My Debt Of Gratitude – Part 2: Revenge Of The Blog

“I couldn’t help but notice how optimistic your blog post was, in contrast to our conversation, which was… not… I hope the blog better reflects reality.”

-Liad (my beloved brother)

I opened my eyes to the predawn darkness. What was the matter? Why was I wide awake at 3:00 AM? The toothpaste of memory sluggishly squeezed itself out of its tube and onto my awareness. Of course. I had crashed around 6:30 PM the previous day. And, since, for a change, my body was in healthy, wealthy and wise sleeping habits, it had done the reasonable thing and awoken me once it was done resting, rather than oversleep. These habits, I’m afraid, were to prove frightfully short-lived.

So I did what any good Yogi would do, and greeted the new day with a Yoga session on the porch of a downtown Nassau motel, and even if the day wasn’t quite there yet, I felt sure it would catch up with my greeting once it arrived.


“You can’t be looking for a job here. You can’t even be here. If the police catch you here, they’ll lock you up!” explained the head of security for the bay reserved for the cruise liners, gruffly but kindly. I stood in his office, surrounded by armed men in military uniform, trying very hard not to let on that I was more guessing his words than hearing them. I’m not sure whose idea it was that I should consult the cruise-liner immigration office, but I was quickly marched across the hall, to stand before a rather dumbfounded woman, who seemed quite helpless, and perhaps a bit irate that someone was giving her grief so early in the morning.

“You can’t leave by boat! You came by plane! You leave by plane!”

She was very decisive, and who was I to argue? She may or may not have been correct. The same goes for the well-meaning security official who warned me against the police. In fact, Antoine, the policeman I had spoken to the other day was very kind. We exchanged phone numbers, and he actually texted me a few days later to see what had become of me. I wish I could have had his hat. He had a very nice hat.


I never saw Miss Wallace. I waited outside the US embassy for her to speak to me. There was no inside waiting room, don’t ask me why. There was certainly no shortage of the characteristic paranoid mass of security, you can be sure of that. I sat down and meditated as best I could in the meager shade of the awning by the entrance blockade, seeking some oh-so-elusive peace of mind.

“Go to the embassy,” everyone kept telling me. “It’s right by the big McDonald’s.” At the irony of this I chuckled, and I sighed, and, eventually, I said to myself: “Oh, what the McNuggets! I might as well go have a look.”

“Son!” my reverie was interrupted, “come on in.” I don’t remember whether they actually said ‘son,’ but that’s how my mind fills in the blanks, where the US embassy is concerned.

As I said, I never saw Miss Wallace. I walked in and was handed a phone, which I tentatively put to my ear, hoping against hope that Miss Wallace had a loud voice.

“So you ran out of money?”


“We currently have no funds for aiding people in your situation. Usually we do, but now we don’t. Do you have any relatives in the States we could talk to?”

“No! Don’t! It’s OK. I was just wondering if you could perhaps help me find a boat to take me on? I can work. I WANT A BOAT!”

I didn’t get a boat, but it wasn’t for any lack of effort on Miss Wallace’s part. She directed me to Carnival Cruise’s local agency, and I was very hopeful. It is unfortunate that by the time I arrived there, I was quite desperate to be gone from the Caribbean. They gave me expensive, inconvenient options. I opted for the flight.

There was one offer I found, that appealed to me. I was waiting for the ferry to the Ashram again, when a man walked up from the dock, followed by the sweetest puppy you ever. I was delighted when she pounced at me playfully.

“Lady, down!”

Mark and I got to talking.

“Well, I’m not going to the States, but south, to Cuba. But I am looking for someone to join me on my boat. I’ve been to Israel, and I’ll be visiting there again soon.”

“Really?” My eyes must have lit up with a cautious lustre. “How soon?”

“Oh, about a year or two.”

Why? Why, why, why did I have to sign up for school? I was tempted. I was torn. I grimaced, because I knew there was no way. “Sorry, guv.”

On the plus side, this way I don’t give my mother a heart-attack. And, don’t tell her, but I wrote down his e-mail. Who knows what the future may hold?


“Can you drive me to the airport?” Dimitri asked offhandedly.

I stared at him, blankly, waiting for him to add “I’m joking,” in the same bland tone, which he occasionally did, which was silly. I was quickly learning, however, that he never said it when you really wished he would. Like when he was talking about his divorce, for instance. Instances. Many, many instances. The expectant silence stretched on.

“I don’t have a car.”

“You can use mine.”

“I don’t have an international license.”

“This is the Bahamas! No one cares.”

“I’ve never driven on the left side of the road.”

“It’s easy!”

“OK. Your funeral. And mine.”

Dimitri. This is the first time I’ve had to present any of my characters under a false name. I am afraid, however, that his identity will still be painfully obvious to those who know him. Nevertheless, it is my duty, as Knight and Protector of the Blog, to handle the telling with as much tact as possible.

So, as tactfully as possible, I will mention that the night I spent with my friend “Dimitri” was largely responsible for my greatly agitated state, which lent to my decision to abandon my madcap schemes in favor of some safe, relaxed quality time with my family in Philadelphia.


I met Dimitri at the Sivananda Ashram. He was a fellow trainee of mine. His wife and two children would come visit him some evenings. It wasn’t until we were driving to his house that I discovered…

Did I mention he kept talking about his divorce? Did I mention that his divorce is currently ongoing? Well, it is. In addition, he was, when last I saw him, in the process of moving. To another country. His entire house was a mess. And the best part is, I didn’t know about any of this until we were halfway to his house.

“My mother in law is staying with us. Try to make her happy for me. I’m joking. Oh, and tomorrow morning I’m flying to the States,” was the coup-de-grace. “But you’re welcome to stay at my house as long as you like. You can use my car, my kayak, my computer… Not my boat or my jet-ski, unless you know how to drive them. I don’t know how, I just bought ’em.”

They did not cover this in basic training.

