Fr. Tom Jose, that was his name. Originally from Kerala, he ministered at an ashram in the Bijnour diocese in Uttaranchal. The state of Uttaranchal had just formed and he said as they’re in the border he is not yet sure whether it is Uttaranchal or Uttar Pradesh. He turned out to be one of the angels on my way! I had started off my journey like a treasure hunt, with only one clue that “I wanted to go” and just on the train, I started getting clues, pushing me forward. It turned out that while he was young and into missionary, he had taken such journeys and when he saw me and listened to me, he was happy and smiling, seeing his own youth reflected. There I was, spreading my notebook and the notes and maps on it with some crayon shades and titles. I had no idea of those places beyond those crayon shades, but Fr. Tom blew life into those shades, tiny tiny shoots of roads which grew into tiny tiny flowers of places where I may go.

Then there was this other guy, nameless in this journal of a journey. I had put my hand into my small but filled bag, searching something and the razor cut my finger a bit. Washed it and was sucking on it, standing at the open door, feeling the wind and that was when he came. He was a catholic brother (may be in his elementary years), also a philosophy undergraduate student at Nagpur, and I thought he must be interesting but he proved wrong. He was at vacation and it seemed it was first time for him to go through some forbidden pleasures like putting his head into porn images. He had some tiny bits of soiled colorful paper and he put some into my hands too. He told me to go to the toilet and look at them hehe.. I was rolling my eyes and thanking god that he didn’t ask me to jerk off.

So, back to Fr.Tom. He knew all those intricate roads uphill. I was like a plain outline map of India and he was the cartographer. Well, the cardinal part of the map he drew was that at each point he wrote stations where I can go in, take my bag off, shower, eat and take a warm sleep! That was the least I expected, to have some shelter in a foerign earth isn’t that easy, especially when you know your wallet is almost empty. There were ashrams all the way, where he had ministered at some point of his life. He gave me names of people to contact, and I just had to tell his name at these ashrams. For the rest of stations there were other hindu ashrams or gurudwaras.

I was nervous when I took my bag and came out of the hostel but now I’m really strong.

Nizammudhin Express
10th June, 2001, Sunday 7.24 am on Fr. Tom’s watch

I’m now seeing a beautiful sky ~ the clouds formed like a number of steps, steps into eternity for me,,

Nice morning to feel. Had a nice sleep too —

Some time of the day in the train I spent reading DalaiLama’s Freedom in Exile, an autobiography starting from his childhood. It was inspiring. I would’ve got lost in the Tibetan map had not the cartographer sitting in our compartment picked me now n then..

Tamil Nadu. Itz a dry land am going thru’ now – but the hills I see are magnificent. No green, no grass, no streams.

Train koo-kooes, Some other time

Andhra is better, lush green. Agriculture is fine. Ponds for breeding fishes, paddy fields etc. TN was dry, not my place.

Train koo-kooes again,

Saw tributaries of the Krishna. Iddli & vada in the morning and bread and jam few moments ago. Temperature isn’t yet a problem.

… to be continued

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