286. A Trip to India…
I needed to clear my mind, rearrange my thoughts, I needed to understand what I had in my heart and so I invented a trip to India pretending to go in search of new skins. I had just started my fashion two years before. It was 1972.
Nobody knew my true intentions, nor my true destination. The first stop was Kathmandu, Nepal… a small hotel near the holy city.
By day I wandered and wanted to be alone to organize my thoughts in a special and mystical atmosphere like the one I was relishing around me. In fact, I was particularly fascinated by the colour and the customs of the monks. In the evening I stopped to watch them fall asleep at the foot of the temple, wrapped in their beautiful orange robes.
The innocence of their smiles attracted me, but it was impossible to meet their eyes; I tried to get close to some of them, trying to capture their voice and their thoughts. But we could not exchange anything of what I wanted and I was a little taken aback by the mice that scurried, running between our feet, taking refuge in their robes .
I decided to get away from that mystic place and headed to the bank of the river, to the sacred site where they burn the dead and where the air is saturated with the acrid smell of burning human flesh. It is a smell that makes you closer to the millions of questions you ask yourself when you think about eternity.
Everything fascinated me. I sat on the opposite side of the river to look at the view formed by colourful temples made of painted ceramic and metal, the sun shining intensely and changing hues at sunset, absorbing pink reflections. I was gradually losing track of time and losing myself was what I wanted.
I wore a white t-shirt, a pair of almost white pants now soiled with earth and sweat. By contrast my beard was growing ever longer and even more black. I would not have wanted to come back ever again. It was my meditation time and it was a time that was flowing very fast!
I had met an indefinable strain of dog, such as its colour, small in size. It was now the only friend with whom I could exchange some words. We had stumbled into each other in one of those moments where, sitting on the edge of the river, we witnessed the mystery of that land “full of richness, full of poverty.”
The dog had come near me and I had toyed with offering him a peppermint candy I had in my pocket. Since then, he had not moved away from my fee. Even though he had finished my candy his love persisted. It waited for me in the morning at the front door of the hotel. I used to share half of my breakfast with him. It was hard to say goodbye to him when it time to go.
At one point I moved to Madras, on the south-west coast of India. That part of India was green, not like the big cities of Mumbai and New Delhi or even that of the tourist cities like Jaipur and Agra.
I was told that there were in those parts batik printing that was very interesting and of a very high order. I was curious about everything. Traveling around in those lands, where the green of nature, the colours of the women’s saris and the brilliance of the flowers give liveliness and energy, made me regain strength.
I sat down to watch the people and those colours filled my soul and became indelible in my memory. They were selling penicillin flasks filled with natural colors taken from the earth and the flowers. Hundreds of variations of colours, I bought them and spent my time looking at them with the spirit of one who observes something curious that he had thought was extinct.
Those colours… I remembered seeing them in the halls of the Uffizi or the Pitti Palace or in the churches in Florence, admiring the masters of the past like Raffaello Sanzio or the Ghirlandaio.
And then I watched as the women blended together shades of oranges and yellows to reds or greens to purple and turquoise. Everything was photographed by my eye and remained imprinted in me.
I never thought of that period or its ethnicity as something to inspire but rather as an inexhaustible source of colors and shades that man could not even imagine if they had not already been invented by the Earth and cultivated by the traditions of its peoples.
I was still undecided whether to go back or stay. It was difficult to leave everything. India had conquered me and now I was one of them, despite not knowing anything of their religion.
The fact is that their culture is in the air you breathe, and I was absorbing it.
Perhaps it was during this period that my conviction grew that God has neither form nor name. God exists and that’s all.
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