We had planned our weeks visit to Kathmandu, Nepal several months ago. As an American expatriate living in India, it is required to exit the country twice a year. As a rule, I never check the astrological ephemeris for positive aspects when traveling, preferring instead to rely on Baba for personal guidance. The priority is more in terms of what is cost effective and convenient in any event.
The week before our departure, I learned that the October 31st Mercury retrograde was occurring within several hours of our scheduled departure (for those unfamiliar with astrology, Mercury retrograde usually denotes delays and miscommunications). Be prepared for any eventuality I thought to myself. My wife doesn’t pay attention to those sort of things, so nothing lost, nothing gained.
The two hour flight from Pune (India) to Delhi went without incident. No problem there. The shuttle from terminal 1 to terminal 3 was equally uneventful, that is, until we arrived at the international terminal. We had a connecting flight to Kathmandu at terminal 3. It had just been evacuated and in lockdown due to a bomb discovered inside the entrance terminal. Hundreds of people were milling about outside the terminal area not sure how to proceed. No clear instructions were given. Flights were being either delayed or canceled. Luckily we had a 5 hour layover in Delhi. Perhaps things would clear by then? To our great relief, things did indeed eventually clear. The police successfully disarmed the device allowing us to board without incident save for the minor inconvenience of a one hour delay. We arrived at my favorite haunting ground in Kathmandu; the Summit Hotel. We were informed that the room we had requested was only available for two days. We might have to switch to a less desired room or so we were told. As it turned out, that too was eventually resolved.
So…. in search of an Ayurvedic doctor for the treatment of a herniated disc. We did find one, but the treatment felt inadequate. What I really wanted was a chiropractor (they are practically non existent in India). We did finally locate a chiropractor; a Canadian-Indian lady (the only chiropractor in Nepal I was told!) at a certain designated hospital. After some pleasantries; we learned that this chiropractor was fully booked weeks in advance. Nevertheless, the visit to Nepal was quite enjoyable. See composite photo…….
The return proved to be equally perplexing. Upon arrival in Delhi we were abruptly informed that the connecting flight from Delhi to Pune was cancelled (no reason given). There were no viable options except to try to fly standby over a period of days, without any guarantees. To a westerner, accustomed to efficient service, the notion that a passenger had to make ones own arrangements without any help from the airline and no compensatory hotel accommodations strained all sense of credulity. After many hours, much persuasion and coaxing, we managed to arrange a circuitous routing; Delhi to Lucknow and then to Pune the following day. Fortunately for us, my wife has family in Delhi. We had a most enjoyable overnight stay with them. My brother in law took me to a physio therapist he recently visited for a herniated disc. His problem was alleviated within 11 days. The session I had with this physio therapist was rewarding and gave me hope. Things were looking up.
Our hired car drive from Pune airport to our house at Meherabad; about a two hour drive a few days ago was another mind bending experience. The man’s driving was erratic and hair-raising. It was early in the morning. He had a tendency to speed, weaving in and out of cars, leaving virtually little room for error with the added disconcerting action of alternately pressing on the accelerator and touching on the brakes every few seconds. And then, just as inexplicably, every so often he would slow down noticeably, letting other cars pass. His erratic behavior caused other drivers to honk their horns. His slightly slurred speech made it fairly obvious he was sleep deprived. It seemed as though he was deliberately driving in this fashion to keep awake. We tried to calm him down and keep him focused. The clincher for me was when he engaged in a long-winded conversation with a friend on his cell phone. At that point, the situation became almost intolerable. I felt he wasn’t paying sufficient attention to the road. I wanted to say something to the driver but my wife kept stopping me from doing so. She felt if something was said we risked being left stranded in the middle of nowhere. She knows the culture or at least that is what she kept insisting. And so a stalemate prevailed. My wife and I would occasionally find ourselves slipping into a loud argument back and forth about this, depending on how close we came to colliding into another car. The driver seemed oblivious to all this (he was too involved in his friendly phone conversation. He couldn’t speak English in any case). Taking Baba’s name was my only recourse. We finally made it to the house, shaken but without mishap. Once we entered the house we laughed and hugged. It seemed so absurd and yet funny at the same time. Toss it up to Mercury retrograde (communication difficulties).
