The Indian X-Ray Experience

April 2008

The next step was to get our marriage officially registered, which turned out to be pretty much of a mission. The only identification Baba had was a Sadhu I.D. Card from the main Ashram of the Nath Sampardaya in Haridwar. We would not get very far with that document.

Our funny lawyer promised to figure out what to do and decided that the first thing to be done was to get a medical age certificate for Baba, which would be done by taking X-rays of his skull.

Of course, the whole story again seemed more than weird to me. But as there are actually only few things that do not seem strange to a westerner in India, I limited myself to shrug my shoulders and let things happen. If all of it was bullocks, I would at least have another colorful story to add to my India diary.

So, all three of us walked into a governmental hospital in Haridwar. The lawyer left us sitting on a hard wooden bench and disappeared. From time to time we saw him from a distance hopping after some doctors.

…waiting, waiting and more waiting…

Eventually the lawyer came back and brought us to the X-Ray department, where we sat on another bench to wait again. At least we were lucky enough to get a seat, as the hallway was full with people standing.

India turns you into a specialist in waiting, especially when you already have gained some train experience and in occasions have been waiting for your delayed train for about five hours. At least waiting in this country is a bit like watching T.V.; there is always something entertaining and interesting happening around you, which makes time pass by a bit quicker.

Buy popcorn and watch the show, it’s for free!

Finally the lawyer gave a sign to call us into the X-Ray room. I wondered if this really was the right place. The door stood wide open and people came in and out like at the entrance of a supermarket. The examination table with the X-Ray machine stood in the middle of the big room.

I did not get X-rayed too many times in my life, but I remember clearly that I had to wear a lead apron and that it had happened in a small, well isolated chamber, which the nurse would leave locking the door behind her before starting the machine.

Sketch222102335

In this hospital, people were X-rayed merrily one after another, like in a push button factory. The patients who were waiting for their turn sat on benches inside of that same room or stood curiously around the examination table to get a closer look on how others were getting X-rayed.

It was the first time that Baba was as a “patient” in a hospital. He was clearly feeling creepy and observed the whole scene with big eyes. The doctor instructed him to lay down on the table and not to move. The radiography took only a second and the doctor left the room. Baba apparently had not understood that the procedure was already over and was still lying there like a dead animal.

The lawyer, who was of course supervising the examination, turned towards me and said:

“Now you Madame”

“Me? Why? I’ve got a passport, I already know how old I am”

“Anyways, you also have to take the examination”

“My Passport is from Germany, it is a REAL one! It has a chip and everything”

 “Madam, please! You have to do it!”

In the end I gave in and underwent the procedure to the amusement of the whole ward. A Western woman getting an X-ray was the highlight of today’s hospital show!

We had to wait AGAIN, this time for the results. After another couple of hours the Doctor came with the documents over and said solemnly:

“Sir, you are 30 years old. Madame, your age is 28”

“Oh, how nice! On my Passport it says that I am 30”

“No, Madame! Your age is 28!!!”  

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Unintentionally Famous in India

April 2008

The next morning our story was in the papers.

cuttingThe titles said things like

“Baba-Ji caught in Uma’s love trap”

and

“Uma Devi seduced Baba-Ji to a worldly life with her Kayal-eyes”

Once again, I just can say:

INCREDIBLE

We shot to fame in town and could not walk even two steps without people stopping us waving with the newspaper in their hand and asking us when we would throw the big party for everybody. Strangers congratulated us and people who intentionally ignored us before were suddenly extremely friendly and invited us for a cup of chai. In accordance to Indian tradition, Baba was still distributing sweets to everyone. I think he had bought the entire stock. Down to the present day I still wonder which part of the crazy shot the medias showed on TV; We never got to see it, but received phone calls from all over India and even Nepal from people who did.

I know people in the west who feel having lost part of their freedom after marriage. In my case I was exactly the contrary; I felt more free than ever! No more creepy comments from passing men and the looks I received were nothing more but confused or simply curious as their gaze fell on my sindoor, the red vermilion mark which in Hinduism indicates that the woman wearing it is married. I generally received much more respect than before the marriage.

newspaperBut still, the guesthouse manager did not let us share a room, as the official papers were still missing. He advised me to go to the police station and ask directly there for permission. How embarrassing… as if the police were my parents and I had to ask them if I was allowed to sleep over at someone’s place.