“Can you drive me to the airport?”

I drove him to the airport, the very next day, after spending a nerve-wracking night at his house. There was nothing wrong, specifically, just that everything there made me uneasy. When we parted, I told him I didn’t think I would avail myself of his questionable hospitality any longer. I didn’t put it quite like that.

“Really, you can stay. Everyone else is really nice. I’m the only one that’s crazy,” were his last words to me. I bade him goodbye, and drove his car back to his house. I then promptly got the hell out of there.

Writing is hard work. I thought I would wrap up my last days in the Bahamas in one post. Now I see, after a full day’s work, I couldn’t even fit them into two. What I have not yet told, will wait for another post.

There’s just one more thing I need to tell, before I close up shop for the day. “My debt of gratitude” – the stunning revelation. Are you ready? Call my brother for the drum roll! Here it comes!

My debt of gratitude is to you. Whoever you are, if you’re reading this, I thank you from the depths of my heart. And here’s why:

I can be cheerful and good-natured. In spite of this, I experience anxiety, frustration and depression just as much as any of you. More than most, probably. I curse myself for my mistakes. I look to my friends in envy. I mourn my loneliness. But I know you don’t want to read about some guy pitying himself. If you did, you would be reading classic literature. So, when I take the time to update this humble log of web, and I review the jumble of experiences I have accumulated, I try to pick out the ones that bear repeating. And suddenly, lo and behold! A wonderful adventure is born!

So I thank you all, for showing me my life can be something worth writing about.

“Whoa, whoa, wait! Wait! Is it all just a lie then?” You might be wondering. “Are you happy, or sad, or what? What’s the truth?”

You should know better by now. You and my brother, both. I am a writer. My truth is a very stylized thing.

My Debt Of Gratitude

I wrote the title to this post first, but I’m saving the revelation of its meaning in my literary arsenal, to be drawn at the opportune moment. Sit tight, folks!

Which country was I in again? I can never quite keep track of myself, so I can only imagine what it must be like for my dear readers. I believe I failed to share with you my travel plans when last I posted, which is just as well, because they didn’t work out at all as I intended.


“Yes, I’m going to find a ship that will sail me to America in exchange for my service as deckhand,” I boasted quite confidently to Noga, facing me across the table at the Ashram, which I had left a day or two prior, only to return to for frequent visits, thoroughly confusing everyone and ruining any chance of a dramatic exit.

“What??,” I said, once she was done answering, “I can’t hear you! I have carrots in my ears!”

Well, I didn’t really, but I might as well have. My ears had been blocked up for several days by then, and since the Ashram doctor affirmed there was no infection, and suggested I wait it out, I resolved to do just that. This proved, in the long run, to be bad advice, as only today, with the aid of a lovely Israeli-born doctor (they’re everywhere!) did I finally return the world to full volume. I didn’t recall it being this loud!

I wasn’t shouting, either. In fact, everyone kept asking me to speak up. I had no way of telling how loudly I was talking, since my own voice was more or less the only thing I could hear.

“Chewing is especially bad, too,” I explained. “If I chew, and you talk, all I can hear is krksch krksch krksch.

“I was asking,” Noga repeated, very slowly and clearly, “where you are staying.” She was grinning, because it was funny.

Well, this is one of those awkward moments when I balance my integrity as a reporter with the flow of the story, only to come to the conclusion that I’m not a reporter, but a writer, which makes my integrity a very stylized thing, and in any case, I can’t recall the precise order of events to tell. Call me a liar, if you will. You won’t, will you?

“I’ll give you the money, if you need,” Noga said, once I had told her of my happy go lucky travel style, because by then I had conceded that I might not succeed in catching a boat, and would, perhaps, have to change my flight ticket. I thanked her profusely, but politely declined, and I tell you all this only to return to the topic of my nightly accommodations. You didn’t think I’d forgotten, did you? See, the money’s the thing that leads us there, via a riddle:

Q: How do you walk into a restaurant and get two free meals and 100$ cash?

A: I have no idea, but that didn’t stop me.

It was, however, quite awkward. Which is no surprise, because I am quite awkward. But there’s more to it than that.

You must be wondering, of course, what would possess me to even find myself in a situation where this would be remotely possible. I don’t really know the answer, but whatever it is has been running the show for a while now.

See, this personal demon of mine, or one of its colleagues, had recently driven me out of quite sum money. This meant I was officially traveling on goodwill. I mean to say, my mother was paying. And money is, apparently, something of a sore point for me.

This is why I resolved, when making my initial plans (Well, my initial plans had been to traverse the far east more or less indefinitely, but that fell through, so I made new initial plans), that after my month-long Yoga course, I would spend another month in the Bahamas, and do so most parsimoniously.

It was the first day after the course had ended that I realized two things:

1) This isn’t easy.

2) This isn’t fun.

Well, that’s boiling it down a little too much. I had a scheme, and it involved boats. I thought, back home, I would find a boat, and sail all across the Caribbean, and have an Adventure, maybe even one with pirates. When I graduated, I thought, well, visiting my friends and family in the States would be nice, so either I go with option A, as aforementioned, OR I sail to the US, like the brave pilgrims of yore, except very much unlike them in numerous ways (Here’s a little something extra I’m sure you didn’t know).

When the time came to implement this master plan, I quickly became disillusioned. “Of course you did”, you may be thinking, “you’re perfectly ridiculous!” To which I can only plead guilty.

Local Bahamian fishermen, it seems, have a hard enough time finding employment for themselves, much less some skinny white boy with a big backpack and a dorky hat. AND THEY DON’T WORK ON SUNDAY! (This just in from the ‘note to self’ directory.)

Rich Americans, on the other hand, are assholes. I don’t feel this requires any explanation.

So no boat would take me on, and whenever I told people I had no money, they kept directing me to the US embassy. I felt uncomfortable telling them this, because it was not, in the strictest sense of the word, true. But I was trying to explain why I was looking for a job on a boat, and I didn’t want to go into every detail. This left me in a somewhat uncomfortable situation.

