Swimming to India (excerpt)
So morning dawns – and I really hadn’t even noticed any rats last night in my post Indian train stress syndrome.
The chanting. Our boat was right next to a large loud speaker – one of many up and down the river. From the main ghats, they were broadcasting, “Shri Ram, Jai Ram, Jai, Jai Ram”. It seemed very loud but what a good start for morning ablutions (I thought).
“Babaji…how long does the chanting last?”
“No questions now. Just lesson. Our friendly German is already down there chanting with them. The chanters will go as long as possible before being replaced. They enter a deep trance… now we go on top of boat, greet the sun, mediate and practice and practice defense. After – questions and chana. As I remembered chana meant eat which sounded good.
Meditating to the constant chant “Shri Ram, Jai Ram, Jai Ram” blasting like a rock concert with a vision of the giant vultures waking up across the river – babies and holy people were not burned but floated into the river – the reverse current carrying the bodies across the river in time for vulture’s lunch, and suddenly I was angry. Angry at the chanting, the vultures, Scotland Yard, the Inspector, Rob for getting lost…And then I was up practicing defense like never before. My movements went with the chants. We were working on a certain move.
“Now Mulligan, you’ll notice that after this move, you end up in perfect position if the attacker is male, we stole this one from Wendo, you are in a position to kick him in the balls – you know in the nuts. And Mulligan, I highly recommend that for you. Not last resort, first resort. So practice. Do the move and kick me in the nuts.”
I didn’t want to but I went into a spin, and in that split second, had a déjà vu that slowed time. I was in a houseboat near here years before. We had just smoke a large chillum – probably 10 grams of hash– and I went to pee – a hole in the boat at the back was the washroom – and as I peed my kundalini released like a rocket, up my spine, throw my head like the top was open and the force throw me through the air right across the boat. And now I swung around and went to kick Babaji hard in the balls and he flew – not from my blow, he flew up into the air as if he was a feather and in a blur was down on the gangplank.
“It is breakfast time my friend. Masala dosa as a treat and dahi of course. Much dahi.”
When were seated at breakfast, he said ‘any questions?’ as promised. I could think of 2 things only.
“How long does the chanting last and how do you fly…?”
“One hundred and eight days. We are blessed because they just started. And you Mulligan know Spalding Gray. He has passed on now but his words live. When he interviewed the Dalai Lama, he asked:
S.G. ‘I first read about Tibet in John Blofeld’s book, The People Flew. Did you ever see people flying in Tibet?’
D.L. ‘ No, but one thing surprised even me. One elderly nun who now lives in Dharamsala told that when she was young, she spent a few months at a mountain place quite near Lhasa. She met there an elderly practioner, around eighty years old, living in a very isolated area. She discovered he was the teacher for around 10 disciples, and two monks among them were flying off one side of the mountain. Now, you see, they would fly using this part (holding up the sides of his robe).
S.D. Like a hand glider.
D.L. Yes, you see she said they could fly one kilometer, with their arms out like this. She told me last year that she actually saw it. I was surprised, very surprised
Baba Ji paused as to indicate an end to the Dalai Lama story. He looked up and said "However I believe there are many ways to fly. But let me tell you about this evening. At dusk, our German friend wants to give you a rudraksha seed as a divine protector. I said sure, this evening would be fine because we never know when you may receive a message concerning where this Rob has disappeared to.”
“But Baba Ji, there are over 1 billion people here, I have no idea where he is, and what would this message look like, anyway?”
“For a hobo with advanced skills in hobo savvy, you ask many questions. I will give you the answers soon, but for now I am busy this afternoon, so why don’t you occupy yourself with touristy things.”
Now, besides the fact that Indo Disney hasn’t exactly opened yet, Benares is not exactly made for tourism. There are the amazing temples along the river. One of them that is the highest, has a line, about a foot below the top. It just says 1932 or some year like that. This was the level of the flood that year, meaning every other temple was completely below water.
There was one thing I wanted to do. No, I didn’t exactly want to do this, but the last time I had been here, I had avoided them. The burning ghats where bodies were cremated. So I started the wandering thru the alleys, heading in the general direction of the ghats. At one point, I thought I smelled something – I was thinking about how you sometimes come across vendors roasting puffed rice or cooking chapatti. Suddenly I was hungry, suddenly I was not. Around the bend was the source of the smell. Burning flesh on the burning ghats. The only things amazing me was how much wood they used in a place where firewood of any size was extremely rare. And the non-chalant manner in which the workers shoveled the ashes into the river. And the speed in which I departed what was clearly not a tourist attraction.
The evening arrived and my friend explained to me that he was going to give me a Rudraksha bead. These beads are actually a nut from a tree, but they grow with a hole through the center (exactly like a bead) and they grow with a different number of lines on them, from 1 to 15. Each person is said to have their own number. Mine was seven.
For more details, you can read
They tend to be very expensive online ($100 to $500 and up) whereas as I recall they were not dear in Benares.