It’s been nearly six weeks since I left for India on one last mission of musical emersion. Life here is not what I remember from 11 years back, but traveling, studying, and performing with my guru is still very familiar. I have already had a number of adventures in India, and I wish I had started writing about them sooner. A variety of travel/visitation commitments accompanied by a mix of internet, power, and general technology problems has delayed my progress. So far, I have performed in 4 concerts and traveled to 12 cities between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. I will be catching up on my past experiences over the next few weeks, but I thought I would start my blog by illustrating an event which happened two weeks back. I told so many people about this experience 13 years back, but nobody was ever able to feel any of what I felt. This time I caught a bit of it on my cell phone so that people could get a small taste of the action … try to put yourself in my position!!
Imagine finishing a 3 hour concert at 9:30 pm. By the time you’ve eaten, packed, and started on the road, the time is roughly 11 pm. Your destination is 257 km away (roughly 160 miles), and you know that it will take 6 ½ hours to arrive due to broken and narrow roads surrounded by the pitch black of night. Your guru has jumped into the front seat, pushed it back all the way, and laid back to sleep. Both your and your guru’s suitcases, saxophones, and travel bags are with you in the back seat surrounding you and on top of you.
The first 60 miles goes by without too much hassle. You slowly start to doze off when the last 100 miles creeps up and slaps you square across the face. The road is riddled with pot holes so deep and in such high frequency that the only thing louder than the car bouncing off the road is the sound of opposing vehicles jamming on their horns as they pass 2 inches to the right of your window. The road maintains the same pattern for 80 miles. It proceeds straight for 50 feet, curves left, straight for 50 feet, curves right, straight for 50 feet, curves left, and so on. You wouldn’t mind it so much except that each time the car curves left, your head hits the right back seat window and you wake up from the 10 seconds of blissful sleep that you previously enjoyed. An hour goes by and your head is sufficiently bruised, so you figure that you’re better off staying up for the rest of the night.
Delirium increasingly sets in; you forget that the blinding high beams from the buses driving toward you are not the white light of afterlife, and your well trained taxi driver knows how to drive off the road to avoid collisions. Luckily, there are at least two events to look forward to … your taxi driver will need at least two breaks to stop the car and pee on the side of the road. Each of those breaks guarantees 3 minutes of sleep before the driver starts again, hits a pothole, curves left, and your head bounces off the right back seat window. The last 20 miles arrives, the sun slowly rises, and the road becomes calm.
As you near the familiar house in which you have studied so much music, you get out of the car with heightened survival instincts. You’re thinking as you remove your bags from the seat that you are so alert to danger that no person, place, or thing could possibly hurt you. Regrettably, you are not alert enough to remove the Iphone, which you previously used to video tape your adventure, from the car seat. The taxi drives away with your phone (which luckily you retrieve 13 days later) and all evidence of your adventure. You ask yourself under what circumstances you would ever consider making this kind of trip again … perhaps a warning of a nuclear explosion in Mysore followed by warnings that the only escape route was toward Mangalore. In truth, since this is the third time you’ve done this, you know that there is one and only thing that could make you repeat this foolhardy endeavor … a shout from your guru after a weekend evening concert, “Get into the back seat … we’re driving to Mangalore.”
Try to see if you can hear the car bouncing up and down. Being in the car itself was an awful lot louder than the video!