But isn’t there almost nothing that one would not do for love?

So, a little nervous, I indeed walked to the police station. As I stepped in, I could feel the grin behind the police officer’s straightfaced expression. I was sure that the entire police station had already read the newspaper or seen the news on T.V. Timidly I spread the newspaper cuttings and the temple marriage certificate over his desk.

“Sir, I wanted to ask you if it is okay now that I share a room with my husband. Yesterday we got married, but we still do not have the official marriage papers”

He called his colleagues and his boss, who gathered around the desk to eye up the cuttings.

“Congratulations. Where are the sweets?”

“Excuse me? Oh… actually I completely forgot, but I can come back and bring along some sweets later on”

“Good! Fine, you may share a room with your husband. But get the papers done as soon as possible! It’s important! Have a nice day, Madam”

Relieved I left the police station.

Mission accomplished!

UMA AND THE POT-SMOKING LAWYER

Amantis

March 2008

The wedding issue was keeping us pretty busy. Which papers would we need? Baba actually did not have any but an Ashram I.D. He left his home at the age of eleven and had not returned there since; who cares about papers when you are only eleven years old and run away from home?

Would that be enough to get married at least in the temple? A spiritual marriage is as valid as a court marriage for life in society, but not for legal matters. The first one would already be enough for now.

We were so busy, that we did not find time anymore to sit and talk to the travelers who stayed in the same guesthouse and all the things India-travelers usually do, passed me by unnoticed.

Then One day, the lawyer showed up. He was in his early forties and looked like the average Indian of his age. He was short and pot-bellied with gold-framed glasses and wore his oiled hair side parted. He seemed friendly and I had the impression that he was an honest person; in the end he was a friend’s friend.

scooter

We sat down and words that sounded like English were bubbling out of his mouth while he was rolling a joint. Somehow I barely understood a quarter of what he was trying to say. I caught that he had married a mixed couple before and asked me if it would be a problem for me to convert to Hinduism, which would make things much easier.

I did not have any problem with that. There is only one god and I think that he or she doesn’t care too much in which way you try to approach him or her. I never was a much practising Christian and maybe I even knew a bit more about Hinduism than I did about Christian religion.

“This good” said the lawyer “Then you only need Hindu name for conversion certificate”

“Cool!” I thought “I would get to choose a new name for myself! How many times in your life you get a chance like that?”

Right away female Hindu names I heard before and liked rushed through my mind. I wanted one with a really nice meaning that suited me.

All of a sudden something strange happened inside my mind; the entire situation seemed totally abstract. At that precise moment I had the sensation to be swimming in the shallow water near the ocean shore, but when I tried to touch the ground with my feet, I realized that there was an immense nothingness underneath me.

I came back to my senses when Vijay showed up shouting happily

“Uma! Uma is a good name!”

“No way! Uma sounds like Oma, which means grandmother in German!” I replied harshly.

The lawyer turned to me and said something like “You still have much time. No hurry, chicken curry!”  Then he lit another spliff and off he drove on his rattling scooter that looked older than dirt.

Three days later the lawyer called Baba on his cellphone. The news was that we had to show up the next day in the court in Haridwar to sign the conversion certificate.

“Oh, then I have to choose my Hindu name today” I said

“No. Lawyer already putting Uma on the paper” answered Baba

Wonderful! 

shivaparvati

Sometimes life just takes decisions for you…

In the end I have to say that Uma really is a cool name. She is one aspect of the goddess Parvati, who is Shiva’s consort.

A story tells that Parvati finally got tired of being ignored by her husband, who dwelled in constant meditation. She left her home to become a wandering hermit and practiced such harsh self-denial, that eventually Shiva, god of ascetics, received her as his most devoted worshipper and they were reconciled.

Her name is said to have been given to her by her mother, who upon learning of Parvati’s plan to practice extreme self-denial, cried out, “U! Ma!” which means “Oh! Don’t!”

I guess my mother would have said something similar if she knew about my wedding plans!

Uma was actually the perfect name for me!