“We’re closing, I’m sorry,” quoth Zsanae, of the Via Caffe. I had walked in wearing my scruffy traveler’s attire, asking to wash dishes in return for a meal. This was just around six PM, so I was quite surprised to hear they were clearing up. I later came to understand that the whole section of Nassau which I was roaming was dedicated solely to the rich tourists coming in on the gargantuan cruise liners, which wouldn’t give me a job, either. More on that later. That dictates the opening hours: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM.

“Hold on,” she said, or maybe that was Claurinda, the cook, or Maria, the boss. “I’ll check with the kitchen if we can whip you up a little something.” Maria is white. Claurinda, Zsanae, and all the other workers are black. Make of that what you will.

They did whip me up a little something. It was not vegetarian. I ate it anyway. As I sat there, 4.25$ in my pocket, a bedraggled looking fellow approached me, asking for spare change. He had to repeat himself several times before I heard him. (Blocked ears, remember?) I gave him one of the Dollars that had been given me by a friend. They were never mine to keep. This is one of the lessons I found hidden in the haphazard heap that is my adventure. From the plaza, several homeless men gazed at me curiously.

“You’re crazy!”

I don’t know if I was addressing this to the three women smiling at me from across the counter, or to the five 20$ bills glaring up at me morosely from atop it. They had called me back in once I had finished eating. They had packed me up a snack for later, they had said, which was true. The 100$ were then sprung on me. It was a merciless ambush. I refused once, I refused twice. They persisted. I accepted, and in my mind I began to formulate another of those little tidbits you could call life lessons. They can be found strewn across the ground like twigs, and are of similar value. But we collect them, and build nests out of them, and they keep us warm.

You see, Maria, Claurinda and Zsanae were aiding me with a much more important currency than the US Dollar. No, not the Euro. I’m talking about kindness. And kindness, just like any other currency, needs to be kept in circulation. So: Accept kindness.

As lovely as this insight is, it has much to answer for. Should I have taken the money? I didn’t need it, really. I could have relied on my mother for that. Would that have been better? What’s worse: just outside the Caffe’s glass doors were men who needed this money far more than me. Never, ever, would they get 100$ if they walked in those doors. What makes me so much better? That I’m young? That I’m white? That I’m educated, and part of the world’s most privileged class? Every one of these reasons more strongly secures the argument that I don’t need this money. Does that mean I don’t deserve it?

Or perhaps, the reasoning is that I can benefit more by this money. That it’s too late for them, but not for me. That they made a choice to live as they do. As it seems to me, though, I had much more of a choice than they did. I simply don’t know.

It seems the wind has blown my twig away, and I must needs start over.

Zsanae walked me to a hotel. She signed me in there. As soon as she had departed, I dropped onto the bed and into a deep, sound slumber.

To be continued…

Baby, It’s Been A Long, Long Time Or: The Increasingly Fictionalized Adventures Of Shai Komarov

It feels like ages since I’ve written here. It’s only been — how long? A few weeks? Less than a month. Time, apparently, is only an illusion created by the mind. So say the Yogis.

Tomorrow I’ll be leaving this place you know nothing about. Destination: Unknown. More adventure than any sane man could ever want. Further proof, as if any were necessary, that I’m not one.

Self-deprecation is all very well and good. But when it comes right down to it, I have to admit, I’m pretty OK. It’s not an easy thing to comes to terms with. Here in the Ashram, for the first time in my life, something very strange happened to me: Through no fault of my own, everyone seemed to take me for a positive, cheerful person. And this inspite of the past month having been far from carefree, from my perspective, as you may know. I find this absolutely amazing, and wholly heartwarming. 

Of course, everyone here is so nice. They’re always saying all these nice things, and I try my best to keep up. It’s really very nice. Of course, this place brings out the best in people, and the best in me. This place I am soon to leave. What will happen then?

I want to give you an idea of what this month has been like, but routine never seems like good writing material. Be that as it may, let me give you an idea of what my daily schedule has been like:

5:30 – Wake up bell

6:00-8:00 – Satsang (Meditation, chanting and a lecture or musical performance)

8:00-10:00 – Yoga class

10:00-10:45 – Brunch

12:00-13:00 – Lecture

13:00-14:00 – Individual work with the Yoga teacher (optional)

14:00-16:00 – Main lecture

16:00-18:00 – How to teach yoga

18:00-18:45 – Dinner

18:45-19:45 – Karma Yoga (Kitchen duty)

20:00-22:00 – Satsang (same as morning, but more exhausted)

And that’s a full day’s work right there. One day a week is for rest and study, which means I only had to attend both Satsangs and my Karma Yoga, too. The rest was fully booked.

What  this means, if you read between the lines, or if I just go ahead and tell you, is that I spent anywhere between 2  and 5 hourse a day learning The Truth. As I see it, this technically means I was brainwashed. I didn’t mind, most of the time, seeing as I’m such a positive person, but even I must concede that, without a doubt, brainwashing it was.

And much of it was really fascinating. My philosophical side was reawakened, and immediately engaged at high gear. Which inevitably leads to frustration, of course, because philosophy never goes anywhere, but people do, and once they do, it’s no longer philosophy.

Whereupon I did my best to take in as much as I could, reserving judgment. Which is a skill I totally possess now (awesome, right? [“That word has been utterly degenerated. It used to mean awe! What a wonderful emotion!” –Father William Meninger, Satsang speaker])

So I took it all in a scholarly fashion, which I find suits me well, growing wise in lore (This goes out to all you wizards out there.)

…”So are you saying that Lord Siva is both a single wave and the entire ocean?”


I could only shrug at this. You see, all of existance is the ocean… No, wait, let me back up a little…

“Am I lifting my hand right now?”

You kids at home can join Swami Brahmananda for this little experiment. All you have to do is lift your hand. Of course, you must suspect, as all us teacher trainees did, that this was a trap.

