The God of Small Things

Not the book, no, although I did finish it during the first week of my journey and I had been struggling with it for some time. It’s also set in India and my journey was in India, at least physically. Anyhow, this isn’t about this book. This is about the Small Things, and how at the end of the day, it’s those Things that will stay with you, those Things that will put a smile on your face when you recall them. Or make you sigh. Or frown even. The Small Things, some of them, mine, not the book’s:

My notebook. And how I took it everywhere and wrote everything and people were often surprised at how much I write. I loved it. And I love writing.

My writing. And how I wanted to revive it. And how I thought of a lot of material and topics to write about. And how Sunil encouraged me with his praise and kind words.

People’s ‘words’. And how I may not pay attention to what you wear or where you come from but if you say a word too often, I will take notice and call you on it. I’m likely not able to unnotice it. Like Sam’s “gotcha” or Sophie’s “hmm” or Maricha’s “but..” or even my father-in-law’s “arrright?”.

My father. And how our relationship has changed tremendously over the past few years.

Change. And how it’s not good. It’s not bad. It’s how you yourself find it and what you make of it.

Finding yourself. And how all those people who go on journeys to find themselves don’t. And how they go to chip off and away the color that was painted on them poorly, because it’s cracked and it’s so fragile and it’s not truly their color. And how instead they find who they want to be. And they find the tools to get to that.

Tools. And how my teachers taught us to use them, to relearn them and to learn new ones. And how to use these tools to synchronize and bring harmony to the body, mind and soul.

Harmony. And how we’ll find it when we find answers to our questions. And how when we set off on a quest to answer them, we come back with more questions.

The answers. And how they lie within. And how nobody can find them but you. And how you have to test your limits, challenge yourself, accept yourself and search within to find that balance, to find those answers. It’s scary.

Like that cockroach. And how he always scared the poop out of me. And how he loves my backpack. And how only a handful of times did I reach for my bag and not find that cockroach on it.

Those other cockroaches. And how they loved the undies we hung to dry behind our bathroom door. (I did stop drying anything there after that) That. And how Sophie thought That was cute. The cockroaches in our room and bathroom That is. Bathroom. And how I would not have survived its visits without Fresh Buzz. Yes, this is a public thank you to my portable shattafa. Don’t give me that look.

Sunil’s look. And how it was intrusive yet welcoming. A gaze that is as frightening as it is comforting, as soft as it is piercing, looking into your very soul.

The soul. And how The Ganga was the soul of Rishikesh. And how the solution for any problem you encounter in Rishikesh was, “Go to Ganga.” So we went. We went and we dipped our feet. And it was good.

My turtle feet. And how they became so from wearing socks with flip flops. Funny Ninja Turtles feet.

Feet. And how you must look at them as you walk. And how you wish you can look up and remember that you’re surrounded by beautiful mountains. And how you can’t, unless you stop moving or else, your next step will be into cow poop.

Cows. And how they think they’re dogs. How they come towards you wanting to be pet and fed.

Food. And how we earn it. And how it played a big role on this journey. And how the monkeys will steal it. And how they’ll also go into your room and mess up your things and eat your face cream if you don’t lock the door well. That’s what monkeys will do, I kid you not.

That monkey. And how he reminded me of Habiba and I. How I gave him some lemon juice (to take and drink himself- they can do that) but instead he smelled it first. He then gave me the okay and I had to hold the bottle for him till he drank it. And how when he had enough, he just looked away. His highness, the adorable little monkey on Lakshman Jhula bridge.

The bridges. And how they flailed a bit beneath you above the Ganga. And how the cows one day had obviously organized an #OccupyLakshmanJhulaBridge. And how we were expected to cross that narrow thing alongside crazy motorcycles that honk at you till you’re deaf.

Motorcycle. And how I had to ride behind Harish with my suitcase between us to cross that bridge when I first arrived and then again when I left.

That crossing. And how getting to the waterfall turned out to be an adventure. Tuk Tuk? Taxi? Anyone? Please? Unexpected hours of walking and hiking. Me in my Birkenstocks, Anastasia in her flip-flops.

Anastasia. And how she’s a walking inspiration without knowing it, transcending boundaries and finish lines.

My imaginary finish line. And how I crossed it more than once that day to get to that beautiful waterfall.

Beauty. And how the sunrise has magical healing powers. How nothing seemed to wear off the effect of Tratak (A meditation technique). And how the sun came and swept away the debris of the wall I’m trying to knock down.

Sunny. And how when we went to Omkar Cafe for our lunch or dinner, Sunny greeted us effervescently every time.

