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 Darryl Cherney Music 

Green Bubba (Part 2)

(Where I Inadvertantly Inhale Jerry Garcia's Ash and Attain Enlightenment)

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 Ganges) River.

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 changed forever.


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