POSTCARD#70: Chiang Mai/Delhi flight: The journey from Chiang Mai to Delhi unfolds as a sequence of corridors within corridors, connected end-to-end with moving walkways, security points, departure areas and flight gates. Before that happened there was the sad goodbye scene with little M at Chiang Mai airport drop-off point. It was like I’d already gone – she was stuck in silence, looking at me with these deep eyes, holding mindfulness of this moment as a child does. And the question: how could this be happening? Not coming back for four months? A long time if you’re only 10 years old. Then I’m waving bye-bye, her car accelerating away and M waving back to me through the window, small windscreen-wiper movement of the palm: bye-bye Toong-Ting, and she disappears round the corner. I turn towards the queue at the security gate and the journey begins.
Here in the bardo of the in-between; 1 hour from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, a short transit there, and 4½ hours to Delhi. Not far, but we have all the processing to go through. Three, maybe four X-ray machines; take off belt, remove shoes, go through, get dressed again. Then the immigration zone, show passport, scan everything, and stamp passport thump! I am who I say I am… look at the photo – yep, that’s me. Out into an area of duty free shops the size of a small town; gold watches, cosmetics and leather bags. Follow the signage, stop at the same coffee shop I was in last time, and the unexpected thing occurs: a small bird flutters by, perches on a glass wall. Small head swivels around, lost the way out, or maybe doesn’t know there’s any reality other than this; hatched in a nest in the roof structure… this is a world of metal trees. I take a photo and it flies away. Down to the flight gate, more waiting before we’re allowed through the walkway into the aircraft, and I can find my seat – the whole point of the exercise. Squeeze into the allotted space, chair moulded to fit the human body. Fasten seat belt, take off… these are the days of miracles and wonder. Look out at the sky, clouds, and the surface of the planet. I am a tiny speck of life, a microscopic cell in a universe so vast I cannot understand the totality of it and live in a world of concepts.
They serve the meal then shades are drawn and we watch the movie. Stewardesses appear in the darkness with drinks then disappear like the kuroko in Japanese Kabuki dressed in black, appear on stage like shadows, change stage scenery in the middle of the performance and disappear. I think of M and remember finding her one day in the shadows of a late afternoon turned into early evening having forgotten to put the lights on as it started to get dark. Face illuminated in the bright light of the smartphone display, a mesmerised 10 year-old sitting there for hours, didn’t hear me when I came in. Didn’t look up when I sat next to her, the reflected digital display making colours flicker on her small face. That’s probably what she’s doing now…
The plane arrives in Delhi, through the airport formalities and out into the immense heat. I get to the house, and looking around to see what’s changed in the three months I’ve been away… then the unexpected thing occurs, I see the shadow of a bird perched on the fencing, take a photo and it flies away….
“Advaita (nonduality) does not mean “one” in the sense of eliminating all differences. The differences are present in the one in a mysterious way. They are not separated anymore, and yet they are there.” [Bede Griffiths (1997)]