Is it enough now? Enough amoebas?

On the Go

30-33 of Subhuti’s Pune Diaries

These four excerpts were written in February 2014.
Read previous sections of The Pune Diaries

Pune Diary 30: Is it enough now?

Once in a while, song lyrics hit me at exactly the right time and become awesomely profound. In a sense, it’s nothing new. Casual and unintended listening has provoked deep self-reflection many times down the centuries.

For example, there’s a famous story in Buddhist literature, relating how an ordinary citizen became enlightened, just because he happened to be passing a Buddhist monk who was reciting the Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita verses of Gautam Siddhartha, also known as the Diamond Sutra.

The monk was not an awakened being, but his daily routine of reciting the Buddha’s words provoked a sudden awakening, unintentionally, in a casual passer-by.

Buddha Grove at the Osho Resort

On a more modest scale, it was kinda like that this morning. I’d never heard of a pop group called Xploding Plastix, but I was dancing in Buddha Grove to music played by a new DJ, a young American guy who’d not been in the resort very long. All of a sudden, he started playing a number called Sunset Spirals.

The beat was light and catchy. At first, the lyrics meant nothing… something about landing at Heathrow Airport and seeing a friend wave a greeting. But then the chorus kicked in:

Is it enough now?
Is it enough now?
Is it enough now?

This morning, Buddha Grove was at its best. The sun was shining through the trees, it was a warm day and each little gust of a fresh breeze sent showers of dried bamboo leaves fluttering through the air, cascading gently all around us. A lovely woman came and hugged me, friends were saying ‘hello’ and dancing with me and there was nothing special on my mind.

Is it enough now…
Is this not enough now?

Who would have thought that a Norwegian electrofunk band could nail the essence of being here-and-now so neatly?

Because their simple lyrics opened a window and I found myself looking back on my life with a sense of wonder, seeing how much I have been driven by the hunger of discontent, by the chronic craving of never being satisfied, always wanting more… more money, more love, more success….

And here, on this sunny morning, for a few moments, it all fell away because there was an unexpected feeling of happiness and contentment in my heart and I could not deny the truth of those words pumping out through the sound system:

Is this not enough now?

It’s funny, so many times I’ve heard Gautam Buddha say that the root of misery is desire, but this morning, maybe for the first time, I saw that for 68 years I’ve been running after ‘more’ and rarely pausing long enough to open my arms and welcome ‘enough’.

Thank you, everyone, who danced with me this morning.

And as one friend pointed out: back in the 70s, when Osho was ending every discourse with those softly spoken words ‘Enough for today’, maybe he was waiting for us to nod and say ‘Yes, today is enough unto itself, thank you’.

Speaking of the Diamond Sutra, it’s a fascinating dialogue between Buddha and one of his disciples, the original Subhuti.

Buddha begins each sutra: What do you think, Subhuti… and then asks a really esoteric question, like… Can it be said that a Buddha has 32 marks? This is a reference to spiritual folk lore in India that enlightened beings share 32 similar physical characteristics, like long ear lobes, for example.

And Subhuti says something like: No Lord, truly a Buddha has 32 no-marks, therefore only he can be said to have 32 marks… mind-blowing stuff like this.

So when, in 1977, Osho was speaking on the Diamond Sutra, I asked him a question: “What do you think, Bhagwan? Do I have the slightest idea what you’re talking about, or would the slightest idea be the wrong thing to have?”

He answered ‘Yes, Subhuti’ – and went on to the next question! Leaving me nonplussed, with several wires fused in my brain.

Returning to the present: It’s that time of year when the winter months are ending, the hot season is approaching, and people are on the move. The air in Koregaon Park is filled with travel plans.

Some are heading North to Rishikesh for yoga retreats and satsang offerings… others return from Goa and Hampi to stay for a few days before heading back to Europe… a big group of Lithuanians passes through on an all-India spiritual tour… and in a few days’ time we can expect a new influx of people here as the high season ends and the off-season prices kick in.

Me? I have one more month to travel in India, so I expect that soon I’ll be going somewhere. I just don’t know where or when, so I’ll hang out in Pune a bit longer and see which way the wind blows.

And maybe, once in a while, I’ll pause amid all my daily doings and reflect on the spiritual mysticism hidden in the lyrics of an electro-funk hit…

Is it enough now?

Pune Diary 31: Neti pot nightmare

I should know by now: never take myself seriously at 3:30 in the morning. It’s a time when common sense and perspective weaken, when imagined love affairs seem real and medical ailments grow out of all proportion.

How it happened: I came back to Pune from Goa and immediately caught a cold. Since I’d gone to Goa in the first place to get rid of a cough, this was unacceptable. I was determined to prevent it from going down into my throat and chest like last time.

Subhuti with neti pot

That’s when I picked up my neti pot and started flushing my nose three or four times a day. I figured that if I could prevent a build-up of mucus, the infection wouldn’t spread.

It worked. I still had the cold, but I could breathe easily and my throat and chest stayed healthy.

