Big, pink and loud. Unmistakably American. I met Josh in the transit lounge in Delhi. Josh, not his real name of course, is trying to sleep on the row of seats behind me. I can hear he is uncomfortable. I am too. The hand rests won’t fold and the backrest is too low. Josh curses and turns over one more time. And is finally quiet.
With ten hours of layover ahead of me, I must have dozed off too. Until a nudge awakens me. It’s one of the floor attendants – ‘Going to Singapore? Thai Airways?’ she asks. I am not. I look at my watch – I’ve been out a full five minutes. Thank you lady.
Behind me Josh stirs too, curses again and gets up. I look around. He is now eyeing the floor – with desire and disgust in equal measures. But better sense prevails, and he finally gets up. Stretches and makes his way to somewhere. I do not see him for another half an hour. Until he returns, cup of coffee in hand, to find that his seats have been taken by a family of six – Turkish probably – ladies with veils and a babble of kids. Not much chance of sleep tonight. Josh resigns himself to a solitary seat in front of me.
“Where to?” I ask. “Boston via London” he says. “That’s strange, I am with you too” I say. He smiles, puts out his hand – “Hi, I’m Josh” he says.
Josh is about twenty-five, tall, heavy-set and comfortable with himself. He is all-American and lives on a farm about a hundred miles south of Boston. He was born and raised there and never set foot out of his home state until very recently. He loves his farm with his ‘animals’ – cows, horses and sheep. Apparently, after Josh finished high school, Josh’s folks wanted him to attend college up north in Boston. Josh was ‘not ready’ and needed to ‘find himself’ first. So, one fine winter day, after all the cows came home, Josh upped and took himself off to India. “It was for two months only initially” he says.
That was more than two years ago.
Six months in India, did the ‘Hare Rama, Hare Krishna thing’. ‘Benaras – Ranchi – Allahabad – Rishikesh – Haridwar thing’. Took a break in Thailand, ran out of money – odd jobs in Cambodia and Malaysia. Interpreter, cook and English teacher. Finally saved enough to fly out to Nepal about a year ago.
Josh ‘found’ himself in Nepal. Specifically, he found himself in the Kopan Monastry of Kathmandu under the tutelage of Guru Lama Thupten Zopa Rinpoche – ‘a tremendous personality’ he says. For almost a year (ten months), Josh lived in the monastry – working with the monks, attending sermons, meditating and studying Buddhist texts in translation – except for a few weeks when he went to Lumbini.
“Nepal is the most beautiful place in the world” he says to me. I can only agree.
Now Josh is going home. And he is going back to college. “I want to study religion and linguistics” he says. “I want to teach myself Sanskrit and Tibetan so that I can come back and read all the original writings in their full meaning and nuances”. “I don’t know when man, but I am definitely going to be back, I love your people and your country” he says. I give him my card for when he returns.
I do not see Josh at Heathrow but he catches up with me at Boston’s Logan and hands me a piece of paper. Scribbled is an address and phone number. “Call me when you have time” he says “the farm is a great place for the kids to spend a weekend. Call me or write”. I say I will try. “Namaste” he says as we part.