Camino de Santiago – Preparations

Dear reader,
It is with great excitement that I announce that I am going to walk the Camino de Santiago, this June, solo.
If you are not familiar with this ancient pilgrimage route, here is a short description.

What is Camino de Santiago?

The Camino de Santiago is a network of pilgrims’ ways or pilgrimages leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried. Many follow its routes as a form of spiritual path or retreat for their spiritual growth. It is also popular with hiking and cycling enthusiasts.

Why do I plan to do the Camino?

I first read Paulo Coelho’s ‘The Pilgrimage’ while I was in high school. The Pilgrimage is a recollection of Paulo’s experiences as he made his way across northern Spain on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
When I decided I wanted to do something special for my birthday, a long trekking, or camping is the first plan that came to my mind. Since wild camping is not allowed in Germany, I had to look for alternatives. I saw Camino de Santiago mentioned in one such forum, and it struck a cord with me. A journey to self discovery, an adventure, a brand new socializing experience – an all in one package. On top of it, I decided to walk the path alone.
Back in my home state in India, we have a famous pilgrimage shrine – Sabarimala. The pilgrims follow months of rigorous routine, and walk to the hill top temple dedicated to Lord Ayappa – the spawn of Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. Unfortunately, women are (has the supreme court order changed the practice?) not allowed to undertake the pilgrimage. Through my Camino, I also want to prove to myself that I can undertake the rigorous demands of an ancient pilgrimage route.

The Pilgrimage: When and How?

I will doing the pilgrimage on June 3rd week. I will fly by Rynair from my current city, Frankfurt to Santiago in Spain. I will be taking a bus ride from Santiago till Sarria, to walk the last 115 kilometres of Camino de Frances. I will be sleeping at the pilgrim dormitories or Albegues on the way. My backpack, the only constant companion.

How can you be part of my pilgrimage?

I have started a fund raising campaign on ‘GoGetFunding’. Eighty percent of the funds raised would go to ‘GiveIndiaFundraisers’, and to their girl child education campaigns. If you like to contribute and support my journey, please do so at https://gogetfunding.com/camino-de-santiago-june/.
Please visit https://gogetfunding.com/camino-de-santiago-june/ to know more about my campaign.

Meanwhile, I will keep this blog updated with my journey preparations.

P.S Stay tuned for my next post, which will be about a conference that I will be attending at Amsterdam on 8th – 9th of June. See you all later!

Don’t forget to contribute here!

Happy mother’s day

Even the 30-year-old pot could not contain the volcanic rage of the boiling milk within. A mindless Maya stirred the coffee, oblivious to the spilling milk.

The mechanic Instagram scrolling that morning had her newsfeed filled with happy mother’s day wishes, posted by friends and relatives to celebrate their mothers. She remembered Dalai lamas’ post – about a kind mother, who Lama mentioned never showed the kids her angry face. She remembered Harry Potter fame Tom Felton’s remembrance of his giving mother. Then she remembered Anvi’s mom.

‘God knows where she is now. Probably on a cruise somewhere in the Arabian sea with her latest boyfriend’ – Anvi used to say grudgingly.

The boarding school where they grew up, in the quiet suburbs of ‘Thirumangalam’ had a different set of mothers. The head warden had commanded all children to call her ‘Kochamma’ – mother’s sister. She had an imperious control over all things at the hostel – like a military regiment.

‘Edi Veshye’ – ‘You whore’ – a wail echoed through the house, making Maya snap out of her daydream. That was her own mother, shouting expletives at her. Ever since the tumor spread to her brain, Maya’s mother had grown delirious. Two years ago, they had to chain her and tie her to the bed, less she sets fire to herself and the whole house.

‘Did you see Urmila Devi of thekkedathe? She has gone mad because her husband abandoned her for his mistress’. Maya had heard her ignorant neighbor whispering behind her back more than once.

Maya gently poured the hot coffee into a steel tumbler. Amma cannot be trusted with a glass or ceramic cup – she would immediately throw it to the ground and break it into a million pieces. Now she has to wait for the coffee to cool down – neither too hot nor too cold – just the way Amma likes it.

Maya could never figure out why she would drink a hot coffee on a scorching May evening. Habit, she presumed. Appa – her father – demanded a black coffee every morning and evening. That was the only thing he ever demanded. He left everything else- taking care of household, groceries, children, paying dues, to Amma. He was a distant, quiet man to even the children. Amma’s mental stability was lost the moment she found out he was having a mistress at his workplace.

How could he do this to me? She cried. I, who gave birth to his children, who took care of him, who hard worked my body and soul to provide enough for this family. How dare he leave me for a younger woman? Urmila Devi had cried in anguish.

That was the last day Maya saw her mother in workable senses. Then came the tumor diagnosis. That was the final nail in the coffin. Appa had already left them by then. Two months later, on a rainy June day, Maya found Urmila Devi in her own urine and feces. The stench was unbearable.

Her own already drained bank account was another worry. She continued working at the village office. Enough to pay her mother’s bills. Enough to push two lives another day. But, not enough to secure a husband. 27 and unmarried, it was hard to escape the neighbor’s whispers.

That was three years ago.

Maya touched the sides of the steel tumbler. The coffee had lost its hot edginess. Three spoons of sugar – just the way mother likes it – too sweet.

She walked across the hallway to Amma’s room. The house resembled a medical facility these days. The smell of Dettol permeated the nook and corner of the house.

Amma was awake.

‘Oh you were here, why didn’t you answer me, you whore?’. Maya flinched.

‘Amma, didn’t you ask for coffee?’ Maya wrapped Amma’s frail fingers around the steel tumbler.

Reluctant at first, Urmila Devi slowly grabbed the steel tumbler and tilted it to her mouth. One sip at a time.

‘The coffee has grown too cold. What were you doing? Making out with another of your customers? God, who allowed these whores into my house?” Urmila Devi shouted, taking another sip of the coffee.

A silent tear slid down Maya’s cheeks.

Urmila Devi started coughing. Too loud a cough that the neighbors couldn’t miss it. A few more coughs later, froth started flowing down her open mouth. Her eyes rolled up into her eyelids. Her body constricted.

Maya kissed her mother on her forehead. The poison that she slipped into Urmila Devi’s coffee had done its deed.

“Happy mother’s day Amma”. Maya whispered.

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