Green Bubba (Part 2)
(Where I Inadvertantly Inhale Jerry Garcia's Ash and
by Darryl Cherney
The plane from Katmandu to Varanase was only three
hours late, and I should have been grateful it flew
at all. India is a place that preys on tourists as a
pastime, and canceling flights is one of the nation's
greatest pleasures. Besides, while waiting I met an
English couple who had pre-planned their route to the
Hotel Surya and were happy to drag me along for the
entertainment value. I was, after all, traveling as
the Green Man, with belt buckle, green dungarees and
postcards of the redwoods to prove it.
After slacking in Nepal for weeks, I was off to India.
I wasn't sure if I was going to get giardia, bubonic
plague, or robbed, but we made it to the hotel with
only one backpacked being ransacked. Not bad, since
it wasn't my pack. Enlightenment don't come cheap.
Between the food and meds I was injesting, I was the
Green Man in more ways than one. "Want to lose
weight, go to India," they say. Of all the clever
sayings, my favorite was, "It is a brave man who
farts in Nepal." At some point, however, I was
going to have to brave the rickshaw ride to the "ghats,"
the legendary riverside temples down by the Ganga (a/k/a
The river blew me away.
Miles of stone walkways and temples lined the wide
watercourse. Men slapped their laundry against large
flat stones. Huge buffalo swam and sunbathed. Cowpies
carved into hamburger-size patties dried by the hundreds
in the sun to be used for cook-fires. A corpse burned
on a wood-pile. Far from the cacophony of honking traffic
that drives on both sides of the street while dodging
the lounging cows and dogs, the River Ganga was an oasis
of tranquillity. The next day I moved to Hotel Temple
on the Ganges, complete with lecherous meditation director
and food that didn't make you ill, the latter being
the most redeeming of qualities.
I slung my guitar over my back and strolled, as I had
in Nepal, offering my bardic services to the world.
Only instead of being stopped constantly, no one in
India gave a flying karma sutra position #25 about my
music. Where the Nepalese were helpful and humorous,
the Indians were antipathetic and surly. The cows may
not have been meat, but I was.
Later, I learned upon my return to the U.S. that the
very week I was on the Ganga, Jerry Garcia's ashes were
being secretly spread over the river. I can't say I
saw any of the Dead's entourage there, but I may well
have unwittingly inhaled one of Jerry's ashes. Whoah.
I should have known the first man to be interested
in my music, Raju, from Ravi's Classical Sitar Shop,
had me pegged as a mark. The mitigating fact is, however,
that an Indian will show you the entire town for several
days just to have his cousin overcharge you five dollars.
It's almost worth it.
"Hello," said Raju, speaking the word I'd
learn to dread the most in India. "I see you play
guitar. Come to my shop." And so I did. Raju took
me all over Varanase to batique stores, silk factories
and a kundalini yoga center. Following him at a brisk
pace I had to dodge long-horned cows, make way for chanting
men carrying a tinsel-adorned corpse down a narrow alley,
and gawk at power lines that make a bowl of spaghetti
look organized. Suddenly, a full-on brick crashed before
my feet, stopping me in my tracks. As I looked up to
find the culprit, I spied a red, sneering monkey! I
was truly in Ganesh's hands.
The first of my two epiphanies occurred the next night.
After visiting Raju and his sitar-playing brother, I
departed at 11 pm, weary of listening to why I should
buy his tablas. I navigated the maze of alleys that
led me away from his shop and did something one should
never do: hire the first bicycle rickshaw driver I saw.
He was a very, very old man. I should have been pedaling
him around. I had bargained for 15 rupees (15 cents)
for a three kilometer ride and found myself instantly
transformed into a rich, white slave owner being carted
around by a brown-skinned person. The ride was extra
slow, giving me an eternity for reflection.
I did not feel guilty. I do all I can to help this
world. Rather, I felt sad. As we passed the other rickshaw
driver's sleeping by their carts, I felt sadder. As
I debated whether to give him 50 or100 rupees, I wished
the ride would be over so I could make him feel better
sooner. And then I realized something that as a political
activist I had never realized before. No amount of money
was going to help. There was nothing I could do.
And as I handed him 50 rupees, I was swarmed by all
the usual hustlers. I barely nodded goodbye.
At the hotel, I grabbed my guitar and went to the roof
to collect myself and instead ran into a partying group
of tourists. They wanted me to play but instead I broke
down. I cried for two days. Something inside me had