IMG_2228POSTCARD 138: London/Delhi flight: Travelling by plane at night is a directionless experience, an invisible route that leads to the destination without any sense of the journey, just the sound of the engines and hiss of the air. I fall deeply asleep and wake up to daylight coming in through the cabin windows. We’re here, missed breakfast, no time for anything, quickly gather up my things, ready to leave the plane. Next thing is I’m in the huge emptiness of Indira Gandhi airport, miles of ochre carpeting, and zooming along moving walkways towards the queue at immigration. Get in line with everyone else, get comfortable with this, it could take some time.

Hello Delhi, nice to be back here, mid-morning in a different time zone, and just the ongoing continuity of it, as if I’d never been away… familiarity of bearded men, turbans, a mysterious woman with exotic nose rings, gold bangles jangle and flick of movement that adjusts folds of sari, consoling tired children with nanny; the whole clan goes everywhere together. In this place I’m glanced at, averted gaze slips away, a foreigner travelling alone, a partially visible stranger from a place of no sunlight, colorless eyes, pale pigmentation, like those creatures who live deep below the surface at the bottom of the sea.

The uncompromisingly here-and-now of it, no disappearing from or disappearing into – a dream and yet not a dream. Letting go of the experience in the North, only the memory of that extraordinary feeling there during the retreat in Scotland. The feeling I’d connected with something specific but now I forget what it was exactly. A scrap of paper in my pocket with somebody’s email on it, remembering… there was the old house, the people who were already there and the sadness when they left before I did. Then the others who came after me – I remember them all – and how they were the ones who said goodbye when it was my turn to leave.

Each one carrying this ghostly sense of familiarity, archetypal resemblance, the uniformity of distinct types. Faces I think I’ve seen before… there was a man who looked so much like Larry King (from Larry King Live), at first I believed it was him. Others reminded me of family members – I recognized Great Aunt B. from East Anglia, passed away long ago… wonderful to ‘see’ her again. And someone exactly like my old Uncle D. Everywhere I looked I saw the elders, all dead and gone now. So good to return to the memory that they were here once like me, I was inclined to think of them as being real. “Who am I? Am I you? Him? He, she, it? We, you, they?” So much of a multiplicity, sometimes it’s just seen… we are all of a oneness.

Thump! Passport stamped, out through the crowds and sudden heat, intense light switched on like a television studio. Shym is waiting with the car, bags in and we’re off into the noise and blare of Delhi traffic, reversed mirror image of the world I just left. Changing the sim card in my phone, changing channels, watching a different movie.

As silence is not silence, but a limit of hearing.
As some strings, untouched, sound when no one is speaking.
So it was when love slipped inside us.
As this life is not a gate, but the horse plunging through it.
The heart’s actions
are neither the sentence nor its reprieve.
Salt hay and thistles, above the cold granite.
One bird singing back to another because it can’t not

[Jane Hirshfield, Come, Thief]


Note: This post was created partly as a result of keying in the term ‘multiplicity of faces’ in Google and finding the pdf in: Check out the exercise of flickering faces in the picture of the girl’s face at the end.
Note2: Many thanks to Mindful Balance for the poem.
Photo: light switches in a corridor at the back of a government building in New Delhi

22 thoughts on “multiplicity

  1. Loved this! So evocative of the whole experience, blow by blow, as it happens, your gift. It has happened to me where everybody I see looks like someone I knew or know or is gone. I think it is a longing, a nostalgia. Namaste, Ellen

    • Thanks Ellen, the post was built around a note made at the retreat, about how everybody I saw there looked like someone I know from somewhere else. The strangest thing though, was before I realised that they seemed to mirror faces of specific people known to me, relatives and friends; before that, I was quite mesmerised by the familiarity of the faces, not realising what it was that held my attention…

    • Thanks Kimberly, this particular journey went very well. Coming from West to East seems easier for me, there’s a theory about this I need to look up. I have a friend who doesn’t fly, he goes by train or drives for hours and days in Europe. I don’t usually enjoy it, there’s a kind of science-fiction quality about flying, but the discomfort of sitting and jet-lag afterwards is exhausting.

    • Yr welcome, thanks, and knowing your blog, I understand you must be familiar with these situations that somehow arise in life which are triggers for contemplation. Nowadays, I make a mental note of things that occur and include them in future posts – pretty sure you must do the same kind of thing…

      • Yes, I do….I find that over time, as I have become more peaceful (equanimity?) insights sometimes arise out of the blue when I am simply doing home chores …or like in your post, when I am out and about amongst others. It is good to be able to share – thanks again _/\_

  2. Love this post Tiramit. Mmmm. The descriptions of the people in the streets as you were passing through. The description of you as the white foreigner was perfect…living deep below the surface of the sea. The reminiscing about your time at the health retreat and the people who all seemed to be from other pieces or times in your life. How you said good bye to some, hello to others, then they bid you Guidbye when it was your time to go. Just lovely. Every ounce of it. : )
    Thanks for sharing this.

    • Thank you Suzanne, when I come back here among the ‘golden people’ I feel so much like a creature from a place that lacks sunlight. Another metaphor is how the pale green colourless tendrils of a plant that has grown in the darkness beneath a large stone, searches for the light at the edge and finding it, breaks out in a vivid green with all the other plants. Now looking back on the experience in Scotland, seeing it all as a birth and a death over there, continued over here…

  3. This line grabbed me, Tiramit, “The feeling I’d connected with something specific but now I forget what it was exactly. A scrap of paper in my pocket with somebody’s email on it, remembering…” I loved the sensation that we have this Memory that’s even deeper than the dreaming, but we can’t quite put our finger on it. It’s a vastness that can’t be grasped, but we have these slips of paper we find when we wake up after the flight, these numbers all given in a row, these codes all around us. Swapping the sim card. Changing the perception. There’s something in all of this. Everything is reminding us of this vastness we can’t quite wrap our minds around, but we feel it everywhere around us… Jesus says in A Course in Miracles and in A Course of Love that we’re strangers in this world as we perceive it typically. It’s not a world that makes sense to us, ultimately, because we have this memory of Love in our hearts… We’re here, passing through, but not staying…


    • Thanks Michael, yes it’s the sense of passing through, not staying, moving on because this is not a world that makes sense to us – we have this memory of Love in our hearts, but everything is insubstantial the moment we try to seize it. It may have been my response, at that time, to being part of a community, the retreat in Scotland, after more than 30 years of living in Asia, and grasping after the familiarity, the Memory. Then realizing that all this time has passed and still I’m no further on. There’s the familiarity of grasping-after/never-finding, and things are always disatisfactory; remain unfinished, unresolved as long as we’re in the seeking mode…

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