POSTCARD#78: Delhi: I open the door and step out into the sunshine, shading my eyes from the brightness of the sun, look down for a moment, and a shadow flits across the paved stone area at my feet. What is it? Look back up quickly – it’s a squirrel running along the electric cables. I see it as it leaps into an overhanging tree branch… yaay! The branch sweeps downward with its weight and sails back up again as the squirrel leaps to the next branch and disappears in the foliage. The action suggests joyfulness, a celebration, and this is how I’m feeling right now because today, 6th July, is my birthday – 24,455 revolutions of the planet Earth since the day I was born. I’m a silver-haired old guy acting like half his age. It’s also the day I go back to UK, a happy coincidence; returning to the place I was born on the day of my birth.
Two flights to get there: Delhi/London/ London/Inverness, and 10½ hours flying time. The prodigal son archetype, you could say, but I’ve been away too long. More than 30 years living in other people’s countries. Now I’m a stranger in my own home; everything is different, just the déjà vu of it all; a familiarity I can recognise but cannot identify with. I stay in hotels and everyone thinks I’m a foreign tourist who speaks English really well. I’m astonished at being able to understand what people are saying and feel like I shouldn’t be listening. The intrusion of other people’s conversations is sometimes shocking! This must be what it feels like to be a spy – and dressed like this in these old UK clothes I’ve kept all these years in the wardrobe.
Looking through everything last night, I find an old jacket, try it on for size, it seems small, must have shrunk. Try on another one and it’s shrunk too! I ask Jiab how a jacket can shrink just hanging in the wardrobe for a few years, and she says, ah well… And these shoes! Try them on, hard enclosures seem to clutch at the feet, toes unfamiliar with the hollows in the leather they used to occupy… unwillingly they find their old places. This is who I used to be. Walk across the room, clip-clop, clip-clop, feet imprisoned in shoes, look at myself in the mirror. Who’s that? It’s me, acting the part, ‘self’ is the performance. The actor who long ago became somebody else, and forgot who he was. Inside one pocket, there’s an old plastic bag tied in a knot, difficult to undo. Inside are some British pound coins, thick, heavy and important looking. A single Pound coin looks like gold, like it came from a treasure chest and could be worth a fortune, but it’s not enough to buy a cup of coffee. We have to have handfuls of these ‘gold’ pieces just to buy ordinary things. The weight of them causes jacket pockets to go out of shape, holes in the lining.
It’s really so different from here in the East, the humble unassuming Rupee and small Thai Baht coins that jingle lightly and can buy so much. There is the Buddha’s teaching on greed, hatred and delusion, but right now I don’t want to think about anything other than standing in my Delhi doorway here, watching to see if maybe another squirrel will come running along the electric cable and jump into the trees. And somebody says the car is here to take me to the airport. This is it then, walk across to the gate, clip-clop, clip-clop, hard shoes on paving stones. My bag shoved in the back, into car and we’re off. All strength to the adventure…
“Consider the trees which allow the birds to perch and fly away without either inviting them to stay or desiring them never to depart. If your heart can be like this, you will be near to the way.” [Zen Buddhist teaching]
Happy birthday! It is great! You sound like a little kid! All excited with your birthday and the trip home. Today my husband and I were in a store and I was picking out dog toys for his sisters’ dogs and squeaking all of them. Go to pay for them and the clerk is laughing about our trying all the toys and making this momentous decision. It felt good. Do we ever really grow up? But our clothes shrink. Have fun!!
The importance of getting a toy squeaker that squeaks in the right key… paying attention to these details. I have the same thing with wind chimes. Thank you for the birthday wishes, I’m here now at the top of the world, clear air and bright sunlight wakes me first thing in the morning…
Happy Birthday and have a safe return to the UK. Interesting to experience “culture shock” in one’s homeland! I know the feeling, and I’ve never been away for that long. Looking forward to future posts…
Thank you, yes, reverse culture shock, somebody said once. The journey went well. Everything is new all the time, no matter where we are
Many happy returns of the day, hope you keep on writing.
Thanks and good to hear from you again! Yes, I’m preparing the next post now, the journey to get there part 2
Beautiful post. Happy birthday to you. I find such deep inspiration in your words. Thank you.
Thank you. Life is good isn’t it, such a lot to say about that…
Happy 67th. Tiramit! May your 68th. year of revolutions pass in utter contentedness.
Still spinning, dizzy after the flight to get here! Thank you for the birthday wishes and these kind words
Your enthusiasm and bubbly anticipation are palpable and contagious. Even the squirrels are dancing, the coins jangling loose from ancient containers. I wish you a blessed Homecoming and a great birthday. May you enjoy your immersion into a country’s worth of conversation…
Thank you Michael… yes and it was still my birthday 4000 miles further on in the story. It’s about celebration and gratitude for every day
Happy Birthday and safe travels, Tiramit. My younger sister had her birthday today. I sang to her. She is now 50 but will forever be that little sister with crooked bangs and big brown eyes. It’s the Dalai Lama’s birthday as well! He is 79. May your heart be like a tree. Maureen
Forever young… and the Dalai Lama is an example of that. Thank you Maureen, my heart is like a tree, wonderful
Happy, Happy Birthday!!! Your writing is so magical. May all your Divine Desires be made manifest!!!!
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These wonderful stars and planets! Some are near, some are far away. Sindy, thank you…
It seems that clothes just shrink as part of aging and a worldwide phenomenon at that! Belatedly, happy birthday, this one at the top of the world which is so full of light these days. Looking forward to part two.
Thank you Karen, yes everything seems smaller 🙂 The single most constant thing about life is that everything changes. You just can’t hold on to anything. For me it was a long birthday in time and space, science-fiction like, I gained 4½ hours and travelled about 4000 miles. Now I’m here walking through the streets and lanes of my childhood, remembering how things used to be…
Belated Happy Birthday to you….it’s great reading about your adventures in the UK seen but not seen, there but not there…. clip-clopping shoes are the pits!
Thank you! Yes, I hardly ever have to wear hard shoes, usually going around in rubber flip-flops: falip, falop, falip, falop – that little flap on the sole of the foot as you walk…