Me, God and Jerry Seinfeld: spaced out in India
got the impression that he thought he was a living God. He was lost in
like a bull, my feet are sunk in the soil, laden under a yoke?"
Freedom laughed at my self-assessment. She was a twenty seven year
old from Sweden who was extolling the virtues of astrology. Freedom
had suspected that I was an earth sign by my inability to develop
much empathy with fellow travellers in India who are on their own
personal spiritual quest. She wasn't blaming me, I'm a Taurus -
apparently I can't help it! I plough a deep furrow, with eyes fixed
on the ground in a field of my own making. But if I was trapped
down on the farm, there were enough people around me who were floating
in the clouds.
Like many other travellers, I have been to numerous holy places steeped
in mysticism where yoga and meditation courses abound. Unlike other travellers,
however, I had never felt any compulsion to indulge in a spiritual quest
for inner peace (or whatever it is they search for). You can spot those
who do with their talk of "karma", "energy", the "previous
or next life", "enlightenment", and of course "ignorance"
- the state that anyone who doesn't share their views lives in. For them,
everything in India is "magical' or "special", and nothing
is mundane or ordinary. I have nothing against western travellers in India
who seek "the truth", but more than a few fall overboard, and
drown in their cocktail of cobbled together beliefs. They are masters
of the metaphysical mindgame. Certain chemicals in their brain become
rampant, devouring any remnants of sanity.
I had been talking with Freedom in the courtyard of Broadlands Lodge in
Chennai (Madras). Broadlands is a crumbling travellers institution
with a tree-shaded courtyard. Peeling paint and dilapidation are its hallmarks.
It usually has more than its fair share of eccentrics in residence at
any one time. After Freedom left, Rudy came and sat in the courtyard.
"Dont say that, someone might hear you!"
All I had done was repeat to Rudy what he had just said to me. If he said
it, then why couldn't I? There was no one else around anyhow! He told
me that he had given away his passport and everything else that he had
once owned as part of his spiritual quest. I had repeated this to him
in disbelief. He was a disheveled figure wearing a traditional lungi wrapped
around his legs. I gave him the address of the French Consulate here in
"They will deport me and I dont want to go home. I want to
stay in India for five years and my mind is now just about to approach
a higher state of consciousness".
What could I say to that? What could anyone say? He had nothing, but felt
that he was about to gain everything. The next day, I watched him stand
outside a shop with outstretched arm, hunched shoulders and begging for
money. He reminded me of one decrepit dogs that roam the streets of India.
There was nothing 'magical' or 'special' about that. He thought that he
was walking in the light, but was merely fumbling in the dark. Not long
after Rudy left, another traveller came. Duke was an American in his early
twenties. He had long hair and a dangling pointed beard and spoke in a
kind of spaced-out (or is that drugged-out?) Californian drawl. After
a couple of minutes I decided to break the silence by introducing myself.
"You have just disturbed my puja, but I will forgive you this time
as you were not to know". He was a fortress of arrogance.
travellers came and sat. Duke was now holding a broadsheet newspaper in
front of his face. He suddenly lowered it, said something, and then hid
behind it once again. His comment was, "You never know who you are
sitting next to in India. I am famous". The others didnt react.
Dukes comments and newspaper mannerisms continued for the next ten
minutes. The newspaper was probably some kind of cosmic shield protecting
him from my scepticism or should I say, "bad karma".
He told us that he was famous throughout India, a swami, and highly respected
by all other holy-men across the sub-continent. It all had something to
do with his previous life, state of consciousness, or whatever it was
he was rattling on about. Duke loved to talk about himself. Each comment
seemed more absurd than the previous one. Then he peaked: he told us that
he was the fount of all religious knowledge and that Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed,
Vishnu and Shiva all worked through him. Apparently, all of the "Ascendant
Masters" (Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha etc) were in personal touch with
him. He was a legend in his own mind, and talked a lot about living
and God. I got the impression that he thought he was a living God. He
was lost in space.
He was an inspiration to the two other people present. Paulo and his girlfriend,
in their early forties, had been listening intently without saying much.
Paulo, an Italian, had been combing his grey beard throughout, while she
(French) had been smoking cigarettes through a three-inch holder and occasionally
adjusting the black beret, which sat on the top of her head. Visually,
they were striking.
