Adventures in India

This is an open journal of some of the things I see and think about while trying to find a place to live in India. It may or may not be interesting. I make no promises.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Kama Baba

The boys in India are beautiful. Large eyes, long lashes, finely sculpted features, with brilliant white teeth. They invariably have broad shoulders and narrow hips, lean like young race horses, they move with their own graceful rhythm. The young swamis can be especially radiant, giving one the impression they possess tremendous inner power.

This morning I was returning from my favorite Kali temple near the river when I had a nice encounter with a baba of transcendent beauty.

This Kali temple is very special, because the priest tending the shrine is a Love Dog. He told me to come to the special 8:30 puja last night, and I went. Arriving late, I kicked off my sandals and stood in the street across from the tiny cupboard of a temple, the priest inside ringing a large bell with his left hand and circling a flaming brass stand in front of the black image of Kali with the other. A youth is pounding hard on a large drum and there is an electric energy in the air. There is a steady stream of passersby through the small throng of devotees in the street. Some stop to say a prayer, others do not. The beggars loiter around the edge. No begging during puja. At one point the ringing of the bell and the pounding of the drum blend together to become the singing voice of a woman, The priest has long grey hair and beard, not a brahmin. He is dressed in a red lungee cloth around his waist and a red shawl draped elegantly over his shoulder. He has a kind, peaceful face. Moving from Kali's image to Durga's, his face shows complete absorption in love. He turns to the street and shakes the flame at an image of Hanuman across the way, and then to the river, to pay Her homage. And the bell is ringing steadily and each note is like a spark of pure devotion flying up to Heaven, and the drumming is sexy and dangerous and howls out its hunger to fuck that ringing bell in the blood and sweat and crushed flowers in the streets. Then I notice the tears on the priest's face as he is waving the flames before Mother's image again. Then he picks up a fan and begins to fan the image, his shoulders shaking with emotion, tears gently sliding down his face. He seems to be helplessly drowning in love, shrugging his shoulders, laughing gently, then crying even more gently as he carefully enacts the ancient gestures of devotion. I imagine them like two old lovers grown so comfortable and cozy with one another there is no longer need for speech. Yet both still carry out the daily rituals of intimacy just for the sheer joy of it. As the ritual reaches its crescendo we all lean forward with hands clasped, trying to warm our hearts by this sacred fire.

After the puja, the priest was giving out prasadam, blessed food, and people were eager to get it. I was too late to get the puffed rice he was handing out(getting change for the collection plate), so the priest handed me a little cookie laying on the altar at Kali Ma's feet. I took it with great reverence...a special prasad.

This morning I returned to give a garland of 108 red hibiscus flowers and another of marigolds. When I made an offering to the priest he gestured at the beggars and said, "Every day we give lunch here for the poor. Every day at 2:00."

He asks me what I plan to do. I tell him. He asks Mother Kali's blessing on it. But I tell him that what I really want is to have the intense devotion to Kali that he has. He seems bashful, but blesses me any way.

So, as I am returning from the Kali temple I pass a cave temple to Shiva, where I gave some babas a little cash last night and one invites me in to spend time with the main baba.

He is the radiant Shivite baba. Huge eyes, scraggly beard, matted dreds coiled on the top of his head, yellow painted brow. Achingly beautiful face. When he smiles you can see his bad teeth. His attendants tell me that he is 32 years old, and has not sat down in 12 years. I want to add that he is also a hottie.

He leans against a bamboo staff, arms languidly folded behind his head. His torso is like a swimmers, toned and flexible. He looks down at me, I look up at him. I fall effortless in love with him. He looks out at the river and says telepathically, "So what took you so long?" He indicates his legs are bothering him, I offer to rub them, but am informed that that distinction belongs to another devotee. Whenever I make any sign of obeisance to the standing baba, he smiles slightly and gestures to one of the images of God, as if to say, "Hey man, its not my doing." An unsavory sadhu sitting down next to the wall in the cave asks me if I smoke. At first I demure, but all the sadhus know the truth. Finally I say I do smoke, to help me pray to Kali. So ganja is produced, prepared, and I am instructed in the fine art of chillum use by the ragged sadhus. A chillum is a hollowed stone cone in which ganja is smoked.

We all smoke together. Then we sit in silence. Finally Baba's leg rubber begins a chant to Rama, and Baba joins in, radiating this clear, vital sort of love...musky and bestial. He is a perfect incarnation of Lord Shiva, Sacred Cock, Lover of the Cosmos, and the Destroyer of the Cosmos...clearing out the clutter in the attic of Time.

I tell the unsavory sadhu that I think Baba looks like a king, and that I wish I was his wife or servant. The unsavory sadhu laughs and says, "You see good!" The Baba endures my trying to touch his feet, but lets me look at him all I want. I pray to him as if he was Shiva in the flesh. Because it is the truth. God is the only reality.

I offer the Baba some money. He takes it. He invites me for food tonight. I will go. Sitting in that cave at night with that beautiful baba, smoking ganja out of a chillum and listening to the river, this will be a good thing.

Maybe I will give away everything and go live in that cave and serve that beautiful baba.

I can think of many worse ways to spend one's time.

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