I’ve been to Pashupati several times. I’ve wandered around the temples. I’ve watched (and stayed as far away as possible) from the monkeys. I’ve seen ‘holy men’ from Indian and Nepal roll and light up, roll and light up, smile, and light up. I’ve seen smoke float by as the deceased burned from across the river.

I had never actually been to the ghat.

I have never actually stood by to watch the earthly body of someone I’m connected to give into fire and embers. It’s been over a week and yet there is a sense of…something…that remains with me. Something of how our lives are…meaningless. fragile. temporary.

empty.

Looking at your friend as they observe mourning rituals is strange. Identifying members of the family by their bare feet, is strange. Not being able to say ‘namaste’, not being able to hug or even touch those you so desperately want to comfort…is strange.

Stranger still was the air. The entire time I was in Pashupati, I felt dizzy. As if just floating off into a high, or coming off a trip that you were lost in for a while. A sense of things not being real. As if everything was happening through the lens of a documentary, seeing things in snapshots, viewing everything as unique combinations of color and light:

The feet of my friend’s father peering out as the pyre was being prepared

Dalda melting on the pavement as it waited to add fuel to the pyre

Mangy dogs who pant and sit by the feet of those who do not kick them away

Children picking up coins dropped by another funeral procession

Landless and homeless people sitting in the mounds of their belongings

The tourists. oh the tourists, the tourists, the tourists.

And above all, the throngs of tourists opposite to the ghat, watching, leering, cameras in hand. At one point I wanted to go over and ask them all to leave. How can such a sacred part of life be a show for tourists? I cannot imagine how they would feel to have us lurking by their funeral processions, taking photos as they wept at their loss. How could they think it was okay to watch and take photos as grand mothers grew faint with grief, as well wishers came and went and came and went. Where in all this do we premit those in loss to grieve in dignity?

The whole thing, the experience of it, I can best only process it in fragments.

And even as I write this still, the vacant high of the ghat comes back.

In the end, we all go the same way-ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

darling you smile in stride across sparkly sidewalks
that glimmer with diamond dust
i can hear the sunshine in your voice
so far away

i see you’ve dusted off my city breeze
i’ve seen your face grimace across potholes
your agitation grow over bumpy roads
your distain of rain sprinkling your side
you don’t like squish in your shoes
you don’t like muddy feet

but where your diamonds lay scattered
where your sidewalks lay paved and even
my roads
my streets
they shimmer in rain
the catch and toss light
these sides walk into roads
and my feet they have different woes
dipped into pools of summer waters

you don’t see cuz you don’t look,
but baby
cracked concrete shines like you can’t imagine
and the crumbling aphaslt that frustrates you so
break into dirt paths
that leads me home

i’m okay with taking these walks alone

and in one swoop they fell away. in unplanned chunks, like amputations. over what seems like days there is a distance that grows between doors, between texts, between what used to be and what is.

either ways, in the end, everything is always okay. even when alone, everything is just…a four-lettered word. Even if the letters spell out f-i-n-e.

(i rather they stayed.)

your absence is ever present
in the space you’ve left behind
and the nooks that you keep still,
and should the room not revert
into solace for one…it’ll grow
into the desire for you
to come back home.

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 Only time will shed some light.

 

Sometimes, the best you can do is barely get by. You only just survive. And during times like these, my life force, my saving grace, comes in the form of many a vice.

With a hurting heart, a confused mind, and a weary soul, I look to numb myself in five ways (or more).

One: In drink I find the bottom of many a bottle. Wine or beer, hell any glass blend will do, but I’ll only drink if there are friends to drink with me too.

Two: What better way to distract the heart but by altering the mind. From haze to haze, I can unravel, rest, and unwind.

Three: In times of need, as many friends as possible will do. And with gaps of silence throughout the day I’ll reach out to those far away and just write to say, ‘hey, i’m thinking of you’

Four: In misery an empty belly will not do, and that vastness in my heart, I’ll attempt to fill with food.

Five: As day slips into night, and the escape of sleep is still so far away, I’ll tune out to imagines in color, light, and sound. In film and in documentary, I’ll learn myself into a new world, even if only briefly.

And if none of these vices will do, and I find my thoughts always turn back to you, I’ll look at my phone, I’ll stare at the green by your name on Facebook and I’ll wonder and wonder, if today is the day, if the time is now, when I finally hear from you.

It seems, however many days, however many vices,  there’s no replacement for you.

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