I had already packed up my first four bags and left Barmer last June 15. But I left behind another 5 bags that I returned to collect and say my goodbyes. Where did I get all this stuff?
Well some of it is not coming back to
I was lucky when I arrived at Barmer, it had been raining for a few days before I arrived and it rained the next day as well. So I got a break from dogging raindrops, but not from large puddles, mud and other collections of water and street waste.
From the train, which arrived at 10am, I bought some fresh batteries for my camera and then headed off by foot to my house. Camera batteries always die just as you need them the most. As soon as I was just a few blocks away from my house I was welcomed back by the kids on the street. On my street a large group of all my little friends gathered around me and walked me to the front gate. As usually I negotiated (squeezed) myself past them and locked the front door with them yelling on the patio.
The house was a mess inside with all the rain and sand that did manage to get in and onto the floors. I didn’t clean. My purpose was in another direction. I just started packing the rest of what I needed to take and made a pile of stuff I wanted to give away. At one point I started letting kids in to take some of stuff I was leaving, like empty jars, some food, forks and spoons, plates and bowls and so on. I also put some stuff aside that I was going to give to the Sharma family. Good thing too, for soon as the neighbours got hold of the fact that was giving things away a mob of all ages barged in and began taking things. They asked first, which was nice, but often didn’t wait for an answer. I just let them take things and tried to make sure there was some sort of even dispersion, but I don’t think that worked out. It seemed like mayhem for a while. The kids did come back after storing their items (like squirrels) asking for anything else that might have been left, but I told them no but I would buy them all a Pepsi (which is a 1 rupee frozen flavoured ice treat, not the soda drink) then walked them all to Lalit’s corner store. Cost me 14 rupees to make everyone happy.
I went back and the house was quiet and I finished my final pack. Vishal had brought his father’s car from Balotra and we stuffed everything inside. I locked up the house and said my last farewell to my neighbours. I don’t think the kids understood I was leaving for good, which was good as I got to see their smiling faces as I left.
We drove to the Sharma’s and Vishal stayed there a bit with me but soon left to go to the office (I still had the Honda Splendor motorcycle to get around) All except the father, Satish, were there and they did not conceal their sadness at my departure. I stayed for some coffee and small talk and then said good-bye. I got a picture of them with their sad faces as they watched me leave. Pawan (the mother) told me I had to come back to
I took one side trip to see Mag Raj Jain. He was still in poor health, as he has been for many months now and we spoke little but I’m glad to have had the opportunity to thank him and say good bye.
Then off to the office for another series of good-byes. This was fairly quick and only Lata admitted that she was sad to see me go. I told her I would continue to support and work for SURE, but via the internet. If I was needed to return for a workshop or something similar, I would also arrange for that. So I’m still officially volunteering for SURE, just from a distance.
I took a walk around town to try to meet up with some of the various merchants I had befriended to say good by to them. I was lucky to meet quite a few of them along with the General Manager of the Kalinga Hotel, Shahul Hammed, who had been very kind and helpful to me during all my stay there.
Vishal, who was also saying goodbye, as he had left his job with SURE to seek out a new adventure, was noticeably glad to get away as well as we headed out towards Balotra, his hometown. The first few kilometres out of town were under construction and very muddy due to the rains. That’s were we got the flat tire. The spare was bald and had the internal wires sticking out the minimal tread. But it got us to the next town and the puncture repair guy. 45 minutes later we were on our way with no incidence.
Supper at the Patwari’s and a casual next day with them smoothed over the rush of the day before. It rained almost all day and the streets were many inches deep. On the way to the train station we left a good wake behind the car. I talked with Vishal on the platform waiting for the train about his idea to start a school in Balotra. He’s still working on the idea.
A lot of train stations have lighted markers to tell you where you coach will stop so you can be waiting there when the train comes in. Unfortunately this is not the case at Balotra. The baggage carriers told us where the A2 coach would stop and we waited under a shelter until the train came. Of course the coach was still a bit of a run to get to. You only have two minutes to get to and on the train. Much too short with five heavy packs.
So once I was safely on board, I said my goodbye to Vishal, sorted out the sheets and blanket and lay down on my train bed as I transitioned into the next phase of this journey.
“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” - Rumi