Doug Bruns

Posts Tagged ‘Rajasthan’

The Benefits of Opium

In Adventure, Travel, Writing on February 19, 2013 at 6:00 am

Perhaps we should consider travel as metaphor? Another travel vignette:

A Sadhu, Holy Man of India

A Sadhu, Holy Man of India

Dhdhundaly, Rajasthan, India:

By mid-morning the village elders in Dhdhundaly were comfortably quite high—and anxious to get at it again.

No sacrament, no wine, nor bread–but opium, consumed in liquid form, concentrated and filtered, like a stoner version of Mr. Coffee-the-Divine. As this is India, there must be a spiritual reasoning at work—consequently, with a flick of moist finger, an offering to Shiva is made. The priest-elder pours the dark liquid into his cupped palm. It sits high and brimmed, like mercury might sit. He offers his hand to the squatting man on his left. The squatting man sips, then slurps it gone. Smiles follow. With the palm refilled, another offering to Shiva, and the next man is offered the mix and so on until it was the priest-elder’s turn. A deputy takes over and offers the elder a righteous palm-full. He sucks it down in one shot, like a thirsty sponge. He exhales and shakes his head. He makes noises like a horse in early morning stable. Again, he motions, as if to say, “Hit me.” I notice how red-rimmed and stoned his eyes are. There is an electricity in the air. We are sitting behind a wall in an open garden, the morning grows damp with humidity. The elder smiles at me and twists the ends of his moustache. He instructs his assistant that his guest not be overlooked.

Alas, in liquid form opium takes a month or more to work its magic–so I am told. One must be a faithful practitioner to really enjoy its benefits. Benefits? Why just look at him, says my guide. The elder is over 70 years old. See how young he stays? He seemed to be looking through me by this time, deep into his practitioner-addiction nirvana. I sip. The liquid is bitter–then, being the good pilrim, I brace and finish it off. Stoned smiles all around. A tin jar is passed containing golden nuggets of raw molasses. I am advised that it absorbs the bitterness and is sweet on the tongue.

If you should ever ponder the difference between tourist and traveler, know this: the tourist doesn’t drink the opium.

The Minaj Plain

In Adventure, Death, Life, Travel on July 9, 2012 at 6:00 am


Village barber, Rajasthan, 2007, © Doug Bruns

A journal note from October, 2007, Rajasthan, India, the Minaj Plain

The sun sets large on the Minaj plain. Three kilometers north a village bustles with evening preparations as penned lambs bleat. Nightfall returns mother and her milk. Herds of village-bound muted goats traverse the plain. Each hoof-drop triggers an explosion of red dust. Endless goat herds move west into the sun and roll off the edge of horizon.

Alone, I walk into their presence. So many beasts! They pass around me, flowing like a river. I am absorbed, a simple obstacle. Hundreds of goats. They move past, following the herder–but for one red goat, her head dropping with each labored telegraphed step; each advance perhaps the last.

The monsoons were heavy and the underbrush flourished. Thorns abound as agents of infection and death. The goat struggles, losing contact with the many, a victim of infection. She will return late; and some morning, tomorrow or perhaps the next, her journey will end.

A little thing will take us down. A cell goes haywire, a thorn infects. We lose contact with the herd. We eventually each return to night in silence.

The goat-herder, distant, his turban brighter at the horizon, turns–is he checking his charges? Or me?

I press my palms and bow. The gesture returned, he escapes to the edge of the earth. The halting goat follows in perfected uncomplaining silence