I am ready to be back in India, where all of the magic and chaos and most wonderful peace are waiting for me right where I left off last March. It feels good to be heading back to this Ayurveda home away from home where John de Kadt and I will greet this year’s guests and begin a 21-day panchakarma retreat high up in the beautiful mountains of Tamil Nadu, Coonoor.
The journey to get here is no easy task, but at least this year I am ready for the odd combination of exhaustion and excitement. I board Qatar Airways with Brendan, a guest who attended last year’s retreat, and together we marvel at the crisp uniformed staff, the red roses at the entryway to first class, and file down the aisle to our seats. Before long our half-full plane floats away from Boston and into the night. I snag a row of vacant seats, wrap myself in a blanket, and snuggle in for a rest. Almost unbelievably, it is eight hours later when I unfold my body and open my eyes to the soft light inside the cabin. We continue to sail the sky over black ocean, heading toward the Middle East. The map of our flight route pulls up names on the ground: Benghazi, Cairo, and Aleppo… I imagine the scene down there…the rubble and twisted rebar, the bombed out hospitals, the concrete-dusted faces of children who have seen too much. The pictures in my mind fade to sepia-tones as an attendant asks me “tea or coffee?”
After what seems like endless miles of nothingness, our silver wings circle a strangely beautiful desert seascape and land us safely in Doha, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, barely the size of Connecticut and cloaked in sand which hides its buried natural gas treasure. The airport is new, huge, and spotless. We eat a bite to pass the time and board again a few hours later with a mob scene that literally sucks us through the gate and onto the plane. I lose track of time and direction. More hours over ocean. We arrive in Chennai’s little airport under the pink haze of sunrise and from there hop a Spice Jet to Bengalaru to meet Annie, my dear friend and yoga student from home, who had set out a day ahead for her own little solo adventure.
Our first leg is complete. With the planes behind us, we move with the crowd towards the exit. I see my name on a sign in the receiving area, and our driver, Manohar, takes us to the car and zips us onto a highway that leads us to the city us through the twisting streets of Bengalaru flooded with morning traffic, uniformed children on their way to school, into the heart of a neighborhood where Annie has been staying at a B & B. Her happy smile greets us in the driveway, and our now threesome enjoys fresh dosas, omelettes, and bananas before setting off toward Mysore. It takes only a minute to pack the car, and in moments we are on the central artery thick with busses, lorries, cars, motorcycles, and mopeds that weave and crisscross and miraculously never collide. The magic has begun!