Time. And how it flies and stands still on the same day. How our perception of it works and how it affects us. How the past will haunt you and the future will drain you. And how the present moment is all that really matters.

Presents. And how those chocolate balls felt like the best presents. How deliciously ordinary they were and how it was Christmas whenever they served them. Or whenever we had Oreos.

Oreos. And how they felt like home, to all of us. How none of us really has them in our respective homes. But how right then they were exactly the kind of familiar we needed. We craved them and they made our difficult days a little better.

Little. And how little by little we bought them all and Rishikesh ran out of Oreos. No joke.

Jokes. And how Melissa found the opportunity in any situation to make one.

Melissa. And how she became DJ Om Shanti Lam and rapped our closing Mantra. I will never listen to it the same way again.

Mantras. And how beautiful they are. Their sound, their feel, their vibrations and the meaning behind their words.

Some words. And how they will now sound and mean differently in my head:

- Gently. And how it became “Zently open your eyes.” - Kamal

- Okay. And how it became “If you understand, ok. If you don’t understand, ok. Okay.” - Spine Guy

- Mommy. And how it became “Do you miss your Mommy?” - A mystery till this day

- Aware. And how it became “Be awaaaaare of your body.” - Sunil

- Animation. And how it became “Animason. Sumo posison” - Kamal

Kamal. And how it means perfection in Arabic. And how we might never reach it. But how we can seek it and find it. In the Small Things.

Small Rudrakshas. And how Sophie and I looked everywhere for them. And how I finally bought a pack of bracelets, took one out to wear and it tore in 4 seconds.

Torn. And how we were many times. Between here and there. The program and our ‘other’ lives. Our teachers, fellow students and our friends back home, our families.

Family. And how they are everything. Absolutely everything. And how a phone call with mama can turn my day around. And how she’ll complain and worry about my brother wherever she is and wherever I am.

My sister. And how she was afraid I wouldn’t make friends. And how she was sad that I’ll be at the airport all alone for 10 hours. And how she felt about me going early to Nepal alone and again, not making friends.

Alone. And how it differs from lonely. And how they’re different and irrelevant, not to be confused with each other.

My other sister. And how she would send me a message to tell me that she’s proud of me. And that she hates me for leaving.

Hate. And how our teacher would often discuss love and relationships and how our own ideas of love or our own versions of relationships might be flawed. And how that only reassured me of my love and my relationships and simply taught me how to make them even better.

Better. And how my husband makes me so. And how I can never find the right words to describe how he’s a quintessential match for me and how much he means to me.

My husband. And how his absence was one of the most challenging things I ever had to go through.

Absence. And how the new absent-minded “Do you live in a Pyramid?” became “You’re a Muslim and you practice Yoga?”

Under-A-Rock-Absent-Mindedness: That Russian girl. And how this conversation happened: “Where are you from?” “Egypt!” “Oh my! How did you come here?” Thinking it’s another “Do you go to school by camel” question, I answered, “Plane?” “But how did you get out?” “Umm, went to the airport and again, took a plane? Huh?” “You’re so lucky!” Still confused I asked, “Why am I lucky? What do you mean?” “Well, women are prisoners there! They can’t do anything!” “Umm, we’re pretty badass actually and we can do a bunch of things!” “No!” I’m sorry are you from Egypt now? “Yes, I’m telling you!” “But Egypt is an Arab country?” “Yes!” “And it’s Muslim?” “The majority is yes but there are other religions as well, there’s Ch-“ “You’re Egyptian, Arab and Muslim?” “I can show you my passport if you’d like?” “But those countries are bad!” “Well actu-” My beautiful Sophie has enough and interrupts by shoving the menu in her face, “Take a look, they have a lot of delicious things. Go ahead and order!” That wasn’t the end of the conversation but it didn’t get much better than that.

Conversations. And how they ranged from polite and ordinary to fun and entertaining to deep and passionate to surprising and meaningful, always teaching us a thing or two.

Teachers. And how they will say exactly what you want them to say and exactly what you don’t want them to say. How they know nothing and everything about you. How they make you want to be better. How they bring you down, and how they encourage you and push you to be even better than them.

Encouragement. And how I found it everywhere. In the one I saw wiping her tears, letting me know it’s okay that I was crying too. In the one I saw confused, letting me know it’s okay to be confused as well. In the one I saw wanting silence, letting me know it’s okay to want it. In the one with the beautiful energy, letting me know it’s safe to let mine shine. In the one that was weird, assuring and pushing me to be as weird and as whatever as I want to be. I can’t thank each and every one enough for making me comfortably crazy during that time. I was not alone. Thank you.

