July 2008


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The pure ignorance of the pounding rain. The sense that this world was one never inhabited by anyone except me. These were those predawn hours. Under a thatched police hut we took shelter during the hardest part of the downpour. The police had guns, and no one looked friendly, or surprised that I was there. A man came with books, books about Sai Babba, he wanted me to buy them. he told me that the night life was a poor imitation of the west, and that he had lived in Los Angeles for a while. He asked what I was doing and I told him searching for a fortune. Which may have not been al true, but it seemed right. He remarked that is was strange to come to a place so poor. But that it also made sense. We agreed that I wasn’t going to buy any books, and I waited in a line that didn’t move. The line was a bore, so I left, and bought a little bottle of coke. It was sweet and beyond anything else it was familiar. It was those precious sips of home. Those memories of poolside parties, or roof tops, or French bistros, or hungover mornings in argentina, those sweet bubble were incongruent with everything else around me. they were the west. They were a life bottled and packaged and ready to be sipped away. Burped out. And ultimately recycled and filled again.

 

The tiredness was there. And getting home should not have been too hard. To the end of the temple. A left. Until the passage way. through those serpintine slums snaking here and there until the end; where the squat concrete building stood. Where the retards who had spent a life choking on black smoke in their hovel slept in the doorway, past them – to the lobby where the guard could never understand where I was going. to the sixth floor. Walking because the elevator almost never worked. Through the big thick wooden door with six locks. High stepping over a friends wifes uncle, who slept on the floor because he had given me my bed. And finally to bed.

 

The bed is short. Shorter than me and my legs dangle badly. Curling up is an option, but with the hardness of the paper thin mattress, lying on my side grew to be a bore. There is only the blur of the fan, the coughing of the tube lights, the twelve swithes connected to nothing, the fifteen places to plug in something, the mirror and my own reflection. The sun s coming up over the bay. The rain has stopped, only for a little. And the gray blu of Bombay and dawn asks to be walked in.

By light the horror is clear. There is no sidewalk. It is shattered with men covered in cardboard. There is only garbage and the stink of the fetid water. There are only slums, and stores selling cokes. There is only fifteen ways to get lost. And buses with complicated ticketing systems. The first cars are running now. soon the honking will start and never end. Getting back to bed will be harder now, which way was it? back that way? to the right? But there was a circle, and everything looks the same. the streets are clogged by the time the temple is re-found. And neither the uncle nor his mother, who has cooked breakfast, can understand walking in the predawn.

 

The bed is hard but never was there something so ready to catch the depth of my fall to sleep. It is not a deep slumber. There are too many nightmares of outside, and the honking is still there. The rain is pouring still, and the humidity making it feel like if I wasn’t wet, I would still be swimming.

 

I wake up and the uncle mother, my nana, my baba, she is looking at me with one thousand year old eyes. It is startling this time, and every other time for the rest of my stay in Prabadhevi.

 

 

That first morning was believable, the rain, the thousands of men lining the streets in drenched rags, the clanging of one million bells, the little firs, the bottles of soda lining the gutters; the strange and penetrating darkness. Sleep was impossible. The time change, the noise, the rain, the absolute knowing that only outside was the temple, and before the sun rose the staircase was descended and everything that was about that first Bombay morning became cemented. Walking too far was sure to leave everything awash in horrid miscalculations. So the steps became measured, and it was clear that this was India, that this was everything never imagined, or even begun to thought about. What had been imagined? Impossible to say now. but really, what had been imagined? A city, traffic, poverty, good food, some Indian girls, not much, the flight was long and many thoughts processed over and over, though none of them actually about the final destination, none of them about this place.

 

There is the temple, which is not much: covered in Christmas lights, potted with dirt.

 

 

we tested the first atom bomb. we though the atmosphere might catch on fire. it didn’t. all that happened were mushroom clouds. three weeks later the Enola Gay flew over Japan. but that first one was where it was at, man. the atmosphere could have caught on fire.

ALIVE!

 

 

 

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