Keeping the Signs of Aging Far Away Using The Chinese Herbalist by Cecille S.
I rolled out of bed one morning with an insidious pain in my upper arm. I tossed it off as a sprain I had gotten sleeping in an awkward position. Went to the cupboard reached for a bottle of Tiger balm and rubbed the heat inducing ointment to see if I could get the muscle to relinquish its grip to no avail. Somehow the low grade pain became a normality until the following Thanksgiving came around and the celebratory day of gratitude jolted within my consciousness that I had acquired the prevailing pain the previous Thanksgiving.
Something had to be done and quick! What to do? See my acupuncture, Dr. Frank at 4 Bowery in Chinatown at Lin Sisters. I made an appointment and went in. My first request was for a batch of detox tea . After inquiring about the ‘arm problem,’ needles were stuck into my flesh and laser lights positioned on the area of discomfort -the doctor walked out of the room and left me to my thoughts. Upon returning he removed the needles, massaged the area and sent me on my way. Needless to say, the pain never returned.
For decades I made it a point of duty to see a Chinese herbalist in NYC and also when I lived in Los Angeles. A couple of times a year I went in for a checkup and requested a cleansing tea and left with batch on Detox tea which resembled the portion ( I imagined) the witches in Macbeth brewed under a dark ominous sky when Macbeth came calling; but my herbs were no Eye of Newt, Toe of frog,Wool of bat and Tongue of dog. Instead my package contained twigs, barks of trees, berries, dried petals, herbs, mushrooms and God knows what else. But whatever the tea consisted of, it worked marvelously.
The concoction had to be boiled for hours on an extremely low flame in a special earthen pot. The pungent smell lingered in my apt and the liquid resembled thick dark earth but drank it I did for the prescribed 3 days or 5 days.
Whichever friend saw me after my ‘treatment’ always wanted to know what health spa I had been to. Their facial expression was priceless after I convinced them the results were cups of Chinese herbal tea. As you can deduct from the previous sentences, my outward apparance was unequivically radiant.
I’m certain this method has been instrumental in maintaining a healthy glow inside and out of my body. It has contributed to knocking years off my physical body. Hence my yearly visiits. Recently I went in to Lin Sister for a batch of tea and was given tea packages instead of my berries, barks, bush, twigs etc. Yes. Sad but true. Now that this method is ‘mainstream’ the currant customers aren’t into boiling the tea products for hours nor putting up with smelly apartments and the strong and lingering tea taste. It’s been watered down – more palpable for current customers.
Part of the magic of partaking of these rites is actually getting involved in the process. Like an Alchemist, Obviously you can’t grow or collect the tea but you can find the time to prepare the tea for consumption. After all you are worth it? Right? Therein lies the magic. Time for self.
Still Not Happy After All These Years by Cecille Swayneson For years I have been craving meaning and happiness in my life. I was, and am, terribly afraid of living a shallow, vapid life devoid of substantial meaning. It someone were to ask me to describe this happiness I seek. I would tell them that it involves a feeling of a wide open heart filled with love and light flying out of the center like birds dancing along with breeze. This is not the only vision of happiness I crave but one also of doing something meaningful with my life. When I came across an article in Psychology Today titled, “Still Not Happy?” by Ran Zilca. I thought, bingo, this is what I struggle with. What will bring me satisfaction?
The article stated, “the quest for true happiness is perceived by many to be the ultimate goal of human existence.” Most people when asked what it is they wished for themselves said they would like to be happy, so I am not unique in my longing, because this thing I desire is indeed universal. But it is the means by which to accomplish the fulfillment that is worrying and the focal point of Western civilization and myself. Why? Because we have done, or perceive, that we have done all we can, and still, we are not happy. Actually I don’t feel as if I have done all I can, nor I am certain do many ‘seeking’ individuals, but we kinda feel that we are truly trying our darnedest.
