After four days in Delhi, we are finally able to escape the infernal, incessant heat of the city as we make our escape through the back door and into the fresh breath of countryside. Our train from Delhi to our southwestern destination of Vrindavan takes us past fields of lush green farmland dotted only by an occasional thatched hut or herd of cows or cluster of women with saris so colorful they look like walking bushels of flowers. The air blowing in through the window is as invigorating as jumping into a lake on a mid-summer day.
Vrindavan, the small village near Agra where the Hindu god, Krishna is said to have been born 5,000 years ago. Vrindavan, meaning “sweet forest,” is also the village of 5,000 temples (which, according to some, is a gross underestimate). Our first host in Delhi warned us not to prepare ourselves for Vrindavan “as if tourists,” but instead “as if going to have the honor to meet someone special. If you are open in this way,” he told us, “it will happen and you will have your questions answered.”
Our gracious host was certainly not the only prophet of our experience to come. Nadira, the water healer we met in St. Thomas, also offered a prediction. After our first meditation with her and her students, she was answering questions on meaning and life and love, slow world spirituality music playing as incense smoke wafted lazily in the air. Then at one point she closed her eyes, took several slow, full breaths, looked straight past her students to Gabriela and I and said,
“During your time in India, you will find a rock. It won’t mean anything to anyone else, but it will to you. You’ll know it when you see it.”
She then closed her eyes again, nodding briskly to herself as if to check off a task on a mental to-do list. Then she continued her lecture with her students and said nothing more to us.
Our strongest proponent of Vridavan, however, was Kesh, a delightful Liberian man we also met in St. Thomas who had spent 8 years living as a Hare Krishna monk in Vrindavan during his 20’s. We were walking to a rasta farmer’s market on the east end of St. Thomas when we mentioned our travel plan to him and immediately he stopped in his tracks. I looked back and saw that he was in another world, staring far into the past, tears brimming.
“I haven’t heard that name in over 6 years,” he muttered quietly. “Vrindavan is my home and it is where I will go to die. Thank you for bringing back my home to me.”
He then proceeded to regale us about its wonders, the place of “simple living and high thinking,” where “everything is arragned” and where “people look each other in the eye,” where in the mornings “you’ll see that the river is alive and you’ll see her dancing and swirling,” where “you’ll understand the nature of being human.”
A faded wooden sign saying, “Mathura Junction” flashes past the window and Gabriela and I jump into action, wrestling our backpacks from the overhead storage, squeezing our way through the narrow train aisles and hopping onto the safety of solid ground of the platform. We’ve made it. Walking through a maze of wizened renunciants on colorful textiles splayed around the dozens of massive, white, horned cows, we find a richshaw driver to take us through the night and into the next chapter of our journey.
BY: Tomás Quiñonez-Riegos