A Manual for Survival in India in the Sixties
    Richard Meyers
Pack up your belongings; it's time to move on. Roll up your stuff into the sleeping bag. Gather the diary and the Tibetan tonka and walking stick and head to the docks for the boat to Goa. Turn your eyes away from the hotel clerk at the desk; you have less than five hundred rupees, not enough to pay the two-month bill. Anyway, he's holding your passport as collateral. Everyone knows that you'll be back. You'll need that money in Goa, but you can always sell some of the hashish and chances are you'll run into French or Italian Bruno or Javier or someone else who will let you crash on their floor, same as last year.

On the way to the wharf you'll pass by Ram near the Gateway of India monument. Try to trade him the tonka for a few tolas of Afghani black. Ram has the best connections with Bombay's black market. Don't let him see the Kashmiri shit you have wrapped up with the chillum in the dhoti. That's special stash that must be saved for the full moon gathering on Anjuna Beach next week. Taking the late afternoon boat, be sure to get a spot on the deck where you can sleep under the stars. There's always music, improvised drumming and guitars, to help blend in with the rhythm of the waves. You know how turbulent the Arabian Sea is sometimes. Passengers are sent rolling from side to side, engine soaked and sputtering, the vessel running the risk of crashing against the rocks of the Malabar Coast. Don't sleep under the beams or any moveable cargo and cover your feet so the rats won't nibble on the calluses. Squeeze lemon and rub cloves on the neck and ears to keep the mosquitoes away and cover your head. Lice dance wildly in the moonlight on the night boat to Goa. In the morning insist that the captain understands that you want to dock at Panjim, the main town and old Portugese capitol, so they don't try to get away with leaving us forty miles north in Margoa in order to save them time on their voyage back to Bombay.

A quarter of a mile from the Panjim dock is that bar, the brightly colored one, that serves the cashew finney liquor. You'll have a couple of shots, just enough to help get your balance. Usually, you'll be stumbling around dizzy for hours on rubbery sea legs. Bite into a chile before swigging it down and the hot spice will help to prevent any stomach cramps that may be caused by the unstrained alcohol. The problems of cramping, diarrhea and food poisoning occur in the first months in India. You are well beyond any of that, having lived in this country for years. You may sometimes want to caution the uninitiated travelers to take good care of their bodies but avoid the details about all the possible parasites and worms and skin infections to watch out for. No one needs to be overwhelmed by apprehensions. When the serious runs begin, the best remedy is to just swallow a ball of opium. It always works. The doctors outside the big cities will use spells and other strange cures. Going to a hospital may mean picking up infections and if you have no paisa you could be reported to your embassy and then deported home. Don't tell this to the new arrivals; they'll learn it all in good time. The way it happens often is that a newcomer will start off with a lot of money and gradually India will show them how to lose and surrender up their attachments before anything of lasting value can be learned.

On the bus that winds over the palm-fringed landscape, see if you can ride free. Say that you are a seeker of God, "Bhagavan" It's always worked when riding the trains. In Indian eyes we travelers are seen as pilgrims and worshippers. What other reason would bring us from the wealth and privilege of the West to such a poor unfortunate country, they ponder. The Indian heart and mind has respected our spiritual search. Our presence has been blessed for many long years because there was a basic truth in it. Now things may be changing. Many desperate and insincere are coming, junkies and thieves. The center thread is unraveling. The scene is perhaps going sour as more and more waves of travelers rush to these shores. We hear off the grapevine that Indira Ghandi dislikes "hippies." Some dark and irreverent acts are causing negative attention. There are stories of travelers urinating on temple walls and there are a rash of flip-outs -- the French girls who ate themselves into dhatura comas and deaths and full moon burials and Coffee Beans; the Brazilian -- overdosed on acid -- ended his life by simply walking out into the Arabian Sea, and in view of everyone. We know we have come from limits of our pasts and we have sought freedom from old values and identities. We've gone through that door of perception to the other side at the farthest edge of our freedom. Now, many wonder, where to go from here. Once I counted a hundred and fifty LSD that I had taken in just over two years. You can't continue opening that amazing door just to return back to your old self, untransformed. Now the hard drugs have come, heroin and morphine. There's no vision in them and no ceremony either, just sensation and immobility.

