At 50, after experiencing a mild stroke, I lost much that I’d taken for granted: memory, balance, relationships, work, confidence. After 18 months of recovery it felt time to complete a journey started 30 years ago and travel to India. It was closure upon a young man’s adventure, and a way of marking the end of a middle-aged man’s crisis and convalescence. I thought: If I can ride a motorbike around the sub-continent, then, unlike Humpty Dumpty, I’ll be pretty much back together again. But now I realise there was more to it than that.
The road’s been tough: over 1200 miles, often gruelling, occasionally scary, but life has revealed itself along the way more vividly than ever before. Especially the people, whom, without exception, have been kind and helpful, smiled and made me smile. I find being a stranger and a traveler easier than being a father, manager, or partner, and though I still lament and expect further challenges, I’m recharged, more optimistic and less cynical. My faith’s been restored and my orientation to folk realigned.
Physically, I feel and better realise my age. I’ve remembered to take the tablets, drunk little, and rain-checked other things. I’ve adjusted plans to make them less arduous, stretched, slowed down and occasionally steadied myself on the stairs. My body’s done everything asked of it, and that’s been a big ask.
A truly wonderful thing about middle age is the number of perspectives you have to choose from, the variety of lenses to look through. This trip has been shared with Buddha and Ganesha, and though a Japanese Zen koan says “if you meet the Buddha on the road kill him”, I’ve not felt so inclined; instead preferring to let him and an elephant headed deity come along as interpreters and guides.
I’m also reminded of the benefit of having a personal spiritual practise, perhaps based around meditation and yoga. I hope that will flourish and help keep me grounded back in the UK.
During these three weeks I’ve wondered how the road’s been found without a map. Now I see that as a metaphor. Finding your way as opposed to following a route makes it personal, lends meaning. I’ve seen a little of India, learnt a lot, and enjoyed the adventure. The Indian roads have been both kind and brutal but as Rajesh (Tony) said at the outset:
“All smooth and no bumps makes a ride dull.”
Some people, such as Stephen Hawking on black holes, and Morpheus on the Matrix (yes I know he’s a movie character) view reality as projected information. I kind of get that. If true, and we want something more (like a purpose), then maybe our part is to witness the data flow in all its ugliness and beauty, and structure and lend meaning to it through the narratives we construct and share: our stories. But before disappearing too far up my own singularity.
I think my children would love India. It’s been a fab’ trip and I hope to return some day.
Namaste and good journeys.
“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J. R.R. Tolkein