“Let’s see: What needs to happen in order for me to raise my hand? An electric signal has to be sent from the brain to the hand. Am I the brain? Am I the signal? No. Then all the muscles need to contract. Am I the muscles?

“But it’s not just within my body that things have to happen. The gravity, air pressure, oxygen and CO2 levels need to be exactly what they are. In fact, it takes the whole universe, just to move this hand. So am I moving the hand? Absolutely not.”

A word about Swami Brahmananda: he is Israeli, along with almost 90% of the ashram staff. And whoever isn’t Israeli, is Canadian. So please scroll up, and revise your reading to include a distinct Is-ra-aeli accent in the above. Add a deep voice, too.

But wait! some of you must be thinking. Who says I’m not the brain? Who says I’m not the hand? Well, you see, if you cut off your hand, would you still be you? I mean, look at it this way: There’s a knower, the knowing, and the known. The knower can’t be the known, right? Do you know your brain? Yes. No, wait… See, anything that is impermanent is not absolutely real. There’s no effect without a cause, and no cause without an effect. So, all of apparent reality is just like the waves of a single ocean…

“It is all very simple,” says Swami Brahmananda.

So, one of my first projects, when I get back, is to gather a group of clearheaded people (or just people) to try and make a legible analysis of Vedantic philosophy as it was taught to me. Because, actually, a lot of it is very beautiful, and very wise. Of course, when I say it’s wise, I simply mean it reaffirms my own ideas. So it’s all a lot of self-flattery, really. How un-Yogi of me!


“Hey!” I call out to Tattoo Lou as she passes by. I just gave her that name right now, she doesn’t know about it. Her bluish dreadlocks swing as she turns to answer.


“What’cha up to?”


“I’m writing,” (she didn’t ask, I know,) “I’m trying to condense this whole month into one blog post, but it’s completely impossible.” 

“Yes. It’s good, it helps you process, you know?”



“Don’t worry about getting kitchen duty,” I counseled Emery on her first day at the Ashram. By this time I was an expert. I had been here for a full three weeks. Time flies…

“It’s actually the best. The people are awesome, and you get the Secret Snacks. Plus, every now and then, there’s the spontaneous burst of Karaoke.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Not at all. Right, Kristin?”


“So,” I asked, “what do you want us to sing?”

“Mama! Just killed a man…”

“We’ve already done Bohemian Rhapsody.”

“Jonathan was in his tent, and heard us, and was singing along.”

“How about Disney?”

“Yeah, we can do Disney.”

And we did.



Emery is quite the singer, herself, by the way. And thus did the Kitchen Concert commence.

Today may be the end of the road for the Kitchen Quartet. I’ll be bidding farewell to Emery, Kristin (“Happy bubble!” -Emery) and many other magical people. I’m going to miss them. I’m going to miss the Ashram’s green trees and blue ocean. I’m going to miss Yoga every day. I’m going to miss being brainwashed. I’m going to miss the kitchen, and the food (Yum!). I’m even going to miss getting up at 5:30 in the morning. And I say this with a very joyful heart. Dare I risk overburdening my blog with any more of this touchy-feely stuff? Maybe just one quote:

“If our friendship depends on things like space and time, then when we finally overcome space and time, we’ve destroyed our own brotherhood! But overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now. And in the middle of Here and Now, don’t you think that we might see each other once or twice?”

That’s from Jonathan Livingston Seagull. And it’s very Yogi indeed.

Well, Then…

Where were we? I hardly recall. But I do remember that I owe you an account of my few but fateful days in Rishikesh, India. So here it is.


It was that strange Indian blend of chance and fate that introduced me to… crap, I don’t remember her name. Memory fades, as time and distance make India seem like a dream… Or perhaps this is the dream.

She was like a character from Shantaram, a sassy, educated Indian gal, chattering no-nonsense and businesslike with a wonderfully musical accent into her cell-phone.

“Yes, I know a place that has a dormitory, let me call them for you.”

And THAT’S how I found myself at the Last Chance Cafe. Which is a guest house.

Proprietor: Absent. In his stead, the place was run by two young Indian bachelors: Sunil, who shared the same dorm as me, and…

“What’s your name?”

Instead of answering, he pointed at a slab of wood lying across the reception desk. “Ramesh” was the inscription it bore, emblazoned grandly in permanent marker. On closer inspection, I realized said slab of wood was, in fact…

“…an electric guitar?”

“Yes, dude. I made it myself. I found the wood in the Ganga.”

“So you play a holy guitar?”

“I guess so.”

“That is so awesome.”

“We should jam sometime.”



I quickly settled in at the Last Chance Cafe, pleased to have found a place that had it all: Cheap and comfortable accommodations, a great atmosphere, free internet access, and, most importantly, a name that sounded as if it had come from a Western.


“I thought you said it was dangeroud to stay at the Beatles Ashram at night, because of the elephants.” I accused Ramesh.

“Yes, but there were many of us, and we built a fire and stayed up all night jamming.”

One thing you should know about the Beatles’ Ashram: It’s beautiful. Go there and see it. Visiting it was probably the closest I came to a spiritual experience.


Then came that fateful eve, upon which I was to meet my downfall.

“Are you from Haifa?” were the words that sealed my doom, and a seemingly harmless invitation to dinner.

Some of you know the details of what happened next, to some extent or other. If you don’t, feel free to ask, but bear in mind that this is a sensitive issue, upon which I cannot very much expand. Take what you can get, is my advice.

Let us sum up by saying I made a bad judgement call, which resulted in some monetary loss, and left me awkwardly stranded in Israel.


“I was where I wanted to be. I had a good thing going. And then I fucked it all up. I mean, I really made it crash and burn. We’re talking major league screw up.”

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but that story is hilarious,” Eliran stated blandly.

“I know, right? I just wish more people saw it that way.”

