Monday, November 21, 2011

I Am the Rainbow Leopard..

Today was glorious, my spirit s lifted and I flew like an eagle up the river in the morning sun, it was great to be alive and I was so happy I’d come to India again. My friend of 12 years, Balu the bear, he who’d brought me down so badly last year, picked my spirit up again, apologizing for his bad behaviour and promising to make amends. He took me in his car 30 kms up the Ganges River, the Himalayan foothills like primeval pyramids hanging over us, Hindi pop music pulsating from his sound system. He danced ecstatically as he drove like a madman around the precipitous curves, and I remembered why people forgave him his atrocious drunken brawling, he was so much fun to be with when he was straight.

After a whole lifetime spent in India I’m still learning the Indian way of things, as a people they have endless patience and are incredibly forbearing, putting up with a lot of shit, as life is too short and hard to bear grudges for too long. Of course, murder, robbery, rape, harming children and blasphemy are not forgiven, but gaffes, punch-ups, idiotic clowning, outrageous fuck-ups, extraordinary hitches are dealt with by a shrug of the shoulders and a quiet hunkering down till the brouhaha is over, no matter how long it takes. A simple example is a guy on a horse riding against the streaming traffic in the middle of the city, nobody batting an eyelid. Thus I forgive Balu his egregious insults against my character, I’ll just try not to be around him when he gets drunk.

He took me to a river rafting camp where he had clients waiting to go white-water rafting down the Ganges. We had to row across a swollen river in a rubber dinghy to get to the camp, I thought we were just going for breakfast in some roadside village: such surprises are what I love about being on the road in India. With jungle and mountains as backdrop I was served coffee and eggs, the honoured foreign guest. On the drive back, again with our bodies jumping to the Hindi pop music, I reconnected with that incredible joie de vivre that many Indians possess, no matter their lowly station or poverty, they throb to the beat of some universal heart, a huge smile lighting up their faces. They, with their stupendous natural environment and colourful culture, refresh my wilting, thirsty soul.

And on this journey Balu told me a tale, of the Rainbow Gathering that he’d discovered camping on an isolated beach way up-river. Up to forty foreigners, mostly young, a few oldies, many with dreadlocks and wearing faded Indian hippie gear, carrying only a sleeping bag, cooking pot, a shoulder bag with a few items, they seemed to eschew the consumerist life-style, had little money, ate communally and shared the tasks. At the end of each meal they passed a hat around and those who had money put in some cash, those who couldn’t kissed the hat and passed it on. They had a charismatic German leader named Gabriel, who with strength of character enforced the few rules, like no alcohol.

They reminded me very much of how we freaks lived in India 40 years ago, and this crew were not only trying to relive the hippie lifestyle of old, in this go-get 21st century they were succeeding. Not as easily as we did, in my day things were a lot freer and looser, no cops moved us on as they do nowadays, this Rainbow crew were made to shift further up the river, on and on, always finding a new hidden halcyon jungle beach to camp upon. We also smoked hash without the proscriptions that harass the young today, we took acid, we fucked with abandon, we lived naked, now it’s all somewhat more constrained for the tribals by a new-age turned conservative.

I’ve seen these tribes of Rainbow people wandering the wilds of India and Australia but have no urge to join them in my old age. I’ve already been there and did it with the best of them, real big sadhu babas; now I prefer more solitary treks, with one or two friends at most. I also no longer fancy sitting around a campfire for weeks on end strumming guitars and singing bhajans, maybe for a few nights, but I love pop and techno music from machines too much to sing “Kumbayah”, and I'm too much of an atheist to sing the praises of God(s). My mind is ever inquiring, I need to read books, a wide range of them, I want to know everything there is to know, and then squeeze it all down into that most elegant of equations, AUM, the music of the quantum flux, a more minimalist E=MC2. And I love to be intrigued by the great art of novel writing, like the book I’m reading now in the quiet of my room, “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell, mind-blowing, a symphony of ideas that has my spirit soaring high and far in the Universal Mind.

Yeah, yeah, I could get cool stories told to me beside the campfire, and I do, every peasant in a chai-shop has an interesting story, I just don’t feel to do the hippie thing anymore, but all power to those who seek it, they are rebels against the body-corporate and I love them for it. My most tribal activity is dancing to trance in Goa with all the jungle bunnies, the body moving to the compound rhythms, giving me Nirvana.

While spinning fast through the foot-hills Balu told me another cool story that had my hair prickling. He'd gone camping with the Rainbow tribe way up into the mountains and one dark night, when trekking with just two others, a big leopard approached them and was likely to pounce upon them, only Balu led his freaked companions away, walking backwards and shaking a sharp stick in the predator's face. He was considered a hero for this, hugged by all the hippies in thanks and cheered as a new member of the Rainbow Gathering. Their leader, Gabriel, must've been fooled as he made special dispensation for Balu, he was the only one allowed to drink alcohol in the camp. Maybe he recognised how nasty Balu could get if he was crossed and simply mollified him, hoping to guard his flock from the vengeful powers of a local.

(I was kidding myself, trying to be a nice guy, when I raved about how patient Indians could be; overcrowding and the pressures to get on top can cause Indians to finally snap, the outrageous murders and massive riots here proving the point. I still think many of the townspeople are very weary and wary of Balu's drunken antics. I made the mistake, after going to a wedding ceremony high in the mountains, of offering to buy Balu and gang a beer, like us Aussies are want to do. At the last minute they chose whiskey instead and proceeded to get filthy drunk, at my expense. Then Dr. Jeckyll turned into Mr. Hyde, I and my hotel manager were insulted till our ears burned, over nothing, an imaginary bug in our fruit salad. Balu barked at me like a dog and I roared back like a leopard. How oh how can a personality change so monstrously with just a few glasses of alcohol?)

Back to more utopian imagery, I think fondly of the young freaks at “childhood’s end” wandering the jungles of India, while world apocalypse threatens, oh that’s a life more interesting than getting drunk or carrying a briefcase around a dehumanising city! It so thrillingly takes me back to my youth when I wandered India in the Seventies, and that’s the breathtaking story I have to tell around the campfire.

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.