October 11, 2012 The Griffin
Berkeley street in the rain. I have a black umbrella. It’s dark and I’ve just unloaded some energetic tonnage. Light as I am, I’m not worried about walking alone in the darkness. I peek my head inside Singh Sabha Gurdwara, the Sikh ashram that I noticed on my way to Sasha’s class. I’m peeking in to ask about kundalini classes, not to receive a blessing and eat dinner, but that’s what happens. It sounds like there is a party going on, and I almost close the door to leave when I am spied by a group of turban wearing men. Yoga. I ask if they have a yoga schedule. They ask me what kind of yoga? I say kundalini yoga. They say no, but one of their members teaches kundalini yoga, did I want her number? No thank you. Then a white boy in a yellow turban asks his Indian friend in the blue turban if he can ask me in… “Do you want to come in for a blessing and dinner?” I hesitate because I had plans with myself to get a cider and write..and what if I get overwhelmed by the exotic Scottish-Sikhish vibrations? What if I’m sucked into their cult? What kind of place is this? No kundalini yoga? So I say while literally moving myself from side to side weighing my options and measuring my mood while looking around the multi-leveled ashram, “um..hmmmm…maybe…I don’t know…hmmm…sure, yeah, ok, why not?” Because…how can I say no to a blessing?
Seva, the Scottish Sikh in the goldenrod turban guides me to the woman’s side of the foyer, where I take off my shoes and place them in a cubby. I pick a scarf to cover my noggin, as is their custom, and then I’m led up a flight of stairs into the prayer area, a big room of folks sitting on the floor chanting the name of their god. In front of the room is an altar holding a book. Lots of artificial flowers have been placed around the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy scriptures, and a man stands behind the book waving a big white feather back and forth over the book. I’m led up to front of the altar and instructed to kneel. I watch Seva bow, but I don’t bow. I have a thing about bowing. I typically don’t bow unless I’m praying in solitude, and only then because it just happens, not because I’ve made it a practice. I don’t bow in public, it feels so…contrived. So I just sit and enjoy the breeze from the feather fanning me, my eyes are closed and I’m working on being receptive to the blessing. I sit for a good minute, which I think is too long, because I’m tapped on the shoulder by Seva who motions for me to get up. My scarf falls off of my head as I walk across the vacuous room. I’m pretty sure I’ve offended someone, but It wasn’t goD. We’re cool. gOd doesn’t need me to bow to show my respect, gOd is well aware of my devotion.
I don’t want to eat, but I’m on an adventure, and what comes next is dinner. I ask for just a little, but what I get is more than I want. Chips and veggie curry, dahl, salad, nan, and what appears to be rice pudding made with spaghetti instead of rice. I have a full plate of food that I really don’t want when I notice a sign a the end of the food line that says: ” Do not insult god by wasting food.” Shit. It seems I must have come to this place to insult god. The damn scarf won’t stay on my head, so with one hand on my head and one hand holding my plate of unwanted blessedness, I follow Seva to join a group of women and children sitting on the floor eating. Here on the floor with a young Scottish/Indian Sikh woman and her two little girls, I learn that kundalini yoga isn’t practiced here. They study the scriptures. Their path is through study, not through yoga. Here on the floor I am complimented on my accent. Here on the floor I dutifully eat at least half of my meal while holding my scarf in place with one half of my hands, and then ask my new friend what I’m supposed to do with the rest of my food? She looks fearful. The food is blessed! After some talk about waste and blessings, I am given a container to take my holy morsels with me. I hug my new friend goodbye, say my thank you’s, return my reluctant head covering, and walk out into the dark Glasgow night. I didn’t see any homeless people on my way to the pub, so I offend their god once more by dropping my package into a garbage can.
I’m sitting at a short table drinking a Magners apple cider.
Ouch! I have a pain in my right side. It’s sharp and pinching and maybe it will go away soon. I’m fading now. I’m sleepy, I don’t know what time it is. S P is playing here tomorrow night, the bartender just sold me a ticket for five pounds. I need to leave. Walk myself across the street . Stop this writing and wondering.
Back at the hotel…
The pain in my right side is getting worse. Holy hell! Is this gas or am I suffering a gallbladder attack? Or is it appendicitis? I am in a foreign country having an acute onset of right quadrant abdominal pain. What if I’m being punished by their god for wasting their offerings? What if the food has turned to poison inside my body because I’m such a blasphemer…what if I go to a hospital here and I have to have emergent surgery? What if my appendix ruptures and I become septic in Scotland and it’s all because I didn’t bow and I basically spit in god’s face?
Turns out it was just gas…?