We were sitting at Max Brenner, on Rothchild Avenue in Tel Aviv. “It might have been a little overpriced, but it’s still a good story.”

“You know,” he said, “I like it when things go wrong.”

I can really relate to that on a theoretical level, but when it actually happens, it’s not very fun, and I told him as much.

“Still, I concluded, “I try to stand by my beliefs. Blessings in disguise and whatnot.”

“Speaking of which,” he interjected, “I’m planning to rent a place in Tel Aviv next year, and would be honored if you would join me as my roommate.”

“By then, you will be a certified fitness trainer, and I a yoga teacher. We could be the most awesome roommates ever. I’m in.”


“What’s more exciting,” I wrote in my notebook that afternoon; “going to school, or traveling the world?”

The answer is this: I don’t know. No one knows. At best, we know what sounds better. And I admit, I’m not done chasing after things that sound really cool. I may never be. That’s why I’m here, in the Bahamas, doing a month-long Yoga teacher course on Paradise Island. But do you know something? Even after I made what may have been the greatest mistake of my life, I’m amazed at all I still have: Amazing friends, the best family in the world, and the ability , with their help, to pick myself back up and keep on goin. I am so fortuenate, that even though I screwed up, the whole world is still spread out before me.

I can’t explore it all, of course. For now, I plan to content myself with returning to Israel to prepare for the upcoming school year, during which I plan to move to Tel Aviv and study musicology and linguistics. And do you know what?

I’m psyched.

‘Tis The Season

On a break from our usual schedule, this short story is dedicated to all our departed loved ones, and especially my father.

* * *

Composing myself carefully, I walked up to her and gave her the flowers.

“I love you,” I declared bravely, dropping to one knee and proffering the bundle of buds. I thought she would know what to do next, so I said no more, and awaited her response.

“Thank you,” she stammered weakly, looking abashedly  at her friends as if to say, “I had nothing to do with this.”

“Why,” she began, then stopped to clear her throat, “what happened to them?”

“I’m sorry?” was my reply, for now I was truly perplexed. This was nothing like what I had expected.

“The flowers,” she explained awkwardly, “they’re half wilted.”

I brightened then, for I thought this must explain her reaction, and once I cleared up the misunderstanding, we could get back on track.

“I had to complete the bouquet,” I explained, “the beauty of life wouldn’t be complete without the beauty of death. If death weren’t beautiful,” I laughed, “we would all be in very big trouble!”

I had honestly thought this would win her over. However, my mirthful grin soon faded under her blank stare.

“Thank you,” she said again, more calm this time, and distant. I had lost her.

She turned then, and walked away, followed silently by her friends.

I was heartbroken, of course. It’s a good thing rejection is beautiful, too. Otherwise, we would all be in very big trouble.


And do you know something else? I think she kept those flowers.

Unwards and Opwards!


I write to you now, dear reader, from the faraway exotic land of Be’er Sheva. I know, it just doesn’t have the same ring as those spicy Indian names, does it? It’s a shame, a crying shame. How tragic to be back home.

Don’t get me wrong. We actually live in a beautiful, amazing country. And yes, it is exotic. But for me, it’s still “just home”. I haven’t traveled enought for that to be the most wonderfully exotic place of all, and before I remedy this, I have some more domestic adventures ahead of me, such as looking up universities and visiting with friends. Which faces me with a major problem — what on earth am I going to blog about now?

Calvin’s Turn, Or: A Stunning Revelation

Hi! I mean, hello there, readers! I don’t really know how to start this thing…

This is Calvin writing, by the way. I promised Shai I would narrate the next post, which is this one, so I guess it’s the current post, but it was the next post when we talked about it, and… you get the idea. You can see I’m not very practiced at this.

Anyway, so before I get to the main event, let me tell you some more about the events so far. Let me think a moment… Oh! He never did tell you about the Kumbh, did he? That lazy bum. How could he have left that out? He should write more.

Well, so when he came to the Kumbh Mela festival, also known as Maha Kumbh, which means “The Big Kumbh,” Shai did what he has done consistently during his travels so far: He walked around aimlessly, until he found someone to talk to or a place for the night, or just simply got tired. When this happened, he would sit down. If he was in the mood, he would write, which proved to be an ill-conceived notion, as any such attempt quickly drew a circle of silent, staring onlookers. Well, sometimes they were silent. For some reason, the image of a man bent over a notebook fails to convey, in India, the message that some privacy might be desired. To be fair, they’ve probably never seen privacy to know it. I sure as hell haven’t seen any in this country. And do you know what? Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Maybe it’ll help Shai grow, and I know we all want that, because we’re his friends, right? Otherwise why are we reading his blog? (Or writing it, as the case may be. How did I ever agree to this?)

So one of these times, Shai is sitting on the sandy bank of the Ganga (is he following these holy rivers around on purpose?) and trying in vain to write, when along comes a strange pair, an Indian Guru and a Frenchwoman, and conversation ensues. It goes something like this:

Shai: “Wow! Someone I can speak Englsih with! Do you know where else in the festival I can find such a thing?”

Leela: “Yes! There’s Pren Baba in sector 9 [was it sector 9? I think there was someone in sector 9], there’s the Rainbow camp, there’s…”

Shai: “Whoa! Back up a moment. Did you say ‘Rainbow camp’?”

Leela: “Yes, they’re in sector 7.”

Shai: “Great! I’ll find them!”

And he did, and he stayed there for three weeks, never visiting any of the other English speaking Babas. Lazy bum…

Oh, wait! Before I forget, I just have to point something out. Shai mentioned something about the festival site being at the intersection of three holy rivers, and, while he was only repeating what he has been told, I must make a slight correction: You see, while the Ganga and Yamuna flow visibly into each other, the Saraswati river is… How did that Indian boy put it? “here in spirit.” That’s India for you – you can never really tell what’s going on physically, and what’s going on spiritually, and what’s just plain old miscommunication. Well, nine times out of ten, it’s miscommunication, but knowing that still isn’t very helpful.

