Wednesday, February 22, 2006

sadhu in the city

there is a sadhu wandering around the city centre. for real. i have rarely come across one in the metropolises of Desh, but here he is somehow, 7,855 miles from Delhi.

He is a big man, tall and imposing. He's dressed in faded robes which were once saffron. He has a impressive beard and his long white hair are tied in a messy top-knot like Shiva, held in place with rudra beads. He carries a little trishul to impress, and also, lots and lots of music equipment.

He sets up his speakers and microphones and seats himself in manners mall, the pedestrian area that is the very heart of the city, where everyone arranges to meet their friends. A crowd gathers around him to watch. He stares back at everyone wide-eyed, neither smiling nor angry. He reminds me of elderly relatives that make me nervous because you can't tell what they are thinking.

He has a stringled musical instrument which I don't know the name of. It is made of wood, it looks like a harp, if the harp were made by a ten year old living in a jungle. He then starts singing - or making strange noises anyway, while plucking at the strings. I am not sure if he is reciting a sanskrit mantra, singing a english pop song, or gargling with mouthwash.

A pretty hippie girl in a colourful skirt, casually goes and sits down cross-legged at his feet. Sadhuji doesn't blink. The rest of his audience - suited office-workers out for lunch, a group of pretty girls in mini-skirts, middle-aged tourists with their mouths open, and others, all look on in amazement.

I am forced to leave the holy man's exalted presence due to a lunch appointment, and when I return an hour later, he has disappeared along with all his stuff. I ask the drunkard sitting on a nearby bench what happened to the strange musician, but he just winks at me and says "He threw a rope up in the air and disappeared in the clouds."

That is of course a terrible lie. I see Mr Sadhu once more while I am taking the bus back home. Still in his exotic costume, he is seated with his disciple outside a cafe, and they are both drinking Starbucks coffee. I guess holy men drink coffee too.