The Heat, the Honey, the Blues, a Spark. Part One: The Heat. The Honey.

Well, here in Pondicherry, a former French colony,

I’m having a bit of a harder time.  I don’t know anyone at the ashram, and I’m staying at a Guest House that’s not physically attached to it.    So, I feel a bit isolated.   I’ve written to my Pune friends to ask for advice. Yesterday, I devoted myself to writing and reading in my room and then venturing out in the middle of the day.   This was a mistake!   But I needed honey.

See, it is SO HOT here, it’s unbelievable.  After having spent two weeks in New Orleans one August and once living for a summer in Charleston, SC, in a house without AC, I figured I knew what this would be like. But, Oh, no.  This is different.  The heat here feels like something solid, like getting whacked with a board, tackled, spanked.

I went out to look for a grocery store.  I knew there had to be one.  I needed honey.  I like honey in my tea.  Sugar, which normal people use without a thought, in my strange dietary world, is something that was devised by the devil.  It wrecks me emotionally.

I’m also addicted to it.  So, I try to avoid it.  It’s a problem.   Normal people can’t understand this.  But honey doesn’t seem to have the same effect on me.  So, having a sweet tooth, and trying to avoid sugar, I like to have honey.  I NEED IT.  It can also be hard to find.

(Let it be admitted that all of this of course demonstrates the extent of my attachment to worldly things,

cows, mommy and baby

how far I am from anything like enlightenment, and may be the as yet undiscovered and unknown factor in bee-colony decline.)

So, I walked and walked and walked, past hundreds of shops and stalls and carts

selling fabrics, clothes, fruits, dried fruits, milk products, juices, handicrafts, fish, shrimp, dried fish, tobacco products, ice cream, leather works, newspapers, papers, magazines, cds, past notaries, tailors, astrologers, mediums, etc.,

 and not like just one of each of these, all of them repeated again and again.  And remember, every corner is perilous, every street crossing a danger.  Did I mention the exhaust?   The diesel?

Watch out for that bike!  The Ambassador!  The rickshaw!  People were everywhere sitting on the sidewalks or on the curbs, smartly doing very little.  Of course hundreds of others were shopping with panache, obviously constitutionally prepared for the outing.  I went into a spiritual bookstore, panting and covered in sweat, and asked for a grocery.   The nice calm beautiful spiritual woman told me where one was, writing down the name and the street, a few blocks farther off.

I went back out into the heat.

Not that it had been any cooler in the bookstore.  I told myself, “Only walk in the shade.”   Which made me think of being on a mountaineering training course one winter in Alta, Utah, in a blizzard, saying to myself, “Don’t face the wind.”   No wind here, Buck-O .   I was feeling a little delirious.   An old woman came up to me asking me for money.   She looked terrible.  Really bad.  I didn’t have any small bills or change, so I just had to say, “No, sorry,” and wave her off, and keep walking.   That haunted me.  I could give her something on my way back.

Finally, I made it to Nilgiri’s. 

A grocery store!  Small, but still.  Inside, it was less hot.  I thought there must be a refrigerator section somewhere where I could just hang out for a while and gaze at the cheeses and chicken.  But, no, the milk, juice, etc., is boxed.  At one point, when I felt I was going to pass out, I stood under a weak AC vent in the ceiling, staring up at it as if there were some kind of magical insect with translucent blue wings flitting about.  I needed water.  I found the one little standing cooler and opened the glass door to see what kind of water was in there.  The bottle said, “Club Soda.”  Club Soda!   Santa Maria!  Or, I guess I should say, “Jai Lakshmi!”  Unlike in Spain or Italy, where “agua con gas” is everywhere, I keep asking for sparkling water, but no one knows what I’m talking about.  (Obviously, I’m not eating at the finest restaurants.)  Since I don’t drink Coke, it being sparkled by Satan, I’ve felt that soda water might be good for my stomach.  I’ve not been sick , but my stomach gets a little queasy.  And here it was, water fizzed by angels.   I grabbed two of them, and a few other items, and my big jar of honey, and exhausted went back out into the exhaust-blown, heat-sizzling street.

Tomorrow, please join me in exploring the inside of the sad sack I inhabited yesterday.  I’ll dedicate the page to Shiva and Kali–god and goddess of destruction.



4 thoughts on “The Heat, the Honey, the Blues, a Spark. Part One: The Heat. The Honey.

  1. You cracked me up, Michael. I thought it was hot at the zoo yesterday–a mere 93–but now I know we were enjoying a cool front!

  2. It was nearly 100 here yesterday and will be 99 again today. But I think air-conditioning helps…

    Sounds like you’re having quite the time, Michael. Long trips to other countries are always like that, aren’t they? Vacillations between absolutely loving the experience and feeling as though you’re going to die if you can’t just leave that exact minute. You long to throw yourself out of your everyday experience–and then you do. And then you realize what you’ve done. Of course, you’re on a more unusual journey, given your spiritual quest, though I do think all travel contains an element of that. It always opens a door onto the self.

    Okay. Enough arm-chair philosophy. I’m enjoying reading the posts!

    • Thanks, Kathe. Yes, these long trips, especially when going solo, have these moments of being out of sorts and at wits frayed ends. Part of the eternal rhythm, I guess. Happily I’m coming back jup from my low point! Thanks for writing! Hope you guys are well and planning your own trips with good spirits! M

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