Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Drive My Karma

As a life-long Beatles fan, one of the highlights of my trip to India was visiting the abandoned ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh. As you can tell from the photos this place was really weird. Mattias and I had some vague sense of the path to take to get there, but when we stumbled on the back entrance with its rusty old sign, we couldn't quite believe this was the legendary place. Seems the good guru had some tax issues and took himself to kinder turf in Switzerland, leaving his space-odyssey hobbit-playground spirit-outpost to overgrow as a ghost town. Packs of mean monkeys, spiderwebs, underground meditation chambers, the odd squatting baba, I couldn't really relax and felt as though the ghost of Ringo's baked beans was gonna jump out and goose me any second. There was a caretaker there (I have a great photo of his daughter in front of a "Jai Guru Dev" --"Nothing's gonna change my world"-- mosaic which I couldn't find for this...of course), but he was too busy reading something holy to bother with the likes of us. Plus, his wife was brushing his hair. We returned the next day with some Brits and took lots of photos and...et cetera.

Something that always seemed strange to me about Rishikesh was the complete lack of Beatles references--no Let It Bidhi Stand or I want to Hold your Genuine Discount Indian Handicrafts; no "Everybody's got pee in their chai 'cept for Super Best Chutney." The owner of one bookshop, a learned man in his 40's, hadn't even heard of the Beatles. I was asking if he had any books about their visit there--of course he didn't. In fact, the only book I could ever find about their time there was mostly photos and not very informative. So I was really pleased to see Lewis Lapham's new book With the Beatles. I mixed feelings about Lapham (he can be sort of a blowhard), but I do trust him as a journalist, and although he's more cynical than I am about it all, he does a pretty job of capturing the atmosphere of their visit. It's not a perfect book but if you're a Beatles fan with some interest in that strange sidenote of their illustrious career you might enjoy it.


At 7:14 AM, Anonymous momster said...

The classic quote I will take away from this post is:
"...the ghost of Ringo's baked beans was gonna jump out and goose me."

I bet that ghost is pretty stinky.

At 7:53 AM, Anonymous dbd said...

probably my favorite non-poem post yet. i laughed out loud at "Everybody's got pee in their chai..." which is both a testament to your comedy-writing-skills and my enduring love of all pee-related jokes.

Interesting, too--love the pictures...

At 8:25 AM, Anonymous Blade said...

What goes on in those little huts? They look cool.

At 9:09 AM, Blogger tina said...

That book sounds interesting. And I'm going to be singing "Everybody's got pee in their chai 'cept for Super Best Chutney" all day, and I'm going to like it. Until I hate it.

But right now I like it.

At 10:45 PM, Blogger Chris said...

I just got "Drive My Karma"....I'm slow like that.

Really diggin' these India pieces, Pete -- fresh off the grittle and chock full of goodness, like homemade chapati.

At 11:40 AM, Anonymous Blade said...

Is Ringo famous for liking / eating baked beans?

And - I guess you're going to tell me about those huts offline, dude?

At 9:18 AM, Blogger pete. said...

Well, the legend is that Ringo was so afraid of the Indian food that he brought along a suitcase of Heinz baked beans in tomato sauce.

Those stone huts seemed to be for visiting devotees to stay in. Each one had a tiny open area in the bottom with enough room for maybe a mattress. Then there was a tightly winding stair up to a really small room we assumed was a meditation chamber. You could still see faded painted clouds on the domed ceilings.


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