It was 1990. I was exhausted. I had just landed in India after a long trip from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle, to London, to Nairobi, to Delhi, to Mumbai (Bombay, back then). The jet lag was debilitating. Still, my girlfriend and I decided to walk around the town and see some of the sites.
One of the first places we went was the Gateway to India, an arched structure that overlooks Mumbai Harbor, on the tip of the city’s southern peninsula. The barge-like concrete spit, that holds the monument, extends from a square, beneath the looming, ornate, wall of the Taj Hotel.
All hippie-fied after months of Third World travel, we plodded into the lobby of the Taj, in our cargo pants and loose cotton tops, and sat down in a restaurant for a fine, light and expensive (for us) lunch.
It seems trite, today, to talk about the anxiety I felt when I realized that a young shoeshine boy at the Gateway had stolen my wallet. I ran to the Gateway. I ran back inside the restaurant at the Taj. I was really in panic mode. Again, very trite, especially with what has been going on the past few days in India.
So this story has to have a point, besides, “Hey, I was there once, and got my wallet stolen.”
Frankly, I am not sure it does, except to say that in the country of India, where spiritual connections spark the air like fireflies on a summer night, I see my younger self standing there beneath the Taj, and I feel the anxiety of my experience disappear in the harrowing flames and rain of explosions and the cries of the scores of souls who have been ripped from this life. I realize how much energy we all waste in our own little panic modes.
Panic may be a vestige of out prehistoric selves, to get our adrenaline going so we could fight and flee, but these little anxiety attacks seem pointless to this city boy, when held up to the light of the challenges presented to those who fight and die, and those who pray for their souls.