Jaisalmer, 28 March 2018
You know the ultimate horror when, without any warning, your external harddrive led light didn’t blink when you plug it on, and it started to make odd whirring sound?
And then ten minutes later you stared at your screen and the drive still wasn’t read by your laptop. You waited. You prayed
Ten minutes led to an hour. An hour led to two. Two hours led to the neverending frustration. You prayed harder. A lot of desperate Google searches. Constant bitching. Five cups of coffee. Hella angry. Much intensity. I looked at Melvin and Widya with so much pain and disappointment and kept muttering to them at least two hundred times, “I told you to never, ever, ever only back up in one place.”
At moments like that, one tries comfort oneself by saying “maybe it’s just a faulty USB cable.” (though you quickly did a google search and in the case of “faulty usb”, the lights are definitely still on, it’s just not reading. But sometimes one needs a “maybe” to feel slightly more calm. Maybe there’s a solution for this.)
Bloody hell there better be a solution for this.
Add to the fact that it was 1 am inside a fort. Yes, a real, living, beautiful fort in the desert town Jaisalmer that local people still live in (and provide lodging); the place of which the lifestyle, like the fort itself, gives off the vibe of nostalgic old world charm. The kind of “old world charm” you wouldn’t normally put on the same sentence with “24 hour data recovery service”.
Add to the fact that it was in the middle of the night when you desperately stormed downstairs to wake Dashrath, your hotel helper, who sleepily mumbled a very symphatetic “No, sorry,” when you asked if, by any chance, he had a USB-3 connector. Add to the fact that your 4 terrabytes of work files are inside that non-blinking harddrive, which STILL makes odd, weak whirring noise that made you really, really nauseous.
Add to the fact that inside the harddrive was about a thousand photos that we took in Jodhpur and Gadisar; unselected raw files of my exhibition photos. Hundreds of those are the portraits series of Jodhpur and hundreds others of the beautiful Gadisar on a sunset which we took just over a few days ago… which we carelessly failed to backup in another drive.
Add to the fact that you have formatted and rewritten the data on your SD card at least three times and there’s even a smaller chance to recover those photos from the card.
It was our eight night from our 17 days trip in Rajasthan, and also my first night during the whole trip feeling like shit and extremely heartbroken.
When I started planning this 17 days trip to Rajasthan, I imagined it being THE ultimate dream photography destination I would ever land my feet in. Tons of images that I’ve pinned on my Pinterest board sent me to sleep with a smile every night. For four months I planned the perfect and efficient itinerary -albeit not too rushed; dreaming about the images I was going to shoot, places I was going to see, awesome content on Instagram I was going to create. I planned every detail meticulously; every itinerary, hotel, roadtrip distance, restaurant, time of the day of visiting a place so we can have the perfect light to shoot.
Little did I know that India didn’t just become my ultimate destination afterall. India was a journey. A neverending journey I was silly enough to think I can complete in such a short time.
No, I didn’t think a trip to India will automatically grant me the Eat Pray Love moments, and I don’t think that my hair will ever look as good as Julia Roberts in that movie. No I didn’t think two weeks trip in India (though I happened to purchase the “Quotes by Gandhi” book) will let me find inner peace.
I think the whole concept of a trip to India leads you to a life-defining moment is somewhat romanticized by all the books and movies. I didn’t come here to learn yoga or meditation in a remote ashram (though it would make an amazing IG content, but it’s not really me), I come here simply because I seeked 14 days of peace in my life; to escape my routines -not so much of a spiritual awakening-, and also mostly because of Wes Anderson.
But a particular soul-searching moment happened when it was the most unexpected (I would never ever expect it to happen to me. Everytime someone mentioned the words “soul searching”, my response would be, “Why? Is it lost? It’s not like it’s a friggin set of car keys isn’t it?”)
Hold still pretty lovers, this is going to be a long post.
The morning after the crashed hardrive, I woke up feeling like… no, not like shit. I woke up feeling goddamn, bloody empty. I told my boyfriend it almost felt like a breakup. It almost felt worse that a breakup. You know, you had the sweet moment for awhile and suddenly because of one stupid thing you do, the thing is gone. Into. The. Freaking. Dust.*
*I am aware that’s a pretty insensitive thing to say to your spouse, but I didn’t mean it to be that bad. It was just too intense. He’s friggin amazing for dealing with me that day.**
**And losing him will be the end of my world. Love you baby.
I woke up from a three hours of sleep and it was few hours away until “CyberShop”, the computer shop that Google Map pointed is open. First thing first: get new USB connectors.