I know quite a few people who hate, absolutely abhor their jobs and bemoan the fact that they have to go to work each day and yet can’t seem to figure out what to do about it. I use to be one of those people not because I hated my job, more the personalities who inhabited the terrain I worked within. I’ve observed that pretty things in life sometimes pulls the ugliest people toward it. Or rather ugly personalities are drawn toward beauty…with intent to sully or destroy the thing they themselves do not possess. This is in reference to the fashion business which I worked in for many years. Now, this is not to say my life have been gloom and doom, believe me, I’ve had my share of accomplishment, freedom, wonderful fun and mass excitement but truth be told I’ve always had this nagging, thumping feeling that I wasn’t living up to my full potential. Why? Because I was more often unhappy than I was happy.
I certainly don’t want to end up the blueprint of Stage 7 in Erik Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development. Generativity vs. Stagnation; mature adult is concerned with establishing and guiding the next generation or else feels personal impoverishment. I’ve ruminated on Erikson’s stages and wondered if I missed some of the steps…didn’t complete them properly. I’m quite sure there is some truth to this thought. Luckily Erikson had observed from his life and others that we can change, and that ego development is life long. The personality is constantly developing, editing and adapting as we become clearer about who we are, and the means we need to implement to allow our environment to work for us within it. In order to do this we have to constantly be in a state of mindfulness. Thank God I will never allow myself to fall into stagnation or severe depression even though sometimes I feel as if I am crawling on my hands and knees to the finish line.
For me, figuring out how I was going to get closer to this happiness was awful. Confusion was rampant within my soul and mind. Researchers and psychologist, such as Martin Seligman, Sonja Lyubomirsky, and Daniel Nettle found a few things that explained the reasons we find ourselves in this mire.
1. We don’t know what will make us happy.
2. Some of the stuff we do gives us a quick fix but doesn’t last very long so we keep going back for more and still we are not happy.
3. Our circumstances determine only about 10% of our happiness.
Hence the reason for us all dashing about like mad hatters, struggling to get ahead, to pay the bills, to find the next best job, to take that dream vacation, to find more evolved mates, to be more a better me/you and somehow after all the scrambling we end up back where we started. Erikson said that crisis has to be satisfactory resolved for healthy ego development.
Sometimes the idea of living on an island; a beach where the rainforest meets the sea devoid of a lot of people seem ideal. Photo of Idle Awhile
Actually while I was in Costa Rica I felt like that and again in Goa. If only I had the money. I would have. But obviously this is not balancing out the crisis. Would ‘running’ away from the rat race solve the issues? I don’t want to end up yet another blue print of Stage 6 in Eric Erikson‘s eight stages: Intimacy vs. Isolation; “people seek to make commitment to others, if unsuccessful may suffer from isolation and self absorption.” And yes, I do wonder if I missed some of the steps which are necessary to truly enjoy intimacy. Some people seem to think I have a lot of friends; what most don’t know is that I am an Extrovert-Introvert i.e., an introvert masquerading as an extrovert.
There are a handful of very special people who have been in my life for decades. I may not send birthday cards most times, but I will always be there. You will never catch me saying to friend who calls at 3AM in the morning, “I’m sleeping, call me tomorrow.” Obviously if you’re calling at 3AM it’s important. Therefore I have time for you.
There is strength, comfort and virtue in Love. I haven’t been in a relationship in quite a bit. I would Love one and look forward but I know that another isn’t the answer to my quest. I am an independent entity albeit connected to all in the universe, so it makes sense that I continue along my path to empower myself, children and women with self esteem issues so we can activate our inner potential. The solution to our search for happiness in ‘Still Not Happy’ is love. So maybe I’m not so far off track in my quest for happiness. It all boils down to focusing on love, inner and outer, compassion, generosity, giving and empathy; focusing less on the self and more on the collective. I/We are going to be all right after all.
