The Road to Amritsar

Cancelled flights happen all the time. Literally and figuratively. Plans change, often well outside our control. One day in India taught me the benefits of staying calm and going with the flow:

I sat on a metal bench in the tiny Dharmakot airport. I had just spent a week, part of it with a guide named Kuldeep, trekking the steep hills in and around Dharmakot and Dharmasala. The Dali Lama wasn’t in residence at his temple but there was still plenty to see and do. I chanted with the monks, bought scarves and beads at the street market, learned Reiki and ate dhal and curry to my heart’s content. Now I was heading back to New Dehli.

The loud speaker crackled with an announcement in a language I didn’t understand. The tiny airport which had seemed calm and not terribly crowded was suddenly whirring with commotion.

I turned to the young Indian woman sitting next to me and raised one eyebrow – a non-verbal open-ended question.

“The flight has been cancelled”, she told me in perfect English, “There are no other flights today. The next flight is tomorrow afternoon”. We sat quietly for a moment. More information was delivered over the loudspeaker.  The woman turned to me again.

“You seem so calm”.

“I am. You, too”.

We decided to stay calm together. I learned her name was Tanvi. She lived in Boston now and had come home for the summer to do service work. After a couple more announcements Tanvi suggested we stand in line to be issued new tickets. After a long wait we were also given the option of a 5-hour taxi ride to Amritsar for a flight at 2 am. We said yes.

A young man we’d met while we were standing in line joined us. He was a musician from Turkey. And as the luggage was loaded onto the top of the taxi an older gentleman set his suitcase next to our backpacks. He was a retired Indian Army General.

India sped by with it’s brilliant cacophony of sound and color. Turkish Man played guitar in the back seat as we sang American pop songs. Taxi Driver stopped for lunch at a roadside food stall and we joined him. Mr Army General pulled strings to get us a wonderful curry dinner when we finally arrived at the airport in Amritsar. After dinner I found a Sikh taxi driver to take Tanvi, Turkish Man and me to The Golden Temple, the center of the Sikh religion, to experience their summer solstice celebrations.

At the temple Tanvi, Mr Turkish Man and I stood in the warm night air, orange kerchiefs on our heads, courtesy of the temple volunteers. We smiled widely at one another. Enveloped by chanting, the lights of the Golden Temple dancing on the water surrounding it, we felt part of a magical world. I wondered if I’d ever been as happy. My cancelled flight had turned into a marvelous adventure along the road to Amritsar.

 

This article also appeared on page 27 in the November 2017 edition of Sibyl Magazine: For the Spirit and Soul of Women.