I’m sitting in the middle of Delhi train station, shielded by a wall of duffel bags and pelican cases. Waiting for the Shatabdi Express to Amritsar. 6 more hours on the train. Doesn’t matter. The only thing I care about is air conditioning. I’m melting in Delhi’s sticky heat.
Arriving in India is still intense even after three decades of traveling here. Crowds. Traffic. Noise. Smells. Jet lag. It usually takes awhile to drop the West and fully embrace the East. I’m still adjusting. I feel off.
There’s a serious young man walking towards me, his eyes scanning the station. We make eye contact and our gazes lock. His expression is stony and there is zero connection between us. To him, I’m just a stranger in a strange land. He’s still staring at me, coming closer. I make an unconscious decision…and tilt my head to the side, ever so slightly. Immediately a smile tugs at the corners of his mouth and begins animating his face. He seems to grow an inch taller as he walks. He finally breaks into a full smile as he walks by me, acknowledging me with a matching tilt of his own head. The moment passes in a whiff of cigarette smoke and train clatter from the platform – but something timeless and familiar just happened: two strangers exchanging the ubiquitous Indian head-wobble. No words needed. We said it all in one head tilt: “Hey, everything’s cool.” “It’s f-en hot, isn’t it?” “I’m no threat.” “Life is hard, where you going?” “Where ever you’re heading, I wish you safe passage.”
And just like that….I feel connected again. I’m back in Asia. Back to the Himalayas. Back to my second home. Back to film the sequel to The Tenth Step.