I am in the middle of movement and want nothing but to stop. I am starved for silence, for stillness in the New Delhi swirl. I’m disoriented without the sight of stars, only catching that the moon has tipped through full when I spotted it through a nighttime haze we’ve swept up into the sky. Me with my contrails. The night guard by his fire, trying to stay warm. Two nights earlier, I stumbled upon Pico Iyer’s essay Chapels, and it has remained with me, like a silent shadow, until this moment at the Delhi airport, where I am moving again, where it pokes me and gestures to the sign for the prayer room, down a hallway, adjacent to the bathrooms. // I go. I slip off my shoes. I enter. Can I write here?, I wonder, longing to pull out my laptop, where fingers can glide across keys faster than thoughts can form. Is that allowed? No one is here. The prayer rug is empty, aimed in the direction where multiple worshippers have helpfully taken a marker and scrawled QIBLA, along with the slash of arrows, on the wall. There are no Hindus doing puja nor Catholics bent on their knees. Just me. Carrying the news that a grand elder of my family took his last breath a few hours earlier and found some release all the world’s religions have speculated about but not one actually knows. Just months shy of entering his ninth decade. Years since he and his wife celebrated his passage through a thousand moons. Where has he gone? By now, his corporeal body might have already met the flames and the rituals will have begun. Writing is my form of prayer. It is all I can give him. No—it is all I can give myself. Movement can hinder the words as much as it spawns them. “….All our explorations were only as rich as the still place we brought them back to,” Pico wrote. So I sit in the dank of this still, interior room with the fluorescent bulbs, and I leave the laptop in its bag, and I write in my head. As travelers with their own stories, their own lost uncles, their own forms of prayer, pass back and forth beyond the threshold of the door, where my shoes lie waiting. #truestory #delhi #airport #prayer @ktbuddha
Meera Subramanian is an editor of Killing the Buddha and writes about the environment and culture for Nature, InsideClimate News, Virginia Quarterly Review, Orion, and others. Her first book is A River Runs Again: A Natural History of India from the Barren Cliffs of Rajasthan to the Farmlands of Karnataka (PublicAffairs, 2015). Visit her at meerasub.org.