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Riso Bianco

- by Alessandra Corsini


India. The origins of kundalini yoga. This notice is placed on the door of the gym. From 15 October to 1 November. The first time I tried to go to India was three years ago. I had everything ready, tickets and all, but eventually I didn’t go. Raffella, my best friend, the one who would call me anytime to be conforted when she broke up with her boyfriends, the one I would laugh about anything, calls me a week before departure and says "my job, I don't know how to deal with all my issues". I suspect she has a new boyfriend and she’s afraid of a different future. I was right, her new boyfriend has become her husband, her father, her master, an absolute land to return to and she has forgotten all about her friends, her issues and her future as easily as only naive souls can. Maybe this time it will be different. I’m learning yoga and Sadhana is my teacher. There are mostly women in my class and I wonder where the men have gone. I think they’re living a distant story, the sacred Graal, their challenges, their wars and they’re still looking for their hearts. So we meet at the gym and practise yoga together. We like to sing mantras and tell our little secrects in the locker room. I often don't kow their names but I listen with eager interest to their hasty conversations while we get dressed and undress:
“ I can’t sleep”
“I really like this yoga class”
“I have trouble with the breathing of fire”
“I wake up with anxiety”
“I come from Spain” then I see them again the following thursday, the day I see the notice.
A journey to kindle faith and devotion. Instinctively I want to go then I back off, I keep vacillating between the two alternatives and put off my decision. It’s too faraway, my job, maybe it’s not the right time, why should I go there? Springtime comes and I don’t even realize it, more blue sky between buildings and flowers in bloom.The deadline to sign up for the journey is 1 September. Sadhana leaves in April . He's going to India to find out about the itinerary and the programme of the journey. The land of lands I've always dreamt of is right there, within reach. The land of colours and poor, of prayers and the ultimate loneliness, oblivion. Unreal obstacles to the journey keep coming to my mind, my house, my cats, and what if something happens to me? My mother, my job and eventually in August I decide to call Manu "are you coming?". Me, the one who goes everywhere, an explorer by inclination, the one who sells off independence to those who don’t have it anymore, I mumble and stutter over a ticket.
Still my hesitation makes me stronger, I’m waiting for the right time and the odours of the land.
The 1 September comes, I give the money, I’m leaving for India, the dry scent of summer still lingers on and the month of September, which I love, fades quickly away. I even checked the position of the planets when I was born but I have to admit that my important decision were never based on the position of planets, I like to bet with the sky directly. The first meeting before our departure is 6 October: we'll meet on 15 October at Rome airport, directly at the check-in desk. I hold my ticket in my hands. I inspect my fellow travellers or better I sniff them, something I’ve learned from dogs. If I remember scents and smells I have a better picture of people’s hearts. The age ranges between 20 and 60, I think. There's one man only smelling of something hard and somebody is missing. I met Livia during a yoga weekend, Sandra gave me a bad editorial deal, Manu, a friend of mine, Camilla, her sister, and Simona whom I saw at a yoga camp in Titignano, as well as Paola, I can’t remember the names of the other travellers. Any questions?
“What do we need to take with us?”
“Is it going to be warm or cold?”
“What about the 84 steps?”
“A torch maybe?”
“What are we going to drink?”
“How long does it take to fly there?”
“Any medicine?”
“Do cell phones work?”
We end the meeting with a prayer. I’m hungry, I get annoyed, I want to go to eat. Never obey.
I’ve always considered obedience something sacred, the obedience of planets to the sun, of flowers to the light, this is why I choose carefully when to obey and when not to.
The meeting is over. We go home bringing our own idea of India with us in an October night which seems quiet, four days before full moon.


