Ask me if I’ll miss India and I’d say yes. I’ll miss India because back home old people don’t double ride bicycles, people who look like the general picture of God, with a big white beard and bright white clothes don’t ride scooters with a huge smile. Old ladies here feel comfortable enough to squat on the sidewalk if they need to take a pee. Strangers greet you with their chosen name of God, and yoga is everywhere. Interacting with cows and dogs and pigs daily has given me a clearer look at being a vegetarian. I won’t miss the fact that last night it was 30 degrees at 2 a.m. Or all the ants that have walked into my keyboard and never came out, probably lost in the matrix of the mother board, the giant wasps or the horns and traffic in general.
I’ve been bitten by ants, mosquitoes, pushed by bulls, barked at by dogs, cohabited with geckos and spiders, had a monkey land on my dinner table and now a large Gray langur has intimidated me into running from my dinner. And after I gathered my wits and tried to scare him off I was scarred mentally and physically when he jumped and scratched me with his fangs showing making growling sounds. After that I was afraid to go out my front door, then slowly started hanging out on the roof again. But not before finding a strong bamboo stick and starting to learn some defensive moves from YouTube.
In a way I’m grateful that monkey jumped on my head, he kind of knocked some sense into me. It’s my last few days here and one of the things I was hoping to do in India was learn some self defence. I was letting the days drift away, not adhering to my own advice of ending as strong as you start. Yoga was getting kind of boring to be frank. Now I can combine my roof time with some stretching, mindfulness, pushups and bo staff training. The first day I was able to do a two hand wrist spin and now I’m getting faster at it and not dropping the staff as much.
When he jumped at my head it was a wake up call to what Nature is capable of. I assumed monkeys would be more scared of us than we are of them. And I underestimated his hunger, this guy was not cute enough to beg and probably just as tired of the heat. I saw him come down out of the tree and march along the edge of the roof, thinking maybe he was on his way somewhere but he came straight to me. He did not hesitate to bear his teeth and growl, no asking at all, then jumped, using my head like a skipping stone to land behind me causing my plate to hit the ground. And I was out of there, far enough away to watch him eat my dinner which was really just raw cauliflower with some salt and chilli powder on the side.
He made me wish I had doused the veggies with chilli powder. He made me think of revenge and how stupid that would be. He made me mistrust monkeys and see how fragile our existence is without cooperation. He gave me a scare of potentially having rabies, which is fatal! How insane is that? It takes just two weeks to die from it, and although he probably didn’t have rabies it was not worth the risk to ignore the blood coming from my arm.
Diseases are different here, polio is still a hot topic and every year diarrhea and pneumonia kill millions of people.
After asking around it was decided that I’d get an injection right away. I walked to the only doctor I know since the hospital was closed on Sunday. This is a clinic which used to be a dog food store and is now half a dog food store, half a clinic and a little bit of a health food store. The doctor there is young and I’ve met him a few times over the last month. He suggested I get the course of five injections, they are 320 rupees each, so a fraction of what it would cost me in Canada.
I went home to debate the idea of being injected in India and after reading about the symptoms and final end to what rabies can do to a human I ran back and said lets do it. This clinic is just like any other store on the main strip, it is a big room with a garage door that opens to the road. There is a counter and behind it sits the doctor facing the street. Outside are cows and horses walking by or standing in the road, motor bikes driving on either side, dirt, garbage, things burning, people selling food, all sorts of commotion.
He takes the needle out and puts it into the container which is full of dead rabies virus and tells me to sit down, the only seat is a step ladder at the top of a stairwell…So as he is fiddling with the needle I’m looking out at the street and watching people stop and see what he’s doing, looking back at me. Also I’m texting my friend in Toronto telling him exactly whats going on and the doctor comes over to my left shoulder and as I press send he just jabs me with it, no cleaning of the surface no OK this might hurt and I look over at him like what the fuck!? And he’s saying something to me, you can hold the cotton ball here right? So I do and he goes back to his seat and starts writing out instructions and dates for me to come back. Immediately I have to put my phone away because the light from it is bugging me out and darkness is creeping in from the sides of my eyes. I sit up straight and breathe deeper and think this cannot be happening, I’m going to pass out! No, I can control it, I won’t pass out. Nope, I look over at him and he’s saying something about me being fine but I can’t hear anything and can only see whats directly in front of me, which is one of the employees. I make eye contact with him and shake my head. Then step down from the seat and crouch on the ground and look around, sweating, deaf, wondering whats going on. After a couple minutes I’m OK to stand up and lean on the counter as he explains when I’ll have to come back for more…Then I leave, feeling slightly better that at least I’ve done something to combat any chance of rabies, just in case.
