Hindu Conversion with Rumpelstilskin

March 2008

We were on our way to Haridwar in a collective Rickshaw to meet the lawyer in his office to sign the religious conversion. The ride takes about one hour. One of our Baba friends decided to accompany us, as he had nothing better to do anyways. I don’t even know his exact name; we simply call him Sita Ram Baba. He’s an older Sadhu, small and ever smiling with a cunning expression in his eyes. He always reminded me a bit of Rumpelstiltskin.

Shiva

We made our way through the crowded bazaar in Haridwar in search of the lawyer’s office. I doubt that in western terms you would ever call it an office. It was a tiny room of about 1.5 m². The walls were full of mold and other nasty stains. There were three ancient steel cupboards on which bundled papers wrapped in cloth were piled up. As I later found out they were all death certificates.

Nice energy!

At our arrival the lawyer quickly kicked out the two guys who were napping on the floor. There were no chairs or tables and the lawyer invited us to take a seat on the shabby carpet. The opened door offered a view on a narrow alley. In front of us a number of fat cows were chewing and shitting in turns. A boy came in to serve us chai. The Babas and the lawyer shared a joint while talking in Hindi; I busied myself with observing the cows and the Indian huzzle-buzzle in the alley.

I had assumed that we would go to the court, sign the papers and go straight back to Rishikesh.

The vocabulary quick and fast is apparently only known to Rickshaw-drivers in India. If you think you can do something quickly here, forget it! The universe will laugh out loud at you!

Baba and I took a cycle Rickshaw to the court, the lawyer and Sita Ram drove on his ancient Bajaj scooter. It looked pretty funny how the grinning Rumpelstiltskin with a flying beard was sitting behind the besuited lawyer.

The night before, I had seen the court in my dreams. There, it was a luxurious building with marble floors and heavy lusters. A serious man, dressed in a smart suit came to receive us.

The reality though, looked slightly different: The court was literally nothing but a pavement court. It was surrounded by many stalls that were covered by tin roofs under which some sweating clerks were hammering wildly on their manual typewriters. Others were just sitting there, busy with doing nothing. The lawyer delivered us to of one of the nothing-doing-guys, who looked very serious and decided to not take any notice of us.

The lawyer said ¨I’ll be back in a minute¨ and disappeared. Time passed by and the serious clerk still ignored us completely. He pulled out his Indian thali-tupperware on which he feasted munching and burping, while my stomach was complaining loudly about its emptiness.

sitaramTwo hours had passed and still no sign of our lawyer. Baba had called him several times on his cellphone and each time he affirmed that he was on his way. I was almost sure that he was having a nap after having enjoyed a rich family lunch at home. The only establishment around the court area was a chaiwallah, where we ate a couple of dry bread-pakora with chilli sauce. Sita Ram Baba is a restless soul and had spent the last two hours complaining audibly about EVERYTHING.

After more than three hours, when I was on the edge of suffering a nervous breakdown, the lawyer drove in happily, grinning with satisfaction. I was already really angry and wanted to polish that stupid smile off his face. Proudly he presented a letter to me, as if nothing had happened. What I read, was the most unbelievable story ever and on top of it, it was full of spelling mistakes!

The story told about my deep passion for Hinduism since childhood, how my life changed after I finally met my longed for Guru and that I therefore had the deep desire to convert to Hinduism; Well, of course I feel attracted to Hindu religion, but I have to say that the lawyer’s imagination really surprised me!

¨Okay. Now you check if all correct and then sign here¨

I don’t exactly know what he meant with “correct”; I was tired and just corrected a few spelling mistakes in my name. Then I sighed deeply and signed the paper with my new Indian Name ¨Uma Devi¨. If I would have corrected all the spelling mistakes, I would have ruined the entire letter.

¨Okay, that’s it¨ said the lawyer, went to get a stamp from the unfriendly clerk and handed the paper to me.

I spent the entire day here in the heat, only for this?!?

Bubbling rage was brewing up in my stomach, when suddenly another lawyer popped out from nowhere; his assistant. Both lawyers took my Baba to the side and talked for some time vividly in Hindi. The only thing I wanted was to leave that place. I pulled Baba by his sleeve ¨Come on, let’s go!¨

In the Rickshaw back to Rishikesh I asked Baba about what the lawyers had said.

¨This man say, you need certificate from Doctor¨

¨What certificate?¨

¨No relation-wallah¨

¨Excuse me?¨

¨No Sex. Certificate saying you no having sex before. And also pregnancy test¨

Haridwar

I didn´t know if to laugh or if to cry. This must be a joke! Were they really thinking that they could get a positive virginity test from a nearly thirty year old western woman?!? To meet a thirty year old western virgin is possibly as difficult as to find a holy cow in Europe!

I was so furious and couldn’t find any mean to get rid of my anger. Sita Ram was still complaining loudly and I played with the thought of ramming my fist into his face.

It was getting dark and it started to rain cows and monkeys. The cold wind blew the heavy rain into the Rickshaw exactly from the side were I was sitting. I was soaked and freezing. I decided not to talk; as there were no nice thoughts on my mind, no nice words would come out of my mouth either.

In Rishikesh we finally took a decent meal in a restaurant. It was already 7 p.m. I just wanted to lock myself into the room and end that stupid day. I ate as fast as I could. In the meanwhile the rain had turned into a thunderstorm and the power went off.

Without paying much attention to the Babas I took my sandals into my hands and walked out into the rain; I was already drenched anyways. I didn’t even bother to roll up my pants and waded through the turbid flood that had reached knee-level. I tried hard not to think about what kind of surprises and lifeforms might be swimming in the brown sludge. I still could hear Sita Ram complaining from a distance.

My Baba didn’t didn’t understand my bad mood at all and followed me chuckling. While I was thinking

“Crazy Indians!”

he was probably thinking

“Crazy Westerners!”

Haridwar

5 thoughts on “Hindu Conversion with Rumpelstilskin

  1. Oh that is a new twist! Confirmation of virginity for conversion! I bet he has a cousin or friend that is a doctor and could do that for you “no problem”. These are not necessary and neither is the long story. My conversion paper is just a piece of paper (pretty official looking) that just says that on this date at this temple I converted. It was signed by me, my husband and two witnesses. No lawyers needed. Converting is not a legal process and if you only intend a hindu wedding, still no lawyers needed. The court description is perfect and even in Delhi it looks just like that. Good luck and keep on breathing!

    • Yep, this lawyer was a clown. Of course all of what they wanted was nonsense, but who knows what went on in their twisted minds… at least he gave me some stories to laugh about. Of course they only become funny after all has passed, while you are living such things, you don’t feel like laughing at all!

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