Wednesday, March 31, 2004

"HE HAS DONE WITH DOING. HE GOES HOME." - the master doorekeeper on the island of roke at the end of Ursula K. LeGuin's "The Farthest Shore" (book III of the Earthsea Trilogy)

i write now from chiang mai thailand. i am leaving asia for vancouver / victoria a week from today. bittersweet...yesterday i gave mama nit (my teacher) a massage tool from usa and she gave me some beautiful thai clothing. we have a wonderful report and i will miss her and her shcool very much. but i am ready to come home.
much more to write...much more to tell.

i can't wait to see you all soon.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

in calcutta now sipping the absolute worst "root bear" i've ever had "rose & thistle" brand made here...it is like a terrible non-alcoholic beer...not root beer as we know it.

my trip to india is winding down. finally. i end where i began. in abhiroop's flat last night - grandma gone back to bihar for a spell - it was a boy's club wathcing pakistan beat india BARELY in the second one-dayer of the indo-pak cricket series.

parnab met me at the cal. train sta. and we went by ferry and taxi to abhi's. parnab has some wonderful ideas for my show here and has invited ALL the cal. press so there may finally be something in print about VALUES! (a reporter in pondicherry got sidetracked by 50,000 indians attending amachi's first ever visit to hug pondy)

the country shut down a few days ago (sun) to watch and listen to india beat pak (BARELY) and today the headlines are "THE SHINE IS ON THE OTHER BOOT." ahh the bowlers and batsmen of our boys in blue.

i am ticketed for a flight sunday from cal to dhaka
monday for dhaka to bangkok
not yet sure if i'll go to chiang mai on monday night train to start a training at ashokananda ashram on tuesday or just hang around bangkok with paul and noom figuring out the next flight(s) and then just go study briefly again with mama nit - spend maha songkrahm with paul and noom and move on...all TBA

the muggy humid heat of calcutta reminds me how useless i can get in these climates so i may breeze through thailand back to spring in north america.

the last month + has been amazing. surprise?! no, india never ceases to amaze. i met an israeli guy in bangkok who also used to work with yael and peace child israel told me "1 month in india you will want to come home. 2 months in india you will start to see how indians live and why it's a magical place. 3 months in india you will want to stay for another 6 months."
it's true.
i could stay.
but i can't $tay.
plus it's always better to leave wanting more.

my time at sri ram ashram was a dreamy-dream. i am surprised how attatched i became to the children there. i taught yoga and pilates and gave about a dozen thai massages. nice.

rishikesh is only about an hour away and i went thrice.
ahh. rishikesh. as soon as i saw her, she looked somehow familiar. i lived in a restaurant and occassioanlly worked there too. "cnaan cafe" the only place i've ever seen jachnoon and chamim (chulent) being served on shabat in india.

i trekked to a waterfall with a lovely dutch artist named margot, played lots of percussion with french, belgian, american, indian and israeli musicians.
watched the moon reflect on the ganga and observed or participated in several big and small pujas.

i took one yoga class in which the instructor BARKED ques to us for pranayama. it was militaristic. really. oof. ever since then i've had this spasm in my rhomboid. why?

i am finsihing up my application for anusara yoga affiliation - getting ready to fax it off.
i didn't get the job at seeds of peace - not too surprising , really.

i am in contact with a few chicago yoga studios and talking about meeting in a few months to interview for employment.

it seems that i will be showing VALUES at the actors gang in LA in may or june as a late night after namaste thearte co. "the lonesome west" - still being ironed out but synchronisity would have it that my old acting/improv teacher, shira piven, is working on the mainstage concurrently!

the next month will determine weather or not i go from thailand to israel/europe - USA or more directly to USA/CAN.

pray for cheap tickets to be available in bangkok.

pray for my show here in cal.

pray for me
i stepped on a bug.

pray for the good rev. MC Hammer.

thas Y we pray!

Sunday, February 22, 2004

an email from one of the young women of IP college drama society.

[note: there were about 60 people at my show on day one of the fest but towards teh end of day two, while he fest lost NO steam on stage, the audience dwindled]

dear Aaron,
i was returning this book to the library when your card slipped out of
it, the book was ironically 'breast stories' by mahasveta devi(on which parnab
sir did his play at SPA) and i suddenly realized that that day at SPA was the
last of what i saw of you ! so here i am , mailing you . whats up with you ? how
was rishikesh ? did you perform anywhere else ?if yes then how did it go ? you
see i am extremely intersted in knowing how people react to your plays ,god
knows i still am not sure how to .but i guess not eveything in life needs to be
put into words. like the theatre fest at IP--exactly 14 people in the crowd,the
actors on the stage thankfully deaf to the echo of their voice and the 14
strangely happy .i do not believe in writing long letters so this is it from
me,ie,for now ,i would lov to be in touch with you! i hope you reply . see you
when you come to delhi .



dear anvita
i am at the sri ram ashram in shyampur kangri outside of haridwar. here i am teaching yoga, pilates, and giving thai-massage to the other ashramis. rishikesh was amazing. i played music everynight with many very cool people from all over the world. it was very mellow and sweet. like a good chai.
i have not performed my play since delhi but am planning to work with sir again in calcutta and perform there in april on my way back to bangkok. maybe there will be some more shows in europe and the states/canada later this spring/summer. we'll see. for now i am reading a lot and spending time with my guru - sri baba hari dass and all the orphan children of the ashram. one of them was on the front page of the delhi newspapers. did you hear about this little 2.5 yr. old girl named "arpita" who was brought to us close to death? she was abused and had both arms broken and internal bleeding. she is doing better now. thanks god.
yesterday the governor of uttaranchal came to speak at our annual function. 200 police lined the road from haridwar to the stage and he was so nice and said many inspirational things in hindi AND english!
i too feel that the fest. at IP was very special...almost unreal...too fast, etc. my play- i feel - is not yet ready to come out so reactions are of course hard to put in to words. maybe by the time i show it in calcutta it will be more finished.
14 people is alot compared to none at all.
yours truly,
aaron kahn


someday, i really want to write more about delhi, the gulab jamun, the fest. etc. but not now.

ashram calls as darkness settles! SHIVARATRI!

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

oh yeah, the mailing address:

Rajeev Kahn

c/o Sri Ram Ashram

Village Shyampur, Kangri

District Haridwar, U.A.

INDIA 249408

i am staying at sri ram ashram www.sriramfoundation.org now and can actually
recieve phone calls,
faxes, emails etc.

unfortunately i can't send email without going to
haridwar town 10km away but here is my info until AT LEAST feb 28 and very
likely for most of feb and march both.

to dial from USA:


this is the ashram cell phone for use by us visitors

it is very economical for me to recieve calls (10 cents/minute) but not a
good rate for me to call out from there (60 cents/minute) - i can get a better
rate by going to town - but you are welcome to call me!

i can recieve fax and email if anything is urgent - there is a guy named
dassji who recieves stuff for us, prints it and brings it the next day.

this is not cheap for me but i think it is a good way to get my quickly
in case of emergency do not hesitate to send a fax to me

"chicago rajeev" at sri ram ashram

c/o dassji


or email me c/o dassji @

his email address:




that's DEL14 (D E L then the number "14")

greetings from the banks of the holy ganga. i am in rishikesh and falling in love with india all over again now that i am in the north and can wear layers and see my breath in the cool (sometimes downright cold!) air.

actually, i am just visiting rishkesh to avail myself of the internet, atm, post-office, etc. but really i am in residence now at sri ram ashram. www.sriramfoundation.org sri ram is baba hari dass' orphanage, health clinic and children's school here in uttaranchal - specifically about 10km outside haridwar. there are not too many of us western visitors staying at the ashram and i am really feeling very lucky to be staying so long term with babaji and so few others.

the kids are amazingly crazy and fun. they are mostly younger (as young as babies) but some are 16 years old. we play with them ALL the time! well, when they are not in school or study hall or excercising or praying.

i am going to be teaching asanas and pilates to the westerners and i am going to be practicing thai-massage on the lucky schmos. right now my massages are 3.5 hours long! i've got to get that down to about 2 hrs. before i can offer two per day. so that's my plan for now. i'll be chilling there at sri ram for at least 3 weeks. maybe more like 6 weeks! we'll see how it goes.

i have a very cool roommate. 32 years old. been a student of babaji's for 15 years but has (like me) gone to extremes and swung back around. he was celibate for three years, then married for 5, now divorced - but his ex is here! that's cool, they get along famously. lately he's been a total player with the ladies. he works w/babaji on rock crew - used to do crazy "power pranayama" classes and demos with babaji - stuff like putting 1000 lbs of concrete on his chest and retaining his breath. also holding a 700 lb. boulder on his chest with breath retention and then a friend with a sledgehammer would bust the rock ON HIS CHEST WITH THE SLEDGE!

i am just getting back into my practice after a month long recovery from a scooter accident at auroville. feels good to be getting moving again. NEEDED! i am really getting weak after all this time away from pilates and my shoulder PT and the wicked awesome yoga scene of cinti. working uphill now.

the theatre festival was amazing...more on that in another posting - but it has resulted in yet another engagement - this time in calcutta on my way out of india.

i'll be working with sri parnab mugherjee for about a week developing the piece a bit more and then perform it 2 or 3 times at the russian cultural center there just before heading back to thailand.

awesome dream.

also some big news...ira and i are moving back to chicago later this year. we are very excited to finally go home after 10+ years.

hope you are all well!

go to your local indian restaurant, ask them where to buy the cheapest calling card to call a (0) 98 cell phone in india, but that calling card and call me!

lots of love and holy river water.


