Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Hare Krishna


For some reason, last night I was remembering the time about 35 years ago, when I was living in a small flat here and used to occasionally put up complete strangers who had nowhere to stay when the pubs closed.

One night, I was chatting to just such a stranger, but he was stranger than most. With a shaved head save for a tiny pony-tail at the back and an voluminous, orange robe, he did not have to explain that he belonged to the then popular Hare Krishna cult of Indian 'mystics'.

He spent the night on my floor, got up early and left without a fuss - never once did he beat on a little drum or chant.

About a year later at about the same time of night, I took home another waif from the pub. The simple young man was from Grimsby, and was somewhat over-weight with a curly head of hair like Harpo Marx.

We were sitting around in the small room when there came a ring on the doorbell, so I went downstairs to see who was there.

A man with a shaven head and orange robe stood on the doorstep with an inane grin on his face, and close inspection told me that he was not the same Hare Krishna bloke as last year.

"I understand that you were recently kind enough to put up one of my brothers, and I was wondering if you could do the same for me tonight?"

These days, I would - of course - tell him to bugger-off, but I was a lot more tolerant then, so I wearily asked him to come in.

He briefly thanked me, then turned to a huge, white van that I had not associated with him up until that point, and waved his arm in a beckoning movement. About 15 men with shaved heads and orange robes poured out of it and began filing upstairs.

I decided to try and make the best of this completely bizarre and ludicrous situation, and we spent a good few hours sitting around and talking of all manner of things - well three of us did, anyway. The other fifteen just sat silently as we spoke, leaving any verbal reactions to the head honcho.

The only time the fifteen silent monks (well, temporarily silent, as you will hear) made a sound was when the Grimsby lad said - in a Grimsby accent - that he had heard that if you chanted, OM MANI PADMI HUM enough times and with enough conviction, your head exploded. The monks pissed themselves with involuntary laughter at this point.

At last, I said I was going to retire in the only bed in the crowded room, and the rest of them settled down like sardines on the floor. The head honcho told me that they always had a cold bath first thing in the morning, and asked if it would be alright for them to do that here, and I said, 'of course'.

I turned the light out, and the Grimsby lad immediately began to snore. The sixteen monks began whispering to each other in the darkness, and after a while I realised that - it being already about 3.00 am, they had to begin a rota-shift for what order they would have their cold baths, then begin bathing immediately.

So for the rest of the early, dark morning, the flat was filled with the sound of monks splashing vigorously around in the freezing bathroom and chanting 'Hare Krishna!' to themselves over and over again in the same that way we would scream if thrown into a icy lake.

At dawn, after a sleepless night, the head monk told me that they were holding a conference in Bath, and asked if they could stay for two more nights. Thankfully, I was visiting my parents that weekend, so I told them to make themselves at home and leave the key on the table when they let themselves out. I left with the Grimsby lad and drove the 100 miles to my parent's home.

When I returned on the Monday morning, I opened the door of my one-room little bedsit, and I was hit with the most glorious scent of hundreds of flowers - it was just like walking into a florist's shop.

I had a large refectory table in the not-so-large room, and it was completely covered with the fresh flowers with which they had filled the huge auditorium where they had held their conference. Because of the really delicious piles of vegetarian, Indian food they had also left for me, the flowers had spilt-over to cover most of the floor as well. I had to invite many friends around that night to help me eat it all. A little note was hidden amongst the blooms, and it said, 'Thanks for putting us up. Hare Krishna.'

About two days later, I was trooping up and downstairs with dozens of bin-liners full of dead flowers in time for the rubbish collection.

42 comments:

  1. wow Tom what an amazing story and memory.

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    1. Yes - I suppose it was worth the trouble just for the sake of this story. It was funny, if a little tiring.

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  2. This made me think of Dennis Nilsen, sorry.

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    1. The drains in that flat wouldn't have coped with that many chopped monks, so I didn't bother.

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    2. True, but I didn't have sex with 16 monks and a bloke from Grimsby before I didn't kill them, and I am really glad about that.

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    3. I mean I'm glad I didn't kill them - it might have made for a really good story if I had sex with them.

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    4. He ran baths for them. That reminded me too.

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    5. Ok, you can stop thinking about it now.

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    6. I once woke up in bed with someone and I didn't know who he was or where I was.

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    7. There's plenty of us about. P had an earlier version before me.

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  3. Somehow I think you may very well still be a bit of a soft touch under that seemingly tough exterior Tom. i had Jehovah's Witnesses call about half an hour ago and when I told them I was a complete unbeliever they were polite and went, not trying to argue at all.

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    1. I never think of myself as having a hard exterior, Weave. My sister is a J.W., so if ever I get bothered, I tell them I know all about it and they go away, probably seeing me as a lost cause. No, definitely seeing me as a lost cause.

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  4. I like that immensely.
    What a beautiful way to say 'Thank you' - and the dozens of bin liners - I think they were worth the trouble, having indulged into a field of colours and scents.

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    1. It was a very rare experience, and almost worth the trouble.

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  5. That's a great story, which could equally have ended with you having found your bed-sit stripped bare.

    Only once have I done something similar. I was staying with a friend in London and we found an Irish poet in a pub'. All his pockets were filled with handwritten poems, and he seemed like an interesting guy. Back at the flat he pissed on the sofa so we put him back in the car and drove him back to the vicinity of the pub', and dumped him.

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    1. I've had a few like that as well - more than this experience. I left about £500 in cash openly in the cupboard, knowing it would never be touched. Karma, etc.

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    2. Joking aside, I once let a bloke just out of prison stay in my flat with me because I met him in a pub and felt sorry for him. He slept on the living room sofa and never stole from me even though I used to leave him in the flat alone when I went off to work in another pub but I ended up catching nits off him. I had almost forgotten this. Thank you for such a wonderful post today bringing back all these memories for me.

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    3. I find my life so boring these days.

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    4. Well, whether or not you find your life boring Rachel, you brighten up mine, at least. Thank you.

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    5. (And think yourself it wasn't lice - down there).

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    1. You should have been there - not cool at the time, I assure you.

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    2. I guess I should have been more precise - I meant it was cool that they left all those flowers and the food and the thank you note.

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    3. Oh yes, that was very impressive.

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  7. Would you really have said bugger off, had this happened yesterday? I think if we were spontaneously kind back then, not all of the "spontaneous" or all all of the "kind" has fossilized.

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    1. I don't know. I may have directed them to the YMCA, who had more than my one bed at the time.

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  8. I would never have believed this story if anyone one but you had told it

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    1. True, true, all true. I hate orange too - especially since Guantanamo Bay and the ISIS desert murders.

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  10. I think you should write a sit-com about your life. It would be better than a lot of the shot on TV and how photogenic would this particular story have been? A bit heavy on the props perhaps.

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  11. Replies
    1. My name is Stephen, but I'd rather you called me Tom.

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