Yes, I’m rereading The Lord of The Rings.Tolkien was a genius and apart from being frightfully intelligent, he was highly compassionate and understood the complexity of human nature. He packed a lot of enlightenment into this masterpiece, its inspiring and thrilling. I’m in constant state of wonderment. His imagination was off the charts. If you have never read this book and appreciate this genre, check it out.
‘All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.’ – Gandalf the Grey
Made myself a motherlode blueberry smoothie this morning. A rich source of Goodness. I loaded the smoothie with tons of great ingridents such as: Avacado, Spirulina (I like Pure Hawiian) almond milk, Barlen’s Flax Oil, this is the best, I’ve found so far, no fishy smell, just a nice nutty flavor, protien power, blueberries and organic mayple syrup if so desired. I call this the motherlode because it gets you through the day beautifully.
My Bag Of Tricks To Erase 10-20 years Off Face…and Body by Cecille Swayneson
I promised I would share my secret for not aging or at least knocking off a substantial amount or better yet, slowing down the aging process. There is not just one ‘magic’ procedure you use. It’s a bunch you practice simultaneously. I believe there are 2 Massive steps which plays a major, major, major role in keeping ageing at bay. I know this because I have used this method for decades; I believe my system evolved over time; but it was alway instinctual. Basically I was on the right path out of the gate from the get go and had it locked down very early on. Dont get freaked out, it’s never too late. Intelligence, observation, and common sense plus some natural moves my Mom practiced left a mark on me.
I’m starting with the beauty products I’m using on my skin right now. They are in the photo above. I want to be clear that the products, the number of cleansing creams and brands may be a quater of what I purchase the next time I replenish. It just so happen that I’m using four different cleaning cream right at this moment. Now that we are clear about the amount, we’ll move on to the goodies.
For cleaning I lean toward Clarins which is plant based. Smells yummy. I’m a bit of a hippy so I love anything with plants. Has to do with my background. My Mom used natural ingredient on us in Jamaica. I’m also into Caudalie - mostly plant product. Clarin and Caudalie does not dry my skin out. In actuality Clarins was the first name brand I used in my teens (freshman product) and stuck to through my early 30′s, now I’m back using one or two products.
Basically when I get up in the morning I go to my cupboard and pull out whatever I feel like using that day. No major thoughts. If my skin doesn’t feel dry after washing I do NOT put on a moisture.This morning after a shower I didn’t. Also I wore no makeup except the filling in of my eyebrows. I prefer to wear as little makeup as possible. Most likely had I worn makeup I would have applied oil or cream. At bedtime; again, I did not put cream nor oil on my face after washing. Why? My skin did not ask, therefore I left as was. There is a reason my skin wasn’t dry after washing. We’ll get to that later.
In my teens I loved, loved astringent and used the kind found in drugstores. I marveled at the amount of soot on the cotton. When possible use to keep skin clean (usually at home). Humphreys’ is an essential staple to always have in your cupboard. Oh! Kiels made a rose astringent which I liked, rose petals in the bottle. Anything Rose. Acqua Di Rosa is a super favorite, it’s light with the most refined rose scent, truly refreshing and heavenly – it’s from Maria Novella in Firenze, the most beautiful pharmacy in the world.
I ALWAYS mixed up what I was using on my face but the staunch ‘go to’ was the Clarins because of the natural and highly effective ingredints. The smell is devine. It was a perfect fit for me. I graduated to Sisly later. You can get Burt’s Bee anywhere, I think I picked up the tube at Rite Aide, it works well and has a lovely quiet smell and a smooth, soft texture, not harsh. Kieh’s I picked up while I was in California and had left my washing cream at a friend’s home. It works well if you have very moist skin to begin with, if not if could be a drying. So be mindful.
I’m not going to go into minuscule details but I tried a lot of products and still do. Mostly from the health food store. The best time is when they are having a sale, if you don’t like the product, chances are, you are not going to feel guilty because you did not spend loads of cash. I use Ponds to take off my makeup. Make sure to use a warm rag to pull all the cream off and out of your pores. It does not disrupt my skin and it feels super soft after.