So Shai decides he’ll find the camp today, and then come back tomorrow with his things from the room. Only he isn’t counting on how long it’s going to take to find, and by the time he gets there, it’s long past dark, and it’s getting cold, and this camp is a tiny clump of disorganized tents way out at the very edge of the festival area. Shai would have turned back the moment the tents cut off as though sliced with a knife, giving way abruptly to an empty desert, and he never would have found it, but Panama Baba said “Come, it’s just a little further,” and then there it was.

So Who Are The Rainbow People?

And why was their camp so isolated from everyone else? Well, there are different views on that. Some say it was their own choice. Some say the Indians wanted to keep them out of sight, to avoid trouble. We may never know the true answer, but they both seem plausible. The whole of the Kumbh Mela grounds is considered a temple, which means – no sex. Maybe that’s why, say some, they wanted to make sure and move the Rainbow camp off said grounds. Just sayin’.

They’re Hippies, of course! A modern take on the classic theme. Beads, and drum circles, and hash – at the Kumbh, they fit right in. Of course they didn’t really, and every one of them drew just as much attention as Shai did. In fact, he soon came to think of himself as one of them.

You know Shai, though. He’s a good boy, though he can be a little koo-koo in the head. He tried a few puffs, coughed his lungs out, and decided that smoking wasn’t really his thing. Nor did he have any sex, either, more’s the pity. In fact, he was sick half the time he was there, and positively miserable. I think it was being surrounded by friends. He just couldn’t handle it.

Shai did have some great adventures in and around the Kumbh, though. If he would get off his lazy bum bum and fix his camera, I could show you pictures of people jumping off dune-cliffs, Indians watching porn on their cell-phone, and the mysterious and allusive Cowamalope (Shai came up with that name himself, and it was approved by Alexis – the only other witness of this strange, Indian, kin of the Yeti and Unicorn.) And that would just be one day’s worth!

Let me summarize and move on, because this is getting out of hand: During these three weeks, Shai ate for free, slept for free, showered seldom (but bathed often) and spoke more German than Hindi.

Moving on.

Well, much as I’d like to tell you about Rishikesh, I should be wrapping this post up, and there’s still something I must do.

You see, a fortuitous turn of events led Shai somewhere… quite unexpected.

“So you can get me a ticket to Israel and back?”

Shai asked, incredulously. As well he should be, for while the ticket to Israel went through smoothly (and mind you, this is for an Indian value of smooth), it’s the ticket back that’s proving somewhat tricky. So, yes, Shai is in Israel right now. He’s a little embarrassed about this, so I feel it’s my duty to out him.

So, you see, he’s hiding at home, still somewhat in shock and denial at being back in his beautiful homeland, but if you were to give him a call and pull him outdoors, he would actually be very grateful.

I’m trying to convince him to keep up the blog, even while he’s here. It’s good for him. For instance, when a pretty woman told him she follows his blog, it positively made his day. So help me, and together, perhaps we can convince our dear Shai to stop being a lazy bum, and start being an industrious bum, instead – in Israel!

Too Little, Too Late

The flickering shadows of treetops on my eyelids were blocked by a second, deeper shadow, and I slowly opened my eyes to see a strangely dressed man standing over me. His face was completely shrouded by a hood, but I knew who he was.

“Calvin, what are you doing?” I asked, exhasperated.

“I just thought I’d remind you,” he replied, “that it’s been quite a while since you’ve written in your blog. For that matter, you’ve been neglecting your own personal journal, and your photography.”

“Well,” I muttered, “can’t it wait? I’m resting.” I replied, and then did the napper shuffle: I rolled over, closed my eyes, and hoped he’d go away. When his shadow failed to be removed, I squinted up at him again.

“Say,” I wondered aloud, “why are you dressed up as the angel of death?”

“This? This is my Purim costume.”

“But it isn’t Purim.”

“Isn’t it?” He replied, and I knew he was grinning smugly, because I had played right into his hands. Sitting up, I saw that the treetops were gone, and so was the sunlight. I was sitting on top of a building in Varanasi, and it was night-time.

“Would you like to explain?” Calvin asked slyly, “or should I?”

“I’ll do it,” I muttered dejectedly, resignedly accepting that my nap was officially over. You see, Calvin is my imaginary friend. It gets lonely, sometimes, traveling alone. But that’s how I want it. I’ve been enjoying spending some time with me. It makes a lot of sense, then, that any account of my recent travels should take place mostly within my own head.

“And with me.”

“Yes, and with you.”

“So why the name, Calvin? It’s a bit Christian, isn’t it?”

“It’s like Calvin and Hobbes, except this time Calvin is the imaginary friend. I thought it would be a nice reference, with a pleasant little reversal.”

“Liar. It’s just the first thing that popped into your head.”

“Second thing, thank you very much. You almost ended up being called Benedict.”

“What’s up with the Christian names?”

“I don’t know. Do you mind?”

“I don’t know. It’s your mind.”

“Well, let’s get on with it, then!”

“Hey, buddy, you’re the narrator. Don’t look at me.”

And so I am.

“Next time, you’re narrating.”

“Fair enough. So, explain it!”

“Explain what?”

“That you’ve been reduced, by your laziness, to a clip-show of recent highlights, rather than a calm, coherent, blog post.”

“That’s quite enough out of you, thank you very much.”

Where were we, then? Ah, yes. Sitting atop the Varanasi Chabad house. Down below was the cloth-walled dining area that had been erected for the celebration. I’m rather sure there was an awning of some sort, but in this imaginary account, we can see everything from above.

Everything would include:

Some twenty Jews, sitting around two tables, one for men and one for women, with a cloth divide in between. Of said Jews, one was me, one was drunk, one was a racist, and one was our host. It is unfortunate that the racist and the host coincide.

I would like to make a correction: Most of us were sitting. One of us was lying in a pool of his own vomit. He was repeatedly rolled out of it, and persistently rolled back. He was the drunk one.