It’s also the morning when we’re supposed to leave to Sam Dunes. But you know what? Priorities. First, harddrive. No working harddrive, no itinerary. We packed in uncomfortable silence and went downstairs to check out. I met Manish, the friendly hotel owner/manager in his early thirties and tried my luck asking whether he knows anyone good with computers and who can retrieve lost datas.
“Yes, I have a friend who helped me when I lose my data in my phone.” Manish said, “I lost datas in my phone twice, since then I put it in icloud and it was okay. Let me call him.”
A brief phone conversation later, he said “I think you need to bring the harddisk to a hardware specialist. We don’t really have it in Jaisalmer.”
I know. I nodded weakly.
“Don’t worry too much, if you worry, data won’t come back.”
As in: if I didn’t worry, data still won’t come back either, but at least I didn’t have to worry? So much Indian wisdom right there, Manish. But who am I to bitch? He was just trying to calm me down. The look on my face must give off the vibe that I could destroy small, cute animals in sight. I was exhausted.
I slumped on the lounge chair in the lobby and started to have a chat with Manish. We still got half hour left before the Cybershop opened so I tried to distract myself from thinking about the harddrive. I asked him about the temple.
The day before (when everyone was still happy and photo snappy) we visited a Jain Temple just steps away from our hotel. It was our first time being inside a Jain Temple and we were jawdropped by the architecture. Later that evening (again, couple of hours before the nightmare happened), we searched into Jainism and their teachings, but I wanted to know more. So I asked Manish with my usual lack of tactfulness, very direct way of asking, “we went to the Jain Temple yesterday. Sorry for my ignorance, but is there any difference in Jainism and Hinduism teachings? Also, what are you?”
“I’m a human being.” He smiled.
That threw me off the wall. I laughed, I said “I know, I meant what do you believe in?”
“I believe in the supreme, higher power of God. I just don’t put a name on it.”
“I believe God is inside everyone. In you, in me.” He pointed to Melvin and Widya, who just sat there in the corner, quiet, restless, depressed. “In them.”
“You know, people back then. Our ancestors. Your great great great grandfather, my great great great grandfather. They saw God.” He continued, “You know why? And do you know why our generation fail to see God?”
“Is because we worry too much. We think about things. We think about jobs, money, material thing. All of these cloud our soul. All of this makes you want more. You worry about the future and you forget to live in the present. You fail to see. You see, your soul, is the most important thing.”
I sneaked my voice recorder on. I know I have to listen to this when I’m in a more right state of mind.
“You should love with your soul. Not your mind.” Manish kept on going, “When you love with your mind, you become suspicious. You want to own. You want to control. Your mind thinks you can control everything. All this control leads to worry.
But when you love with your soul, you truly love. You release them, the one you love. Our ancestors, they released all attachment. They saw.
You worry if all your material thing is taken away from you. Attachment. Why you get so attached? Do you take them all with you when you die?
But nobody is going to take your soul away from you. Your body. Body is temporary. It’s just the skin you’re in right now. Your soul is forever. It transcends through time.”
I sat there quietly, half trying to digest, and half puzzled why and how could a simple question asking for a data recovery lead to some unsolicited soul searching advice. Half hour passed by so quickly and Manish told me about the hectic Delhi and Bombay life he used to do, and that he found peace in this quiet town by the desert, Jaisalmer. He asked me alot of things about Bali. I thanked him to listen to my rants, he said “Souls, all living creatures should help each other. Human, animal, even ants. In India we don’t kill ants. If they’re in our way, we move them.” He made a blowing gesture with his hand. I kept thinking about all the ants I’ve stepped on. “We don’t believe in violence towards other soul. One must not kill any being.”
I had to go, the place should be open soon and my tiny hope of finding salvation forced me to get up from my comfy seat. Manish told me to come back and just do the checkout later after I’m done with my shit. “Remember, don’t worry too much. Let go. Don’t try to control everything.”
We took a rickshaw to the Cybershop. It was still closed. Of course. We left Cybershop and walked aimlessly to find another two computer shops. At the last one (mind you, the place looked like a computer shop equivalent of a warung… but with old computer stuff laying around. But I wasn’t in a position to judge.), the shop owner, armed with a small, rusty screwdriver, spent about an hour opening my harddisk and trying to salvage it, including connecting it to his desktop drive (and mostly holding it next to his ear like a mobile phone. “Listen to this”, he asked me to do the same thing. The same worrying, whirring sound. “This means there’s a damage.” Well no shit, doctor.)