By the way, for the uninitiated, a neti pot looks like a small watering can and has been used by Hindus practicing Ayurveda for millennia. These pots used to be ceramic. Now they’re plastic and sold for 20 rupees at any Indian pharmacy.

At first, I used filtered water, which I boiled and allowed to cool before adding salt and irrigating my nostrils. Then I got lazy. I figured warm tap water would be okay and also a lot quicker.

Then I got a headache. A very strange headache. I can say with confidence that 95 percent of my headaches are caused by working too long on my computer. Thus, when I stop staring into a laptop screen, they disappear.

But this one was different. It felt heavy and kinda circular, like a crown fitting too tightly on a monarch’s head. Not quite as severe as the headache received by Viserys, in Game of Thrones, when Khal Drogo gave him a ‘crown’ by pouring molten gold over his head, but similar and persistent.

Whether I worked at my computer or not, it stayed with me. I went to bed with my headache, slept for a few hours and woke up with it again at 3:30 am.

I figured I might be over-using the neti pot – too much salt in my sinuses, or something – so I went online and googled ‘neti pot health’.

That’s when I saw it. That’s when Google brought me the news: ‘Neti Pot Deaths’. That’s when I read the headline: ‘Deaths from brain-eating amoeba linked to sinus remedy for colds’.

A brain-eating amoeba? For nearly forty years I’ve been acquainted with the hazards of amoebas in my guts – an intrinsic part of the Indian experience – but in my brain? Fascinated and alarmed, I investigated further.

It turned out that two Americans in Louisiana died after using warm tap water to flush their noses with neti pots. The water contained an amoeba called Naegleria Fowleri that lodges in the mucus membranes of your nose, eats its way up your olfactory nerve and chews your brain until you’re dead.

No cure.

Er… excuse me? Can you run that by me again? Yes, that’s right… no cure.

OMG. Maybe I’ve got Naegleria Fowleri up my nose. Maybe, even now, they’re chewing their way up my smelling nerves, eagerly anticipating a blow-out feast when they reach the grey matter of my forebrain.

I suppose the most shocking aspect of such situations is the realization that it’s already too late – that something which was done so easily, without a care in the world, could have irreversible and fatal consequences.

Quickly, I read on, hoping for the best, dreading the worst.

Bad news: Naegleria Fowleri like to live in warm climates.

More bad news: Symptoms include unusual headaches. Oh no!

Practical tip: The most reliable indicator of Naegleria Fowleri infection is that your sense of smell disappears. Well, naturally, if some hungry bug is eating away your olfactory nerve.….

Reaching for the honey pot, I unscrewed the lid and inhaled deeply. Mmmm… yes… definitely smells like honey. Same with eucalyptus oil. So far, so good.

My old friend Abhiyana, acupuncturist and former resident of the Pune ashram, was online at his home in Sedona, Arizona, so I told him my fears. He did his best to reassure me, sharing memories of Varanasi, where he saw sadhus sitting by the Ganges, flushing their noses daily with neti pots filled with river water.

Maybe Naegleria Fowleri don’t live in India. If they do, maybe they can’t survive Pune Corporation’s water treatment plants. If they can, maybe they don’t like my nose. Maybe, after all, I will see the dawn.

I relaxed and made myself a cup of tea, opening the door to the balcony. A familiar wave of sewage odour filled the room as Pune Corporation performed its regular habit of dumping untreated human waste into the Mula-Mutha River.

Aaaah… yes… that smells soooooo good!

Pune Diary 32: The ultimate test

My old friend Nisarg, sitting with me at lunch in Meera Canteen, insists that I write about stool tests. “People need to know, and you can make it funny,” she tells me.

I’m not enthusiastic, especially while eating my delicious organic steamed veggies. But Anne, sitting with us, wants to know. Anne is in her twenties, from Norway, and has been travelling for two months in Goa, Hampi and Gokana. She has pains in her upper abdomen, which could be a sign that she has uninvited guests in her intestines.

Subhuti shit test

Okay. Since I just wrote about brain-eating amoebas, I may as well shine a little light on the more common variety: those that hang out in the human digestive system, happily eating away our insides.

This amoeba is called Entamoeba Hystolica and is passed from human to human in the form of cysts, usually by infected people handling water, juices and food. It’s estimated that 500 million people have this amoeba worldwide.

My golden rules for long term survival in India used to be: never drink water offered at restaurants, never drink fresh-squeezed juices anywhere, never eat uncooked food and carefully remove all garnish sprinkled as decoration on cooked food.

These days, I’m more relaxed. I eat avocado salads in Dario’s, fruit muesli in the Yogi Tree and sip fresh juices at Pete’s Shack in Goa. But still, I try to be careful.

Back in the 70s, we avoided water and instead drank bottled soda-water. That’s how fresh-lime sodas became so popular among sannyasins – it was the closest thing to water we could risk drinking. These days, however, bottled mineral water is fine and the resort also provides free, filtered, good-quality drinking water for all visitors.