Gratitude. And how I’m filled with it. From head to toes. To everyone, everything, every circumstance. Because I can’t own any of this. Nothing. Not even that banana. I don’t own anything. It makes sense.

Sense. And how I like common sense. And how I’m not quite fond of stating the obvious. And how there was some obvious-stating, in my humble opinion.

Humbleness. And how my boss is remarkable and humble. And how he truly never ceases to amaze me. And how he broke my heart and made me cry half way across the world.

Across the World. And how my first yoga teacher left me to go there. And how Yara is the one who made things make sense to me. And made me “oh so humbly” think of things as obvious while they were only so because she stated them and taught them to me in the first place. And how she’s a brilliant teacher and how lucky I am to have her.

Luck. And how I found Yomna and Youssef. And how hearing two strangers speaking Arabic in Delhi’s airport was suddenly music to my ears.

The Beatles. And how it’s a shame that The Beatles Ashram is now abandoned. And how utterly beautiful and hauntingly enchanting it is.

The enchanting cells. And how standing in the Ashram’s meditation cells, chanting and singing was an experience I will never forget and will always cherish. And how it will always give me butterflies.

The Butterfly Effect. And how it’s about those Small Things again. Those small experiences.

Experience. And how we must.

Meditation. And how it’s also a must, a necessary pain in the bottom. No really, my butt couldn’t take it anymore. Sitting and doing nothing- actually attempting to sit and really do and be NOTHING- is the hardest thing anyone can do. Funny how people think that’s what yogis do all the time. We actually wish. We really do.

Yoga. And how our perception of it and its benefits is but a tiny fraction of its true capabilities. Of YOUR capabilities practicing it.

Yogic Practice. And how it’s not On the Mat. It’s On and Off the Mat. It’s in what you do, how you think, how you behave, what you say and what you eat and so much more if you genuinely open your heart to it.

Open-mindedness. And how it’s not about being exposed to other cultures and other ways of thought and adopting them. And how it’s actually about being exposed to them, accepting them, and benefiting from them in your own way, all the while valuing and keeping your principles and beliefs. How we need to be flexible and welcoming to new perspectives, being able to adopt them, reject them, argue for them, or against them but always, always accepting them.

Acceptance. And how we made “Caralyo!” acceptable. And how it became the theme word of the whole group. And how it also became the nickname of the one who taught it to us, Carolina.

Carolina. And how she can and would dance whenever, wherever, with whomever. And how she pronounces her country, “Brazeeoouuul”.

Countries. And how to transcend their boundaries. And how to transcend other boundaries and turn strange into familiar.

Strangers. And how they can become your friends, even your family in a matter of days.

Days. And how they will somehow always make room for Cancer to pop into my life. Luckily, this time, in a shocking yet fresh way with hope and a beautiful attitude (if the words Luckily, Fresh and Beautiful could be used to describe something remotely related to cancer.)

Relative. And how it’s all about perspective. And how I sometimes imagined looking at myself through bird-eye view to realize where I am in the world and what I’m doing. In Ashley’s words, “I want to palm your face to make sure this is real like Ben Stiller did in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty!”

Life. And how tiny I am in it. And how little I occupy of the world and how little I can survive on. And how Nehal decided to name me Bindu just when I was on the shuttle bus to the plane to begin my journey. I didn’t get it at first. It means speck, droplet, point, and many other Small Things. And how it made more and more sense every single day.

Every single day. And how it taught me something. And how it changed me. And how no matter how thoroughly I explain my journey to you (not that this is thoroughly), I will not be able to do it justice.

Justice. And how it’s only fair that you will not be able to fully grasp it. And how I accept that, and cherish your heart that will want to understand it.

Heart. And how I whole-heartedly want to teach you even a little something from what I was taught, if you’ll let me, a humble new yoga teacher (I think).

New. And how I felt while I was in silence, new. How my teacher put me in silence, stapling the note on my shirt and how it was one of the best things that happened to me on that journey. And how silence was one of the best teachers, where the teacher was me and I was criticizing and teaching me.

Criticism. And how you really are your own worst enemy. And how you can always criticize yourself. But how you can also turn that into constructive criticism and create wonders.

Wonders. And how we make them when we set an intention, a determination, a “Sankalpa” and delve off to pursue it. And how we can create better versions of ourselves doing so. And how that’s the one thing that everyone can agree on, wanting to be better, and how every belief, philosophy, science and religion pushes us towards that.

Us. And I how I love Us. And how I thank Us. And I how value Us. And how I think Us can change the world.

Namaste. And how I loved it before and love it even more now. Everything I want to tell you and wish you in one word. So, Namaste*.

* The spirit within me salutes the spirit within you. (One of many translations)