Sometimes I only use a warm washcloth on my face. No product. No prior thought goes into this decision. I take care of myself by instinct.
In my teens, I used honey for my facial and other ingredients. If I can eat the product most likely I can and will use it on my skin/hair, and I do. Dr. Hauschkai is a super, super line that I’ve used over the years. I love everything they make. The eyecrem is excellent and so are the moisturizers. All natural products and the brand has been around for a long time. Dr. Hauschka products are free from dyes, fragrances, artificial preservatives, coloring, and petroleum-based synthetics. This is the real deal. A pioneer in the natural skin maintenance. They are a bit pricey. For those people who travel, the airports in Germany have chemist shop/drug store which sells the brand at a fraction of the cost you would pay in America. So stock up if you are passing through.
I love oils on my face and my skin can take it. The silver bottle in the photo is a oil I adore. It’s a no brand name, which I found it in my acupuncture’s downstairs shop. It’s Rose Hip so therefore I had to try it. I love Rose. It’s called Nutura and can be found on Amazon. Glides on and steep into my skin and leave an amazing glow. The oil is light, very light. If you are thinking of using oil on your face I suggest you experiment before using. I dont because for some bizarre reason I never break out. Thank G-d!
Loads of product from the drugstore works well. Oil of Olay and Nutrogena are two that comes to mind. I’ll do another post on those later on.
I’m going to wrap up this session now. OH!! One more thing. I don’t use creams with retlnoid or things of that sort. If your skin is flawless with almost no lines except character lines. Do not put a lot of chemical on your face. It messes with the texture of your skin, makes it thinner. Maybe when you are in your 70′s but not now.
I Don’t Hate Myself —-Actually Quite The Contrary. I Love Me by Cecille Swayneson
Recently my friend Jane and her son asked how it was I appeared so much younger than my age. Why? What had I done? My response was, “I took really, really, really good care of myself.” I didn’t elaborate, I just left it as it was. A week or so afterwards I realized that I hadn’t told them what I had done that resulted in knocking 20 years or thereabouts off my actual age sans any artificial methods.
Smudged black liner hence the raccoon eye effect
I mulled over the conversation intermittently and the more I ruminated the more it dawned on me that I truly loved and respected myself on a tremendously deep, profound level. The realization broadsided me. Why?
I was so accustomed to hearing the little inaudible or audible voice saying specific mean words (which I cannot bring myself to write). I heard the negative more than the positive. The integrity with which I took care of body, was a normality for me. Kinda of like taking the sky or the earth beneath our feet for granted. Yet I never whispered to myself, “Thank you for taking such loving care of this body, your body.” I was inherently aware of how miraculous our body is and the thankless work it performed on our behalf day in and day out, was truly stupendous. Yet most people severely beat the hell out of their true homes, and treat self like a garbage disposal. And yet body loves us unconditionally; until come the day our expiration date runs out.
3AM and not tired; devoid of makeup - why not take a ‘selfie’ for post
My sister said, she is yet to deliver a baby dressed in an outfit at birth. On occasion she reminds a patient, “We come into this world with one thing we will ever truly own; no matter how much we accumulate in our lifetime, this one possession belongs to us and when we die we take only our body with us.”
I had spent a chunk of my life licking wounds and whispering those dreaded negative four letter words hate…to myself. I don’t even know where and whence they came, because one day those insidious words were there. And I was conscious of them. Unlike the lack of awareness for the reverence I exercised in taking care of the inner integral makeup of my body.
Upright. No bra ever, unless as an accessory with an outfit.
My take is that as I journeyed through life I got tossed about like a dinghy upon a tempestuous sea. Nothing out of the ordinary for most of us because this is a rite of passage we all go through. Only difference was I started mine not long after coming from an island in the Caribbean. Young and quite adventurous travelling through Europe in my late teens by myself and encountering all sort of crazy and terribly sad, fun and fantastic adventures. I was extremely lucky I encountered lovely moral and refined people who befriended and guided me when needed. Back then the planet appeared not as populated as it is now and the roads I traveled appeared to have been set apart for a specific tribe of people.