Sunday, February 01, 2004

i attempt to reply to the following two emails:


Great hearing from you! Hope you are well.
Would love to hear what you are doing in India some time.
Be safe, be well.


Namaste, Rajeev.
It was a pleasure receiving your email. I really enjoyed reading about your shabbat experience. It was a very nice way to ease into may day. I hope you are well and that tomorrow brings you happiness and joy. I will look to your website later, to read of your travels, but I am curious as to your final destination. Do you have one in mind? Are you on a specific trip to study a specific subject? It was great seeing you at Dave's wedding.
All my best,

my reply:

dear hugh and patty,

ok, you two don't know eachother but you both asked me at exactly the same time (on different email accounts) what am i doing in india. well, i'll be brief and tell you.

when i left my home and my family i was no more than a boy, in the company of strangers,

oh, wait. no, that's not my story...but actually i did have a dream recently that i met and spoke with paul simon! but that is neither here nor there.

when i left my job and my apartment at the end of june, i moronically spent thousands of US dollars travelling about the USA and canada for four months - (hence now i am having to budget the hell out my time and money!!! argghh! - can't buy any of the cool shit for sale here!) but that is what i did and i don't regret it. i even ended up teaching yoga and pilates in british columbia for a while! it was sweet - but not profitable.

i went to the rainbow gathering and visited almost everyone i know in the states and canada and it felt good. very good, after completing a two-year contract in "the 'natti" (cincinnati, ohio).

after i worked up in BC for about 10 weeks i got i steal of a ticket from lax to bangkok and spent a month in thailand - at the end of that time i picked up my studies in thai-massage which i began last year in cincinnati.

i found a wonderful old master teacher grandmother "mama nit" and took half of the 10 day certification course at "baan nit" in chiang mai - northern thailand.

then i came here to india - you can read alot about that on my travelblog


first i took panchakarma (ayurvedic purification/rejuvination therapy) in kerala state. then i took a 10 day cert. course in thai-massage at auroville (www.auroville.org) and LOVED IT! now i have been in bombay sitting in the satsang (spiritual Q&A) of ramesh balsekar (www.rameshbalsekar.com / www.ramesh-balsekar.com

i am en route to perform my new solo "the values americans live by" at the delhi alternative theatre festival which has the theme of "anti-war" so i will also be singing a set of anti-war songs there.

i did a successful preview of this perf. at auroville last week.

i really need a director though.

after delhi i am going to be at my guru's ashram


in a village outside haridwar for the rest of feb. it is an orphanage, health clinic and school for homeless kids.

this will be the longest time i've spent with baba hari dass in the three + years i've been his student. i am really looking forward also to staying in one place for so many weeks! that'll be the most consecutive nights in one place since i had an apt. in cincy in june!

then march 1-6 is the int'l yoga fest. in rishikesh and after that i am not really sure what i am doing except that eventually - in the month of march i'll be making my way back to calcutta to fly back to thailand to study more thai-massage. i've been invited to teach the yoga curriculum of my new teacher's classes in thailand in april so i'll be finishing my 10 day course with mama nit and then doing another 12 days in a village outside of chiang mai.

from there - i had originally dreamt of going to bali to study balinese music and theatre (esp. shadow puppetry and mask making) but now don't think i have the time, money or interest i used to. i am also less interested in islands and beaches than most travellers.

i feel a strong pull to come home and may come back in may or june.

i've applied to work at seeds of peace (www.seedsofpeace.org) and hope to do just that this summer.

following the summer i am participating in a travelling political cabaret roadshow (with my new show) and crossing the country from new england to burning man - after that i'll probably pick up my car in portland, oregon (unless it meets it's maker or it's owner - me - somewhere else - it's a 1985 toyota tercel with about 200,000 miles on it.) and then head back to chicago or vermont.

so you could say i am studying thai-massage, yoga, ayurveda, and making a hell of a lot of theatrical connections along the way!

what i'll be doing after this trip is anyone's guess. naturally, in the manic state of travel i have a bajillion ideas but as i am a theatre artist, so much of what i do depends on others - my enthusiastic collaborators - as i like to call them/you.

i feel a pull to chicago for the first time in 11 years - actually 40 pulls to chicago and a big huge heart tug to vermont. perhaps graduate school? a lot on my plate - no doubt. but i have finally put out the "GO TO INDIA" fire and now i can move on.

even if my trip ended two days ago in my terrible abdominal pain of food poisoning i would be satisfied.

i'll probably be teaching yoga and pilates and giving thai-massages for a while when i get back while i figure out how to synthesize all this new informations/inspriation/exploration etc. i want it all to be theatre somehow. i dream of training an ensemble in yoga and pilates and making crazed physical theatre without fear. who knows what will be.

i have a pretty solid invitation to teach and perfrom in denmark on my way back home but the costs and complications get out of control if it isn't all handled - just so. i'd prefer to make that a pan-scandanavian tour anyway and that will take time.

i am not sure what tonight or tommorrow will bring.

are you?

i know this is 100x more than what you expected in response to your emails - but patty, i really hope to see you this summer! and hugh, ditto, it was ab-fab to see you at dave's nuptials.

i think i'll post this to my blog if you don't mind.

lots of love,


The posting I was planning on giving a couple of days ago was "I am in Mumbai (Bombay) attending the satsang of Ramesh Balsekar (www.rameshbalsekar.com / www.ramesh-balsekar.com) and loving it."
But before I could enter that text my session at the internet café expired and I decided to leave it until later.

Then it happened. It finally happened. I got sick. I am getting over what my 10th grade biology teacher, Scooter, calls “massive explosive uncontrollable diarrhoea. India's famed version of Montezuma's Revenge. For the last two days I have been couped up in my room moaning and groaning, running to the bathroom and wondering when this will end.

Strange to have been in India for 5+ weeks before falling ill. I've been eating with my hands, eating and drinking how and where the Indians do, and having no problems. I think that I probably started to get a little cocky about my strong mind and stomach because the day I got sick I drank sugar cane juice from a street vendor. This is what my home-stay (rent-a-room) hosts call "taking food outside." I guess that means eating street vendor food. "Even we don't take this!" they exclaimed. Oops.

I figured if I've been eating the local cuisine in smaller cities, towns and villages no problem to do the same in the big city. "Oh, no, in the big city it is worse." said Mahesh, the 28 year old son of the household here. Then I thought about how much shitty over-priced food there is in NYC and how hard it is to find a good clean eatery in - let's say times square- and realized he was right and I was stupid. C'est la vie! I'm not dying. Just shitting. My fever has broken and something like an appetite seems to appear now and then…all good signs.

This is probably the poshest place one could be ill in all of my travels. I am on the 8th floor of a big apartment high-rise tower in the beverly hills of Bombay. My room has a private bathroom and views of the Arabian Sea as well as a family that worries about me and a servant that cleans up every 10-12 hours.

My scooter wounds are about 80-90% healed by now and I am sure this forced bed rest is good for them too. Many people asked me about the accident, "Were you wearing a helmet?" Come on folks. That's like asking, "Can you drink the tap water?" There are no helmets at Auroville. I didn't see any in Pondicherry or even Madras (Chennai). Maybe about 10% of the motorbikers in Bangalore were wearing helmets. So, no, I wasn't wearing a helmet. But it's not like I am arriving to each place and straightaway renting a motorbike or scooter. No, no. Only at Auroville, which is rather rural and has more pedestrian and bicyclists on the dirt roads than scooters and cars. Generally very little traffic there.

