Last Leg • 31 December 2013

Oh good GOD the ecstasy of fast driving Bangalore-Mysore road at 4 in the morning. The surreality of doing so after 2 days on planes, heading for two months in ashtanga heaven. It only adds to the effect that I’ve just listened to all of Kafka on the Shore without a pause for sleep, while hurtling through the air in a silver tube, and eaten nothing but Emergen-C and raw food bars for 6 meals.

Where is consciousness? Who is having this experience? I have no damn clue, but this nervous system has been trained to perceive this drive as a 2-hour pre-party. Planes are fast, but this rattly compact is SO MUCH FASTER. The driver doesn’t talk to me – our only common language is facial expression – but he communicates constantly with the god on his dashboard. Who needs two hands for driving anyway? His fingers touch the dash in front of Ganesh every time we don’t die – the plastic there is worn smooth.

I put some old Aphex Twin on the headphones and pull my aching spine up out of my hips. May as well treat this experience as if it were designed bring me alive.

We drive past our first highway hotel strung in Christmas lights. That’s how the temples on this road are decorated too – and Air-Tel shops, and homes, and a Christian church that seems also to be a Krishna shrine.

God this planet is so small and fragile. What was on the other side is here now and vice versa– a body, a religious reference, a string of plastic outdoor lights. In this weird moment, I don’t feel I can take the planet for granted any more than I can take this car for granted. I flash on The Zipper, a terrifying metal carnival ride, covered in red and blue circus lights, that used to appear every summer in a K-Mart parking lot when I was a kid.

The drive to Mysore breaks up into three sections: airport industrial, Bangalore backstreets, and open read through the country.

The first part is my favorite because it’s apocalyptic and desolate. They’ve been building an elevated highway above the road for years now. It’s this long 4-story line of concrete scenery that may or may not ever get used. But politicians have plastered it in advertisements, and dogs have taken it as residence. Metal latticework hangs out the edges of the highway and I see the day’s first light catch on the re-bar.

The image is pre-post industrial, exactly like the old four-story aqueduct that rings the town of Mysore 150 km to the south.

But first, since the driver knows his way around, we duck off the main road and in to the city. No speed bumps on the back streets – just fun corners and a few (ok, many) obstacles. Buildings are tall and close and the street level is shop after shop. We pass a tiny bank whose lights are on – I notice because three firemen are rushing inside. There is what appears to be a bar with a dozen young men outside, and my mindbody remembers a wild street corner in Valencia ten years ago, a place we stopped on a night bus to Barcelona.

We join the main road near a sign for Srirangapatna, the island town of temples and colonial battles. Fields of rice and other grasses push up right to the edge of the road, and there’s a pink smog-mist that turns the palm trees into shadow cut-outs. I try not to romanticize this scene, but since we’re now weaving around just as many cows as rickshaws, and since the playlist has just switched over to Moondog, it’s no use. We stop to buy jasmine for the dashboard Ganesh – the driver and the flower-seller know each other. He gestures to yesterday’s orange garland, hanging from the rearview, and indicates he’ll keep it around today as well.

Stopped there in the middle of everything, I finally see the birds – white herons and cranes over the fields—and a joy spreads out into my aching arms and legs from the center of my chest. This takes an edge off the wide-eyed wakefulness that’s gotten me this far and I notice for the first time that there is ground under the wheels.