A Day in the City

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After being mildly manhandled twice in two hours (don’t worry, I am unscathed, and a bit wiser now), I finally found some true friends. Divia and her mother were eating at the same restaurant as I was. I noticed Divia shooting me curious looks the whole time she ate, peering at me over her shoulder as I read. At the end of the meal, she mustered up the courage to introduce herself and ask me a few questions. Then she invited me to join her and her gorgeous, beaming mother to a shrine nearby, devoted to Swami Vivekenanda, a disciple of Ram Krishna.

The place was housed on an acre or so of rolling grass, and the building itself didn’t fit in with that area of Delhi- it was white, with red tipped spires, and the grounds were swept and clean. We took off our shoes and entered the large hall, where a handful of people sat in meditation, or were laid out flat on their stomachs in full prostration. The entire place was comfortably silent, except for the chirping of birds in the eaves. We went and paid our respects to the gated shrine at the front of the room, and then returned to sit on the plush red carpet and meditate. Some time later, Divia motioned for me to follow her, and we went up to the front corner, where she took the lid off a pot and gestured for me to open my palms. “Holy water,” she whispered. “Drink it first, and then put it on your hair.” The water tasted like lavender, and I patted what was left in my palms onto my braided hair. Then we returned to where her mother sat, prostrated once, and took our leave. They brought me to the bookshop, where I began to understand that this Vivekenanda figure is probably quite a huge deal. There were hundreds of books there, written by and about him. I bought a few.

Later, I found my favorite restaurant and popped in for a bite. A crazy old Swiss man sat down at my table, grumbling to himself behind darkened glasses. Several minutes later, we struck up conversation that lasted nearly an hour, until a dust storm blew in, forcing us inside. Then we continued our conversation, which, among other things, touched on our individual reasons for living, and whether the planet was doomed to die. He also told me in the course of the conversation that when he took a seat at my table, he was “waiting for his killer” (I never came to understand what he meant), and that he had tried to kill himself several nights before by snorting 5 grams of heroin, which obviously didn‘t succeed. He also mentioned that he is a Zen master, and close friends with my favorite spiritual author of the moment, Eckhart Tolle.

“Ah!” I said, surprised. “You know Eckhart Tolle?” “Yes, of course,” he drawled, lighting another cigarette. “He’s a fool, a child. I told him so last time we had dinner together. I told him his book was shit.”

“Really?” I asked, a smile twitching on my lips. “And what did he say?”

He exhaled heavily, and flicked his cigarette. “He threw a bottle of whiskey at my head.”

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