Going to Greet the Guru

by Joe Cabrera (United States of America)

Making a local connection India


It is stupefying, truly, the uncanny ability of some people to not just befriend you, but make you love them fiercely, after just a few normal exchanges. Chalk it up to charisma or some other alchemical mixture that is lost on me, but Naresh had that gift, and he was most gracious in sharing his bounty of bonhomie with weary travelers. As soon as I arrived in Jodhpur I was swarmed upon by opportunistic rickshaw drivers. I waded through the sensory-scrambling mass until there formed a small opening that framed the visage of Naresh perfectly. He was sitting coolly atop his handlebars several paces away, barely registering the farrago of bodies zigzagging to different destinations that is emblematic of urban India. I hopped in his backseat and he fired up the charmingly choppy note that is familiar to anyone who has ridden or driven a rickshaw without speaking a word to one another. Limbs still protruded the inside of the cab as we putt-putted away. I'm pretty sure a couple of his competitors were skitching on the back before somersaulting off into a receding wake of dust motes. Naresh is a devout Hindu with a wife and four children, and according to his manner of addressing others, everyone is his brother. If I had a rupee for every time he referred to me as such I could retire to Goa and spend the rest of my days dreaming the universe into reality like Vishnu. I was craving a beer since many of the places I visited seemed to be dry. He promptly ushered me to a hidden enclave and had me wait at the entryway that was just a door-shaped hole in a non-descript edifice, wherein he returned bearhugging Kingfishers. We then whisked away to a ritzy hotel rooftop with a splendid view. Bazaar gewgaws twinkled and camels ambled along Rajput fortresses as we bantered and snacked on biryani amid the milky-blue backdrop. It felt holy. "Come. Finish. I am going to take you to see the guru." "I'd rather not, I'm not much of a believer in that sort of stuff." "Yes, my friend! The guru, brother. We will go if you want to." "I think I'm okay, honestly." "Okay! No guru, my brother. It's okay!" Naresh spoke in whimsical lilts and alternating tones that sounded like he was trying the non-native language on to see if it fit to his liking. I learned along our journey that he lost both his parents at a young age and became a street-kid, taught himself English by watching American action movies and has worked dawn to dusk everyday for over a decade to keep his family from knowing poverty and hardship. The combination of cadence and self-made story spellbound me to his every syllable. "Okay! We're here." "Where are we?" "The guru, brother! Go on inside. He is waiting for you." The guru was an Indian-Canadian man who possessed the most poise of anyone I have ever encountered. His office was tucked behind a tourist jewelry shop that served as a thin-walled refuge from the consumerist cacophony. Perturbed that my wishes were disregarded by Naresh, I offered only stoicism to the small talk of the preternaturally calm guru. After insisting that I ask him anything on my mind, I curiously croaked, "Will I ever be successful?" He responded in rapid succession as if he were anticipating the question. "You already are," he said. "But you must be less hard on yourself. You are so busy in the head that you ignore the heart." After our cordial consultation, he insisted that his services were free. As I made my way out he imputed one last bit of sage advice, almost as if it occurred to him at the last second. "Oh yes," he lowered his brow. "Forgive your mom." I returned to the motorized steed of the mystic-cum-chauffeur Naresh. It felt like everyone's eyes were pinned on me for the rest of the day, like I were radiating waves of ancient clarity. "What did he say?" "Wow, that was an amazing experience. Thank you. He said I need to make amends with some family members." "I know brother. I know many things."