Family reunion in Jamaica. My dad at 83 - no grey hair, just a few on his sideburns – my Aunt (my name sake) in her 70′s barely any wrinkles and an amazing defined waistline AND no grey hair. Seriously.
Yes, I met crazy, extremely rude people on my journey, like the old lady in Zurich who chased me down (unbeknownst to me) to wrestle my luggage cart away from me for the simple reason that I was black and therefore should concede to her wish. Luckily all my heroes in Jamaica where black, brown and mixed and I was never taught to think of myself as less because of the colour of my skin. Therefore there was no way in hell I was going to succumb to her tyranny. Old woman or not. While these crazy things were going on around me I wasn’t aware my colour was the main reason and also being a girl. In my 1st class compartment out of Zurich to France a nasty English couple whose speech was so thick and muddled I couldn’t make out what they were saying, demanded that I show them my 1st class ticket. I stared at them in horror. No! There was a gentleman who was sitting across from me who told them to beat it. Back then, “fuck off” had not yet entered my lexicon.
Afternoon stroll in Forti Dei Marmi
Over a period of time, of this kind of nonsense especially in America, I became very hard on myself and adapted some of the philosophy of what constituted to success. And if I hadn’t achieved a certain level of the accepted norm, I felt I had failed. Therefore berating myself. There is more to this but I’m just making a brief summation. Yet even under this insidious stench which permeated the environment we/I lived in. I honored my body from I began my journey. Didn’t matter what I was experiencing and indulging in at that point in, I took care. I don’t want to come off as a goody two shoes and a hard core health nut who only ate kale and drank carrot juice. I mixed it up a bit as a lover of life would.
12 hour stopover in London on way to India, hungover, no sleep and dark circles.
So how did I pull off dropping so many years off my exterior? I’ll tell you later in another posting because it’s a series of steps which I’m tempted to call the holy trinity as there are three main parts which works as one. It is a rite I use and not a religious concept. But just to give you an idea of how diligent I was about my upkeep. I sobbed uncontrollably to a friend who rang me from America while I was living in London.”I can’t even afford eye-cream” The mere fact that I was living without vital eye-cream was proof of how bad my life was. Never had I been reduced to such depravity. I had discovered my boyfriend had a class A drug habit and had gotten his grubby little fingers on my money. Hence no eye-cream.
This picture was taken in my friend Sanna’s kitchen in Denmark, it’s a bit blurry but the essence is priceless. Happiness/laughter erases the weight of age.
In the midst of living in a severely industrial area in London, in the city, around Liverpool Station-Bishopgate-Shoredish High Street-Hoxton Square heading toward Clarkenwell, I discovered a slamming hard core Health Food store. This was way back in the early 90′s before Hoxton Square and that area exploded into the hipster desirable area it is now. The quality of food which went into my body was consistently important, no matter what or where.
Of paramount importance is one’s state of mind. It can either add of subtract from your physical appearance.
I LOVED, loved the essence this song as a kid growing up in Jamaica. Sums up a vital part of my outlook. “Life is Just for Living by Ernie Smith (it was used as anad at some point)
A Book Of Prodigious Talent -A Brief History of Seven Killings
The New York Times wrote: “It’s like a Tarantino remake of The Harder They Come but with a soundtrack by Bob Marley and a script by Oliver Stone and William Faulkner.”
The Times is talking about the just released Man Booker list - it iinclude the first Jamaican writer to be nominated for the Man Booker prize. Marlon James is longlisted for A Brief History of Seven Killings, which tells the story of the attempted assassination of Bob Marley and also the wider story of Jamaica in the 1970s and early 80s when guns flooded in and violence exploded. I love history so this will be a fascinating read, also to see who ordered the barrage of guns on the island.