The culprit was obvious: The table was decked not only with many dishes of excellent food, but  also with many bottles of not-so-excellent Vodka. What can I say? It was a good night.

“Tell them how you broke vegetarianism.”


“Well, then, tell them about the Bhang Lassi.”

“That was later. And absolutely not!”

“Well, then, would you like a cup of Chai?”


“Chai!” cried the entrepreneuring vendor as he climbed onto the bus, immediately after it had bounced to a halt. “Chai, samosa! Chai!”

“Over here!” cried Calvin, and then had to wait while the man squeezed his way through passengers and baggage to get to us.

“Two, please.”

Sipping chai on the bus, waiting for it to resume its journey, I contemplated India and its endless peculiarities.

“They don’t ever say please here, have you noticed?” I commented out loud. It was one of the first Hindi words I asked about, and I used it often, but I almost never heard it used.

“Same goes for ‘thank you’,” Calvin agreed, “It’s a cultural thing.”

“So, wait, is this the bus to Lucknow, or the bus to Haridwar?”

“Honestly? I can’t tell.”

“Come on, Calving, I narrate, you’re in charge of the scenery. It’s only fair. Do your part!”

“Well, what do you want me to do? I can’t tell Indian buses apart! They’re all the same shuddering, drafty, over-crowded raj-era derelicts to me. The view is always the same everywhere, too.  Tell me, honestly, that you can do better.”

I couldn’t, so I kept quiet. Which was fine. A long, night-time Indian bus ride is a great time for quiet contemplation. The ricketiness of the bus combines with the disrepair of the road for quite a bumpy ride (no one ever fixes anything in India: They just build it, and then watch it rot.) The turbulence rocks me like a cradle, even as it verges on the unpleasant. This combination is rather typical of India.

“In fact,” I state, coming out of my reverie, “I invented you on a bus-ride, didn’t I?”

“Yes, you did, and I’ve got a thousand Rupees says you can’t remember which bus-ride it was.”

“A thousand Rupees is nothing…”

“So which bus ride?”

“Not the one where I sang for them… I know! It was the one where I was reading Sherlock Holme and Dracula from my Magical Indian E-book Reader!”

“There were at least three of those, not including the one with the singing.”

“Ow!” I yelped, for just then a particularly violent bump left my backside quite sore.

“Ack!” I cried again, blinded by the sudden brightness of day. “For Shiva’s sake, Calvin! What did you go and do that for?”

He just grinned at me. “It’s your penalty for failing the bus quiz. Besides,” he laughed, “don’t you want to tell your readers about your safari adventure?”

I looked around, and realized where we were. The bump had been especially painful because the bus had been transformed into a many-seat, open jeep, which was surely the only man-made vehicle, other than a crashing aeroplane, that could out-bounce an Indian bus. Sitting in the back was the worst. I kept having to dodge whipping branches, which distracted me from looking for tigers.

“Introduce Sunny,” Calvin urged.

“This is Sunny.”


Now, I know what you must be thinking, but you are quite mistaken: Sunny is not a caucasian woman, but an Indian man. And no, we didn’t see a tiger.

“Man, I’m tired.”


“Sorry, Sunny, I was talking to Calvin. Calvin!”


“I’m tired. Can’t we finish this blog post already?”

“But you haven’t said anything about Rishikesh yet! And there’s the whole story of, you know…”

“Shhhh! You know I can’t talk about that!”

“OK, OK! Sheesh! Relax! Let’s publish this, for now. But there’s still lots to write, so let’s hope your diligence catches up with your adventures.”

“No, Calvin. Let’s hope it doesn’t.”



Thank you all for reading and enjoying, and for urging me to write on! I am both flattered and touched.

One other point: My amera has suffered a nervous breakdown, so until I get it fixed, no photos.

If At First You Don’t Succeed

It appears that my previous post encountered some technical difficulties. This is a good thing. It was laconic and ill-tempered, in spirit if not in substance. I might have been sick, and I might have been gloomy, but maybe that’s not what I want this blog to be about. Simply bear in mind, as you read, that there’s probably more to the story than I’m telling you.

*Note: I am without my camera, and uploading pictures is a drag anyway, so make do without for now.

Let’s hop to it then!


“So you’re going to throw that statue into the river?”

“No,” Atul corrected me, “we are going to put it in the river.” He illustrated this with a gentle placing motion, with his hands. He was wrong, though.

“Saraswati mai ki!”



I’d never seen a large clay sculpture being tossed into a river before. Here in Varanasi, however, it is a common sight. Every day is a festival.

“If someone tried to stop religion here, the economy would collapse,” Jayjay told me, as we were sitting at Atul’s place, waiting for him to find the necessary manpower to haul said statue to the docks and load it on the not-so-large boat (manpower which ended up including yours truly.) He’s right, of course. The pilgrimages, the offerings, the festivals… Indians seem to substitute for luxury and entertainment with religion, in terms of spending excess funds. Not a bad trade: Our road leads us to obesity, and guilt; theirs leads to Nirvana.

“I’m sorry I’m late,” I later apologized before Pranjal, sitting again at Atul’s, “we were throwing… I mean, putting a statue of Saraswati in the river.” He wagged his head in that hallmark Indian way, and mumbled something, clearly agitated in his quiet way. As well he should be. I was over half an hour late for my flute lesson. Oh, well. Indian time goes both ways. If I have to suffer it, so do they, though I seem to be getting in the habit of abusing it a little too much.

One thing playing the flute has in common with traveling in India: They only work if you keep a smile on your face. And that’s all I have to say about that.


Did I mention I’m in Varanasi now? Oh, and Atul is the Hebrew-speaking proprietor of a music shop/school (the two go together here – whatever tourists are willing to pay for is fair game – or unfair.) He’s something of an Israelophile. He holds us Israelis in high regard, and is even planning a visit to Israel. He has Hebrew books on his shelf, speaks English with an Israeli accent, and – most telling – wears a pair of Shoresh sandals.

