She was “saved”. She was “fixed”. She was “cured”. She was ANNOYING (me).
“Oh give me your camera. I’ll take a picture of you in front of that temple. Your mother is going to love that”. Lady, you don’t know my Mama!
Meet Jill. Sixty-three-years-old, six weeks in India, and a recent convert to Buddhism and all its spiritual offerings. She fled her home in suburban California where she lives in a retirement community. Impressive in my books. When arriving in India, she traveled south to Kerala, where her Guru resides. Now this same Guru – a beautiful Indian woman – dangles loosely in a locket from Jill’s neck. Jill was quick to offer advice to every seasoned traveller and everything she said began with the word “oh”.
“Oh, you don’t want to buy cucumbers from that one, he will rip you off. Follow me, we buy from this lovely man.” She would go on to greet the cucumber seller with popular Hindi terms and end with the requisite “Namaste” as she pulled her hands into her chest in prayer position. (It is worth noting, that I went defiantly to the other cucumber seller – same price)
On this Sunday morning, a few of my new friends from the Ashram where I was staying in Ram Jhulla decided to join forces and trek to a temple at the top of the hill. This essentially meant we hailed a taxi, jumped in and negotiated a fair tourist price.
“Oh, never take a taxi from this spot. They will drop you off in the wrong spot and then rip you off.”
Before we could make it to the temple, Jill convinced our driver to stop the vehicle for a photo-op.
“Oh, it is lovely. Isn’t this lovely? We have to stop here. Karen, your mother is going to love this. Namaste driver.”
We piled out of the car and took in the breathtaking mountain peaks that surrounded us in every direction. ”Oh give me your camera. Now take off your sunglasses for this one. Are you smiling? It’s hard to tell if you are smiling. Let me take another one.”
It’s probably important to mention that I abhor pictures of myself. I avoid them at all costs and I am never the type of tourist who stops to take a photo in front of a typical view. I’m a snob and god-forbid someone thinks of me for what I truly am, a tourist.
At the top of the mountain, we climbed another few metres by foot. A tiny Sadhu – compared to me, most were tiny – pressed a bindi on my forehead and ushered me into the temple. Sitting on the floor cross-legged we assumed the medidative position. I was still in my first week in India and despite my morning efforts, waking up at 5am, and meditating daily, I found it increasingly more difficult to sit still and quiet my mind.
After absorbing the view and the quiet mountain living we walked back to the taxi with the sun beating down on our white skin. I took this opportunity to ask Jill about her medidation practice. ”Oh it is amazing. I meditate twice a day for an hour each time. It has changed me. I’m a completely different person. I have so much more patience and calm. Oh it’s just amazing!” She responded with just enough oomph to make me skeptical and jealous – two very positive emotions to harbor while cultivating your own spiritual awakening in India.
“You’ve been here for six weeks?” I said that out loud.
“Oh yes. I came here with diabetes and high blood pressure and now both are gone. My guru gave me a mantra. You just find your own mantra, and that really helps with focus. Oh it’s really amazing! I mean my life changed. Really.”
If I did the calculations correctly I would be spiritually saved and a changed woman in just five more weeks. That’s not so bad. I could handle another five weeks with myself as this person.
“Oh wait. Give me your camera. That tree is beautiful. Your mother is going to love this.” I gave her my camera without hesitation this time. I needed to capture this person standing in front of the tree, posing for a picture. In just a few more weeks, she would be gone, changed forever.