Many visitors to India seem to get bitten by the "cosmic spirit bug", dressing like babas and flocking to Swamis and yoga schools, asking for the meaning of life and the way to immortality. You'd think from all my ballyhooing about Indian temples and sacred dance that I was off with the fairies, but I see the Dark side too, it's interwoven with the Light, poverty, wars, corrupt politics all in my face at every step, I try to walk the middle path, not too gloomy or ditzy bright, not too bent or too straight, and write it accordingly.
I went thru a zealous cosmic stage when I was a boy, brainwashed into believing in one omnipotent god, thinking I was talking to Him when really I was talking to myself. But in old age I've had my arse thoroughly kicked and am now into Nothing and Everything, a materialist pagan, a rational gnostic, an artistic scientist, an anarcho-mystic, a dreamer adventurer, many bullshit contradictions except I don't need a god to explain it all. The universe is a natural phenomenon, It just Is, and we're all a part of it, Mind entangled with it all, (and playing endless tricks with our gullibility.)
You have to admit though that it is ALL DAM FUCKING AMAZING, to be alive and sentient in a part of the universe finely tuned for life like us, the "Goldilocks Zone", not too hot, not too cold, etc etc, (a perfect example of mythopoesis, as I think the multitude of Hindu gods and nature spirits are), no Intelligent Designer called for, it's one of the places in all the cosmos fit for the accidents of evolution and here we are, with infinite potential we had to happen at least one time. Awesome, God need not apply, but the beauty of it is seen as sacred by many, and they build temples to their AWE. The Indian Hindu religion with its countless gods, animal and nature spirits, seems closer to the truth of the world, again where Mind is interwoven with nature and fills it like a passing carnival full of wonders, freaks and breakdowns.
At just about every bend of the road in India, especially up in the Himalayas, there is a small mandir, white stucco with pyramid roof wherein resides some pagan god/ess, to not only take the prayer of the passerby and keep them safe, and not plunge over the edge into the gorge below, (as sadly so many have done, the road is treacherous), but these houses of god/ess mark the territory as a longtime Hindu realm, right up to the glaciers that separate India from China. Pilgrims have gone on yatra here for thousands of years, it is Indian country, religion reinforces residence in the claim of ownership, when the Chinese penetrated down into the Garwhal Himalayas in the 1963 war, these little mandirs would've let them know whose territory they were on.
The Indians' pagan animation for the transient beauty of life is one of the urban/jungle myths of India I crazily live by and sojourn endlessly for, others being Kipling's "Jungle Book" and "Kim", the Arabian Nights stories, the Ramayana saga, Somerset Maughn's "The Razor's Edge" (tired of western life, quest for enlightenment) , "City of Joy" altruism, "Lost Horizon" sanctuary, Bollywood musicals, "60s Goa Hippie Trail tales and futurist cyberpunk sci-fi adventures as written by the likes of Ian MacDonald, (Cyberabad Days.)
And yeah, sex and drugs and rock'n'roll get me high and lay me low, and often cloud my Mind, but to reiterate, in old age I'm mostly over IT and can simply get off on pure adventure. Take my recent journey to the roof of the world, flying pillion on a motorbike as if on the back of a genie, again to try and wrest the omniscient third-eye jewel from an unknown god high above the snowline, or trek deep into the mountain crags and get taken in by the Secret Community to live out my old age in Nirvana.
But I'm too restless and fucked up, remember, instead we drove along the mountain ridges, the snow-caps in our eyes, far below the man-made lake of Tehri Dam, 45 kms long. When I was a boy I came here with my old mentor, Compassion, (yogi/artist), he was determined to walk to the top of the Himalayas if it killed him, (and it did) and I wondered for years why he was so adamant about finishing himself off this way, for he was dying from cancer. Now I know he simply wanted one last time to walk amidst these natural wonders, eternally young, majestic, consoling, he hoped to die there and not in some antiseptic hospital room. We had heard that in future times the Tehri Dam was coming, but we couldn't believe it, the peasants' villages and fields seemed as eternal as the mountains. Now it's all under water, never to be seen again, I was lucky to be of the few who saw the Garwhal Himalayan valleys in their pristine glory.
We got to a magic spot not far from the headwaters of the Ganges River, hot-springs on which a temple to Shiva has been built and is healing for the body to bathe in, a wooden chalet nearby to spend the cold nights in comfort. It too was idyllic, quiet, a lost paradise, then a hydro-electric construction company came, an army of workers crowded the hot sulphur-spring pool, trucks churned up the environment and everyone threw money at the chai shop wallahs so that civilisation with DVD players and howling pop-songs intruded. Every 21 minutes dynamite went off as they blasted a new road higher up, and dug out two tunnels into the mountain sides thru which they hoped to divert the nascent Ganges River, the whole scene one of industrial destruction, like something from Tolkien's "Mordor".
On this visit we found the small hot-springs village to be almost deserted, the construction company had gone, the dam-works had been halted by complaints from powerful Babas, one of whom went on a hunger-strike to the death to stop it all, it was too much, the destruction of the natural environment a second time round, (they turned the Ganges back on herself for Tehri Dam), like gang rape of the goddess Gangama, and all of it too near her birthplace. They left behind a road going nowhere and tunnels gaping like mouths unfed, huge stone embankments channeling nothing, the river placidly gurgling along as it's always done, though the area was now ugly I was still relieved the river remained free and natural.
We flew past this desolation to reach the next of my magic hot-spots, a temple to the Mountain Nature Spirits, if I'm gonna pay homage to a stunning universe it may as well be at such a site, I've flown 21 thousand kms to reach this high place and test my strength, determination and clear-sightedness. Oh yes, I've made it yet again, to the temple at the top of the world, my wings are flexed, my pineal gland has been burnished to diamond brightness, the infinite highway lies ahead, may I have mercy, love and compassion, I jump into the Void, and I'm gone.