Full moon 3:48am Mar, 29th. JST
Hello fellow full moon followers. Yes, it’s time for another Newsletter. As March comes to a close we embark on another year of Covid confusion. I’m well and I hope you are too. Although if I look closely, I can’t help but notice a few cracks appearing in my usual cheery outlook on things. If I’m going to be honest with myself, I’ve entertained from time to time, irritated, frustrated and somewhat judgmental thoughts, even of those closest to me.
Walks and bike rides help tremendously... you know, get out there, move the body, clear the mind... mood follows action as they say. And it's true, a little quiet time, be it walking or meditation or walking-meditation, if you do it intentionally-consistently there’s an accumulative awareness of one's thoughts and feelings... yet sometimes one gets frustrated at oneself for feeling the feelings one feels... Oh the irony!
What I need, what I desire, is to travel, to briefly escape to a land where my alter ego lives. This impulse to travel often creeps up around this time of year, something to do with extending days of warm sunshine and cool air. My favourite season is the changing seasons and this brief affair of winter & spring reminds me of distant places and I get itchy feet.
Resigned to stay close to home another year, it is there I sit fighting the urge to lose myself in thoughts of future travels. Now focusing on the task in hand, looking back at travels past and re-writing a books I think I promised in some haze of positivity. Yes, it is you readers who are indeed keeping me accountable to my promise of a book... don’t get too excited... it’s far from finished.
So in another act of self-motivating haze, I happily —nervously— give you the rough —I repeat— rough first chapter of Delhi to Darjeeling.
Just in case you’ve forgotten... I’m James Gibson and this is my newsletter about noticing feelings & thoughts, following your alter ego, and putting experiences first.
The alarm on my iPhone barely wakes me over the noise of the streets outside my 5th floor window. An endless cacophony of car-horns, auto-rickshaws and wedding-processions — accompanied by singing, shouting and drumming. It’s early, I forget the exact time but it’s still dark outside. This, the fourth morning in New Delhi was the morning of my departure. Putting it politely, Delhi is quite the experience, one in retrospect I’m thankful for, but this early morning I’m thankful to be saying goodbye. Before I can put Delhi behind me, I must first navigate hotel reception and the matter of my bill. The thing is, I don’t have enough money.
For some unknown reason you can’t acquire Rupees outside of India and are therefore obliged to use the solitary ATM in the airport on arrival or exchanging cash at the Bureau-de-Change for an extravagant exchange rate. Opting for the ATM, I visited my bank in Japan to inform them of my travels and to expect unusual transactions while I was away. The very friendly, kind and even beautiful Japanese cashier assured me that would be perfectly fine, yet forgot to tell me one key fact: My Japanese credit card wouldn’t work in India’s ATMs. This I learnt on arrival.
In reception I try explaining that I would like to sign my credit card bill —waving my hands chaotically attempting to mime a pen and paper— not the seldom used, long forgotten PIN they were insisting on. “PIN ONLY” the hotel manager barks at me. Starting to lose it. “Ugh! It’s too fucking early for this” I thought. There was nothing to do but try to remember those four numbers... beep, beep, beep, beep not accepted, nor the second... beep, beep, beep, beep attempt. Holding in my growing panic a third number appears to me from some distant corner of my mind. I’m almost certain it can’t be right. I give it a go, for at this point I have nothing to lose... beep, beep, beep, beep... the little machine thinks in silence, I wait sweating in silence... a few seconds pass and it whirrs into action — accepted! Hazar... it bloody worked. The weight of the world lifted from my shoulders, for that magic number changes everything; the next five weeks just might be possible.
A hasty hotel exit into a waiting taxi and off through the smog we drive, horn honking as we go. First stop: Anand Vihar Terminal — destination: Darjeeling. It was thrilling. With the sun yet to rise we sped through the thick streets, cones of ochre light illuminating the way. My driver not from Delhi tells me “it’s too dirty, too noisy, but it’s where the money is”. I just wish he would concentrate on his driving. After a few wrong turns, we arrived, it’s 06:15am and my scheduled departure was 06:30am. I curse once more —a growing occurrence this morning— as it looks like I’ve missed my train. Little did I know as I was yet to understand the enigma that was India time. Recalling the opening scene to Wes Anderson’s film: The Darjeeling Limited, I Kick into action joining the crowd funnelling into the station. Somehow in a blur I make it to my platform on time, at least I think it’s the right platform as 06:30am came and went with no sight nor sound of my train! Feeling anxious and lost as what to do next. Where was my train? Had I missed it after all... why is that man staring at me? I look at my ticket again and wonder if I made the right seat choice? It was too late now. Doing calculations in my head... this train ticket from New Delhi to New Jalpaiguri Junction (NJP) cost roughly ¥500 ($5) for a 24 hour 1440km journey. The taxi just cost me ¥1500 ($15) for a 1 hour 14.4km journey. My brain twists with the math and logic as I was yet to understand the mystery that was India value. In an attempt to distract myself I pull out the one book I had brought for occasions like this: Alone on the Wall by Alex Honnold. It didn’t help. Unable to concentrate on the words I gazed at the sun rising across the platform over the trains that were not for me.
My moment of calm doesn’t last long. At 07:30am chaos erupts once more as the hordes of fellow passengers surge to board our arriving train. I sigh thinking about the orderly lines boarding the Shinkansen and give into the flow and squeeze into my home for the next 24 hours. The whole time repeating the mantra that got me here in the first place: experience first, experience first... experience first.
… and so it goes.
This is an Arukari Newsletter sent out each full moon.