On 3 December 1976, just weeks before the general election and two days before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica concert to ease political tensions, seven men from West Kingston stormed his house with machine guns. Marley survived and went on to perform at the free concert. But the next day he left the country and didn’t return for two years.
Inspired by this near-mythic event, A Brief History of Seven Killings takes the form of an imagined oral biography, told by ghosts, witnesses, killers, members of parliament, drug dealers, conmen, beauty queens, FBI and CIA agents, reporters, journalists, and even Keith Richards’ drug dealer. The story traverses strange landscapes and shady characters, as motivations are examined – and questions asked.
No Sex Please, I’m Otherwise Occupied…With Celicaby. by Cecille Swayneson
Celibacy. I saw the word in a tabloid headline today. I had totally forgotten the word existed. Truly. Odd because I stopped counting once I reached the five year mark. There I was living in celibacy and had forgotten the word. I don’t recall consciously making a pact with myself to not have sex. Nope, I did not. It just happeded. What have I learnt? Time flies by in the blink of an eye and sex and love can almost seem like an after thought. Only after much self reflection am I aware of my unbroken forbearance.
Years ago my friend Victoria Stern had fessed up that she hadn’t had sex in five years. My mouth almost fell to the floor “You’ve got to be kidding me.” I said,” She assured me she was not. Something to do with an ex Greek boyfriend, George, who had truned her off from sex and obviously, men.
After I recovered from the shock, I tried to understand her point of view and did, but I didn’t get the holding off from sex bit. Now I do. Sometimes I wonder at my choice. At present my body is beautiful and I’m in fine form (up to a point). I say to myself, ‘you’ve got a lovely body, what are you waiting on? Are you going to wait until you’re seventy to finally consider sex? True. I’m not into casual sex. I’ve done that. Of course time waits for no one. Some days I recoil at the duration I’ve withstood. Don’t you want to be caressed? It’s only then, I acknowledge continuouslack of touch and tenderness is a bit abnormal. I don’t mind being alone. I’m constantly surprising myself, never bored. If I were given five wishes, one would be for longer days.
I would reconsider if someone turned me on on many levels, otherwise I’m not interested. I dont’ have the patience for superficiality, game playing, competition, selfishness, and empty excuses for not facing one’s fear. This applies to women friends also. I’m not exempt either as I am busily picking out arrows from my flesh.
No sex without mutual transparant respectful love. And love of sex alone does not count…at the moment (got to leave myself some leeway in case I change my mind)
Sure, I would adore rolling over into my lover’s arm on a sexy Sunday morning; read the paper in bed, shower together, breakfast, take a trip up and away, Italy or Paris, anywhere but here…alome. But those thoughts are few and far, far away.
I’ve lost it. I’m just not interested, or maybe I’ve given up on love. I could almost cry putting these words down. Maybe I don’t believe in love. Maybe each and everyone of my boyfriends turned me off eventually. One day I woke up to discover I was disapointed in love. Totally disgusted. An alarming thought; to give others so much power; unconsciously making choies based on past experiences?
Then again, I could have a profound need for freedom…which could translate to fear of intimacy. No, I don’t think it’s the intimacy bit that I’m afraid of, I’m frightended out of my wits of being pinned down, someone trying to clip my wings. Have I made up my mind to go the celibacy/loverless route but am not consciously aware that I have? Oh dear God, I hope not; Would be a crying shame.
Come one morning the day will find me ruminating on love, dwelling on love, desiring love. Maybe then, and only then, will the tide turn and the word Celibiacy will be a headline in a tabloid rag.
My Secret Remedy #2 for Clean, Beautiful Skin by Cecille Swayneson
I don’t recall how I came up with this concoction for clean, i.e., spot-free beautiful skin. Most likely had to do with an old fashion Jamaican ‘go to remedy’ in the form of Aloe Vera. Actually on Sundays back on the island, my mother filleted aloe vera blended and added to our hair as conditioner. It was also a ‘go to’ if you had skin issues, especially if it were insect inflicted with the likelihood of leaving a scar or if you got burnt to hell by the sun and was covered in ‘prickly heat/bumps.’
