Monday, February 17, 2014

Vhy Kill Them?

Airport bars are surreal places, everyone's in transit, dashing from one place to the next, jetlagged, undernourished, and anonymous. Just next to my gate, at LAX, I found a pub, ordered a pint and struck up a conversation with a middle aged man named Curby, who was on his way to Australia. It was a pleasant chat and it was only after half an hour of discourse did the tedious question of "what do you do?" come up. Later in the trip I answered the question with, " it's what I don't do that's interesting." Something about people finding their limits I suppose. 

I explained that I had been a graphic designer and had been sacked a week before making this trip.

"To where?" He slipped before a sip.

"India. Now I want to teach."

Several soups down the line I waltzed out of the airport bar to check on my gate. The sign read Air India, which was great, but my airline was Air Malaysia. Had the plane left? Had I botched this trip before it even got started? I was filled with the fear and rushed to the first person who looked official. 

"Did the plane leave?" I asked an underpaid LAX employee with beaten eyes.

"Yep." He replied.

Sweat pissed out of me. My God what had I done? I ran the length of the terminal searching for the arrival/departure board. The plane had been moved to a different gate. I could almost hear him snickering in a dark corner of the airport. I thought of going back and saying something to him, but I let him have his quiet victory. 

The flight was something like 30 hours, however I was content in the notion that a hundred years ago the same trip would have taken months on ship.

My friend the Great Shakun Batra met me at the airport with a hug.

I opened with, “Dr. Batra’s son, I presume.”

Driving back to his place I noticed the abundance of stray animals.

"So they just let the dogs run around?"

"Vhy kill them." Shakun countered.

Later, upon closer inspection, I saw the animals of India to have an ancient sort of wisdom in their eyes and they interacted with each other in a rather civilized way. I’ve come to the conclusion that the only reason dogs chase cats in the western world is because they're leashed. 

Days passed and I was put on a sleeper train to Goa.

Sitting on floor mats at Curly’s bar Neal, an Australian, skinned spliff after spliff as we knocked back round after round. 

The tide had come in as the six of us trudged up the beach in the direction of our hotel rooms when a hand emerged from the darkness grabbing hold of a straggling Josh from Kentucky.

“Smoke, smoke, you have smoke,” a voice said behind us.

I turned around offering a cigarette. We realized from the flat top caps of the police they were speaking of the illegal variety. I had heard several times that if you were in a dodgy spot a two hundred rupee bribe to the cops would get you out of it. 

“What is in your pockets?” they asked before motioning for us to turn them out. Like usual I had a superhero’s utility belt full of miscellaneous junk and I dropped it all onto the sand. A bag of pot in his pocket Neal pulled a runner into the yards of the beach cottages. One of the two cops went off after him while the other lingered a moment.

“Who is he, what is his name?” the cop exclaimed.

“We don’t know who that guy is, he was just following us from the bar” one of us said.

“Stay right here or you’ll be in big trouble,” he said before running off.

We waited for all of thirty seconds before issuing a collective fuck this. We had been searched and had nothing on us. Fifteen minutes later, strolling along, we were within a stone’s throw of the trail leading off the beach. We were softly laughing when we heard their yells. Turning around Josh pretended to stub his toe in a performance that should have won his an award for best choreographed dance routine in Bollywood. 

“Oh now you’re in big trouble. We’ll have to call our superiors,” the cops echoed back and forth.

What does that mean? We’ll have to pay them off four hundred rupees, I thought.

They kept us there making threats of big trouble when Tim, a Brit, said,” I’m going back to my hotel room,” and walked off.

“No, wait, don’t do it!” We pleaded.

But the cops did not chase him. Now there were three of us, me and the two Londoners Mark and Ross. We looked at each other quizzically and made a move. Walking up the beach we looked back and saw no sign of cops. The next day we met Neal at the usual spot, the sunset bar for sunset. He had gotten away with the runner and we told him not to get any ideas about the bill. 

In Delhi I stayed with Rishi and Darshana, Shakun’s dad and mom. .One day Rishi described to me his take on meditation.

“When you take in food, the body absorbs vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and dispels the rest, why should the mind not work the same way?” Rishi said, gesturing with his enormous hands.

