01 April 2008

My final blog entry

My friends, the most unexpected thing happened to me today. With very little to do and a completely diminished interest in sightseeing, I opted to spend the day reading in one of Delhi's "gardens". Naturally, all the shady places were occupied by extended families and kinship groups, so I had to settle for a partially-shaded, sun-dappled bench by the main thoroughfare. Naturally, I was too distracted to read. Not long after I sat down, a guy dressed like a holy man--who turned out to be a holy man--sat down beside me. I have to admit: I did not want to talk to him. He had with him one of those little holy man baskets they all carry around, with the assorted paraphernalia of extortionate blessings. So I kept my head in my book ("Romance" by Barbara Fuchs), hoping he would ignore me. He didn't. But he didn't offer to sell me a blessing, either. It turned out that he spoke English perfectly (normally, the holy men are only able to say "money! money!") and just wanted to chat. It further turned out that he used to be a university professor--already an austere enough life, I reckon--before relinquishing his post to become an ascetic. At first, I totally didn't believe any of this and kept waiting for the scam to kick in. But he never brought up the subject of money, except to say that he only begs from Indians, because he doesn't think foreigners should give money to holy men if they aren't Hindu or Indian themselves. To be honest, this only made me more suspicious, but that was the last any mention of it was made. Really, the conversation was quite interesting, one of the most interesting I've had for as long as I can remember. We talked about academic life, India, the meaning of it all--the usual sorts of things you might expect. We talked for so long, we eventually got a chance to move into the shade when space opened up. I think he appreciated the opportunity either to talk to a foreigner or to speak English or maybe just to have a sophisticated conversation with anyone who didn't dismiss (or revere) him as just another holy man. In fact, he went to great lengths to downplay his "holy man" status, and eventually I felt like I could have been talking to anyone. Then he did the most unexpected thing: he invited me to join him, if only for awhile, in his nomadic holy man life. Of course, I was taken aback by this, and my mind was already coming up with excuses when I suddenly blurted out, "Yes!" I did start hemming and hawing a bit, but he was extremely reassuring about all of my reservations. Above all, I have an extremely good feeling about him, and I've come to trust my instinct more and more lately (poor judgment on overnight buses notwithstanding). I don't actually know what this means, how it will work, or what he expects me to wear (not gold and saffron rags, I hope), but I decided it's an opportunity I shouldn't pass up. I have plenty of time left before I'm supposed to be home--if I even decide to come home--and I've always been fascinated by asceticism, the itinerant, and holy monk vow of poverty guys. He's even given me a "spiritual" name already: Satrang, which means "rainbow" (it rained this morning in Delhi, and we both remembered seeing a rainbow in the sky, hence...). Unfortunately, my friends, if I'm going to do this, it means cutting myself off from my usual comforts of life. I want this experience to be as real and meaningful as possible, since I may never get another chance, and that means trying hard--and it will be especially hard for me--not to be a hypocrite about it, like all the smoking, drinking, drug-abusing, scumbag backpacker hippies I'm currently surrounded by. So this will be my final blog entry. Thank you all so much for following me in spirit on my adventures, and I do hope we meet again, someday, in real life. Pray for me, my friends. I will surely be doing the same for you.

In peace and love,

Satrang

3 comments:

kajori said...

I hope this is a joke...

Emma said...

Prima aprilis!

...right, Satrang?!

Jhenn said...

zing!