All Is Not Lost


Daya Nang met me at the gate Lal Khethi’s gate, and pointed the way back to the cottage, which sat some 150 feet behind the main house. The drive was long and pitted with holes, and the fields on all sides of it freshly tilled and smelling of earth. A stand of fruit trees buffeted the back of the main house, blocking the cottage from view. When I arrived at it, I switched off Kali, easing the sidestand down. Daya Nang helped me carry my bags into the cottage; he took the smaller tote and left me to struggle under the weight of the saddle bags. My old-faithful boot, a pair of Vasque that I’d worn for years in India as well as the entire journey around it, sunk deep into the dark soil.

From the outside the cottage looked quaint, but as Daya Nang said, ‘Welcome to new home,’ gesturing me inside, I knew I wouldn’t stay. Long and dark, it looked like a storage room with some furniture tossed in, and I felt like a prisoner being shown a cell.

Daya Nang was a friendly man with a round face and welcoming smile. He made me coffee and brought a spicy dhal lunch with several fresh chapatis and a glass of cold water. Pickle lime chutney garnished the edge of my plate.

I’d been warned the electricity could be erratic, and waited for it to come on all day. It didn’t happen. I’d later learn there was absolutely no power between 6 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. When it finally came on late in the day, it lasted about an hour before flickering out again. When it was on, it wasn’t enough to heat the small hot water tank so I could take a shower. In the meantime, a nearby mosque screeched all day long.

Between praying the electricity would come on and cursing the megaphone, I managed to figure out what I thought was the right form to structure my book around. Much like Dervala Murphy’s Full Tilt, I would craft a diary-like text with expanded scenes. Some things needed to be flushed out.

January 29, 1998, I wrote:

“Now more than anything I NEED A START. My own voice is the truest, realist thing. Books need to be from the gut and personal. My journals are surely oh so personal. Go ahead. Take a chance. Make it funny, make it sad, make it tragic, make it stupid,…make it real.”

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