Day 5

Need to make an effort to maintain discipline today; no sweets and no beer. I’m lonely so that will be tough. I have terrible posture and I’m convinced both knees will give out soon in my life. I feel upset this morning and I don’t know why. Something is making me fraught and reproachful. What have I done but not made peace with? What have I lied about?


Everything coughs in India; rampant infection from the thick soot subjugating all manner of life. Everyone spits as well; even the little schoolgirls. I’ve started doing it myself. The mouth gets grimy from pollution. Toward the end of the day my eyes burn.


Why does Catholic choir singing sound so angelic? Conversely, why does collective prayer sound so ominous and dreary? Crows stare intently at me from a perch with carnivorous anticipation. Dogs on the main roads are in better shape than dogs in the alleys. The goat is fucked; I’m done writing about it. Female dogs trot down the street with full udders of milk bouncing as they go. Is reason and logic keeping me from my own heart? I cant deny the recurring themes of this trip, of my life; loneliness, over-analyzing, vice, inability to be uncomfortable, and a yearning to believe in something sublime.


The beautiful Spanish girls tug at my thoughts. Drifting thoughts of lust with Mother House volunteers forces me to consider my being a reprobate.


Only the Spanish, and the French, seem comfortable in their devotion; unforced in regards to faith. The rest of the volunteers have an awkward way of communicating – with fabricated sincerity, appropriated talk-tracks, and exaggerated effort like Bollywood actors or TV evangelists. I want to run back home and get away from these crazy Jesus freaks. The mood is strange today. Some level of innocence has been lost. I don’t bother to pretend-cross or fake-pray when the group is going through morning rituals.


I realize I recently made a declaration about a certain goat but something important has come up. As we walk to the bus stop today I see the goat being walked by the apparent owner. The owner took it for a short stroll; twenty meters maybe, then tied it back up. That’s the world for my poor friend; twenty meters of disheveled sidewalk and never knowing of anything grander. The goat is at perfect height to bite the man in the balls and make a run for it. I hope he seizes the opportunity one day.


Along our walk this morning Ashley and I engage in heavy discussion, strong philosophy, and I end up telling her why I do not believe.  My mother used religion as a crutch and scapegoat to not leave my father when she should have. Since witnessing that I have had distain for the rhetoric. I realize that is probably a large cornerstone when it comes to my dysfunctional relationships with women. After offering this passive explanation behind my aversion to faith, Ashley does not change her energy toward me.  I thank her for her neutrality and acceptance. She too is questioning of strict Catholicism and after studying Buddhism in Asia recently, she is interested in other ideologies. Her and I go back and forth nicely between philosophy, religion, meaning of life, and purpose of suffering. To be continued with Ashley. I have quite a few “to be continued” conversations but this is certainly the right place to engage with people on all matters too heavy for normal discourse.


At Nrmal Hriday another strong conversation with a random Canadian solo traveler. She is quite level headed but a bit too far on the crunchy-hippie side for me. Regardless, I still appreciate her. She tells me of the other place she volunteers near bye, in the red-light district; a shelter for prostitutes and their children. She says it’s incredibly draining because of the rampant signs of violence. Asia sex trade at it’s worst. I consider the possibility of volunteering there. I am accustomed to the Nrmal Hriday house and it doesn’t seem so bereft anymore. Quite peaceful actually. The men all behave very well and the problems are few. It’s only the interaction hour that gets uncomfortable because of the language barrier. I’ve noticed a few volunteers have found busy work upstairs instead of interacting with the destitute. Are they cowards or just veterans who have found their groove? What good does the massaging really do anyway? Seems very surface level to me, both metaphorically and literally. A quaint task for the volunteers to feel as if they are contributing but probably more for the benefit of us volunteers than that of the patients. The work lies in the housing, cleaning, and medical services; raw infrastructure is the main scarcity around here. We are given digestible tasks for the sake of our own charity, not that of the needy. Although there is some real work done by the volunteers. Anyone with medical experience is doing real work. Assembly lines for cleaning clothes and dishes help lift some level of burden from the staff and Sisters. That is real benefit.