All his efforts to save the drive failed. “I can’t read this. We don’t have the equipment. I think you should try the hardware specialist in Delhi.” DELHI? Delhi is not in our itinerary!
We walked back to the hotel because what else to do? My heart was still broken. We’re restless, dehydrated and hungry. My head was replaying all the lost photos. In my head, I started negotiating with God. I would do anything to get those photos back. Anything. Those photos are important to me. I called my boyfriend and released the tears I had been holding on since the night before. He tried to calm me down.
“I can go back to Jodhpur and try to shoot again. But we supposed to leave to the desert camp right now. Our itinerary is going to be messed up.” I wallowed in self pity, “This spiritual journey is not working. I’m still impatient, spoiled and ungrateful as shit. I thought I’ve found inner peace aaaaaand thennn, it’s f**king gone.”
“But the journey’s not over yet. You’re still in the middle of your trip.”
“And also inner peace is not something you find overnight. Might take years. Baby steps.”
“Well nobody got time for that shit babe, I have itinerary to follow.” I snapped stubbornly but I know he’s right.
I checked out and said goodbye to Manish. He asked, “Patricia. If you had five minutes left in your life right now, what would you do?”
I told him in a heartbeat, “I will call my mom and tell her I love her, and also wish that I could be there with her right now. Then I call my boyfriend and say the same thing.”
He smiled, “You wish you can be with them right now?”
“No. I wish they can be with me right now. I wish they can see this beautiful city. I want to take them around the world and I want them to experience all of this too.”
Little did I know that that one simple question, and my own instant answer, tugged my heart as we walked out the alleys to the gate of the fort.
When you walk pass narrow alleys, you realise that there’s lots of greetings being exchanged. Beautiful ladies in saree smile warmly greet you with a soft spoken, “Namaste”; kids looked at you with curiousity and innocence, saying “Hi-how are you-what’s your name-where you from?” with wide open eyes and shy smiles.
It’s just a small part of the charm about being in India. It’s the part why I fell in love hard with this country. It’s the genuine excitement, curiosity, friendliness. I remember just twenty four hours ago I was standing in the beautiful ruins of Bada Bagh and told Melvin and Widya that we’ve been a week on the road; how I wish we had more than ten more days.
As the clock turned two pm, I’ve realised that I have perfectly wasted 12 hours in India being sad, grumpy and annoyed over some lost photo. I chose to believe that all hell had came loose. I stubbornly refused to see the sad look in Melvin and Widya’s eyes because they knew that they let me down.
I had totally forgotten that in the past seven days, I had talked to my boyfriend every night, giving him summaries of my day, telling him about how sweet and caring Melvin and Widya and our driver Arjun have been to me, how warm all the strangers’ smiles were, how beautiful a palace or a fort was, and how happy and lucky I felt. How extremely grateful I was.
And with just one disruption, everything fell apart. It’s so easy to forget everything you’re grateful for when shit like this happens.
I realised I tried to control a lot of things my way and broke down when things are disrupting the process. I forced situation to happen because they should happen exactly the way I want them to be. I micromanage every aspect in my life and it’s exhausting. Right now it’s pretty bloody exhausting.
I also realised that, in life, in order to fully live in every moment, sometimes you just have to let go. You accept the fact that there are some things that you literally have no control over. It’s a such waste of emotional energy to focus on them.
So I tried. It’s not easy, I’m a natural born control freak. But I tried.
And guess what, the moment I let myself try, I calmed down. And I started to open my eyes.
I wouldn’t let a night of technical disaster ruin the rest of our week in India. I’m probably still going to be sad for the next few hours and hell, I’m not perfect. I wish I could handle my problems with such grace and maturity, and today just wasn’t that day. I’m still learning.
If anything, I’m glad these past 12 hours happened. I might have lost my important files, but I also realised how blessed I am to have these two kids, my mom, my boyfriend, everyone that I love still here with me, and I’m grateful for Manish and everyone else I met in this trip. I’m grateful for every single second of this journey.
I still got ten more days in this amazing country and I am going to make the most out of it.
We got inside our car and I told Arjun, our driver, a sweet and wonderful human being that has cared for and protected us like our dad in this trip, “Arjun, let’s go back to Jodhpur. We have to reshoot some new sweet memories.”
To be continued.29