I am sitting alone in a coffee bar in Mumbai. Again I feel the urge to write. Ending like we began, some 6 months ago in Nepal…Mumbai was supposed to be a footnote in this journey. It became a chapter. A small and spicy unexpected closing chapter.
On the visa I got recently in Sri Lanka there were some small letters saying ‘registration required on arrival in India’. I partly didn’t really understand, partly didn’t really want to see it, and eventually didn’t do it.
Now at the airport they made an issue out of it. A big issue! I cannot board my plane!!
I need some paper of some office somewhere in Mumbai…
I am escorted out of the airport (allright I was a little upset but no need to exagerate either, guys!) and there I am again, in the night, incredulous of what had just happened and not having a clue on what to do next.
Breathe, breathe deeply! One step at a time.
I just need a room now.
And this paper and the stamp and how much is all this gonna cost and will the lost son be home for Easter and…
Later man, later. Relax! It will be allright! Everything is gonna turn out just fine!!
Eventually some nice indian man finds me, finds a ride to a hotel (and comes along), helps me locate the right bureau in Mumbai and organizes a taxi there the next day at 8:00.
Wow! I gratefully (but not gratefully enough, I realize afterwards) accept this unexpected help and at 8:00 a friendly cross-eyed looking driver opens for me his taxi doors.
I slowly start realizing all this is just another adventure, gain some trust out of this realization and start enjoying the whole thing.
Ok, let’s do this!
I know Leonard Cohen spent time in Mumbai, and recently I am continuously listening to his album ‘Old Ideas’ so sitting in the taxi I google ‘Leonard Cohen Mumbai’.
It appears he came to Mumbai in 1997 to meet the enlightened Ramesh Balsekar, ended up spending a month with him instead of the supposed 3 or 4 days and since then regularly came back to see him. With time, his insight and understanding deepened. “… In 2012 he wrote a song ‘Going Home’ that beautifully captures the essence of his deepened recognition of himself relative to ‘God’ and his own place in life”.
These last few weeks I spent in India (also at a guru’s feet), this was thé song I played and sang so often. The story touches me. I feel somehow the hidden, magical perfection behind me having to stay here longer than planned…
The driver gets me safely through Mumbai (which also can be considered a magical happening) and drops me off in front of the infamous FRRO Office.
I take a number and get a seat next to an Irish guy who is holding an impressive file of documents. We start a conversation which makes it clear he’s here for the same reason I am… The same small letters on his visa.
Holy sh^t! All this paperwork! I’m gonna be here for another week at least!!
Well, to make a long story short (don’t wanna bore you with administration), after hardly 2,5 hours of waiting I get a small print saying ‘Registration not required for tourist visa’.
(Maybe the Irish guy had a working visa)
I ask the FRRO people for a little stamp or a signature on my dry print-out, (to make it look more ‘real’) but this I am refused.
This will have to do to get me clearance through immigration, ánd to convince Brussels Airlines to pay me a new ticket Home.
The initial feeling of victory doesn’t last long. What if I have to pay for the ticket and when will I have a flight and what if they refuse me again with this hardly impressive document and….
Hahaha never in peace this monkey mind.
I can only do what I have to do, so I call Brussels Airlines a number of times, eventually mail them photo’s of the visa and frro paper and now…
Well, now i am waiting for them to make a decision, so I might as well enjoy Mumbai a bit more.
I decide to visit an art gallery. I have something BIG in mind, genre Le Louvre. I am after all in Mumbai, bigger than Paris. Yeah, let’s go visit something great!
I find online what appears to be an innovative art gallery, and locate it after two pretty exhausting hours of metro, train and walking in a hot, very polluted, extremely noisy and overcrowded Mumbai.
The very innovative Volte Gallery appears to be not bigger than one, middle sized room, which harbours not less than 4 (!!!) pieces of art, made by a guy called Parul Thacker. I wipe the sweat off off my forehead and the rest of my body, do my best to appreciate the work, and 15 minutes later walk back to the train station…
I urgently need some consolation and decide to soften the disappointment with a little bit of music. I put in my earphones and after having listened 30 seconds to Going Home, I receive a phonecall. Brussels Airlines. When would you like to go home, sir? They acknowledge the situation and offer me a flight…
I knew this would happen. I had forced myself to trust and not indulge in negative thoughts. On the contrary to the museum visit, this feels like a victory:-)
Going Home without my sorrow
Going home sometime tomorrow
Going Home to where it’s better than before.