An American CROSS

This is the last of a five-part series. So you're recommended to begin with The Sack of Iraq (Feb 17th) and read upwards...

AFTER DINNER, we all moved up to the terrace for "Bam Bholy smokes" as Ron liked to call it. Katey was the only one not lured by the resinous scent of fresh Malana cream. Katey, the Amreekan, had been in India long enough to understand randy Hindi jokes. She, like Rita and Udo, had been around the hills more than anyone of us. One night Katey said she was Ma Tunananda.

It was a rare moment, when Ron wasn't asked to step in to translate a joke into English English.

"She who finds bliss in eating tuna," Ma Tunananda explained like Osho had in his name-changing heydays. Ma Tunananda stayed in one of the outer cottages at Khim's. She also owned a Bajaj scooter that she rode, helmetted whenever she felt the urge to get away.

Ma Tunananda found bliss in getting away.

I too was getting away.

I was on a loser's vacation. I had taken a year off from work. To "chill" and clear up my head.

We took the leopard's roar to our beds that night. It was loud and echoey. Hagar, who'd been a drill seargent in the army thought it was in some kind of pain. When Hagar first told us about her army duties we laughed. She didn't seem made of the same stuff as a drill seargent.

Sometimes Sundar would add some lime juice to the bananas. Why he did that was a mystery to us. Some days, the Banana Pancakes had a limey tang. Some days they were limeless.

It was really that simple.

That was also the simple logic of war. Iraq in 2003. Afghanistan, 2002. Both video wars were brought to us by 'bold and fearless' embedded cameras. Through a reality show called 'Smoke 'em Out Wherever They Are'. A US Army Production. Shot entirely on location. With local extras.

Water was a problem in our Pancake Paradise. A water-carrier arrived panting in the dark hours of the morning to fill up our supply tank for the day. Khimda never let us feel the trouble he had to go through to keep the taps running.

The war brought with it three more Americans. "The Rainbow People are here," Amit rushed to inform us when he saw them descend the hill with their backpacks. There were two Rainbow women and a rasta-haired Rainbow man with a nose ring. The Rainbow people were on their way to the higher reaches of the Himalayas for a Rainbow retreat.

The Americans were from Jackson, Illinois. And this was their first trip abroad. Ridley, the saree-clad, had her head shaved, Mohawk style, and dyed pink. She used our slide-table for sticking magazine pictures on diagrams she had drawn.

Ridley had a taste for the bizarre. It didn't take you long to see that, once the smiley shock of her appearance hit you like cameraflash. She held her hands over her meals as if willing the food from rising. "It's called reiki," she told me when she caught me gaping at her.

Autumn "as in the season" also had long blond rasta hair. The heat and dust of the plains had entered her stomach and were whipping up a storm. But Autumn had the Rainbow spirit. She, like us, liked the Banana Pancakes. Autumn also had the gift of seeing irony in food. A bee once dived into the honey of her Banana Pancake. "You can't take it back, Honey," smiled Autumn as she spooned the bee from the honey, "It's human now".

Joe was an unlikely Rainbow man. He had a face that hosted smiles like a waiting room hosted train-catchers. He seemed like someone knocked over badly. Whenever we switched on the war on TV Joe'd turn himself invisible. But once his embarrassment caught on with the rest concessions were made to Joe's invisible, feet-gazing presence. The TV was left on mute and Joe, to his own devices.

Ridley also read tarot cards. Her pack was made of Indian gods and goddesses. Autumn was mostly laid up in bed, nursing the storm India had whipped inside her.

The Americans had arrived at a bad time. The war was their cross. Made in America, from the strongest Texan teak. They had voted for the war, in a funny Rainbow way.

Our table parted like the Red Sea whenever the Americans trooped in at meal times. There were those who were silenced by their arrival. And those who couldn't stop quizzing them about the war.

With the TV bombs began Juhi's labour pains. She began delivering when much of Iraq had been penetrated. It was a premature delivery in doggie time. Hagar had taken over the arrival of the pups. She had delivered several goats and elks at the kibbutz. Amit, the fighter pilot, was her deputy.

Juhi delivered three blind and hairless pups that cried in soft doggie wails. Three others had died in utero.

Khimda said Juhi had gone into labour because of the leopard. Ron said, it was the honey moon. Hagar blamed the pots and pans. But Juhi looked relieved as she hungrily licked her surviving pups. Each lick of soft hairless puppy skin saying 'thanks' to the big dog in heaven.



  1. Instead of the mundane 'oh how lovely, nice, neat', what i like is the transcultural names given to your characters. Can't trace their origin from their name, misleading. Intresting in that way.

  2. THANKS n thanks people. More will come... have some travelling to do before that... Lemony, the names are actually close to the names these people had in real life. Guess we're all misleading people :)

  3. Travel safely and return with stories and poetry.

  4. You have an outstanding good and well structured site. I enjoyed browsing through it » »


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