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!

Advertisements

Baba’s Story

Baba

Rishikesh became our base camp from where we decided where to go next.

Baba sometimes talked about his Guruji and I became more and more curious.  He suggested that we could next travel to Bikaner, Rajasthan to pay Guruji a visit in the ashram.

Baba is not much of a talkative person, at least if you don’t ask the right questions. But if you do so, you will get to hear amazing things. I had a lot of questions and little by little I got to know his life story, which could easily fill a book:

Baba grew up in a small village in Bihar as the youngest of three children. When he was only eleven years old he broke out of society. Apparently he has been a rebel in his own way since childhood. Sometimes he went to school, but rather preferred to fish in the river or play in the mango gardens. Nobody of his family of course was happy about that, but there was no way to awaken his interest in school education.

One day it came to a chain reaction: The teacher caught him skipping classes and slapped him. Baba reacted and kicked the teacher as hard as he could in his shinbone. The teacher hit him again and brought him home to his older brother, who hit him as well because of his misbehaviour. He got hit once more by his father when he came home from work.

This day Baba ran off and jumped on the first train he found standing in Patna railway station. Destiny took him to Delhi.

He dwelt around the railway station for some time, until a Sardarji came along and offered him a roof and food in exchange for working in the household. Baba stayed with him for six months, but soon he wanted something more than only cover his basic needs and took a job as a dishwasher in a local dhaba where he could sleep, eat and got paid some rupees. It is not uncommon to see young kids working in restaurants and chai shops in India; probably many of them lived a similar story or were victims of alcohol problems in their families. After sometime the dhaba owner found out that Baba was a talented cook and he gave him that job.

Like most teenagers Baba felt attracted to all the Bollywood glamour shown on television. One day he took the money he had saved and moved to Mumbai. He did not become a  Bollywood actor, but found a well paid, but hard job at the railway station: Loading and unloading heavy bundles of textiles for their transport. After having done this job for about two years something that would change his life came into his mind: He wanted to go on the pilgrimage to the holy Shiva place of Ammarnath in Kashmir. He changed his jeans and t-shirt for a simple saffron-coloured lunghi and kurta.

Babaji

At the last stop in Jammu he went off the train. From there on he would go the rest of the distance by walk, joining many other sadhus who were heading to the same destination.

After walking on and on for a long time, a scene on the roadside attracted his attention: A crying woman holding her sick child in her arms had approached a sadhu. She explained that she already had visited many doctors, but non of them found an effective treatment. The sadhu examined the child, gave some ayurvedic medicine to the mother and his blessings to the boy.

Baba decided to follow this sadhu. There was something about him he felt attracted to in a special way. He asked him if he would accept him as a disciple, but the sadhu politely refused.

Baba followed him anyways and offered him his seva. He even followed him back to an ashram of the Nath Sampardaya in Punjab. After five months the sadhu finally decided that the time had come to accept Baba as his chela. Sadhus don’t use to accept a new disciple easily, as this also involves assuming a lot of responsibility. It is like adopting a child; by becoming someone’s Guru they also turn into the student’s father. They want to make sure as well that the applicant is serious about his decision.

In the end real sadhu life is hard life.

Guruji took Baba to his ashram in Bikaner where he lived and learned for eight years. On Guruji’s suggestion, Baba then went to live alone in his own little ashram in a desert nearby for some years.

Puja room

Eventually he decided to wander through Northern India by himself. He liked Rishikesh very much and felt curious about all the foreign travelers he met there. He was keen on knowing more about the world outside of India and simply enjoyed their company. And one day we came across each other on the shores of the Ganges.

One reason why I liked Baba from the beginning is, that he never asked anybody for anything.

He was just one of these persons I met in my life in whose eyes happiness and satisfaction were reflected.