At this point, what with my illness and all, I am focused on feeling as well as possible to perform to the best of my abilities at "anti-war: The Delhi Alternative Theatre Festival" next week. My show is wicked rough. I could really use a director. It's quite strange to not have been acting since Touchstone Theatre in Bethlehem, PA 1998-99. Since then I've really been focused on directing and producing. I'm enjoying having a show but I feel like I'm floundering.

Otherwise, as I was going to post the other day, I am loving the satsang with Ramesh although I've only been able to attend twice out of four days here. He is an Advaita Vedanta sage. Advaita Vedanta is the philosophy of non-dualism. Ramesh's concept (as he calls it) is that everything that happens happens as it is meant to happen according to cosmic law and we (body-mind organisms) are powerless to affect what is coming. In other words he teaches that the only thing which is not a concept is this sense of I AM-ness that we all feel, but everything else is subject to an (incorrect) sense of personal doer-ship. In a nutshell, there is no such thing as free will.

Naturally, he puts it all much more elegantly and makes the whole thing bullet-proof but I paraphrase as a greenhorn in this philosophy. I first heard of Ramesh when Leonard Cohen started coming to see him in 1999 (then again in 2001) after leaving Mt. Baldy Zen Ctr. Ramesh actually dedicated one of his books to Leonard. They supposedly have a warm friendship and an excellent connection. It seems that besides the 25-60 everyday seekers (sunyassin) that attend this satsang in his living room each morning lots of famous folks come too. Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid came a couple of years ago, etc. etc.

On my first day attending I was encouraged to take one of three speakers chairs. The structure of his satsang is primarily conversation between him and (one at a time) three attendees. We had a very interesting ½ hour conversation at the end of the satsang and I came away very satisfied. He is spry and lively and very humorous.

A few quotations from my two satsangs with Ramesh:

The student should ask the Guru, What has Self-Realization/Enlightenment done for you for the rest of your life that you did not have before?

The average seeker is looking for enlightenment to remove pain (physical, psychological, financial, etc.) and double pleasure. This is not enlightenment.

2500 years ago the Buddha said “Enlightenment means the end of suffering. What did he mean by suffering? By accepting the fact of no doer-ship, I am released from the suffering of personal doer-ship. Then guilt and shame vanish.

Probably all of this, taken out of context, doesn't seem all that astonishing. Sitting in satsang is really something special though. I recommend taking five minutes to check out the websites (www.rameshbalsekar.com / www.ramesh-balsekar.com)

>From the recovery room and on my way to the festival


Thursday, January 22, 2004

is this working?
first of all, for JT and AMY...the jews of kerala were visited in 1141 by none other than JUDAH HALEVI...but the khazar dictionary claims that's the year he died in palestine!

Dear loveys,

[again, if you reply, please be sure to make it a fresh email without mine coming back to me.]

this one goes out mostly to the yids, but other interested parties are included. The PK journals are coming real real soon. but i had to get this out while it was fresh.

last night was the most profoundly stirring, yet beautifully settling shabat of my life.

after lunch at the canteen (indian coffee house) i set off for "Fort Cochin." a rikshaw, ferry, and walk later i was in "JEWTOWN." for real, that's what this little nieghborhood is called, and has been called for hundreds of years. at the end of the road you turn right for the shul and left for the cemetary.

wow what a shul:

The Pardesi Synagogue at Mattancherry, Cochin, Kerala

The Cochin synagogue is one of Kerala's most beautiful buildings. It has attracted widespread tourist and scholarly interest. Belgian chandeliers and hand painted floor tiles from Canton, China – no two alike – date from the mid-18th Century. The present building was constructed in 1664. It is a reconstruction of a building from 1568 that was destroyed by shelling during a Portuguese raid in 1662, then rebuilt two years later after the Dutch had taken control of the area. The 1568 building was a replacement of a synagogue constructed in 1344. Most of the Jewish community in Kerala has moved to Israel in recent years. The synagogue is now likely to become a protected historical and cultural site.

many more AMAZING photos @


such a feeling of lovingkindness as i have never felt in a jewish synagogue. i inquired about returning after they close for the sabbath for services but they said they don't have a minyan! well, i was happy to be among those changing that last night.

i went to the cemetary but it was locked up after 5pm so i returned to the shul...this is truly the privellage of the living, no? to go from shul to cemetary to shul. walking passed antique stores and spice vendors on this amazing little island of kerala india meets portuguese and dutch architecture. the story of these jews is astounding and full of more tolerance and actual jewish royalty than any in the common era. i am sure some of you history buffs reading this know much about this community.

the tiles on the floor of the shul actually make an appearence in salmon rushdie's book The Moor's Last Sigh . there are 1100 of them. hand-painted, from china and no two are alike.

upon return to the shul @ 6:30 the doors were closed and locked but i knocked and said, in hebrew, "good evening! do we have a minyan?" and moments later the caretaker swung the door open and said "keepahs are on the left next to the women's area."

this is a BAREFOOT shul! i got to participate in sabbath in shul in barefeet! there were only 9 men there when i arrived but i didn't actually end up being "the tenth man" because the elder was not yet there, so our minyan was surpassed by one or two. without travellers this once 45,000 strong community does not even have a minyan. there were at least 15 women sitting in the foyer - they haven't had to use the balcony for overflow womens #'s in a long time.

there were several synagogues spread around kerala before 1600 but today this is it - and this one was destroyed and rebuilt.

the service was very informal. they do not have a rabbi but they do have elders who are authorized to perform services. once the second eldest elder arrived he just shot off into fast (way too fast for me) prayer reading.

after the service he invited the women into the shul-proper for kiddush bu before that he showed us all the torahs and told a his-story of the kerala jews.
close-up photos of their torahs:


during all the "shabat shaloms" i met israelis, brittons, new yorkers, longislanders, and a new yorker living in cleavland and india.

then out to dinner with an upper west side ngo'er and her kuala lumpur friend.

this is getting cut short because the internet cafe is closing but i hope you enjoyed!

tho0ugh i measure it on a christian calander his the first shabat of the year and i think for em more profound than any in tsfat usa or jerusalme. a marriage of my interests in india, yoga, spirituality and judaism.

so good shabbos.



You MUST include the word "vision" in the subject heading of any and all email to me or your message will be diverted to the trash BEFORE it gets to my inbox.

Tired of slow downloads? Compare online deals from your local high-speed providers now.
Dear Loveys,

No matter which address you receive this email from, please, if you reply, be sure to delete this entire message (whether it be text or an attachment) and reply (your new text only) to joy_yoga@hotmail.com but remember you must include “vision” in the subject or I won’t get the message!



Adventures in Ayurvedic Poop
Some general notes about the Pancha Karma (PK) journals:

This is going to be, I would guess, less interesting to all recipients than my last big email "indiavision1" and, I imagine, more interesting to those of you particularly interested in medicine (Ayurvedic and other), yoga, India, and bowel movements.

Also, like “indiavision1” this is turning out to be TOO big a journal to transcribe and so you will be receiving the *highlights* of my OCD-depth journal. Jacob Griscom, C.A.S. and one or two other freaks out there may actually want to peruse my unabridged journal someday.

No worries though, there will be more "indiavisions" coming in the future – once I’ve finished with PK.



The area code is 0484 and the number is 235-4139.

This will connect you to a hospital switchboard operator at Sree Sudheheendra Medical Mission Complex - then you ask for room 510 - that's me.

I believe the way to dial this directly is


Although it may be 00-91-484-2235-4139 but any Indian person or your long distance operator will know if that extra "2" is needed. I think not.

In terms of affording this call, I recommend seeking a calling card with a low rate for calls to India.

Please feel free to call anytime of the day or night. If I don’t pick, I am not in my room. I can’t imagine anyone succeeding in leaving a message with the switchboard operator – I have trouble communicating with her – though she does speak English. Just say "FIVE-TEN" and if that doesn’t work, say "FIVE ONE OH" or "FIVE ONE ZERO" she will eventually get. FIVE TEN seems best. You may say something like "connect me to room 510."

I’d love to hear from any of you but will not despair if I don’t.

We now resume coverage of The Pancha Karma Journals – already in progress in some areas…

Volume I: Doubt & Fear



I am sitting on the toilet in room 510 of the Arya Vaida Sala – Kottokol, Ernakulum Town Branch, at Sree Sudhaheendra Medical Mission Complex.

I am moving my bowels for the first time since Abhi’s house in Kolkotta…Uh-oh! There’s someone at the door.

I’ve just met Dr. Balichendran.

I’m scared shitless and having lots of thoughts of leaving…

Away to Mysore where I can really aggravate my Vata by studying with Patthabi Jois before checking into to IVAC (Indus Valley Ayurvedic Center) for the resort style PK I just told the doctor I don’t need.

