By the time of  this trip, I was a mere eight years into my Native American education. Now, I say ‘mere’ on account of in the old ways of that world, a typical education is ten years in ‘novice’ stage, beginning with puberty, followed by twenty years of ‘journeyman’ and by the time you were forty years of age, the advanced levels of knowledge were made available. By now I understood from that world, certain dreams were considered to be time travel. And I’d had a dream, but more on that later.

My first week in India was spent in New Delhi, being a more typical western tourist, getting to know the strange lot the sisters has assembled. We visited the ‘Red Fort’ where some locals treated us to an impromptu show:

Red_Fort

Walking the rampart, overlooking the large lawn, we heard shouting .. “Magic show, magic show!” .. and looking down, I stopped and watched. There were three men, one with a drum pounding a beat, another the master of ceremony shouting out to us and a third guy doing some levitation act; he was wearing a huge tarpaulin like a poncho, only his head visible in the center. The entire assemblage of human integrated canvass rose into the air like some strange kite getting off the ground; a large, circular wing of horizontally spread cloth, with head protruding from the center, rising in a slow spin to a height of what looked like five meters. It really was quite impressive and someone wondered aloud ‘should we give them something’ and I stated I’d not bought a ticket to come and watch this, and we moved on as though the show were meant to be free.

Some of the characters we met in India, not all, are fair game in this essay, but for the westerners along on this trip, I will provide alias. This is on account of personal history; not everyone would need or want public association with a persona such as myself.

Aside from the sisters, I will deal with them in a separate chapter, our crew consisted of these westerners:

One Canadian, a Christian minister shaky in his faith; one hard-core but very cool dyke from Basin, Montana; one pot smoking astrologer from New York; one very rich, manic widow of a former president of a major capitalist corporation, personally acquainted with Imelda Marcos; her sensible grown daughter; and myself.

And (other than the sisters) we had these people along, we met in India:

One opium addicted, privileged Englishman who’d run away from his ‘proper’ mother (who was on familiar terms with Indira Gandhi) & had spent the preceding twenty years living in India as a sadhu; one Bihari musician who’d been subverted to a certain degree by long time acquaintance with the sisters; one Tibetan exile from the north of India; one Muslim bus driver for part of the trip & his associate, a Hindu cook.

After the Red Fort, I tagged along with the astrologer and the minister, to have a look around the neighborhood in the vicinity of Hotel Imperial. Sikh palm readers nabbed them. I said ‘forget it, I’m not in on this’ as they were hustled into an ally to have their fortunes read. As I waited for them, out on the main street, there was this man wanted to sell me a sort of small crochet tool, I had no need for at all. He had them packaged in discarded plastic tampon sleeves. I was this persistent entrepreneur’s prisoner because I was not willing to abandon the astrologist & minister to their fate; as a Sikh would time to time would emerge from the alley to wave at me, insisting my friends wanted me to join them. I refused, figuring they’d get out alive, at least, if I, the living witness, was not foolish enough to take the bait. Both of them were fleeced.

This was the event that caused an early executive decision on my part; I would go native, to avoid the incessant pestering westerners typically endure, from the wandering street vendors and fortune tellers, not to mention likely pick-pockets and robbers. As a younger man, I had turned black in Vietnam’s tropical sun, my Roma blood, no doubt. With the purchase of native clothing, I knew I could do this.

‘Bummer John’, the sobriquet I will give to the pot-smoking astrologer, was our trips first casualty. After the fortune tellers had practically robbed him, Jasper (his real name), the opium addicted Englishman, took Bummer John to a local New Delhi opium den where Bummer perused the menu and ate too large a dose of hashish laced with opium. Fleeced twice, now having taken on Jasper’s opium habit upkeep, and horrified at the Indian lower class poverty he witnessed over several days of ongoing high from the drug he’d ingested, this sheltered western mentality went into depression he never came out of, throughout our trip. At least he didn’t kill himself.

Our trip’s second casualty was the Canadian minister. He almost immediately contracted malaria and had to go home. God must have loved him.

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My Madcap Adventure (all episodes)