I met on the scenic rooftop of the Mystic Hotel of Jaisalmer, a kindred spirit (and fellow Gemini) who has been a gift of the universe, helping to shape my mystical Jaiselmar experience, from indulging me in Steripen and Deva Cup talk (separate article/blog coming soon!), to meandering the beautiful fort, connecting with local friends, eating, shopping, resting – and most importantly, laughing in seriousness together about how much there is to do here!
---The beautiful, clear-blue eyed mother/grandmother who lives at Chendalao the amazing fort-house I stayed at in a village area outside of Jodhpur (definitely needs its own article) whose conversation and warmth I so enjoyed. I was thrilled she joined me on my village excursion. She was pleasantly shocked by my invitation, saying no one had ever asked her to join before, and became quite excited for the outing. Quite traditional, she doesn’t leave the home too often according to her equally hospitable daughter who had come to visit. I’m looking forward to getting together and possibly seeing a film with her in my next destination of Jaipur. Her law-student grandson also came to visit for an evening and I loved sitting together outside at night, my face, body and laptop being accosted by grasshoppers (and a crazy array of other Indian insects,) and he, laughing endlessly while on the phone. How amazing it is to hear such steady genuine laughter! Turns out he was on the phone with Kesri, who I would soon meet in Jaiselmar (I asked if he knew anyone fun and interesting to connect me with there.)
---Kuki and Tony of Kuki’s Café in Jaiselmar, who have shared endless conversation and laughs, have taught me to play Carom (a finger-billiards type of game) and whose excitement about celebrating a holiday they didn’t know (Rosh Hashana) was palpable! They also make a deliciously spiced chai (and of course the best coffee but all I did was nibble and crunch a very tasty well-roasted bean.)
---Thakur Baljeet Singh – the owner of the Bera Castle homestay (blog coming soon on the India Someday site,) was a fascinating character, good in English, rich in stories, and a leopard expert (brought me on two safaris). We dined together in the fairy-tale like palace, talked about everything from his family’s history to the use of plastic, animal conservation and more.
--- Rebecca (age 20 solo traveler from Germany) and Jasmine (college student from US), whose curiosity, confidence and commitment to the world, its individuals and issues is truly inspiring.
--- Kesri, friend of Veer (the grandson mentioned above,) whose Indian hospitality has extended from a long evening of stories and delicious food at the Saffron Hotel on the grounds of Nachana Haveli (where it turns out he lives), to a visit with some of his family’s 22 horses, to a yet-to-be experienced adventure under the brilliant desert starts tonight.
He and his family are descendants of the Maharwal Jaisal (founder of Jaisalmer) with lineage dating back to Lord Krishna. Our evening dinner was accompanied by the captivating music of a family who has been sharing its songs for countless generations, the 3-year-old child singing with perfect pitch. Kesri's stories of adventures in the desert are riveting, even though he sneakily leaves out the details.
--- And lastly, for now, our catered camping camelmen who led us to the magic dessert dunes, regaling us in beautiful Singh songs as we slumbered in the cool breeze in what felt like hands’ reach of the brilliant stars.
A social worker…..working socially, around the globe.