It’s coming up on 20 minutes to 9pm now. I’ve run all over town doing email (this is when I finished the "indiavision1" email), banking, and buying a rail ticket out of here on Jan. 7, 2004. I’ve unpacked, showered, washed some clothes and made my bed. I guess you could say I’ve moved into room 510.

The street noise outside is finally starting to calm down.

This is a treatment hospital.

They are NOT interested in vaastu sastra (the ayurvedic science of space – kind of like Indian Feung-Shui) or in yoga (as far as I can tell) but they do seem to take ayurveda as seriously as Western Doctors take Western medicine.

I take some solace in this thought: If Vivekananda were to take PK treatment, it would probably have been like this.

25.12.03 Christmas Day

It’s 8:40 in the morning and an Indian woman just knocked on my door saying "Flask, hot water!" She repeated it so many times that I really wanted to satisfy her. I finally realized that there is an insulated carafe in my room and when I gave it to her she stopped saying "Flask, hot water!"

To say that I am having doubts and second thoughts about this whole idea of taking PK at the Arya Vaidya Sala (AVS) is a grand understatement.

I have already consulted my "Southern Railway" timetable and planned my trip to Mysore and IVAC. I figure I’ll pay for the room and get out. I am terrified. I didn’t really sleep last night until I got out my nehnnyah – I mean my sleeping bag.

The sheets are harsh. Just a little softer than burlap and I want vaastu. And quiet. I am in Ernakulum town. I hear busses and car horns all the time. Sometimes the bus engines actually shake the hospital walls and often the horns and brakes hurt my white western ears. I don’t know whether to pay the people and leave or to pay the people and stay.

It’s 9:35am. Still Christmas Day. I’ve consulted with the senior physician, a woman by the name of Dr. Sreedevi. She asked me what diseases I am having. I told her I am having none. I can’t tell if that’s true or not. I’m drinking hot water and wondering where that HUGE mosquito has gone off to.

I had to ask the doctor to share with me her diagnosis of my prakriti (type is an oversimplified way of explaining this and dosha). She said that I am Vata primarily with Kapha secondarily. This is the first time anyone has ever thrown Kapha into the mix of my doshas (types). She said my treatment will consist of 1 1-hour massage each day for 7 days and then Vasti (enema) for the last 7 days.

I am not keen on the lack of quiet, yoga space, and thorough dosha screening (all she did was ask two or three questions, take my blood pressure and listen to my pulse) or the abundance of bugs in the bathroom or the rough sheets on my bed.

I asked her about my diet (all-important in ayurveda). Alternately, she seemed to say that I can eat ANY vegetarian food I like from the canteen AND that a dietician will prescribe my meals.(?) I asked about kichari (classic pancha karma “fast” consisting of rice and mung beans – mostly). She said of course I can take kichari, adding that kichari is very good.

We went over my list of complaints. This was brief. She wanted to know more about alcohol and tobacco but said that marijuana was not a problem (!?!). I took care to point out that I had listed psychedelics and explained that I had used LSD and mushrooms now and then since I was 15. Dr. Sreedevi said, “When you were 15 you could use all these drugs regularly. Now you can use tem once in a while or, slowly, you will stop.” Hmmmm…maybe this Doctor isn’t so bad after all.

She took my blood pressure and weight (still 65 kg.), listened to my chest breathing, etc. I wanted to know more. MUCH MORE about exactly what this was going to involve. She told me that once we start treatment my mind will calm down. God, I hope so because I am really thinking of ditching this joint and high-tailing it to Mysore.

I left the Dr.’s office and couldn’t relax. I killed a flying spider and washed a whole colony of gnats down the drain whence they came. I went back into the doctor’s office and said all the things that I am thinking and writing. I said:

Look, when I came in here yesterday I said I wanted PK and that I didn’t want to be in a resort or a spa. I know I said that but I feel that…well, you know, Yoga in the west is very different from yoga in India. I think ayurveda may be different also and what’s going on here is not what I’m looking for. I think maybe I do want a spa after all. I’m sorry but the noise from Chitoor Road, the hospital room, the whole thing…I don’t know.

She smiled and calmly said,

“Let’s begin the treatment today and then you can decide.”

“You mean I can go if I don’t like it?”

“Yes. First you must calm your mind. If you don’t do this, the treatment will not be effective in any case.”

“I wish I had a disease for you to treat! I think that this must be an excellent hospital for ayurvedic treatment of disease but I don’t know if it’s what I need.”

“Please, let us begin.”

Wow. This woman knows how to pacify Vata dosha.


An orderly has just brought in my medicines and there are plenty. He explained my dally Rx (sort-of) and then left. Two minutes later he came back and asked if I wanted a television. I said no.


6am 20ml Dadimadi Ghritam (medicated ghee – clarified butter)

followed by diluted milk

11-12 LUNCH: rice, boiled vegetables, vegetable salad, buttermilk

12:30 30ml Dasamularishtam + Balarishtam

1 pill Gorochanadi Gulikav

2pm (complex oil massage)

Cheriya Tailam (oil for the top of the head)

Kshirabala Tailam (oil for Dhara – swinging stream of oil over Ajna Chakra – 3rd eye))

Balaswagandhadi Kuzhampu (oil for the rest of the body)

Rasnadi Churam (a red pungent powder for rubbing into the top of the head and to sniff after massage – a protection against cold)

3pm one hour quiet rest in bed without fan

4pm fruit juice or chai

5pm 15ml of Drakshadi Kashayam diluted with

60ml boiled warm water

1 pill Gorochanadi Gulikav

7pm DINNER: whatever vegetarian food I feel like (!?!)

8:30 30ml Dasamularishtam + Balarishtam

1 pill Gorochanadi Gulikav

BED 1 pill Manasamitra Vatakam

Now I’m off to the canteen for lunch. UNFORTUNEATELY it seems that several of my prescribed food items are not available in the hospital canteen. Days later, on the phone to CA, Jacob Griscom, Clinical Ayuvedic Specialist, will say “That’s perfect India! The food they tell you to eat isn’t available! I love it!” In fact the canteen is actually called “INDIAN COFFEE HOUSE” and is a franchise of unionized waiters serving cheap, simple, vegetarian food – but they are very poor on raw veggies.

I’ve surrendered to today’s treatment(s) because tomorrow is only the 26th. Even if I choose to leave tomorrow or the 27th, I should be in Mysore and IVAC by the 28th and really this gift I am trying to give myself should start by the 28th in solidarity with my spiritual family at the Mount Madonna Center’s New Year’s Ashtanga Yoga Retreat where I have spent the previous three new years.


Finally had my first Dhara/Massage. (for more info. on this treatment click on the picture or the word “Dhara”) The fiberglass plank I lay on hurt my tailbone and the masseurs hands were rough, fast, and uneven. Still, the experience is incredible but I am still thinking of leaving. After my rest and meds I am going to sneak out to the train station and investigate availability to Mysore.


There and back again, by Araj Kahn. I felt like I was sneaking out of the dorm at ISOMATA or perhaps out of the monastery that I’ve yet to stay in. Sadly, the reservation bldg. was closed for X-mas. Actually about 70% of town was closed. I bought sandalwood incense and a new mat for yoga asanas. Ate an amazing mushroom masala dosa and then met some Italian travelers who said I was the first American whom they could understand and communicate with in English. (actually, I get that a lot.) Finally, I went “home” and took my bedtime pill. Dozed off trying to decide whether to stay or go.



Who needs breakfast with all this frickin’ sweet hot milk?! The folks downstairs at the ICH brought it up sweet and hot. If I were singin’ in the 1940’s I’d sing “It makes no difference if it’s sweet or hot.” But I’m sure that it does here, now, this morning, in India.

I never drink milk anymore (save soy, rice, almond, etc.) and I’m surprised it’s part of my PK Rx. I’d probably best urinate and lie on my left side now.

Every morning there is a new nation of bugs living in the bathroom. They seem to emerge from the drain. Where are the spiders that would be my feasting allies?

Slept more…One good thing about Pancha Karma, when it hits – you feel no pain. Hit me with Pancha Karma! Hit me with Pancha Karma! Ernakulum rock. Arya Vaidya Sala rock. Kochin Rock.

I wish I could identify the bugs I share my bathroom with…that would put me at ease.

This is probably an excellent treatment center and maybe even a very good, very typically Indian PK. It simply is not at all holistic. I think the number one reason I want so badly to go is because sleeping in this bed for 14 nights will be the most number of consecutive nights in the same bed since I lived on Thrall Street in Cincinnati in June with Mistie.