Some of us need to talk about the changes. Away from the waves of new people on the scene, we who've been here for the long journey need to talk. It's a responsibility we feel. This is how we gather. The word goes out that we will meet in a circle, a dhuni. It will be at a well-known house, either Eight-Finger Eddie's or at Spanish Gil's or the big French House at Bhaga Beach. This is how we gather. Each one of us brings an offering of hashish for the circle. The floor of the chosen meeting place is swept clean. Incense is placed at the corners of the room and flowers, garlands of jasmine, are placed as the centerpiece of the dhuni. Sometimes among the flowers will be finger paintings created from the colored dyes from the marketplace. We come together at one of the houses at dusk unless the moon is waxing bright and we decide to gather at the beach.

The drumming will begin at dusk and anyone uncertain of the way to the gathering need only follow the sound of the drums. The rhythms will pour out into the twilight and continue into the evening. Suddenly, intuitively and magically, the drums will stop and a deep silence will fall upon the scene. The silence will signal the time for words. It is a rare occurrence that words become essential for the community's survival. There may be chanting or the singing of a Beatles song to begin the meeting. A voice will come forward to open things up. It's a mystery to me what it is in a person that is seized to speak out for others and move the moment forward. What was it in Moses or Jesus or Mohammed or any prophet that made them a leader, the chosen or self-chosen voice? Here in Goa there will be that chief voice that speaks collectively for the group.

On this occasion at this sunset meeting, it will probably be the voice of Eight-Fingered Eddy or Dutch Ad or French Bruno that takes the feeling, the thread of common concern, to the listeners in the circle.The thoughts and feelings must be heard and shared; the resolution will be turned over in the end to God's will.

Then there comes the time for the chillum. It is the ceremony of accord and connection. This is how it's done. The edges of an amount of hashish are burned and softened and then crumbled and mixed with tobacco into the palm of the hand. The prepared mixture, sometimes reheated, then is funneled into the chillum, a river mud clay cylinder the saddhus use for smoking ganja and hashish. The mixture slides the length of the pipe to the lower place where it is caught against a stone called "the giddy" which acts as the filter. A dampened cloth from a person's lunghi is wrapped around the short base of the chillum. It is called "the safi" and used as the smoker's mouth filter. A properly prepared chillum of hash, tobacco and sometimes ganja can easily pass around a circle of smokers, ten or more, a couple of times. Next is the critical part, the holding of the chillum by two hands. It cannot really be described, but can be learned by the feel of it and practice. There is only one way to effectively smoke a chillum and it may take a long time, even after demonstration, before one masters it. The preparing, passing and smoking the chillum in a dhuni are the steps in the ritualized ceremony of coming and sharing together, a kind of sacred act to invoke the divine and a gesture of the collective will of a community.

Once several chillums have completed the rounds a satisfaction comes and a transcendent chord is reached and a unified communication is accomplished. That's how it works. After embracing your friends you may step out into the night on the beach and behold the vast vault of stars. The waves will come pounding then purring. It may be the most tranquil sound you will ever hear. The sea circumscribes our journeys and speaks a common language to us all out here on this frontier of change and promise and, God knows, of challenges.

So pack up your things. It's time to move on.

It's becoming too hot for Goa as the summer months approach. Gather what you need for journeys ahead, north to the lower Himalayas and Kulu Valley and the Vale of Kashmir and circle the subcontinent in winter for sojourns in Benares and Bombay. "The end is in the source inscribed," a wise man I heard, say. "Around the circle never described." Keep moving! Fare forward, Khrishna. You must allow the mystery to unfold. It doesn't clear up by repeating the questions nor can answers be bought with going to amazing places. Continue living out of your deepest breath and longest dream. Your eye is meant to see things and the soul is here for its own joy. Do not fear the end of things or the fading of more glorious times. True, our grace in India may end but then love is for vanishing into the sky. Being human, surviving in India, is like being a guest of amazement in a house where every morning greets new arrivals. A joy may come, followed by grief; momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and embrace them all, the shadowy thoughts, the visions and the shame, meet them at your door laughing and invite them in. There is always the labyrinth of memory in which to dwell. What a time that was! Be grateful for whatever spirit comes. "Each has been sent as a guide from beyond," another wise man told me.

Richard Meyers was active in the Berkeley, California, Civil Rights, and the free speech movement of the early sixties. He went to India to serve in the Peace Corps for two years after which he continued in India, Central and South East Asia for another four years working as a teacher of English.

His works include the novels The Journey That Never Was Made, Alms For Oblivion, Under Indian Skies and A Maze for Infidels. His short stories, essays, and plays include Rivers of Babylon, Dark Rituals and Last Train to Simla. Currently he teaches English at City College of San Francisco.


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