Thanks to him, by the way, I am now the proud owner of a brand new guitar! I’ve been feeling out the market for days now, all the while itching for the feel of steel strings beneath my fingers. Today, it finally happened. This is a big day for me. Be happy.

You might be wondering what became of the Kumbh Mela, and what my experience there was. Well, I had my fair share of adventure and misadventure in that place. But those are other tales, and will be told another time. Suffice it to say, most of my camp-members actually migrated here, to Varanasi, so I have no shortage of friends. Hooray!

And now, to conclude the post, a poem about traveling:

To Wake In A Faraway Land

Tomorrow, I will greet the misty sunrise with a yawn

as I gaze upon a gray world blushing, floating gently from its slumber

with the dawn


I will trudge through green cathedral jungles

stained-glass, every-color birds for window-panes

snakes, and centipedes

for death eats life

and life eats death

and wondrous things I see tomorrow

never shall be seen again


And from the tallest spires of the greatest cities, I will see

massive temples, resplendent palaces of shining walls

soaring, arching, intertwining

weaving a tapestry, the human story

of pride, ambition, glory, folly too

for every thing that rise, must also fall


And then morning will roll away

afternoon sky will deepen

the sun, having, too, walked a mighty trek this day

shall nudge me,

“It’s time to find a place to rest our heads,”

it might say

And its thoughts are my own, as we both prepare to sleep:

we both miss our homes, and our family and friends

but now it’s time for bed,

and for dreams about chocolate.

As Overwhelming As Promised


“You are a very tolerant person,” she said, apologetically.

You’re faith is ridiculous, and so are you, I thought, baring my teeth silently in what I hope passes for a smile.

Well, that may be a harsh assessment. True, it may seem absurd to disregard evolution as an elaborate scam, while believing Krishna (the blue-skinned, flute-playing deity and lord of all creation) danced on a hundred-headed snake monster by this tree here, it’s five-thousand years old! Really!

And yet, from the inside, it works. Beautiful temples, chants, and texts – these things are real. These things are true. Who among us isn’t guilty of believing in some ridiculous thing or other? It’s what makes us human. Bah! Tolerance can be a drag, sometimes.

I am certainly grateful to Alla for her help. This can’t be overstated.


Vrindavan – Look! A temple! (Iskcon, Prabhupada – look it up.)

And Yet, And Yet

Something about Vrindavan did rub me the wrong way. Perhaps it was Alla’s motherings, ministrations, and preaching. After all, I had come here to escape these very things. Perhaps it was just the jet-lag. And perhaps it was the city itself.

Well, not even a city, really. A small town. A small, filthy, starving town. There was garbage and sewage everywhere. It stank. Whether man or beast, all creatures there seemed to have been reduced to scavenging. I am glad to be gone from there.

Vrindavan wildlife at largeImage

Of course, there were sights to be seen. Temples galore, holy Goshala gardens, the sacred Yamuna river, wherein Krishna is said to have bathed. However, I was glad to discover, behind both these facades, in the back alleys and ways, Vrindavan’s true life. There, people go on about their business calmly and pleasantly. It still smells awful.Image

Vrindavan – behind the scenes

To the full Vrindavan album.

City Boy

I took the night train from Mathura to Allahabad. I count myself fortunate in two things:

1. The train arrived only seven and a half hours late.

2. I boarded at the station of origin, ergo on time.

(I tried to record the sounds of midnight snoring in the cabin. Please let me know if I succeeded.)

I quickly realized something: I’m a city boy. Always have been. Bustling Allahabad suits me much better than stagnant Vrindavan. Surprisingly, it’s actually cleaner here. But the main difference is the feeling that this place has a life of its own. It’s not waiting hungrily to feed off mine.

New Friend

I made a new friend today! His name is Martin, and he’s a Czech psychologist. We are now sharing a room. I have spared you the images of my previous Allahabad accommodations. Some things are better left unsaid, and unseen. And unsmelled. Too late for me on all counts.

More Friends Than I Know What To Do With

“What your name? Which country you from? You have girlfriend? Why no girlfriend!”

Here in India, I have so many friends – being a white man elevates me to the level of a celebrity. Everywhere I go, people stare, wave, smile – and talk. Some of them even want to have their picture taken with me. I would like to do them all justice by describing each and every one here, but I’m afraid that’s impossible. Let me just mention a few here:

Sanjit, Anand and Amit, the Mumbian Yoga teachers.

Ram and Vishal, the local computer engineering students.

Arjun, the vendor at the kiosk next to the Allahabad central post.

And many, many others, including a few nameless (as far as you’re concerned) Yogis at Kumbh Mela.

Wait… What’s a Kumbh Mela???

Tea with the Yogis


Kumbh Mella – The Big One

“The Last Ardh [half] Mela, in 2007, attracted more than 70 million people – the larget-ever human gathering. The next Kumbh Mela will take place in 2013. Expect a big one.”

-The Lonely Planet

Kumbh Mela. It’s here, and so am I. Yesterday evening, I went to check it out.First impression? Tents. Tents, everywhere. As far as the eye can see. Quite overwhelming. I went to see the temple of Hanuman, then plunged, headfirst – into the river.

First view of the KumbhImage

The Sangam is the intersection point of three holy rivers: The Ganga, The Yamuna, and the Saraswati. People come there for their sacred bath, especially during Kumbh time. I’m sure it’s horrifyingly polluted, but no more so than my room. What the hell, right?

On January 27th, there’s going to be a full-scale ceremonial Kumbh dipping. February 10th is going to feature an even bigger festival.

Full Allahabad & Kumbh album.


There’s too much to tell. If this takes half as long to read as it did to write, I pity you. I’ll try to be more focused in the future, and pick a few events to tell in more detail (and maybe also find an internet cafe with a faster connection – optimist’s assessment.)