The second time was much better, and we’ve become friends since then. I’ve been invited to hang out there any time, and he often asks his customers if I can photograph them. He said there is only one other guy in the area with the same camera and he charges 1000 rupees for three photos. He introduced me to his wife and some friends, it’s been a good experience overall…
Sometimes its hard to leave your house especially if you have moustache for the first time, a scarf around your head thats been soaked in cold water to keep you cool and a walking stick you’re practicing bo staff spins with. After a long day in the heat I was lying in bed when outside became dark a few hours too early. So went to the roof and saw a sand storm kicking up, and the sky turn grey and black. After the sand settled I went down to the river to watch the show.
The clouds were the ultimate what the fuck, I’d never seen anything like it before, a hundred little flames, turned into swirls over the mountain, as the sun coloured them dark orange mixed with black. Then pushing into blue at the edge of the clearing sky were what looked like a huge row of teeth, extending into their roots. I sat in awe for hours as the wind pushed me from all sides. At one point as lightning was striking over the mountains looking to my right, along the path by the river a sadhu stops as wind picks up his flowing fabric wrapped around his waist and he does a Marilyn Monroe, holding his skirt down in the wind.
Earlier that day I took a walk to find some upma, my favourite South Indian breakfast. Just about 2 km away from my apartment, in the direction towards the main town, far away from any tourists. As I was walking a sadhu on a motor bike offered me a ride, I talked to him and considered it but declined, two more steps and I found the Madras Cafe. The food was OK, and the bill for umpa and tea was 105, I gave him 110 and he gave me a Kit Kat bar as change.
Later I found a better staff, started twirling it and dropped it in the sewer by mistake. So I bought a bottle of water to wash it off. Then explored the alleys of the main city, took photos, and then came across a fabric shop and remembered I have two weddings to attend this summer. So I selected some material and got measured and in two days I’ll have a custom kurta.
After I ran out of money I walked home taking photos, talking to strangers, mostly sadhus. Seems like if you don’t shave and carry a stick you’re more approachable. Maybe they see a little of themselves in me. I know sometimes I envy their lifestyle. Eating from ashrams, sleeping where ever they want, what else do you need? I don’t think they have a retirement plan.
Walking through the bus stop as I always have to, a large group of people sit on the gravel hill cooking and eating their lunches. Men and women and children all dressed in amazing colours and cloths huddle in groups. A few of them are standing around the water pump washing their hands, pigs run among them. To my right on the highest gravel hill a group of men stand out in their striking white outfits with red turbans, bare feet, squatting or sitting cross legged, beards and grey moustaches, passing a chillum around. Weed smoke clouding all around them.
On the morning after my mischievous monkey mayhem I wake up early to find a stick and see the sun rise. I walk to the roofed sitting area by the river and look out, the sun has risen but not above the mountains. The green trees all around the elevation are glowing with yellows and orange. And the river rushes below, down where the bodies are burned. Sitting quietly when three people come with their cell phone playing Hindi music. I react and almost get up but decide to stay for what I came. To see the sun peak over the range. One guy starts doing push ups, elevated ones then on his knuckles then tries to get into pull up position but he’s too heavy and short. Then he gets his friend to take lots of photos of him flexing all the while dumb rap music is coming from his phone. I spot a stick and leave.
Going down into the funeral grounds was kind of creepy. There were kids playing by the river and people working in the early morning hours before the heat sets in. There are lots of old clothes and artifacts laying buried in the sand. The stick I saw was much too big and soaking in a dirty puddle. On the way back I found a bamboo staff and as I ascended the stairs the most golden light shined back behind where I was with the muscle man. This time I look up to a kaleidoscope of colours. A bus must have dropped off a bunch of Indians and they were all dressed in saris of flowing flowery colours standing straight up in the wind. All waiting for a security guard to guide a family of geese from the field to the water.
I found a strip of cloth and wrapped it around the split end of my new stick and made it into a custom handle. Took a few swings with it and started home as the 6 a.m. sun rise started to heat up the day once more.
Passing the empty grounds with the sun rising from behind, to my left is a tarp with maybe 20 indians sitting cross legged in the centre. Next to them is a tractor with a big cage on the back with all their bags packed on top. Then a couple dogs fucking, pigs fighting over garbage, one massive pig is laying in the sun against a pile of stones while someone pees next to it. I walk a little further and there’s another big truck bus thing with Indians pilled all over the inside and outside climbing down for their day by the Ganges.
Walking up the alley as the golden hour turns into day another small kid is taking another shit into the gutter while his mother watches. She stands in the middle of the lane, dressed in purple and gold one hand on her waste the other on her head, he is shy but concentrating. I look at her briefly and then down as I pass. Then I take my stick home and my place is covered in little monkeys. I look up as one is checking out the jump from the fence across the lane onto my roof, where they drink water from one of our water tanks. I hope it’s not the one that leads to my shower but theres no one to ask…I look up as he’s peeing and pooing at the same time. He looks down at me and then away.