Now, I always intended for India to be a healing experience for me.
Of course I couldn’t have predicted the current state of our world while navigating various political, cultural and personal problems out there, in the sticky throngs of Africa.
Looking back however, I regard my time traveling within Africa more and more as the study portion of what has now, unfortunately become, a testing period.
My aptitude toward resourcefulness, how to best demonstrate my devotion to personal and communal freedoms, and how to deal with authority figures, are all being tested here.
I left Auroville for Pondicherry, the day the Matrimandir closed its gates to all visitors, until further notice.
A statement in itself.
From Pondicherry I took a bus to Tiruvannamalai, bought three samosas at a roadside stand, prayed they were clean and wouldn’t give me violent diarrhea, boarded another bus within ten minutes then was whisked away to Bangalore.
I arrived at the Bangalore train station that very night.
The train to Delhi, some two thousand kilometers north, didn’t leave until the next day.
I visited at least fifteen sourounding hotels, all of which told me they were full. Dispite a wall of room keys hanging behind them.
Hotel speak for availability.
I learned later that the Indian Government issued a decree that all hotels were prohibited from renting rooms to tourists.
Their solution to, I’m assuming, curbing the migration of potentially infected people.
I will comment more on that strategy in my next piece, The Best Way To Stop Corona Virus, Is To Get Corona Virus.
Bold I know.
After hours of roaming seedy hotels by foot I decided to take it on the chin and sleep on the train stations floor.
I found a place among other sleeping people, laid my Moroccan carpet down and began filling out a standard application form I was submitting the following day to book my ticket to Delhi.
A cop with a large stick and face mask startled me by banging the metal tip of his stick on the dirty stone floor before me.
He mumbled something.
“What?” I asked knowing what the problem was.
“Mmmuph mummmph mmm meeph” he said visibly annoyed.
“I can’t understand you” I said.
He must of been a powerful wizard because within seconds there were five police banging their sticks all around my carpet, some were even kicking the sleeping people I was in the midst of.
Another man, who wasn’t wearing a face mask told me to leave the station.
“I can’t” I told him, “None of the hotels will rent to me”
“If you don’t leave now we will have to evacuate the station”
I packed up my typewriter and my carpet, found a stairwell to the first floors Cloak Room, where train passengers retire their bags for the day.
I payed a thinly mustached indian at the counter two hundred and fiftey rupees to sleep on a chair until morning.
At eight o’clock that morning, I was first in line to buy a unreserved tourist ticket.
The woman working told me there were no tickets.
“There are no trains going to Delhi?‘ I repeated, slightly exaggerated.
“There’s a cue of six ahead of you, come back at five” she said
“Can I buy a tourist ticket for a train to Delhi please”
“You should go home” she told me.
Ahh, I thought, finally some fucking truth.
“I’m trying to” I said,
I’m going to the airport in Delhi, then I’m flying home.”
Welcome to the bullshit party Bobby.
She sold me a AC 2 ticket to Delhi leaving at 8 pm that night.
When I finally entered the train there were no curtains or blankets.
Everyone on the train looked like Sub Zero or Scorpion.
The older people I was sharing my quarters with became visibly agitated the moment I assumed my top bunk.
Fidgeting with their masks and leaving their bunks repeatedly.
Taking the bull by the horns I told who I assumed was their son, that I have been in india for close to a month, and can assure him, I’m fit as fuck.
“Do you have a doctors note?” he asked
“What?” I said surprised.
“Do you have a doctors note” he repeated
“If I have Corona Virus I got it here in India” I said.
“If I have it, you have it”
Within ten minutes the train stopped, three seemingly higher ups argued in my bunk about what to do with me.
One was inspecting my ticket, the other my passport.
It was at this point I decided to eat my chips.
Because everyone was speaking anxious Hindi, I asked them what was going on?
“We need to test you” the ticket agent holding my passport said.
“Why am I being singled out here” I asked accusingly.
“I’ve been in India for over three weeks with no symptoms, and you’re trying to kick me off a train!”
The man who was clearly in charge said, “We’re not going to treat you any different than everyone else, that would be wrong”
I thanked him and they left.
Including the old people and their son.
I had a whole quarter to myself.
For a day and a half.
Party in AC 2!
Bring more chips y’all!
Things are going to get harder, I suspected.
I have to get to Rishikesh soon.
I arrived in Delhi at six in the morning.
I tried buying a ticket to Haridwar but the agent refued to sell me one.
He said the trains were shut down.
A verifiable lie.
I took a tuk tuk to the Old Delhi Train Station, waited in line for forty minutes, by the time I was three customers from the clerk, he closed the window.
Everyone bolted and formed a new line at the new window the agent went to.
These Indians are racist as fuck, I thought.
It was around now, at 8:30 in the morning, That I started talking to myself.
I started narrating things in third person, as I do.
I left the station and took a rickshaw, peddled by an old man to a place he said sold bus tickets to Rishikesh.
The bus leaves tonight at 12:30. Nope, I said.
I got out of the rickshaw, and hailed a tuk tuk driven by a boy and his dad, a man with a long white beard and a red touque.
Being a Life Aquatic fan, I considered this a dope omen.
“I want to take a bus to Rishikesh“, I told him.
“150 rupees” he said.
“Sure, but I want to leave today.”
He drove me to another private bus station where the guy standing in front, spitting beetle nut like a puking vampire, told me his bus leaves at 11pm.
That all the government buses are shut down.
“The government buses are shut down?” I repeated suspiciously.
He looked away from me shaking his head yes.
“Take me to the government bus station” I said to Indian Bill Murray.
He drove to a giant station called Kashmir Gate.
Instead of pulling into the lot, he parked in front and asked the various busses leaving the station where they were going.
Three busses later he hit the Rishikesh bus bingo and motioned for me to come.
The driver of the bus let me board despite several nervous passengers squirming in their seats.
I settled in for a six hour ride north.
When the bus stopped in Rishikesh I was almost there.
I hired a tuk tuk man for a 100 rupees to drop me at the Laxman jula bridge.
He reluctantly did as I asked.
I walked across the bridge and began looking for my old haunts.
A place I stayed four years ago for a little more that a dollar a night.
The buildings multiple doors were locked.
I rang the buzzer.
When a small girl answered I asked if she had any rooms.
She shook her head no, and closed the door.
Shit, I thought.
I went to several other places, all refused to rent to me.
After asking one guy if he had rooms, he said, “Yeah, I have lots of rooms, but I cant rent you any of them”
“What am I sopossed to do” I asked
“Call the Government and complain” he said smiling.
Luckily for me the next place I tried rented me a room off the books.
Despite the trouble they could get into.
I paid for two weeks, unpacked my bags then took a deep breath.
I made it.
The following day the police locked down the bridge and imposed a curfew.
Now everyone, including me retires to the roof tops to bang pots and scream.
I like to dance in my indian panties while listing to Tame Impalas new album, The Slow Rush.
Hey, that me.
I have a feeling I might have to escape this place tho.
The police are acting strange.
My contingency plan is to leave my hotel at night and make my way to Dharmsala.
Be the Batman.
If anyone can protect me from entitled Indian police imposing made up protection protocols, its the Dalai Lama and his army of monks.