Paulo looked at Duke. He told him that he actually WAS one of the Ascendant
Masters! I looked at Duke. He seemed baffled - even insulted, as it was
clear that Paulo hadn't been in touch with him. Paulo was a prophet, no
less. He began talking about a revelation that his guru back in France
had told him about - although he couldnt reveal it to us. It was
something about gloom for the future of humanity if people didnt
mend their ways. No surprise there then. Paulo was on a quest. His task
was to encourage people to turn toward God. Paulos face had a constant,
pained statement - no doubt as a result of the magnitude of the revelation
and the enormity of his mission. He thought that he had the monopoly on
suffering. It hung heavy on his shoulders.
His girlfriend then exploded into life. She was scary and ranted that
people think too much and rely on the misguided assumptions of science.
She said that science cannot explain everything and it is, "The spaces
in between thinking where God exists". Spaced-out thinking I thought
to myself - that explained a lot! Really I didn't have a clue what she
meant, but I certainly wasnt about to contradict her. I didnt
want to put my foot in it. But not really knowing what it
was, I decided to say as little as possible.
I was thrown back into my chair by the force of her conviction. She told
me not too think too much, and to have faith in what is unknowable. I
disagreed but nodded in agreement, wanting to give the appearance of not
being in a state of "ignorance". She was obsessed (or should
that be possessed?). The more she talked, the faster she became. And the
faster she became, the louder her voice was. She persisted in repeating
herself - as if I was incapable of understanding the first time (maybe
she did believe I was "ignorant"). Her voice gradually developed
into a screech. She transformed into a screeching parrot before me.
Paulo and his girlfriend rambled on (and on) about God, existence and
emptiness, citing dead philosophers from the yellowed pages of yesteryear.
The courtyard in Broadlands didnt seem to be a fitting place for
them. They needed a grander setting. They were more suited to the Parisian
Left Bank of the 1950s, he with his beard, she with her beret and both
with their talk of being, nothingness and the bleakness of life. A Dutch
guy called Balance joined us. I dont know from where he got his
name. Maybe he had once been in a state of equilibrium, but he had definitely
tipped over into his own fantasy world. He was hyper. He was non-stop.
Every thought in his head was verbalised. Within the space of five minutes
he dominated the gathering and talked about thatched roofs in England,
gardening, anarchy, trekking and, of course, God. I couldnt keep
up. He was an encyclopedia of trivia. He had previously been a Hare Krishna
devotee, but had fallen by the wayside.
He recounted the time he had left his body and had floated through the
Parbati Valley in North India, and of the instance when his leg had been
broken in Holland, but still managed to cycle to the hospital despite
it hanging loosely from half way down his shin. The doctor said that he
was not going to treat him as he was drunk (Balance - not the doctor!).
So he got on his bike and cycled to the next hospital with leg dangling
freely in the night air. I could have put this guy on stage. He was the
Dutch version of the American comedian, Jerry Seinfeld. Like Jerry, he
didnt tell jokes as such, but just had an endless repertoire of
anecdotes. Unlike Jerry however, who deliberately tries to be funny, with
Balance it was unintentional.
Perhaps if I lifted my eyes away from the ground, then I could float with
these people. A bull gliding through the air. And pigs might fly. But
they were all drunk on their own homemade brands of self-delusion. They
were not so much concerned with living, more with the dead. At times,
it was like talking to the living dead. Rudy was looking for God. Paulo
and his girlfriend had found him. Duke actually thought he was God. And
Balance had found him, lost him and was now trying to find him again.
I wasnt even looking, hadnt lost him, wasnt trying to
find him, but was supposedly surrounded by him everywhere.
Maybe the courtyard in Broadlands was not actually a courtyard at all!
Perhaps it was THE farm. It suddenly dawned on me that Freedom had been
right. I was indeed trapped. A bull in the farmyard from hell with an
eternity to look forward to of trivial anecdotes and screeching parrots.
© Colin Todhunter email:
Todhunter in India
Copenhagen to Byron Bay:
A tale of two women
India first you get married and then you work these things out",
he said with amazing casualness.
will be a small financial
re-numeration" Mr Sunderjee says...
Colin Todhunter finds himself the unexpected 'star' of an Indian movie.
unique experience of going
to the gym in India
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