Rome-Athens-Amman-Delhi. We’ll be landing in Delhi at 5.30 a.m. We said “carry-on luggage only” and I see people checking in huge western suitcases, the fear of giving up on something and an always full past.
I didn’t let myself be fooled this time. I took my blue backpack, the one I had in Patagonia, a pair of trousers, two t-shirts, a thousand natural remedies, my beauty case, my sandals and that’s it, I leave everything behind as I’ve often done before.Who knows how this group of women with short, long, curly, dyed, natural straight hair will manage in India. Almost everyone has sneakers on, others have sandals. I'm glad that Elsa, with her peaceful smile, is here too. Sadhana acts like a sheperd’s dog but no one even tries to get lost, at this point we’re holding the secret of the journey in our hearts.
“I need films”.
“A recharge for my phone".
“A pair of glasses”.
“A book”.
“A lotion”.
“Some pasta for those waiting for us”, the last purchases.
In front of the gate we watch the airplanes taking off, that moment of grace during which you leave the earth as a living human being, more text messages, stories of bygone journeys, boyfriends, pieces of news, words to fill the emptiness which move zigzagging. Marisa, Paolo’s Spanish girfriend reaches us, she smiles broadly and we think that both of them are coming with us. We are wrong.
It’s time to embark, phones are switched off. Seat D16, Maria Luisa sits next to me. She looks young but she’s not, looks Indian but she’s not, she looks calm but this not always the case.
Sensitive souls travel in such wide spaces that they can never stand still. We chat and gossip, we compare our planets:
" I have the moon in aries”.
“Saturn in sagittarius”.
“I’ve four planets in cancer” we cross the lines of our celestials diagrams becouse I’ll never stop to to be amazed by their beauty. I’m sleepy, I’d like to have some silence, the aircraft is full. In front of me sit Manu and Camilla, Simona and Paola, the loudest. Behind me Elisabetta, Simona with her big and pretty eyes. Sadhana and Atvar sit together at my right-handside, I can’t see the others. I can’t sleep, I can’t read I just listen. We take off and land in Athens, then take off again and arrive in Amman. Two hours for the next flight, I’m thirsty!
Is it evening? Is it morning? I don’t know it anymore.Time zones move time or as a physisist has discovered “ For particles of matter it is possible to reverse time from the future to the past”. So where are we going?
In Amman, in the dirty and dusty waiting area we start a yoga class. Fortunately I took with me the small blanket I found on the plane, in this journey I will use it for everything, as a pillow, as a blanket when it’s cold, as a towel and a table cloth. Sadhana’s turbant catches people's attention or maybe it's us all, sitting on the floor, gesticulating and singing, who are drawing attention. "Ong Nano”, somebody is taking pictures of us.
Our plane is here we have to leave again. Seat G 14 , Maria Luisa sits again next to me, I think that fate follows its rules, I’m not even allowed to choose or maybe I don’t want to choose. I don’t feel like talking anymore, I take an hour nap and then doze off, I can't read so I turn to look at those people I don't even know, defenceless against life and the night. Passengers, husband and wife, two friends, their son, a man flying home, businessmen, uncertain, tourists, the stewardess, very few Europeans this time and everybody is flying in the sky.


Numbed by sleep I find myself off the plane in a huge room that doesn’t look like an airport, I can’t breathe. The stench fills up my body. Livia, the most experienced traveller of our group, tells me “Indian cities are among the most polluted in the world, “You should smell Calcutta”.
I change my money, maths has never been my favourite subject, we wait for each other, the suitcases, the bar, the restrooms, and ouside the gray layer, it’s neither day nor night those small men, our bus is close by, I’ll find out that porters wear red shirts.
I sit next to the window and a sea of people lies in front of me. Everybody lies on the ground on both sides of the road, and endless line of rags, legs, never an interruption nor an empty space, an endless line that I’ve never seen before , a kind of poverty that doesn’t look like any other poverty, it’s natural and unhurried, a person next to another, a nativity scene without angels and baby Jesus. We arrive at the hotel. This nice, western style luxurious hotel makes me feel unconfortable, at a close distance people born by mistake and not welcomed by the earth and here a doorman opens a door for me. Sometimes I feel offended by the tricks of fate.
“I’m going to thank the Guru for the journey” the temple is close to the hotel, Sadhana sticks to his plan while I forgot all about the Guru, I prefer to call him God, somebody doesn’t give Him a name, but He doesn’t take offence he keeps on going and it’s been always like this.
Somebody wants to go to the Red Fortress and to shop.
“I’ve already seen the Red Fortress, I’d rather go to the museum. The future groups are forming and we leave again tonight. I’m tired, all I want to do is take a shower and go to sleep, I put off my decision till later.
“How much do we tip them?”.
I share the room with Maria Luisa. I need to try to live with somebody else, my gestures and words will have to take into consideration other people, no more independent, quick and solitary actions.
“Who is going to use the bathroom first?”
I reach Manu, Camilla, Paola, Simona at 11.30. After a few days they will be called the Camille, since they’re always together and it’s easier to spot them. Maria Luisa is sleeping and I can’t wake her up.
“Let’s wait for her, go and wake her up”.
I try again but I hate waking people up, I feel I’m committing a sacrilege to disturb the peace that somebody has conquered for a little while.
She jumps on her feet “I’m coming with you”
We drink some tea and wait. Our taxi has arrived.

[ Continued in the next issue.. ]

Alessandra Corsini

Alessandra Corsini (Pescara, 1958) lives in Rome. As a transactional anlalyst, she has been working for years with troubled children, adults and families. She won the Saint-Vincent prize for journalism (1977). She published L’ultimo cielo in the collection Notturni Italiani (1999), and Il Vento Racconta (2000), for which she won the Emily Dickinson prize (2003). Riso Bianco was published in 2005. The book was presented at the Frankfurt Buchmesse in 2006 as a Guest of Honour for India, at the Fiera dell’Editoria (Publishing Houses Fair) in Matelica and at the 13h, the first Italian reading and theatre marathon in Agugliano (Ancona). In 2007, she was the moderator at the presentation of CALCO a poetry book by Monica Maggi, at the 3rd edition of POETEKA, International Poetry Festival in Durazzo (Albania). Some of her poetry is published in the “Journal of Italian Translations” of New York (Ed. Luigi Bonaffini, April 2008, translation by Diana Festa). Alessandra Corsini has a very deep knowledge of esoteric and spiritual disciplines; she loves travelling and beauty.