Furthermore, I’ve never slept even one night in a hospital before. I’ve always disliked hospitals and this is no exception. I simply don’t like it here. But I didn’t come here to like it. I asked for authentic Indian PK and I got it. Maybe on my next trip to India, I’ll budget for IVAC or some other such resort – maybe. Or, who knows? In two weeks time I maybe wishing I were right here, in room #510.

I’ve really enjoyed reading Swami Vivekananda’s Chicago Addresses and find much of what he said to be very resonant with the Bah’ai faith. I’m excited to visit the Bah’ai temple in Delhi and if I can make a stop in Israel on the way home, I will surely visit the world center in Haifa.

So far everything Abhiroop (the young law student I met along with Parnab at the Calcutta airport) has recommended is what I’ve done (except traveling first class on the trains) and that’s probably why I’m only ever among Indians – my days are like an African in Iceland. I’m the only westerner any of these people see and yet, I feel a bit like I live here.


Went out for lunch but screwed up my schedule. Checked email too long, ate too fast (but got my buttermilk and veg. salad!) felt very full after. The good news is that I took a good shit afterwards (Later I will learn that this is called a “natural motion.”) and rested but when massage time came I should’ve peed first. I’m sure that my first 4:1 (four orderlies and one patient) massage would have been more enjoyable if I’d have eaten earlier and peed beforehand.

During the massage all four masseurs spoke with each other, then with me:

How old are you, sir?

Are you married, sir?

Have friend? I am sure they meant girlfriend/fiancé.

How is Kerala?

So, I took this opportunity to ask the ruffians some questions of my own:

Do any of you want to be a Doctor?


Do you like ayurveda?



It is our job, sir.

Just as I suspected. They handle me as they would handle a piece of steel if their job was to polish steel.

I asked them more questions:

Do your parents use ayurveda?


Do you?


Why is ayurveda good?


They asked me if Kerala is good, or too much traffic, too hot, too many mosquitoes, etc. They asked me what’s wrong with me before they began the massage… I didn’t think there would be much point in talking about pacifying Vata or purification so I said, “Dry skin, dandruff, acne, tightness in my low-back, hips, front of chest, occasional pain.” They laughed. I guess that’s what happens when a tourist checks in to a treatment hospital.


Sitting at Paulson’s Spice Island Restaurant/Hotel near the train station. Snuck out again. Now I have learned that I am here and there is no way around it. Trains, busses, planes are all fully booked until 31.12.03 or even 1, 5, 8 and 15.1.04. Let’s reflect on this evening’s events:

I already described today’s 4:1 massage treatment (NOTE TO SELF: Always finish lunch by 12:30 and pee before treatment.) After my rest I went to speak with the Doctor.

Actually, I had asked to see her twice before the treatment when she said “One minute, I will come to your room.” But never did. Anyway, I waited for her. First in my room, then outside her office. I waited so long it was again medicine taking time.

Finally I barged into her office and asked about showering. She said, “Showering is good. You may shower one hour after treatment each day but body only. The head you may wash once a week. The face you may wash as often as you like.” I asked about the shower being cold. She said, “Oh, yes. This is not good. You must take a bucket bath for hot water. Never cold.”

I want a change of my bed sheets as they are constantly being covered by massage oils. This I asked for three times. She said she would arrange it – but never did. Eventually I would learn that this phrase in Dr. Sreedevi’s vernacular “I will arrange it.” actually means “Do it yourself.”

Then we spoke of diet. In particular, milk. I told her that when I take milk, I have a slightly upset stomach followed by smelly gas and that her dietary Rx has me taking more milk than I have ever drank in my whole adult life (6am milk, lunch buttermilk, evening chai = milk). She said that it is OK and that I should drink it but that if the gas and upset stomach persists she will prescribe some medicine.

Now the kicker: I asked her about my dosha. She immediately began giving me a lesson about the three doshas, which would probably edify many of my readers – but I did not need. I said, “No, I know about the doshas but you think my Prakriti is Vata and Kapha while my Vikriti is primarily Vata, right?” “Yes.” She replied. “What is YOUR dosha?” I asked her KNOWING what she would say. She looked down at her own thin wiry body and said “I am Vata…with some Kapha.”


What is it with these ayurvedic doctors always seeing themselves in me?

Jacob is Vata and says I am Vata

Sonam is Pitta and says I am Pitta

Dr.Sreedevi is VK and says I am VK

I know like attracts like but this is really too much! Can’t these people see the patient in front of them? I mean really – what does this say about everything? I wonder what would happen if I made a long-term commitment to teach @ The Yoga Shala (in Victoria, BC) and sought long-term care from that Ayurvedic Doctor in Vancouver that Mohan was working with?


I’ve come back “home” and taken my bucket bath. My upper chest has broken out in some kind of rash. This probably means one of two things:

1. My diagnosis is incorrect and I am being pushed FURTHER out of balance (ie: I am VV or VP but, having been diagnosed as VK and treated with P increasing oils and meds. so I am having a P reaction)

2. I didn’t was the oil off soon enough and am just breaking out a bit.

Generally, I feel good enough but I really don’t agree with Dr.Sreedevi.

Next thing I know, my phone is ringing LOUDLY – more like screaming like an Indian bus’s horn! I pick it up:
What is the patient’s name?

I am the patient.

What? You are?

Yes, you’ve called my room. Can I help you?

You are the patient?

I think so. Look it’s 10:30 at night. Is there some problem?

Your name?

Rajeev Kahn.


Rajeev Kahn.

Rajeev Kahn?

Yes. What is going on here?

Sorry, good night.--------HANGS UP

OK, whatever the fuck that was all about I’ll probably never know. I just hope it doesn’t happen every night - or again tonight even later.



I spent the midnight hour last night mosquito hunting. Killed five or six – seem to have had difficulty communicating with the last one though. I said, “Here this, mosquito: You are the last of your kind in these parts. A prisoner, like me, of these white-tiled hospital walls. If I spare your life and grant you the mercy I did not bestow on your compatriots, I demand you hide away all night – real docile-like and when morning comes and this door is open, you must flee to other parts.”

I got a bite on my left pinky finger and my left Achilles tendon. C’est la vie. I was a vicious hunter and grew so weary when each time I thought I had narrowed the population to just one, they multiplied, terrorist-like, and then there were three! In my final chase of the night, the wiley mozzy was simply taunting me and proving that it would not be caught. Hence my proclamation. But of course it must have really fired him up watching his entire species be hunted down by me. And then, while I slumbered, why not feast on my flesh? I think, all things considered, he was kind to me.

I decided to sit and read and get tired but I also knew that would lure the bastard to my fleshy. It worked. I read all of Dr. Dorthea Schultz’s letters to herself in The Dictionary of The Khazars and then just as a scene of death played out in the book (that of Dr. Abu Muwaia’s and Isalio Suk’s) so too did a scene of death play out on my left hip. GOT HIM. But alas, he must not have been the last terrorist – hydra-headed monkey.

My first bout with sleep only lasted 2-3 hours whereupon waking, I could not believe it was not yet 3am. I think I was sweaty.

NOTE: This must be the time in my treatment when I really began to relax because from this moment on, my journal became at least 50% a dream journal – sometimes more. Therefore, since this is not “The Pancha Karma Dreams” but rather “The Pancha Karma Journals” I will begin to edit more and more of the text out, for one’s dreams are not making sense without conversation.

At around 6:15am there was a knock on my door. You’ve got to be kidding, I thought to myself. Someone had mistakenly delivered a copy of THE HINDU newspaper under my door and I was being roused to give it back. I stayed awake, took my meds. and tried my new mat.

As I slid into Eka Raja Kapotasana (prep. Aka ERP) I had difficulty locating any stretch. Perhaps the PK is having a loosening effect on my muscles! I’ve never felt so limber first thing in the morning. (Later, on the phone to CA, Jacob would say “You are becoming GHEE.”)

An orderly came to check on my meds. supply. I washed up and went for a second opinion. I sat with Dr.Ram Kumar Varier, descendant of the AVS-Kottokol founder, who comes from a long line of ayurvedic physicians. He asked me about my appetite and digestion and then took my right wrist pulse with three fingers. Finally, he said, “You are Vata/Kapha. Primarily Vata.”


I asked about diet. “Isn’t diet critical to ayurveda?” “Yes,” he said “it is critical but this is a very small set up and there is no way we can have our own kitchen and cooks here as we have at our main hospital in Kotttokol. I advise you to take more fruits.”


I asked about a neti-pot. I want one. “You will not find one here in the south. It is not common here. In the north only there they use Jala-Neti.”


