(Note: In my first post in this series, My Dream Becomes Reality, I shared a story of an event that spanned a period that started months before my trip and ended with what happened when I arrived at the ashram. In this post, I’m going to go back to the beginning of the journey itself. I encourage you to read the first post as preparation for this one if you haven’t already read it.)
My friend Ramana, who is also housesitting for me, took me to the airport early in the afternoon of August 11. This was the beginning of my 28th trip to Amma’s ashram in Amritapuri, India. The trip entails a fourteen-hour flight to Dubai, and after a two-hour layover, another four-hour flight to Trivandrum, India. Once there, I take a two to three-hour taxi ride to Amritapuri. The trip to India is grueling in any circumstance, but this time I would be doing it three weeks after having broken my wrist. Even the thought of going when I was essentially one-handed was overwhelming.
Normally I take two suitcases, mostly filled with supplies for other people, but this time I brought the bare minimum, one small suitcase plus my purse and laptop. Once on board, I discovered that the flight attendants and even the passengers were more than willing to help me if I needed help. Before long, we were in the sky heading for India.
The last three years, Emirates has offered me the opportunity to purchase an upgrade to business class for the Seattle to Dubai segment of the journey. I had not done it in the past, but decided to take them up on their offer this time. It was still a tough journey but the upgrade made a huge difference in my experience.
My friend Prarthana traveled to Amritapuri a week before I started my trip. I had not told her I was coming to India. It was fun to know that I would be surprising her when I showed up there. When I was on a two-hour layover in Dubai I received an email from her. In it she shared some of her travel experiences. When I answered the email, I didn’t mention that I was in sitting in the Dubai airport at the time I was reading it.
One of the things she shared was that the water in the toilets in the airport was heated. I found that strange, especially since I had just used one and it wasn’t heated, and I had never experienced heated toilet water there during previous layovers. Before I boarded, I used another restroom and it was abundantly obvious that the water in the toilet was very hot. Later, I learned that the heat that emanated from the toilet wasn’t because the water was heated, but rather because the weather in Dubai was so hot that the water coming through the pipes was hotter than water that would come from a hot water heater. I had noticed that the temperature in Dubai was 105 F first thing in the morning and it apparently can get to 120 F during the day. This was my first time traveling through Dubai in August.
Taxi to the ashram
It took me at least an hour to get my baggage after we landed in India. When I finally had my suitcase, I located the driver who would take me to the ashram. I am always amazed at the skill of the drivers, and their rock-solid steadiness. In India, the roads are usually filled with bicycles, motorcycles, buses, rickshaws, taxis, trucks, private cars and pedestrians. Drivers are constantly honking as they pass each other, swerving back into their own lane just before colliding with oncoming traffic. Speed limits are ignored whether it be on a highway or a village road.
I always remember my daughter’s first trip to India. She sat in the front seat and I was struck that she didn’t seem to have any reaction to this kind of driving. When I talked to her about it later, she said she had her eyes closed the whole time. She commented that it was like one big game of “Chicken.”
Two hours later, we reached Karunagappalli. We turned onto the small road that led to the beach road; the beach road goes all the way to the ashram. A few minutes later, the driver turned the car around. I didn’t understand whether the road was washed out due to the monsoons or if there was construction on the road ahead. I was glad he knew other ways to get to the ashram.
Soon, we were on the beach road. I was shocked to see how big the waves in the Arabian Sea were. I’ve been going to the ashram yearly since January 1990 and I had never seen the Sea so stormy. This was the first time I’d been to Amritapuri in August since 2003. Maybe I had forgotten what the waves were like during the rainy season.
Fifteen minutes later, we drove onto the ashram grounds. I was home.
To view the previous posts in this series click here.