I wake before dawn in a remote town on the edge of the Arabian Sea. Each morning is the same, the quiet sounds of birds awakening from their midnight slumber, peacefully calling to all those within earshot that the day was about to begin. Slowly, the sounds of kirtan begin and the women of the surrounding houses leave to draw water from the wells outside. The birds chirp louder, almost in sync with the songs being sung on the old radios at each house.
I’m almost lulled back to sleep by the beautiful sounds that surround my lonely room. But I know that we must begin our journey out onto the river in our rickety boat. The sun is soon rising and so, I too, do as the sun and rise from my slumber to another day.
Walking down the steps of my room to the dining area below, I feel the warm winter air on my face as the last of the kirtan blows away with the morning breeze. I breathe a heavy sigh as the melody dissipates into the soft glow of the first light of morning. I stare at the sky for a moment, seeing the fading glow of the crescent moon and the smoky light from stars signaling the end of another night. How easily they slip into the daylight, merging with the soft reds and yellows of the sunrise.
It is only a few short moments before the boys that run the ashram stumble out of their rooms ready to embark on the morning’s journey to the ocean. Every morning is the same. They are as dedicated to the water as they are to God and the mantra they recite for him each morning before dawn. They smile and ask all those around to help load the boat for our trek to the ocean. The first time I rode in the boat, I feared that we could all perish so easily, but after a few days that fear was gone and in its place was a love for that leaky, water filled vessel that few would understand. Climbing in and hoping that the engine turned was a morning ritual. Placing my hands in the water, as we sped along the Shambhavi River toward the Arabian Sea, was a comforting cold that I long for to this day. Watching the sunrise from the middle of the river was mysterious and magical. Fishermen passed by on their boats, preparing for a day at sea. Another breath and I was awash with the feelings of calm that had so often eluded me in other corners of the world.
The sun was reflecting off the mirrored surface of the river . . . glossy and mesmerizing, I stared into this image every morning. Only once being pushed out of my dreamlike trance to be asked where my tulsi came from, the rest of the time was spent imagining a world where I could live on the river forever, floating lazily back and forth between its banks. Drifting through the forest across from the ashram and listening to the symphony of tropical birds call to me as I dozed off in the paradise that was as much real as imagined. I knew this wasn’t my world and I could never stay here forever.
For these moments were a temporary escape from my own reality, my own existence.