I then went out to make loads of phone calls. Papa, Mama, NYC Voicemail, Barbara, Jacob and JT (Who is alive and well in Burlington, Vermont…sorry to have alarmed anyone!). I bought bananas and grapes and got a shave from the most talented barber in the world.


This barber gave me a clean shave for which he quoted me 20 rupees. Then he offered – well more like suggested that the next step to an Indian shave is for me to get a scalp massage. This was a most amazing head massage and included pounding my skull to the beat of Bangalore disco dance music, finger stimulations, chiropractic neck adjustments – that’s when I began to wonder what kind of training or certification this guy has to be manipulating my neck and just at that moment of wondering he busts out with “NO TRAINING! NO SCHOOL! 12 YEARS I WATCH AND LEARN!” Jacob’s advice from our phone call resounds in my head (along with the pounding) “Just melt into it. Let it go. Let yourself go and be absorbed by the experience.”

Barber homeboy continues cracking every knuckle in both hands and hyper extending my elbows (WHICH I HATE!). Then he offers me a body massage. “FIVE KINDS! CHINESE NERVE, RELAXATION, CIRCULATION, CHOPPING KNIFE, AND STICK MASSAGE!!!!” He then says he’ll come to my hospital room tonight at 8pm…I’m outta there.

I ask how much for the shave. Now it’s 30 rupees for the shave and 100 rupees for the head massage. I laugh and say something shitty under my breath as I smile and hand over the equivalent of $3 USD. Then he boldly asks for tips! I say “like how much?” He says “As you feel.” But he’s obviously not happy with the 10 or 20 so I end up giving him 50 rupees tip. All this after he told me about his uncle being a mental case, his father an alcoholic and his burden of taking care of the whole family – he’s only 22 years old, loves the Bangalore disco scene and wants to come to the west but cant.

So my 20 rupee shave became a 180 rupee ordeal and a dodge of private in-call. And I really don’t know about this neck adjusting business BUT ANYWAY I read my Hanuman Chalisa and went along with my daily routine. Tonight I am thinking about sneaking out to see a performance of Kathakali.

I went to the “See India Foundation” P K Devan is the director of See India Foundation at Kochi, presenting Kathakali to the tourists, every day in the evenings for the past 32 yrs. EVERY DAY!

"The Kathakali Man is the most beautiful of men. Because his body is his soul. His only instrument. From the age of three it has been planed and polished, pared down, harnessed wholly to the task of story-telling. He has magic in him, this man within the painted mask and the swirling skirts."

- From the 1997 Booker Prize winning novel The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy

P.K. Devan's deep, rhythmic drawl fills the hall as the painted dancers make their achingly slow moves on the stage, enacting a story that has been repeated for hundreds of years. "In Kathakali," his spellbinding voice slowly drips, describing the traditional dance form of Southern India, "Each element has many purposes. The movement of the hands narrates the story - but it also has therapeutic benefits, as a form of yoga for the dancer." "And the makeup, it also has a significance," he intones, as the green-faced prince discovers that the princess is actually a demoness. "All the colors are natural, from fruits and spices, mixed in the coconut oil. Always the coconut oil, because this is Kerala, the land of the coconut."

the makeup application (a show in and of itself) began at 6pm

and then a kind of seminar at 6:45 followed by a brief (abridged) performance at 7:05-7:45.

This image shows the typical prince or hero costumed dancer. I won’t go into all that kathakali is but I will say that I first studied it ten years ago at USC in my freak freshman tutorial (graduate level directed research “Drama and Theatre of Asia and The Pacific) under Prof. Timothy Ray. A typical – classical perf. takes place in a temple and lasts ALL night.

After the perf. I spoke with master PK Devan. I asked if they ever take a holiday? He asked me if I ever take a holiday from breathing? He said that this is not a blend of spirituality and theatre – this is pure worship and that there is not a day that they do not perform. WOW. That is pure inspiration.


if this is your first time receiving email from me it is so very important that you remember what i told you when i gave you my address. that is about my vision filter.

when you write email to me you MUST include the word “VISION” in the subject. otherwise i’ll never see the email.

this email is so monstrous that you should be sure to do two things (if possible)

1. print it out and leave it on the back of the toilet. read it there or maye in bed before sleep.

2. be sure that you don’t reply to me directly from this incoming mail because i can’t have all this coming back to my inbox. if when you reply it turns this mail into an attatchment, please take the time to remove the attatchment before sending me any mail.

dear loveys (they all start with that),

where do i begin?

with the magic meeting, the bribes, the dead body or the non-stop synchronicity?

let me say first of all that my travels have really begun. i was wondering to myself whilst in thailand, "why aren't i writing much? where's the inspiration? what's going on here?" but now...in mother india? i am exploding with revelations and i would never be able to share so much if it weren't for the fact that so far, internet here is half the price of thailand and twice the speed. not bad for you all, loveys, eh?

ok. where did we leave off...?...leaving chiang mai is bullshit....yes, yes, true. ok.

ok. a little advice. don't fly BIMAN BANGLADESH AIRWAYS. take it from someone who has. i bet actually, that most of you are surprised that bangladesh even has a nat'l airline...so was i! until i flew the worst airline in the world. and i have flown air bosna out of split croatia (or was it sarajevo?), turkish airlines (which turned out to be posh like british airways) and am an avid user of all southwest deals- etc.

my flight on "ORIENT-THAI AIRLINES" from chiang mai to bangkok was fine. i met a nice girl from chiang mai (yes, you, noon!) and we talked the whole hour. in bangkok i once again met up with noom and paul wolfe - who, for those who know him, is grieving the recent loss of his mother. he is now in philly again and will be stateside for two months. he can be reached at sowhydontchakillme@hotmail.com and will probably kill me for broadcasting his grief but friends don't let friends grieve secretly.

then, BIMAN - apparently known for having only the first flight of the day on time because the plane sleeps there...i sat and tried to watch cnn go berzerk about moammar gadahffi but the picture was shit and often went out and i really couldn't hear anything. but oh, theere is still pandemic famine in ethiopia. that was a news flash i got form cnn's special report where an african reporter actually went into ethiopia and lived for 28 days with subsistance villagers and farmers and ate what they ate - or mostly didn't. then i shifted to HBO in the bar and saw about 1/4 of BLACKHAWK DOWN...quite a double header, no?

the 9:20 departure to dhaka, bangladesh left bangkok at 11pm. the guy sitting next to me had pink eye and a constant ooze of puss coming out of that same eys and he insisted on shaking my hand and leaning over me while spoke - even while we ate the crap called dinner. lord have mercy on bangladesh. this dude told me (he's a business man) that 40% of the passengers were returning to dhaka after coming to thailand for medical treatment they could not get in bangladesh because they simply do not have the equipment.

i had already noticed various diseased of the skin and ailing bodies but now the stench and the slowness of many alighted made more sense. now i knew why the woman across the aisle kept asking for more ice and then hiding it somewhere under her sari. ooof.

when we landed - around 1:10am, i really envied the transit passengers who got to go straight on to the overbooked flights to india. after about an hour and a half of your typical nightmare of third world pushing and shoving for services that would be rendered if everyone just waiting in line i recieved a token in exchange for my passport and ticket - this seemed sketch-o-rama but everyone else did it. “rajeev kahn...you are a muslim?” over and over i heard this. now...in india i get “rajeev kahn, it’s a hindu name.” and in the states it’s always “please drive over to bay door number two.” or “sir, you have been randomly selected for security screening, would you please follow me.”


one of the many hotels BIMAN contracts with in dhaka to put the transit passengers up overnight at. (what a terribly constructed non-sentence) so...some indian guys who were also going to stay the night helped me figure out when to leave the airport in which direction to which “bus.” the longer we sat on this funny little bus the more people starting light up their cigarettes and i remembered vomiting due to cigarette smoke on a bus in turkey some eight years hence. i really didn’t want to be on this bus.

just then someone outside the bus said “give me your token” and i said “no one else has given their tokens.” and he said “ let me see it” and i showed him my “sundarban hotel” token #264. he said “come on boss! wrong bus! come on!” once again...sketch-o-rama, especially since everyone i was on my bus with was going to sundarban hotel...i checked with the indian dudes and they said “oops! sorry, we switched to imperial hotel.” so i climbed through the window and got into the next bus. i was the only white person i saw from the time we left the airport until the time i returned the following afternoon. but, as usual, i always forgot that i am white, and strange and foreign until others would double (or triple) take at me.

upon arrival at the sundarban, the only other passenger –a man wearing a big turban and a business suit asked “is this a five-star hotel?”

