Steel Notes Magazine Spring 2017 - Page 82

Steel Notes Magazine Spring 2017 Supranee and I mostly communicated through sign language, since a dealer had cut out her tongue, and she couldn’t speak. We had a sweet, fleeting relationship. I had become so used to the pace and peacefulness of life in India, that Bangkok seemed far too fast and modern. Besides, I wanted to get back to Penelope and see what that life had in store for me. It may seem crazy, but since bribery was so common in India, and I had paid off those cops on the train in Allahabad, I thought I’d go to the Embassy and try to bribe the Ambassador. So I got on a bus and headed for the Indian Embassy. I wasn’t able to see the Ambassador, but I did have an interview with the First Consul. I remember sitting in front of his big desk and telling him my story, and a story it was. I said I was a student studying Indian culture, and that I was so disappointed to have my ex- ploration and discoveries interrupted. But more than that, I poured my heart out to him, saying that I was engaged to be married to a woman I’d met in Calcutta, and now this bureaucratic red tape was forcing me to leave my love behind. Indians are romantics, and as amazing as it may seem the Consul looked at me and said, in his clipped Indian English, “Let me see your passport.” As he thumbed through it he called out loudly, saying something in Hindi. Then fixing me in an officious look, he said, “I will give you visa.” With that, he wrote in my passport as a man brought him a stamp and inkpad, which he pressed into the pages before handing it back to me with a smile. I arrived at the Calcutta airport on February 29th. Penelope had said to come to Bondel Road, Ballygunge Phari, that was all I had in the way of an address. I had been to the apartment, but had no memory of where it was or how to get there. After retrieving my Tibetan backpack and shooing away all the would-be porters, I went to bargain for a taxi. I felt much better hag- gling for a set price, rather than being taken god knows where for god knows how long through the streets of Calcutta. I shared the cab with another passenger, an Indian gentleman, and after dropping him off we finally arrived at my destination. It was just a rather large square, or plaza, surrounded by several stores, restaurants and other buildings and with various roadways emanating outwards. Looking out of the taxi window I was lost, and I had my doubts as to whether the driver had brought me to Ballygunge Phari or was just dropping me off somewhere in the middle of Calcutta. Just then the brown, smiling face of a teenage Indian boy appeared at the window. “Are you looking for Penelope?” he asked. “Yes,” I smiled back, thankful for what seemed another small Indian miracle. In a country of nearly a billion people, I had had encoun- ters that were hard to explain, such as when I met Peter in Dharamsala, which I described in Chapter 2. I had met him by chance when he was sitting in a restaurant in McLeod Ganj at the same table as a few Italian and French hippies, whom I’d joined to smoke hash and drink tea. He and I had left to go drink Chhaang, a thick, bitter and potent Tibetan rice beer. We were just two guys that had just met in India; we didn’t know each other, except for the bit of information we’d shared while drinking. He was English, but was born in India. Well educated; he had taught in the university, and he had known and traveled with Ram Das, during the latter’s first sojourn of discov- ery in India. I told him I wrote poetry. Later,when we were walking through the narrow streets, he asked to hear some of my poetry. As I was reciting some from memory, he turned to me and asked, “are you Greg’s friend?” It was Greg’s letter I’d received back in Phoenix a year ago that that had started my mysterious journey to India. The smiling boy turned out to be Balaji, who worked as a part-time cook for Jon and Penelope. It was good to be back in India, and living there, in an apartment, was a new and different experience than staying in hotels. So was liv- ing with Pene lope and no longer being on my own. We had talked about marrying our lives together that first week we’d spent together, and now decided to actually get married. We applied for a marriage license, which meant visiting the Indian authorities, which told us we had to post banns of marriage. Posting banns is a rather ancient procedure, in which you post the intention of the two people to get married so that anyone who has a reason to stop the marriage can come forward. We were actually supposed to post signs in Calcutta and Delhi, and we were required to do it for 90 days, before the license would become valid. We also visited the American and Austra- lian consulates as well. My feelings about getting married wavered over the next few months, during which we took trips to Shantiniketan and Manali. Jon and Penelope shared a rented house in Shantiniketan, which is Tagore’s hometown. Pen and I went there to get away from Calcutta for 82 Steel Notes Magazine