Not quite one year ago, I traveled to India.
Ten days before I left, I met a stranger who, unbeknownst to me at the time, would play an invaluable role in my world in the ensuing months.
Weeks later, when I returned from half a planet away, I found myself jet-lagged, profoundly inspired, partially in love (with a place and perhaps also a human) and wholly vulnerable—all in ways I had not foreseen.
I had not foreseen waking early enough to greet the sunrise every morning, writing for hours on end each day or opening my heart to help someone and realizing that it was maybe me who needed it as much as he. And nowhere in this quest for truth, light and meaning on behalf of someone else did I foresee how humbling and humanizing that journey could be.
There are so many things to which one can assign meaning during powerful and vulnerable times. For me, these stand out:
The malas (prayer beads) I haggled with a bead seller to buy in Pushkar Market—two strands for maybe 300 Rupees.
The threads (kalava) affixed to my wrist by a Brahmin priest that sparkling Sunday morning beside Pushkar Lake.
Both lay on my counter, now broken within a too-coincidental time frame of each other.
Pushkar Lake is said to have formed of Shiva’s tears. As such, its magic finds you the moment you step down to any one of the Ghats.
At the behest of the priest, I made a somewhat hasty wish that morning beside the lake. And I wonder now, not quite one year from that day, if this means the wish will come true in its entirety, or perhaps just the opposite—now that the threads have unraveled, might the wish follow suit?
Or does the unravelling signal a release of that energy into the Universe for it to manifest more concretely somehow? Tradition states that blessings last one year, equal to the lifespan of my faded and now frayed threads and broken beads.
So all these months later, I’m in my flat on a sparkling Sunday morning drinking homemade chai (made with a recipe gleaned from watching myriad chaiwallahs during my travels, though mine will never quite compare) and texting with this once-stranger, now as familiar* as an old friend.
On this Sunday morning, with my thoughts running marathons through the events of this past year (and years), I’m longing to be beside Pushkar Lake or somewhere other than Right Here, and regardless of whether or not there is verity behind an expiration date of a wish, lakeside blessings or the ephemerality of that which these combined forces created, I’m applying these things I’ve learnt from both a foreign land and that foreign man:
And move—quickly or slowly, just as long as it’s one foot in front of the other.
And love unconditionally.
And believe in magic but also in the furies.
And read, dream, think, sing (in my case, preferably in the car or shower where there’s no audience).
And be brave.
And the teachings in the frayed threads (or maybe it’s the tea leaves)? There is light in a sparkling fall morning, and there is light in a friend’s smile; embrace each equally.
Goodwill does not expire. Wishes sometimes come true. Truth can be found in wishes.
[*Odd, isn’t it, that we don’t call once-strangers, “familiars” and that family is just so, however disenfranchised and/or strange.]
Author: Lesli Woodruff
Apprentice Editor: Lois Person / Editor: Toby Israel