“no.” the driver replied, “three sir.”

i laughed at this exchange under my breath. it was already close to 3 am and i didn’t care if i slept in the bus all night.

our rooms 505 and 509 were on the fourth floor. the whole place – reminded me of the jardolinja jugoslavian boat i took from annaconda italy to split croatia in ’97. very “dark city” colors, lighting, everything circa 1955-1970.

we had a “floor boy” who called me “boss” over and over. he sprayed the room with mosquito spray showed me that the television had no reception, gave me a towel and asked about a wake up call. he told me that his duty ends at 8:00 in the morning so i took an 8:00 wake up knock.

the bus ride from the airport to the hotel yielded these musings before drifting off to sleep.

dhaka is like a filmstrip loop of seemingly lifeless bodies sitting randomly on the side of the highway – often alone, wrapped up, sitting. just sitting in a plastic chair - doing nothing.

the dogs are more clearly alive.

they aggressively look for food without despair

the dogs of dhaka – not self aware of the fact that they are bangladeshi.

a nationality synonymous with doom.

here and there an unfinished building

a fire in a barrel and a neon sign trying to flash

something like “AMERICAN STANDARD”

all faint signs of life

i’ve never seen a nation state – a government

begging at the airport before

most of the adverts are trying to convince the foreign visitor that


“invest in bangladesh”

“a symbol of security”

“a land of opportunity”

“a step ahead of time”

1st security bank-bangladesh office of investment welcome desk

all this reminded me of the man with the oozing eye, abdul moquit, self-styled CEO of “Crown Trade International” dhaka...he said “in business you always say YES.”

the next morning:

i ditch the 8am wake up call and just say thank you.

10:06am 12.21.03

i’m already sitting downstairs at the restaurant of the sundarban because my new floor boy tore me from my dream (possibly forcing the man i was speaking with in my dream to fall suddenly asleep) with more knocking at 9:40.

“good morning, sir” – new kid, now i’m sir – not boss - even though i wearing a towel.

“good morning” i reply

“your breakfast is ready, sir”

“but i don’t have any taka.” (the currency)

“breakfast is free, sir. we have restaurant downstairs.”

“can i take it in my room or do i have to go downstairs?”

“yes, downstairs. your breakfast is ready.”


as i brushed my teeth and changed clothes, i looked out my 5th floor (or is it the fourth?) window at one of the central circles of dhaka. i saw a limping sufferer walk in front of this three-star establisment. most people are barefoot and limping. it’s like an ensemble without a venue, patron, project, training. or maybe a venue is all they do have.

althugh i believe it is 2003, dhaka is living on that old communist jardolinja. it’s 1951 but in fits and spurts (with investments) it might be 1990 here and there. or is it 1984, old friend?

in the restaurant i look at a tourist map of bangladesh. the sundarbans are a forest in the SW of the country...they go into india too. just off the SW tip of the sundarban penninsula is PUTNEY ISLAND!

my breakfast is fit for a king and i am certainly being treated as close to royalty as they can muster. delicous toast, banana, butter, jam, omlette, and coffee.

nabisco is here. of course.

i go back up to my room to shower but watch more cnn instead. i am crying at the first footage and commentary on the geneva accords between israeli and palestinian opposition. i am crying at gaddhafi. i am crying at james earl’s THIS IS CNN.

i shower. and it’s warm! that’s nice.

then, earlier than expected, i have a knock on the door. “your car is waiting, sir.”

i get ready and i go. it’s the same bus...big and purple. i am the ONLY passenger.

we ply the choked streets of mid-day downtown dhaka.


a man on the top floor of the DPI stands in the window looking out at the chaos of the street. at the traffic of happiness and crime. both of his hands grip the metal bars and his dark eyes peer out at the various speeds of suffering and at all of us ugly bags of mostly water trying to breath something other than diesel exhaust.

the bus is grotesquely large and i am the only passenger. since my bag was checked through to kolkotta i could easily be on a motorbike or an auto rickshaw (i never told you all the embarassing tuk-tuk story of bangkok, did i?) but no...i am on this bus while i watch some 40 dhaka men hold onto eachother ride the back of a flatbed truck...9 more on the roof of the cab. i want to trade with them...they should be in the bus and i should get a rickshaw but we are all powerless to improve the situation of this moment. an all too familiar feeling – only here there is no glossy finish to the quagmire.

for evey santa monica, there is a dhaka.

to each singapore, an over-the-rhine.

HEROES LIVE FOREVER reads the archway at the entrance to a military base. their leaders are selling them the same horseshit that ours are selling us but i bet many of us are wearing clothes “made in bangladesh.” by heroes?

waiting for the flight to board, i met a magician (also an MBA) from munich who showed me a few tricks. he said he had had his “india phase” in the 70’s and was back to visit a fellow magician friend he hadn’t seen in 25 years.

he made me promise that i will implore my brother (yes, you, jason) to get back into magic. look up the local members of IBM (int’l brotherhood of magicians) and do tricks for your young patients. he said he is absolutely sorry he ever put it down. when he did pick it up again, like a language, he had lost alot.

the flight from dhaka to calcutta takes no time at all. we left @ 2:30 and arrived at 2:30 (there is a half hour time change on this half hour flight).

typical customs, immigration, etc.

i change some money and step outside to try to get another flight out of kolkotta to anywhere south...this is everyones advice.

due to the late hour and the holiday season, everything is booked up.

while waiting in line to inquire with air sahara “emotionally yours” i see a most interesting sweatshirt. it reads:

your theatre is about facing the light.

to us, poor theatre is about deconstructing darkness.

yours is the only way.

mine is the third way.

HUH?...hmmmmm...i engage the wearer of the sweatshirt in an introductory conversation. he is mr. parnab mugherjee, 28 year-old theatre director, PhD economist (princeton) and reuters columnist for foreign policy in india.

this is the beginning of a most magical evening in kolkotta. i have, in my first hour in india, met another enthusiastic collaborator. parnab and his old friend, abhiroop “abhi” for short, are just there to change something on parnab’s ticket. we commiserate about the rush on flights and abhi invites me to stay at his flat in the city so i can get a confirmed ticket to chennai (madras) for the next day.


i read that this kind of thing might happen but i never expected it to be so grand and so soon.

we take a taxi to abhi’s flat which he shares with his grandmother. in the taxi, parnab and i start talking theatre and it is obvious we are of the same tribe as i like to say...i don’t know when in our night i discovered all this but we are connected by leonard cohen, bogosian, bread and puppet (schumann was in bangalore for a month), grotowski, boal, puppetry, agit-prop, political theatre, promenade theatre, site-specific theatre, charitable theatre, peace and non-violent thearte, a shared love of brecht and shakespeare, montreal and new york. and parnab is 1000x more well read than me. anyone surprised?

i didn’t know picasso wrote a play. parnab directed it. he directed a tagore play at the waterfall where tagore wrote it. he is a hard working (marxist?) director and he has written several plays and translated many others into bangali (the language of bengal and bangladesh). his shows tour to bangladesh and he claims two countries: india and bangladesh.

lately, so do i. to the question “where are you from?” i say “i live in canada.” and if the person seems cool i add,”but i’m american, from chicago.”

after a home-cooked snack of awesome bengali grandma food we hit the town, first stopping to photocopy all kinds of texts and resumes i’m carrying. parnab and abhi want copies.

a coffee house that parnab often puts up small shows and readings is opening a new location tongiht so we go first to CAFFEINE to meet some local promotors of his new show called 9/11 – it’s not what you think. someone dies 9 times and the show is 11 scenes.

he passes off some photos for press and talks details of the space.

then we are off to the new CAFFEINE (or CAFFEINE II?) two beautiful coffee shops – each one split level, art gallery, nice little menu, etc.

more theatre talk. by this time, abhi and parnab know barbara and ira by name. parnab’s new play about the massacre in gujarat is being produced in montreal next season. he is one of the organizers (maybe the producer) of the delhi alternative theatre festival and he is inviting me to attend and, if i want to, perform. we talk about “the values americans live by” project and the idea of “jig-sawing” a play so that it exists whether the company is alone, with others, and in groups. we talk and talk.

some coffee and tea. we look at the new venue in terms of possible uses of the space for theatre and readings, etc. and it is exciting! there is a little courtyard like space out front and this is what parnab is focused on. “i will make it on a sunday morning to avoid the noisy traffic.” he proclaims.

then, back to the flat for the formal meal. i sneak in payment for this last taxi of the night since they wouldn’t let me pay for a damn thing all night. i also make abhi promise to let me pay for our taxis the next day. it took some arm twisting but he agreed.

the first indian food i eat in india is home-cooked and PERFECT. grandma made sag paneer just for me and they all insist i eat it all. o mi gahd! it was all SO good. i even overate a bit – for gusto!

