it's a been a long road since marx (which i still read) and ayn rand (which i don't) and yesterday for perhaps the most obvious time in my life i met a guy who does magic. he works in a bank or some other kafkian profession by day and sits in his basement under a Huge (worth of the adjective "Indian-style") painting of Mataji and tells people the future.
mataji is a goddess. i don't know much about her but she has ten arms and many of them have weapons. the paintining his basement shrine, which i had plenty of time to study, features her trampling the dead bodies of two slain foes, making touching her feet in respect slightly more difficult than usual. a super-size garland of flowers adorns the super-size painting (think church doorway) and a sheated sword covers most of the altar. there's a lot of incense going -- the points i would have been "on the verge of tears" at any other ritual i was actually crying at this one.
homeboy, ashwinbhai, is a devotee of mataji and has received a special gift from her. he can tell the future (or some version of it, i guess) and he can see in the distant. he knows where you live and what your house looks like and can tell you some of what goes on there.
the beautiful social part of this whole affair is that everybody comes to this guy with their little and big problems and he publicly questions them, offers advice, jokes, and generally makes everyone relax. he's one of the best-natured gujarati's i've met. totally chill. i guess a gift from god will do that for you.
imagined conversation with an american #1
ank: ... his gift from god
imam: do you believe it?
ank: what's there to believe?
imam: that he has a gift from god.
ank: well, that's what they call it.
imam: well how do you know?
ank: i dont. he does. its not my gift, dude.
but now i do know. worried parents approach (everyone is seated, they scoot forward when young couple leaves) and ask about their babu (son). it's exam time, so everyone in india is stressed.
"we're worried about our son's studies".
homebody has a little pile of whole grain wheat and a white sheet in front of him. he plays with the wheat, throwing it and collecting it over and over on the sheet. stares into the distance.
he lives in a hostel
"yes" look of shock and smile
on the third floor
"yes" further shock surprise
his exam today went very well. stop worrying. pray to mataji
and so on. my mom had told me. she came last month and he described our house in sequim. big mountains and trees and barn and the whole bit. she came with my cousin who is occassionally depressed or otherwise down. he looks at her and says "you do puja with the wick vertical. why? it's causing you problems. stop"
she's shocked. she's never told anyone how she does the puja. everyone in the family/caste does it with the wick horizontal. she decides to change.
another couple comes. they talk about money or property and are about to leave. before they get up he addresss the woman. "a while ago you used oil for your puja instead of ghee, to save money. it's a bad idea" she turns bright red. they leave.
a man asks about two hundred thousand points a muslim owes him in surat. it was four years ago. will he get the money. ashwinbhai asks "gorandur road?" no, he says, he used to live in XXX and now i dont know. ashwin repeats "gorandur road." no, he says, i dont kn.... "gorandur road". he stares into the wheat. "is where he is. you'll get half the money. dont try for all"
the point is my mom took me to see my future because, well, she's a litle worried about my future. so i get up there and im like, i have nothing to ask (mr. senator) but that's fine they'll ask for me. ajaymama (uncle) introduces me. this is my sister's son
"the one who travels everywhere with just one bag." yes, yes, my sister's son. she wants to know if he'll settle down...
so my mom asks if i'll marry, settle down, where, who, etc. and homeboy says i will settle down in india. he says the stars are good for my marriage right now and for the next six months. if i marry i will marry an indian girl. after six months (diwwali season) if i'm not married i will likely become a saddhu.
a saddhu is a sort of holy man. he can be taking care of a temple or wandering the ruas moreias at dawn or making webpages for an ashram. he's taken some vows and not others, lives simply and has no restrictions on facial hair. most saddhus you find are devotees of shiva, stoned, and shoeless. they seem pretty psyched about life.
so that's my future, apparently. my own understanding of spacetime leads me to see it as a possible future among many that i and you together are constantly creating for ourselves. but i guess it's good to know. i didnt ask anything because i didnt want to know.
unfrountely, that was just part one. part two is twenty-four hours later after dinner in ajaymama's house when these five indian adults descend upon me like the eastern inquisition about whether im thinking about finding a girl and who should they start lookig and how id better get serious about settling down. i made the disastrous mistake of not ignoring them, involved myself in conversation, and only the promise of ice cream and meditation kept me afloat during the ensuing melee.
but im okay, still single, not quite indian, and planning on walking 380 km, from ahmedabad to dandi, starting sunday.