I don’t know why I feel the need to break everything apart and always shine light on the rotten. Been doing that way too long and far too often. 


I find an English speaking man next to the Asian I carried in yesterday from the taxi. I ask the English speaker to translate my questions to the Asian. Both of his arms are completely covered in scars, running perpendicular to the bone, from wrist to shoulder. I am told the man is a heroin addict and a self-mutilator. When he can’t score dope he tends to cut himself. Curiously, I fully grasp the logic. The Asian man also has scars all over his shaved head which I inquire about. Those are from fighting, I am told. With whom is he fighting? There are places where certain men, nasty men with fat pockets, lure beggars with the promise of food. They make them fight each other but, in the end, only give them half a plate of left over rice. Human cock fighting with extra despair. Apparently, this is common around here.


I talk more than I massage today. I think my genuine words, even if they are in a foreign language, are of more benefit than robotic massage. Could be wrong.


On the balcony I talk with French John who is on a seven month world trip of charity with his best friend Bernard. Eight countries on the agenda and multiple destinations within each. I feel lazy and unadventurous by comparison. Try skipping down the stairs gingerly but my left knee has sharp pain.


After work we eat in a nearby restaurant and I am not impressed. Panic seizes me as I think about the possibility of diarrhea. Oh well. I know my time is coming soon. The girls have problems paying and discuss different approaches to receiving their proper change for ten minutes. Each tries to explain to the waiter their version of his error but I am certain the waiter doesn’t speak English.


Lydia is leaving tomorrow so I hug her goodbye then walk back to my hotel. I am glad to be alone; the group is getting on my nerves. Consider wasting the rest of the day drinking beer in my room. Do some chores instead in an attempt to put off the inevitable as long as I can.


My sinuses are beginning to hold permanent congestion. Don’t know if it’s a cold or just a reaction to this smothering pollution. I’m sure alcohol and cigarettes aren’t helping the matter. I would really enjoy keeping the use of my nose right now. Mouth breathing in Kolkata does not sound appealing.


My unkempt hair is becoming problematic. I tie it in a silly looking, small ponytail which sticks out directly on top of my head. The combination of my size, and this tuft of hair on my head, gives me the appearance of a carnival sideshow wrestler traveling far from home.


Stop at a chaat restaurant. Seen a bunch of them back in Silicon Valley but never stopped to try. Fried hollow balls of dough and a variety of hot dipping concoctions made of veges, lentils and spice. Indian chips and salsa. Marvelous


At night I notice many taxis have replaced their headlights with multi-colored disco colors that dance through a rainbow as they drive down the street. Other taxis don’t bother to turn on their lights at all. I venture down an unknown side street, alone, for the first time since my arrival. I can tell they don’t see many tourists in these parts. Everyone stares as I pass. Groups of young boys crowd around me and ask for money. Many denizens point and laugh. Maybe I really do look like a circus attraction? Stunning how different this neighborhood is from the main road. Religious hymns wale on blown-out speakers.


I think I should travel throughout India in the middle of my volunteering commitment. I can’t be a dysfunctional hermit while half way around the world. Or maybe that’s the idea; that my patterns and problems follow me regardless of where I try to run off to.


Something Ashley said earlier is echoing in my head. Don’t be so cavalier with your judgment and conviction of a prophet based on the zealotry of his followers. Sometimes it’s not the theory that’s flawed, but rather the students that have made rhetoric out of wisdom. Fair point.


I am in a delirious mood tonight; bouncy and hyper walking through the streets. When I’m overwhelmed with excitement I want to drink. When I’m beaten down by the darkness I want to drink. This arithmetic doesn’t leave much room for sanity or sobriety. I stop and buy a six-pack. Now I’m rifling through the streets with drunken purpose yet nowhere to go. I talk to myself out loud in mock conversation. Is this mania?


Falling asleep when I’m this vulnerable, and drunk, is difficult. My mind is a television set, with no off button, which is stuck on late night infomercials offering salvation and revolutionary cleaning products.


Anto LjoljicComment