The train from Rishikesh to Amritsar was a test in patience. That is the nicest way I can describe it. Imagine if you will…Kumba Mela season. That alone should be descriptive enough for those of you who might have been to the smoosh of humanity that is the Kumbh. Now further imagine a low class seat. Further smoosh. Now visualize if you will an unfortunately large women with no assigned seating deciding that the area between the back of the seat in front of me and my face is a perfect place to park herself. Now continue along with my cough worsening until I am full-blown sick.
When I finally arrived in Amritsar, I got into an auto-rickshaw to take me to Sandhu colony to a home full of people studying with Ustaad-ji, the beloved singer of raag (classical Indian devotional music). All was working out until a man jumped into the rickshaw and began putting his hands all over my body. While I decided whether to stab him with the kirpan I was wearing or push him out of the rickshaw into oncoming traffic, he jumped out of the rickshaw with a “Thank you, madam.” So rude, and yet, so polite. So India.
The next few days I laid in bed overcome with a serious cough. I completely lost my voice. And here I was to studying singing. Ustaad-ji became concerned that I was seriously ill and sent me with another student to the hospital. This student explained in Punjabi to the doctor there that I was studying with Ustaad-ji and wanted to sing the shabads (Sikh hymns). The doctor turned to me and asked in English, “You want to sing shabads?” I croaked a meager, “Yes.” He wrote a prescription and sent me out of the room. (As is the norm for my experiences with Indian doctors, this was without either examining me or asking if I was allergic to medicine or taking another drug.) I picked up the medicine and went home. Looking it up on the internet to check to make sure it hadn’t been recalled in the US for causing cancer or something, I learned that I had been given wonderful drugs…for schizophrenia. That is what you get when you say a white girl with no voice wants to sing the shabads. Obviously, I am nuts. That is a much bigger problem than a cough.
When I told Ustaad-ji later that day that I had been given drugs for being crazy, he gave me my first of many lessons. Ustaad-ji said, “Yes, you are crazy. Good. Everyone is crazy. The men who sang the shabads were crazy. They sat outside of society and sang to God with intense love. Everyone thought they were crazy. Look outside, people who live from their head and not their heart. There are crazy! They are crazy with maya. Everyone is crazy. Do you want to be crazy with maya [illusion], or crazy with God?”
If there is something to experience about India, it is that it is crazy. It is both crazy with maya and crazy with God. It provides you with a powerful opportunity to choose.
Ask yourself today; do you want to be crazy with maya or crazy with God? Then decide whether or not to take the pills. Me? I’m crazy, but not that crazy. I’ll stick with good, old-fashioned TLC. It might not fix the desire to sing, but it should take care of the cold.