An excerpt from chapter 11 below picture…
My second book, now available on amazon UK and US and will be on kindle, expanded platforms etc in a few weeks.
…We returned to Calcutta from where we got directions, to instead go to Sikkim in the Himalayan mountains, where Tibet borders to the North. We had a temporary stopover in Siliguri at our sister temple, better called a Matha, normally having an āśrama, phonetics Ashram attached, for hosting primarily, monks, though times have changed.
We were already at the foothills of the Himalayas and the gateway to North East India. The Matha was in need of financial support and therefore had little to offer. I was in need of a shower and had to accept pouring water on my body next to the Matha, under a makeshift shower cabin of aluminium sheets, nailed to erected posts. I was practically starving for want of something proper to eat, but had to eat fruits, as there were no place suited for cooking something hot. The simple food of the Matha was too spicy for my stomach. We had to therefore leave very quickly, the next few days after.
In the hired van to Sikkim, we realised halfway in the journey that the driver had been drinking alcohol, when the vehicle almost tilted off a baleful cliff, overlooking sharp stones and rocks, lying alongside a river. Sitting in the front of course, my partner could smell the breath of the driver, as he leaned next to him when the van tilted. Furious, he freaked out on the partly inebriated fellow, whose eyes were indeed red from having had however many gulps of alcohol. I started praying for my life, as we couldn’t stop in the middle of nowhere on the mountain to take another transport, which infrequently ran in that direction.
The weather was very chilly when we finally arrived. Although trying to escape the socially depraved areas to be in more mode of goodness and freshness of the Himalayas, where we landed, wasn’t any much better from what we had left behind. Hilly and very wanting, it fell into the same category. We spent the few weeks watching an entertainment network to cope with the uncomfortable coldness, as I continued to get electrical shocks from the immersion heater placed in a bucket of water to have a shower.
Not every place I had to cook, as when we viewed the kitchen facilities in the Hotel we stayed, like we habitually had to do on previous occasions, it was clean enough to have a hot meal from. Here I learnt about the benefit of LSD, a yoga pose to aid digestion, by lying left-side-down without sleeping, to take the pressure off the liver for twenty minutes after eating. I had a few Sikkimese dresses made and walked about a little in the village, but the excitement being a little too much in such a rainy, damp area, we returned to Calcutta with a much sober driver.
Our next terminus was Jagannātha Puri, on the Bay of Bengal. Sitting by the roadside as we made our way to catch our train, was an elderly Indian gentleman, chanting on his japa mala and wearing the same neck beads as ours. He called us over to ask who we were and where we were heading off to. He soon revealed that he was a qualified palm reader and subsequently, looked at our palms. He told me to chant more and that we should stay no more than two weeks in Puri. We couldn’t get to ask him why, as our train was about to leave. We gave him some donation and left to catch our ride.
Arriving in Puri dhāma, another holy place, we were greeted with a statement written on the side of the Hotel we tried to book ourselves into. The ingenious interpretation of the English vocabulary read, ‘these bicycles, for tourist permission only. If you taking, you will be pay for!!’ Beside which, a security guard in brown uniform stood, wearing typical flip-flops and holding a stick, watching over the bicycles stacked up against the wall. A case of ‘if you notice this notice, you will notice that this notice, does not notice you.’ Therefore, why bother noticing, such a notice.
Again, moving from one Hotel to another, because of the uncontrolled speech of my partner, thinking it was his duty to educate others towards the mode of goodness, had us making more enemies than friends. We eventually got a Hotel directly opposite the beach. In one swelter, the forceful waves almost broke my spine and pull me into the ocean.
On another occasion on the same stretch of sand near the beach, I was buying green coconut water, locally called daab. The unsatisfied seller, started chasing me on the beach. Holding a machete in her swarthy skinny hands and looking like a witch, with unkempt hair swaying in the breeze, she speedily walked towards me, as I was going back to where my partner was basking in the sun. I started running and she too picked up speed after me, until I was rescued by a few English speaking locals who deflected her lunatic advances, shouting at her to go back to her hovel.
Trying to find yet another Hotel from where we were, to be directly on the beach front, I had to avert my eyes from a raunchy couple in a room, a concierge thought was vacant for us to stay. All three of us, suddenly enveloped in a morally awkward moment, when our six eye balls fell on a tourist, engaging in graphic ‘horizontal jogging.’ The shy concierge could disintegrate into thin air from embarrassment. Nothing sacred anymore in the holy dhāma and practically under the nose of the famous Jagannātha Puri Temple.
It was our sign, or rather mine, to leave at the end of the two weeks warning, that had been playing on my mind, when my partner left me waiting near the main road, under a mango tree to get a transport. Already shell socked as I was, a being, having a distorted face without any hands and only one foot, moved towards me on a crutch. Frightened out of my wits to see him suddenly appear from nowhere, I almost wet myself. We eventually managed to put some money, afterwards, in his shirt pocket and left…