INDIA IS AN AMAZING COUNTRY of strong contrasts and many surprises (some pleasant, some not so pleasant) for those experiencing their first journey to that exotic land. During my time in India, I rode an elephant, experienced the profound terror of rush-hour traffic in a major city, ate strange foods and almost got deathly ill, saw the wonder and beauty of the Taj Mahal, got lost for three harrowing hours in Chenai, saw incredibly beautiful gardens and ancient temples, was accosted on the street by a gang of thieves, and still managed to get through it all reasonably intact.
But the experience that had the most profound effect on me was something from another world that occurred at the top of a staircase in a five-star hotel in New Delhi.
It was early morning, and the people with whom I was traveling were beginning to make their way from their rooms down to the breakfast buffet. A friend and I decided to go down the long, elegant, marble staircase in the center of the hotel that led to the lobby and to the restaurant.
He went ahead of me and I took my time, standing at the top of the stairs for a few moments to take in the scene below me. I finally began my descent. My friend waited below at the bottom of the stairs, watching me as I started down. On the second step, something happened to make me lose my balance. I’m not sure what it was.
What I do remember was the sickening feeling as I lurched forward, out of control. I remember thinking several thoughts in very rapid succession: that I was at the top of a long, steep, marble (not carpeted) staircase, that there was no one directly in front of me to break my fall, and that there was no way to save myself and I was probably going to end up with serious injuries, broken bones, or worse.
I distinctly remember, even though it was more than 20 years ago, hearing my inner voice screeching, “I’ m going to break my neck” as I pitched forward.
The only explanation for what happened next is the presence of angels, because as I was falling, I suddenly felt two sets of gentle but strong, invisible hands pull me back, straighten me up, and carry me gently to the bottom of the staircase where I was safely deposited, standing firmly on my two feet.
Stunned, I looked up to see my friend walking towards me with a hysterical look on his face, gasping out the words, “How did you do that? I saw you start to fall, and then I saw you float down here. How did you do that?”
My response was just four words: “I didn’t do it.”
To this day, it is sometimes still hard for me to believe that it happened, except for the fact that there was a witness. My friend and I talked about it for a couple of minutes, and then we were silent. There wasn’t much to say except that my guardian angels must have been very close by and caught me in time to avert a possible tragic end to my journey in the exotic and mysterious land of India.