At some point I started adding aloe to water if I felt my skin needed a ‘pick me up.’ Just a dash water plus some aloe and chugged it down. Most often I used the aloe in the brown bottle from the health food store. One day my cousin came to visit and her skin was awful, just unsightly, oily and bumpy. I wouldn’t call them pimples because they were huge, swollen painful looking lumps. I’m known for candor and immediately said, “you have to do something about your skin, make an effort to figure out how to rid yourself of those bumps.” I suggested her purchasing a small bottle of aloe vera (to start) at the health food store, take 2 to 3 tablespoons add small amount of water or a small amount of juice, drink—at least twice a day. If and when she came across the fresh aloe vera, fillet the aloe, add to a blender, blend and incorporate with water/juice.
I suggest you try small amount before you adapt this remedy. I obviously don’t have an issue with the plant and neither did my cousin but you never know. What may work for one person, may not work for another. Also I’ve never used aloe vera relentlessly.
Well, what do you know, after a couple of months, my cousin’s skin was flawless. No bumps. dark spots or pimples. She’s never had skin issues again. If you’re at your wit’s end because nothing seem to clear up your pimples. You may consider trying this. Again make sure you are not allergic to aloe. Aloe latex contains chemicals that may work as a laxative. I’ve never had an issue with this but do your research. Aloe Vera is frequently cited as being used in herbal medicine since the beginning of the first century AD. You’ll be able to gleam from the vast amount of information what is most likely valid.
Below are the series of steps for making aloe vera portion #2.
A cup of Masala Chai And A Call To Prayer by Cecille Swayneson
Notice how devoid of people the Taj Mahal is? Check out the picture posted above. Normally it’s jam packed with people, like sardines in a can. I decided to bypass all that raucous noise, bumping and shoving by getting up while it was still dark outside, stars above dark. Actually the call to prayer woke me up. I stood on my balcony and listened. Nearly drove me out of my mind how beautiful it was. I had never heard it before and never again like I did in Agra; hauntingly beautiful, pierces through your soul and goes somewhere you’ve never been before yet so very familiar. I read somewhere Liam Neeson having the same experience. I’m telling you no one is exempt especially if you are plugged into to your feelings. I went downstairs to greet my driver, I could see him walking up the empty street toward the hotel. I had told him to meet me in the lobby at 5AM. A bit early but he had left us stranded at our hotel, The Maidens Hotel in New Delhi the day before and refused to answer his cell phone. Instead of picking us up at 10:30am he showed up at 4PM. Hence the ridiculously early call time which ended up working out in our favor big time. I went downstairs to greet him. There was a tea vendor on the street corner who made the most delicious MasalaChai I have ever had. His pots and pans were worn, battered to hell and he threw all sorts of exotic spices in the steamy pot adding black Assam tea leaves, grating ginger on top and like a magic ritual, conjured up the most indelible delicious tea ever against the black backdrop of darkness before light.
When we arrived at the Taj, we parked the car back in the lot and made our way to the entrance, there is a bit of a ritual to get into the place and outside the entrance is littered with scam artist, beggars and people on the make. Mostly men,very persistent. The only way I was able to get rid of them was to raise my voice in a very stern dismissive manner, using not many words. They instantly backed away, attempting to pacify me and apologizing as they pulled back, they’re not accustomed to women being firm so they were taken aback and stepped right into place, leaving us alone.
I have three indelible memories and it’s not about Agra being the armpit of India yet housing the profound beauty of the Taj Mahal, (what a paradox ) which I won’t attempt to describe, 2) the heart achingly beautiful rendition of the call to prayer by a gifted muezzin and 3) the best masala chai ever. My adventure in India had began.