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India Travel : Delhi

one man's story of being a traveling writer in Delhi, India

              

            "No traveler stays more than a few days in Delhi, if he or she can help it. Delhi is a place to leave, not a place to stay. Only I couldnít leave. I was a writer now. And that meant I was doomed. Doomed to live even farther apart from life, doomed to have a carbuncle forever eating away at me which no one else could see. Doomed to the awe, the solitude, and the paralysis necessary so as to allow the breech word to make its way laboriously out of the birth canal of my soul and not be dead when it hit the page.

I was a midwife, a whore, and a mother to the word back then. I would wake up every morning at about 6:30 am, just as the red orb was peaking its head above the horizon. By 7:00 am I couldnít imagine how I would make it through another minute, let alone another day, for the creative act was also a destructive act, and I was caught in the living tension between birth and death. I was in the grip of a force of which I had no knowledge at the time: the force of growth, and of decay. I was growing and dying, giving birth to the new, and burying the old. I was at every moment being born, raised, seduced, invaded, impregnated, and then giving birth, raising little ones, growing old, laying down, and dying, all at every moment of every day. Caught in the redemptive fire of the soulís own apocalypse, I was being accepted and rejected, judged and released, honored and despised, deified and denied, in each breath, act, and surrender.

But then somehow I would also be swept into the eye of the hurricane, and I would come to a calm, and after recovering enough composure to venture out, Iíd have a quick breakfast every morning at one of the nearby dhabbas, and then head back to my little cement cell, at the mosque-like Camron Lodge, in the heart of Paharganj, Old Delhi.

The first few hours Iíd spend typing into my prehistoric laptop the notes I had scribbled down the day before, always building up a work, and always tearing it down. I was an artist at work and the work was myself, and like the alchemists of old, I had confused the outer with the inner, imagining that I was writing, while all the while I was being written. I was in the tumbling throes of my descent into flesh. All that lies between the pages of this book is what I remember of that fall.

I suppose I took up writing because there was no other option for me as a way to exist in the world. There was not a career, occupation, or temporary job which held any interest for me. I had no desire to live by a clock, to help mankind fill the world with trash, or to saddle my unbound existence with a label or role. In other words, I was expendable, because I refused, as much as possible, to become an unwilling cog in a moribund machine.

And so writing became the only worldly activity for which I held any interest or energy. All else was merely clutter and obstruction. Though I suppose this is a natural reaction for a person like myself, and for those of a similar disposition. In fact, I once had a dream in which I was told that the vocation of art is a refuge given by God to those who are not fit for the world. And, to be sure, I was not fit for the world, not as it was anyways.

With such a critical, and categorical understanding- that writing was the one and only option for me, a spirit come down to earth, and that such a craft was the only means for me to not drift off into an ambivalent and fruitless existence, the meaninglessness of which has led so many of my brothers and sisters onto the street and its derelict ways, because that is what happens when you lose every mooring in life and float away, becoming a derelict in the caustic sea of human inhumanity- with that understanding I threw myself into the art without knowing where it would lead, but knowing that everything else would lead nowhere.

It seems like a romantic dream to imagine a young artist in a foreign country, dwelling in down-and-out hotels, smoking cigarettes, drinking chai, and living out the poetic nature of the soul. But that is where it ends- a romantic dream. The rest is loneliness, melancholy, or uncertainty. And yet, what in life is that much different?

Life includes pain, and that is that. Show me a person who has not suffered, and I will show you one who has not lived.

This is a realization which I had to acknowledge long ago, but which has helped me walk with a strong gait, regardless of the load I was carrying. And by that I mean I had to accept my failings, limitations, and unmet desires as best I could. I had to look forward, to cast away all that would bind me, to forgive myself for my continual blunders, to humbly pray for guidance when necessary, and from then on it was only a matter of sticking to the grindstone, and learning to love this life which is worth loving."

 

Excerpted from ROOTS AND WINGS: adventures of a spirit on earth, by Jack Haas           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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