Known to the Unknown, Day 1

Mar 31, 2005

It's our first day on the pilgrimage. As we leave the Gandhi Ashram at 6AM, Guri and I share repeated looks: "This feels so right." Seven years ago, neither of us could've guessed that we'll get married, leave everything, and walk with a simple back-pack on us, smilingly heading into the unknown in search of the "good".

But here it is, right here, right now.

Today, our plan is to walk 22 kilometers to a small village outside Ahmedabad. We plan to sleep outside if no one hosts us, use water from temples and other public outlets, budget dollar a day for any other expenses including food, meditate two hours, reflect for another hour, and connect with the "good" in all life. Next couple days are more of the same (universe willing) till we get to Dr. Doshi's in Chicodra.

It's a humble (and slightly scary :)) journey, a walk from the known to the unknown.Our first stop is at a temple. An onlooker looks at us and I befriend him. "What kind of journey are you on?" he asks. "A journey to remove our lens of 'maya' (illusion)," I tell him. Somehow, he immediately signals the tea stall guy to get us a cup of tea as we start our five minute conversation. Guri and I smile in cognition that this was our first offering.

At the second stop, another lady comes and asks us, "Going to Jatalpur?" A little surprised I say, "Yes." With a dignified smile, she circumambulates the temple. I look to Guri and ask, "How did she know? Maybe everyone here goes to Jatalpur?" I turn around to see the lady load a huge bag of trash on her head and walk off.

We are quite confident that things will work out. But then we get to our first destination -- Aslali -- and ask if we can sleep on the Swaminaryan temple floors at night. "No, we don't allow that here," came the reply from the temple "pujari". Um, oops. Plan B? None. We eat some awesome 10 Rupee food, and keep walking in the noon heat.

On the way, Guri says with a noticeable smirk, "So we don't know where we are going to sleep at night. I'm ready to sleep under this tree right here." With a complimentary smirk, I retort: "You mean, with our buddies, rats and dogs and bugs?" Both of us knew it could come down to it.

We keep walking, not so confident anymore. :)

In the next town, we run into an ashram that is willing to host us. After asking what we're doing, they chit-chat amongst them a bit, and then the chief saint hands us a key with a "VIP" keychain. It ends up being the nicest room we have had in India thus far. And they even feed us awesome dinner.

"Cosmic joke is on us," Guri adds as our exhausted bodies go to sleep, with an alarm for set for 4AM.

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