As fate would have it, an American chiropractor just arrived at Meherabad for a long visit. He has agreed to set up appointments for treatment. Situation resolved.
So here is a positive astrological spin on Mercury retrograde…….
Positive Effects of Mercury Retrograde
And here are some notes on a previous visit of mine to Nepal some 15 years ago….
July 4, 2003
A Post Card Impression of Kathmandu, Nepal
Kathmandu resides within close proximity of the majestic high Anna Purna Himalayan mountain ranges and is quite striking when seen in its vast panoramic view on a clear day. It has been a perpetual delight to explore this quaint, ancient land that regally sits high up in elevation, overlooking the Indian subcontinent from the North. There is an inherently strong accented Tibetan Buddhist influence here (although elements of Hinduism are also in clear evidence) lending a unique atmosphere to this region that is absolutely charming and memorable. The culture exudes strong spiritual traditions, but at the same time is unassuming in its tolerance towards other religions. Nepal is rightly called the ‘Himalayan Kingdom’. The people are very gentle and friendly and the architecture is exquisite.
Two friends with whom I am traveling, are staying with a delightful Nepali family in a beautiful suburban district of Katmandu called Patan. This particular family are Indian by birth, but very western and progressive in their way of life (they lived in Canada for thirty years). They mix easily with the social environment and have a wonderful regard for the culture. Urmilla (the wife) is the primary inspiration behind an arts and handicrafts school they own, employing many of the underprivileged locals. They export these handicrafts to many areas of the world; ranging from hand loomed fabrics to pottery. It’s a non profit organization that relies predominantly on grants. It’s a marvelous and touching operation to witness. The selflessness in which everyone contributes to this project derives many of its inspirational guidelines directly from Mahatma Ghandi’s principles (Urmilla lived in the Gandhi retreat in Nagpur, India as a child).
We have been using Urmilla’s driver to negotiate our way around town; visiting the various historic sites that are located in the Kathmandu area and surrounding countryside. My hotel, rests within 10 minutes of walking distance of the guest house my friends are staying in; also located in the Patan area. The nest where I have taken up temporary residence – the Summit hotel, is superb in its attention to detail in the old world tradition of Nepalese decor and architecture. Lavish gardens, tall trees and inner courtyards with its outer perimeter lined with lovely, artistically designed rooms, intricate wooden carved balconies and railings and huge museum-like wood carving pieces located in strategic places on the outer walls, creates a magical, quiet atmosphere. Considered a luxury hotel by any standard – it was procured for only $40 a night (includes breakfast buffet). I managed to negotiate a 30 % discount due to the off season monsoon period.
We visited Pashupatinath today. Many monkeys and quite a fair number of Sadhus inhabit the innumerable temples there. The dead are cremated on the banks of the river with simple fanfare (we arrived in time for one of these cremation ceremonies). In previous days our various visits to the areas where the huge Buddha Stupas (temples) are situated, has been of particular fascination to me. The two eyes and squiggly nose (the nose shaped in the form of a question mark) conveys the feeling that the all seeing Divine eye is forever upon one. In an old, well preserved Tibetan monastery at the Swayambhu hill shrine where one of the most famous Buddhist Stupas reside, we found a comfortable corner in front of a large brass bowl that contained a lit candle and a prayer wheel perched on top. We managed to discreetly, softly repeat Baba’s prayers there.
This land is enchanting. All three of us are in wonderment of the culture; the simplicity and beauty of the people. Although neighboring India does exert its influence (via Hindi films and similarities in the Hindi script etc.), nevertheless at the same time, the Nepalese culture, accompanied as it is by various shades of Tibetan Buddhist influence, seems to evoke an entirely distinct and different cultural experience. It feels like home – very warm and inviting. I don’t think this can ever fully be captured by words or photos alone, but my traveling companions are taking lots of photos. Our week foray into Nepal will come to an end on July 7th and with our arrival at Meherabad on the 9th (just in time for Silence day), these photos can be developed.
Speaking of photos…. portraits of the esteemed Dalai Lama adorn many shops and homes here. He seems to be the embodiment of what this country holds dear. The sensitivity and reverence for all living creatures prevails in this great Himalayan Kingdom.