“Ah ha,” I said slapping my forehead, “the sound of one hand clapping!”

“What do we think about throughout the day, huh? We think, oh look at that car, I would like to drive that car, we think how do I get more money, we think of fucking and sucking, huh? These thoughts are no good; the mind is always asking questions and answering those questions. Question, answer, question, answer. Most of these questions, the mind already knows the answer to. So watch this…”

“Right, and focusing on deep breathing stops this.”

“No, don’t try to control these thoughts. Just watch them, watch what your mind is doing. Deep breathing is good, the heart only has so many beats. Three, four months of meditation will slow this and maybe you live longer. The inhale is life and the exhale is death. And what is your prayer you say… Amean, or Ahem?

“Oh, Amen, but nobody really says-”

Rishi only heard the first part, and said, “Okay, Ahmen. I think we will meditate for one half hour.”

We exited the dinning room and entered the bedroom, where I tried to adopt the lotus posture. Rishi told me to sit comfortably, that I was a beginner, and when I got used to it I could attempt more complex poses. He dimmed the lights and pointed out the clock on the wall.

“One half hour, try not to open your eyes, but if you do no problem,” Rishi said before going into a trance.

The power of suggestion had put fucking/sucking into my head and after entertaining a lurid fantasy for a few moments I slipped into relaxation. I saw some flickering images of soaring above the mountains. Twenty minutes into the meditation I opened my eyes and looked at the clock, then again at thirty five past. Looking over at Rishi I saw he was still deep into it and I didn’t want to disturb his enlightenment with time’s up, so I closed my eyes and awakened to Rishi chanting.


“Ooommm,” I joined in the chorus.

Upon a glance of the clock another half an hour had gone by in what seemed like less than five minutes. Once I had removed the notion of time from my mind it worked. I went upstairs to my room and felt a bit groggy but with a clear head. And that had always been my problem with meditation; how can I think about nothing, that’s still something. And I’ve always fancied thinking more as opposed to less; however, what I learned is that with a clear head the correct answer comes, not stuck in gridlock traffic with other more feeble thoughts.  

Next I was on a bus to Rishikesh. I met Eva, a beautiful oval faced girl from the Czech Republic and Bruce from Scotland. 

We were swapping Russian vodka that tasted like axel fluid as the bus went screaming down the road, overtaking cars, and honking like a banshee.  

Bruce was on a roll and I had my audio recorder ready. “In Indian you have to live for the moment, because everything comes at ya, there’s no time for self-reflection. We’ve tried so hard to protect ourselves from reality that we’ve actually become almost disabled  in a way. Here people don’t think about things like that, they just think this is life. They don’t even think, they just live it. They just do.”

No suspension, the bus bounced over bumps. 

Bruce made another point. “The idea that if you have enough sex and as vigorously as possible, it’s going to somehow cure you of your problems, it’s not going to do anything, I think it’ll just make ya worse. I think you have to look at things with a calm mind. Saying that, it’s good sometimes to let the anger out, I think you have to let it out. I’ve found that in India, I been shouting at bloody people in the shop that have tried to short change me for money, fucking shouting at people in cars who nearly tried to kill me. Afterwards you feel so calm, it’s amazing, you feel well that’s it, it’s dealt with, it’s finished, but where as in the Western society it’s bottled up and it starts to tear you apart from the inside.”

The rest of the trip of the trip was a blur and I found myself back in Mumbai’s BOM airport waiting at my departure gate when I got a phone call. It was Suraj. I had met Suraj in Kadayala and spent a night with him and his friends in Delhi telling jokes and listening to their rendition of ‘Hotel California’. He was calling to wish me goodbye.

“I’ll see you again,” I said confidently.

“I will be waiting here, for you” he said cooing.

“If I don’t leave I can’t come back,” I said voice quivering.

And then he said those words delivered with such authenticity I thought about letting the plane go on without me. I started to cry right in the middle of that airport, and I thought I might continue crying for forty days and forty nights, enough to wash away all the pain, suffering, and lies from this world.

He said, “Ma tombsay pierre carta om.”

Hindi for I love you.

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