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I had the trip planned out perfectly, or so I thought. My mother-in-law, sister-in-law, my brand new wife of two days old, and me, were going to go on a day trip from New Delhi to Agra, to see the famous Taj Mahal. Tickets in hand, we took a taxi in the wee hours of the morning from our hotel to the train station. We had no luggage with us, so all we needed to do was to find the correct “platform” from which the train was departing, and board the train. Being the local, I was “in charge” and so I led them out of the taxi into the “grand central station” like foyer. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “Hey coolie (porter). What platform number does Taj Express leave from?”

He looked at me with a look that I will never forget. He probably didn’t know how to say it, but what he did say still resonates. 

Coolie: “Taj Express? That train doesn’t go from here! It goes from Nizamuddin station!”

I used to live near Nizamuddin station. It was at least thirty minutes away from where we were standing. With the clock showing 525, it meant we had forty minutes to make it there before the train left at 605. I could see my meticulously laid plans vanishing like the early morning fog dissipates with the heat of the rising sun. But there was no going back – this was our only chance to see the Taj, because we were all leaving back for the USA the next day. I “led” the ladies out of the train station, through the throng of touts of taxi drivers offering to drive us all the way to Agra, two and a half hours away. No way I was going to admit “defeat” that easily!

Thirty five minutes later, after a taxi ride through Delhi’s early morning fog and traffic, we landed outside Nizamuddin station. Of course, the train was not on platform one, which would have meant a simple walk on to the train. We had to walk up a long set of stairs, then take another walk over multiple train tracks, and then descend to platform number nine. By the time we found which compartment we were supposed to board, the train had started to move. Twenty five years later, my mother-in-law still hasn’t forgiven me for literally dragging her, half-running in her high heels, to get on that train. I don’t think that the beauty of the Taj was enough for her to forget my immaculate “trip planning”. 

So, I have learnt that I am not much of a planner. I was never much into planning. In fact, I might be the poster child who contradicts the whole “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” adage. I have accepted the fact that my “lack of planning” isn’t setting myself up for failure. It is simply an acceptance of an alternate path through life for me. I would like to believe that I am not alone in this acceptance of life’s flow. I cannot think of a single significant “life event” in my life that was “planned out” by me. Engineering school, coming to the USA for graduate studies, meeting my spouse, buying my first home, getting a dog, starting #SpiritChat on twitter, and so many other events – all seem to have “just happened” to me. Maybe I am the poster child for “life happens to us when we are busy making plans”. Or the poster child for “delegation of planning” for many of life’s trips – in my case, to my wonderful wife. 

I am not advocating that we ought not to make plans. I am simply sharing with you that good things can happen to us and through us, even if we don’t plan meticulously. The decade of the 2020’s is upon us with great spiritual opportunity, just like the 2010’s and 2000’s were upon us ten and twenty years ago. Yes, as we embrace the new decade, it is a good time to pause and reflect on how far we have traveled this year, and in this past decade. Are we on the correct train station, the correct train? What is the journey we are taking, and does it have a purpose? What are the “constants” and the “variables” on our path? Who are our traveling companions? What are the resources that we have, and who will we ask for help or guidance when we need it? 

Yes. These questions may be worth considering as we step into the spiritual symmetry of 2020 and the decade ahead. The spiritual journey does require some commitment, and even a bit of planning on our part. Perhaps it begins with the simple commitment of buying a train ticket. Then, we can commit to be flexible, to accept change, to be the change. Then we commit to get to the train station on time — the correct train station!

And then, when the conductor blows the whistle, waves the green flag to announce “all aboard”, we can all travel together and see some of the most beautiful places in our hearts. Let’s plan the trip, shall we?


P.S. Join us for a planning session for the next decade – Sunday, December 29 at 9amET / 730pm India – in #SpiritChat on twitter. I will bring some tea and cookies for the train ride – we can take a trip together as we ask some questions, share some answers. Namaste – @AjmaniK

From one of my travels…