It ran on rails and made its own familiar noises. This particular route was the one he took for work to the department store down town. It drove past the small shops and the secondary school where my brothers went, and pass the office of the newspaper called ‘Catholic News’ and pass Deluxe cinema and near the savannah down a main street called Frederick St. This was the city area where he worked and got paid and where he banked his savings and he was proud to show me all this.
And then the tracks of the street car went down to the wharves where the boats from over-seas came and brought all the goods that were sold in his store and so this really was his world and the car stopped and he said “Come son lets get out”. I noticed that the driver shouted “Terminal, everyone please get off!” and as we got off, the driver turned, pivoted the seats in the other direction and took the trolley and carried it around so that what was the back of the car became the front and what was the front became the back. I was quite young then, maybe six or seven and I asked, “Dad, is this the end of the world?” And with a big grin on his face he said,“No son, this is the end of the line, come with me and we’ll go near the sea.”
We took a path that led us down near the wharves where there was a strong smell of sea and fish and old coconut husks and some fisher_ men coming back with their catch and buyers for market with scales to weigh and sea-gulls screaming and through all this activity he took me to a quiet spot and pointed out to the sea. He hoisted me up on his shoulders, “There’s the boat that takes us over to Tobago” he said, and then I pointed to that line that stood out beyond the boats and I asked “Dad, is that the end of the world out there?” and again he laughed and said “No son, that’s the horizon”
Every time I travel and see the horizon, I remember. The thing is, its always there, the horizon, and we never ever really meet up with it for as we get close to it, we discover there is yet another. The spiritual life and the quest for answers continuously leads us on to other horizons both outwardly and inwards.
We landed safely early morning and when going through the Customs and they asked to see my luggage and I showed my tiny suitcase, the guy again repeated, “your luggage sir” I pointed to my suitcase and he said, “not your carry-on, but your suitcase”. I looked at the man and insisted that was all I had and he said “How long are you going to be here?” I said “I have a Visa for one year”. “He almost screamed. “One year sir and that’s all your luggage?”. I soon learnt that in India, there is no privacy. everything is public!
Once we are through the customs and out the other side, we were bombarded with guys shouting, “Taxi sir, taxi?” and some others “Rickshaw, rickshaw”. it was around 4 am and my head was buzzing so I took a turn around and went into the lounge. I thought that I would just sit here, order some Chai (tea) and cool out till the crowd dies down. Now it was the turn of waiters, “Sir, you want breakfast?” I ordered chai and then some other guys came on by one “Change money sir?” I remembered my last trip here some ten years before and I said “No, I dont need to change any money!” “You have Indian money sir?” “Yes I do” “How much they give you sir? I offer you 11 rupees for one dollar sir” “I dont care how much you offer me, I work for the Police!” “Sorry sir, sorry sir!” The chai arrived. it is delicious, like only in India! and what a booster!
I was given an address of a College where they had guest rooms for visiting parents. It was run by nuns and I had written and reserved a room but it was too early to show up and so I did have some breakfast and then got a taxi who luckily knew the address.
And so, I showed the address to the sister and she said, “let me keep it and when you come for dinner tonight I should have directions for you.” I went for a walk in the gardens in the back of this college.
I could hear the familiar sounds of tropical birds, the scream of parrots and crows and dogs barking and there was also floating through all this, the smell of jasmine flowers and at certain moments in the early morning, the sweet smell of sandal wood incense!
The bell rang for dinner and I went and there was the sister waiting to show me that she had my route, what bust to take etc. to go and see Nisirgadata Maharaj. She said, “Brother, it is best to set out after breakfast because it is not too far away, this address, I am told is in the red light district and you don’t want to be caught there when its dark.”