My best time at the ashram was when I left it behind me and saw it disappear in the rear mirror of the car knowing that I was done with that place. The temples became jungle and the jungle became villages and the villages came more often until they were all city and soon we were sitting in a tight lobby of a cheap hotel in downtown Kochi and I was very relieved not to be in the grip of the Guru anymore. I had killed every concept of him and he had felt it, but nothing was to be done about that now, since there was no authority anymore, no one to report to or to be validated by. Left was the naked and spontaneous idea of what to do next and ”The World” seemed very open and the possibilities they felt endless. Thoughts were there at times, but they were no longer loyal to anything, hence they were boundless and it was wonderful.
We stayed in Kochi for one night and when we left the west coast with a train the next day it was without nostalgia and a few days later we reached the east coast. It was in the early morning that we checked into another cheap hotel which we didn’t like much at all. The room was too small and the man running the place was behind the curtains so we met only his nervous servant. Feeling watched made it difficult to relax but we lied to ourselves by saying that it was quite alright and that we will give it a few days. On our second day we walked far and away without much of a clear direction and found small roads and nice settlements and we were happy not to be in the hotel. At a roads cross in nowhere I had a strong feeling to turn left, so we did and soon encountered a large building in the outskirts of the big jungle. On the gate leading up to the building there was a sign saying: ”Tea shop on the second floor. Welcome!”
— Your intuition works very well, Lars, Alice said with awe and we both felt the magic of finding the place. Yet it was also not surprising, since my nose for tea had become like the nose of a search dog, but one couldn’t really explain how it had happened and it was really magic.
”Apna Ghar” was the name of the building which in Hindi means ”our home” and this is what we felt immediately upon entering, that even for us this was also our home, so strong was the feeling of being welcomed. One unexpected contrast to that permeating warmth was the long and pitch black hallway at the bottom floor which penetrated into the heart of the house. One could never see what happened inside of that darkness and one would feel a bit of respect not to pry. During my time at Apna Ghar I couldn’t help but feel that there was a secret hidden in there. In the unseen end of that hallway that was where the Agrawals lived, the family of the house. They were all originally from Rajasthan and just like the hallway their eyes were dark, deep and seemed to hide some kind of secret, and I would feel a strange sense of familiarity.
Seema Agrawal was the youngest daughter and she was in her late thirties. Her way with words were eloquent and she always spoke poetically of tea. Upon our arrival she guided us to the tea shop where one could find small poems written by her scattered throughout the room. One of them said:
my sister and i
late into the night,
cups after cups
of lemon tea,
the sleepless silence
with our secrets.
That day she invited us to sit with her and drink and so we did for a long time and we spoke about Darjeeling teas and the art of adding additional flavors to tea leaves. At the top floor, where we sat, one could see several doors along the wall and I asked Seema where they led.
— They are doors to rooms that we rent, she answered.
— To whom do you rent them? I asked.
— To anyone.
The next day we moved our belongings from the hotel and found ourselves this new place to stay and we started calling it our home.