0 If you meet the Buddha on the road

Our trip ploughs through a heap of world religions. On top of the ones we know. Animism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism!

BEFORE OUR TRIP, I wonder, how will I emerge from this heap? My icy cold relationship with religion. Will it change? I have a head full of questions and a heart full of emotions. And it finds form in this question …

If you meet the Buddha on the road …?

It’s a bit of a tease. A riddle. And it pesters me for 5 months long. It’s a question so simple. Deceptively simple. It’s a question with so many answers. A different answer for each of us. Deeply personal.

And today, AT THE END OF OUR TRIP, I settle on an answer.

If you meet the Buddha on the road … you are not alone.

Today, for me, possibly only me, this rings true.

If you meet the Buddha, or Jesus, or Mohammed, or a good Samaritan on the road … you are not alone.

My answer takes seed in Nagaland. In a grubby city called Kohima. But a city, nevertheless! And I’m desperate for somebody a little handier than Harry. Somebody? Anybody with a sure hand to stab hair colour at my grey, grey roots! I set off, with my tube of colour, to find a hair salon. It’s not long and I spot a salon. Inside; I lay bare my grey roots, my tube of colour, my plea. Behind the counter stands Katie. She understands. Relentless grey spares no-old-body. She plops me down on a chair. And squeezes my tube of colour into my bottle of peroxide. But, hang on, this is not a salon! It’s just a shop that sells shampoos and things. She has no basin, no gloves, no brush and no towel. But she has English. She works my roots with vigour. We work our tongues with pleasure. We chat about everything. And then some …

She holds her God so dear. She tells me. “When I am in church it feels like I am in Heaven!” I usually have a lot to say about religion. But not now and not here.

Katie says “In Europe, in your South Africa, you have everything. In your homes, in your churches. You have such beautiful churches”. Katie asks “Why do you cast God aside?” Katie pains! She says “We have so little, our churches have nothing. We take from the poor to give to the even poorer. And God is our Everything!” She becomes angry. WHY! WHY? WHY!

A customer comes in. Katie jumps up. And leaves me to battle. WHY! WHY? WHY! At last, I think ‘… because we don’t need Him’. When Katie comes back, I say “because ‘we think’ we don’t need Him, Katie”. I add ‘we think’ for her sake. My answer satisfies her. And that satisfies me.

Katie rinses my hair with a jug over a squat toilet. She dries my hair with her scarf. She wants to give me her bible, her rosary, her prayers. I leave with only tears.

Katie’s seed takes root. In my heart and in my head, on the road. And my answer to the question finds words …

If you meet the Buddha on the road … you are not alone.

Of course! It’s fine to be alone in a comfortable place. In a safe place. Like me. But it’s awful to be alone in a scary place. A hopeless place. Like Katie. Thank God, Katie does not walk alone. Thank God, when Katie enters her church, she enters Heaven!

A Heaven for Katie. A single pleasure in a hellishly hard world. It’s beautiful!

If you meet the Buddha, or Jesus, or Mohammed, or a good Samaritan on the road … you are not alone.

And YOU? What will YOU do …

Will you walk together? For a while? Forever? Never?

It befalls me. Hard. It’s ALL beautiful!

Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Agnosticism!

It stirs me to dive in boots and all. Not to simply tolerate. But to rip open the gifts of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, for dear life. As Katie does. As Ahmed does. As Narendra does. As Kalgemz does. Just for a few moments. We swop lives.

And I end up with this bunch of colourful drawings. Ten of them. Each with its own special arrangement. Of God and Spirit. Of gods and goddesses. Of prophets and saints and gurus. And, of course, of YOU and me in life and afterlife.

The similarities surprise!
And it’s freaky! I like them all! I appreciate the bits and pieces of each. Fancy – on the road – I swing from wholesale rejection to wholesale acceptance.

But how could we feel any other way!

Five countries, ten religions, a myriad of smiles. Smiles that push and pull us along the road. Smiles from ear-to-ear. A first smile. A last smile. All from heart-breaking places. And I come to realise it is because, THANKFULLY …. they are not alone.

It’s ALL beautiful.

Here are our ten drawings. Harry and I have fun with this. We hope you do to.


01 Animism

02 Hinduism

03 Judaism

04 Buddhism

05 Catholics

06 Protestants

07 Islam

08 Sikkhism

09 Agnostic

10 Atheism


Ai. The People at Home on our Journey. And the People on our Journey at Home. Thank you, for riding with us. Our road would have been very lonely without YOU.

Oh, what a ride.