more talking still. parnab takes a cot, abhi takes the kitchen couch, they all insist i take abhi’s bed even though i have a therma-rest. they won’t hear of it.

parnab has an early morning flight but we stay up reading and talking for a while longer. we fall asleep talking about the high price of indian domestic flights.

thus ends my first evening in india. i am already booked to perform in delhi, feb. 3 & 4, 2004.

the next morning i rise to bid my new friend, parnab, a safe journey to delhi. i practice yoga and have a really nice slow, mellow morning. this day will be for me and my brahman host abhiroop.

he is a law student, 23 years old, and an actor, too! he knows parnab from the old school quiz competitions. parnab is a “quiz master” and that’s how they met but their friendship grew much further.

abhi takes the day off law school to show me around kolkotta a bit and to make sure i get to the airport on time. we talk about health and ayurveda. his parents and grandparents are devotees of sri ramakrishna. abhi’s dad sees ayurvedic doctors and both parents do asanas daily.

we talk alot about chicago and vermont and the law schools there. in one word, abhi is sweet. truly the kind of friend every wingnut like parnab and i need. i liken him to JT (still missing?).

he enjoys watching me practice as he leafs through my lonely planet india and my dictionary of the khazars. when we talk about his sinuses and the neti pot (nasal douche) he says he remebers his father using one. so:

we have a light breakfast of toast and coffee and get ready to go. while i sit by the door and wait to leave i say “thank you” to grandma. she says “for what?” i say, “for what?! for hosting me, for your wonderful cooking,” she cuts me off and says, “it is our custom. you must come back whenever you are in kolkotta.” and i promise her i will.

abhi sets the itinerary for us to go first to the arya vaida sala, kolkotta branch. he wants a netti pot and i want pancha karma information. CLOSED MONDAY :(

then it’s off to “new market” near the center of the city. we pass old british buildings and a big park that indian people were never allowed in before independance. the YMCA, the bible center, etc. at new market the “interior” reminds me of the markets in the arab quarter of jerusalem. not surprising as we are on our way to NAHOUM’S the only jewish bakery – abhi wants me to meet the few remaining jews in colcutta. they are not enough for a minyan anymore so they hold the keys to the synagogue there and let people look upon reuest. abhi says its really beautiful so we are going to try and go.

the man with the keys is at the hospital and we are requested to return in a few hours. rajeev kahn kisses his fingers, touches the mazoozah, kisses his fingers and leaves.

off to change more money at a better rate...CLOSED MONDAY

so we go do some internetting and then it’s time to go home and prepare for the airport.

more greandma’s goodies. i like the food so much, abhi suggests they find me a bengali girl to marry and take home with me. i tell him i am not entirely opposed to the idea.

abhi accompanied me to the airport and we talked about relationships and study abroad. he made sure i got myself all checked in for my flight and reccommended i try to seek out pancha karma at the arya vaida sala that his dad always went to. he also reccommended i read vivekananda’s address to the world parliament of religions, chicago, 1893.

so day#2 (which is really my first full day in india) had less magic luck than day #1 but it was still awesome getting to know abhi and also having a VERY different experience of kolkotta than i was prepared by many others for. in fact i am not hating india at all and many people said month #1 you’ll hate it. month #2 you’ll see how you could like it. month #3 you’ll love it. i already love it.

JET AIRWAYS of india is fantastic – wow the food and service were amazing and i met another business man sitting next to me. he kept insisting that i have friends or relatives who want to import supplements to the states and canada. i tried to explain that i am not a business man. he is another 25 year old self-styled CEO.

in chennai (madras) i inquired about a retiring room in the airport but could not get one. i took a suburban train from the airport to the chennai park station.

this was my first train ride in india and i didn’t know which car to get on. i think i got on a sort of car for untouchables because it smelled bad and everyone on it was sleeping on benches. the next train car had men in oxford shirts and pants. i didn’t care. i wanted to get to the central interstate train station.

about three stops into the journey a body on a stretcher was loaded onto my car. i have now joined the ranks of other kahns, though they are physicians, who have seen freshly killed corpses up close and personal. the blood covered head had two eyes rolled partway back and a tongue stuck between the teeth. a gruesome wound about the head indicated what? foul play? there were two men carrying the man, undressing the body, inspecting it. they too seemed to be untouchable. and two men crying and making cell-phone calls. all 5 were accompanied by a police officer who told me the man was crossing the tracks and had been struck and killed by a train.

i think the dead man had defecated. he was not old. maybe 40. one never dresses for death. he looked like he was just coming home from work.

i so badly wanted to document the event with my little disposable camera but i couldn’t bring myself to even ask. only now do i remember that i bought a fake press credential in bangkok. perhaps i could have gotten away with it.

what an unveiled symbol of death (and rebirth?) on this, my first full day in india en route to seek the intensive purification of pancha karma.

they took the body down one stop before mine but left a puddle of fresh blood. when i got down at park station, i took a photo of the train car.

there was a man sleeping in the car when they brought the body on. he woke up just as the stretcher passed beyond our sight. he never saw the corpse.

at chennai central station i had to bribe a man and an orphan to get a dormitory bed for the night. i had bought a train timetable but needed to wait till morning to take any action on gettting out.

the whole next day, from 8am till 8pm was spent researching ayurvedic treatments, auroville, and figuring out how to make interstate and international telephone calls. i found a copy of “THE CHICAGO ADDRESSES” and am almost finished reading it. already planning a stage adaptation of vivekananda’s amazing journey to chicago and realizing – no surprise to anyone – ira and sheldon most of all, that “fourtune lies in the garden of your home...go there and seek it.” i had to come to india to be certain that my affinity for judaism, yoga, bah’ai, theatre, music, and dance are all chicago-centric. are you screaming i told you so, papa?

i went from the station to the arya vaida sala chennai branch and they told me they can not give me pancha karma. they referred me to koche (ernakulum) where there is a residential hospital.

back to the train station. now bound for koche. trains are sold out for 3 days. i told the foreign tourist ticket agent i had a dooctor’s appointment in koche. he sent me to the offiece of emergency quota. they sent me to the asst. commercial manager and chief reservations officer. (mind you these offices are in buildings surrounding the stationand the station is HUGE. the walk from one office to another can take 10 miutes.) i don’t know how, but i got a ticket for 272 rupees. this is a three tier sleeper accomodation on the alleppy express. funny that, because my dorm bed, with bribe was 300 rupes...the ruppe is at about $1=44.5 ruppes so all this is no big deal, just funny.

i started this email while i waited for the train and i am finishing it now, IN ERNAKULUM (Koche) having checked in to the hospital here. www.aryavaidasala.com

i now must go to the train station here and book my return to chennai where i will be headed to auroville for a ten day thai massage course. www.auroville.org

the true pancha karma can take a minimum of 28 days but they are able to condense it down to a minimum of 14 days which is exactly how much time i have.

so, i begin on christmas day and finish on jan. 7th 2004.

at that time i will go back to chennai, then pondecherri, to auroville.

after jan. 18th, i am not sure if i will go to bangalore and mysore or north to varnasi.

obviously all plans are pretty fluid and everyones dates are changing.

what i do know is that i plan to be at the delhi alternative theatre festival with parnab and abhi feb. 3 &4 and then i’ll go up to haridwar to sri ram ashram around feb. 5 or 6 – hopefully for the whole month of feb.

i have registered for the international yoga festival in rishikesh march 1-6 and am thinking about dharmasala and nepal in march following that.

i’m digging deep in the south to purify, then i’ll ascend to the himalyas to study with my guru, after that i may go furher north and further still to ????

no, i probably will be back in thailand in april, around songkrahn, as planned.

i doubt i’ll be able to afford going to euope this trip on my way back to north america but we’ll see.

let me know if you feel like sponsoring my pilgrimage as some things are turning out more expensive than planned.

i will probably have internet access at the hospital and may even have a phone in my room that will accept incoming calls so if that’s the case i’ll send dialing instructions upon request.

a closing quotation from another garment worn by parnab:

your theatre or mine

visible or (in)visible

leftist or leftover

box office or badd fircar [parnab’s teacher and a student of growtowski’s]

much love to one and all. and congratulations.

this is the end.

beautiful friend, the end.



my address at the ashram (from about feb. 6 or 7 through at least march 1st when the yoga fest begins) will be:

rajeev kahn

sri ram ashram

village shyamput kangri

district haridwar, UA

INDIA 249-408

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it's january 23rd 2004.
i actually started travelling on june 30th 2003 but this is my attempt to blog it. good luck to me and to you, dear reader.

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