So, down to basics: ‘stool test’ is a polite term for ‘shit test’. After wintering in India, I usually take one at the end of March, just before leaving, to check if my guts are okay. Sometimes I have symptoms, like gas, bloating, ‘loose motion’ (polite term for ‘runny shit’) and sometimes not. Anyway, I usually check.

I go to Hemotech Laboratories, the people who conduct the resort’s AIDS tests. They have a lab just off Dhole Patil Road, opposite Ruby Hall Hospital, on a street called ‘Chatrupati Shahi Maharaj Road’ – try telling that to a rickshaw driver.

The lab at Inlaks Hospital is more convenient, being next to the resort, but in my experience useless. They never find anything in stool samples. Once, to prove my point, when I had amoebas, I took one test at Hemotech and another at Inlaks.

Hemotech found them. Inlaks didn’t. So, if you want to pretend you don’t have amoebas, Inlaks is definitely your best choice.

There’s an art to providing a stool sample. At Hemotech, the lab technician starts around ten, so you want to take a shit as late as possible, no earlier than 9:00 am, so that it’s nice and fresh. And you need the very last piece of shit to come out, because that’s been furthest up your gut.

Best method: pass motion on a bunch of toilet paper and take the sample from there.

Oh, I forgot, before starting your ‘motion’, go to Krishna Medical pharmacy on North Main Road and buy a ‘specimen container’ – a small plastic jar with screw-on lid – and a small wooden spatula. Spoon the sample into the jar with the spatula, close the lid and you’re done. Jump in a rickshaw and head for Hemotech.

A stool test costs a mere 150 rupees, less than a couple of quid, so you can do it every day for a month if you want to, without damaging your bank account. Usually, that’s not necessary.

The great thing about Hemotech is they deliver the results to their AIDS-test man in the resort’s welcome centre. You pick them up next day at 5:00 pm.

When you look at the results, the key words are: ‘ent. hystolica’. This means you’ve got amoebas. Another key word is ‘cysts’. This also means you’ve got amoebas, but in dormant form, so if you have no actual symptoms then treatment is optional. The presence of a few pus cells doesn’t mean much, but if you have a lot of pus cells this could also indicate amoebas in action.

Best treatment: a five or ten-day course of flagyl-based antibiotics like Tinidazole and Metronidazole are effective cures, if you can stand the ‘I’m poisoning myself’ feeling of nausea that usually goes with it.

I usually opt for a short cut: a two-pill power-pack called Secnal, taken once only. Buy it at Krishna Medical but don’t take it until you’re out of India and safely home in Germany, or wherever you live. You don’t want to risk reinfection and having to take another mega-dose.

Alternative cures include various Ayurvedic cleanses and potions which may or may not do the trick. Personally, if I’m sure I have amoebas I go for Secnal. If it’s uncertain, I might experiment with alternatives first.

After consuming antibiotics, be sure to replenish your stomach’s friendly bacteria with acidophilus. And like they say in drug commercials to avoid lawsuits: if symptoms persist, see a doctor.

Okay? Now, back to my lunch… bon appetit!

Pune Diary 33: The Back Gate Brotherhood

We come and go. They stay. We need a ride somewhere. They take us.

Ever walked through the resort’s back gate during the past 20 years? If so, chances are you rubbed shoulders with two guys who spend a lot of time there.

Shiva and Tanaji

Their names are Shiva and Tanaji. Shiva is the younger of the two, has black hair and a moustache and almost always wears a white shirt. Tanaji goes by the nickname ‘uncle’. He is older and less talkative, with a greying beard. It seems like his favourite colour is brown because mostly that’s what he wears.

Their occupation? Shiva and Tanaji are two of our best-known neighbourhood rickshaw drivers. By inclination, they like to work only from the resort’s back gate on Lane 2, but for practical, economic reasons that’s not always possible.

“Low season is coming, so we have to go outside to find business,” explains Shiva. “But we come here anyway… after lunch… for some time, every day.”

Both men have been using Lane 2 as their centre of operations for more than two decades. Mobile phones have helped them stay connected with long term Western residents in the Koregaon Park area, who hire them to run errands: picking up laundry, making Xerox copies, ferrying groceries… any kind of job that needs a driver.

For me, the connection pays off when I have to make a local trip involving two or three stops at different destinations. Then it’s great to keep the same driver, rather than trying to flag down a different rickshaw after each stop. It probably works out more expensive – gotta keep our guys happy – but the convenience is worth it.

“Ever have an accident?” I asked Shiva as we waited for the traffic lights, where North Main Road intersects with the road to Yerawada Bridge.

“Yes, big one… in ’94… I was drunk… my fault,” he said, unashamedly. “I hit motorbike in Lane 2… rickshaw overturn on me…” he made a flipping motion with his hand. “Motorbike was okay, but I got hurt…” he pulled his shirt off his shoulder to reveal a scar. “After that, no more drinking.”

And now, an unrelated rickshaw anecdote:

“Don’t these things have doors?” asked an elegant, wealthy Russian woman, now living in Dubai, sitting beside me in a rickshaw as we charged madly through rush-hour traffic towards MG Road one evening. I shook my head.

“But what happens when it rains?” she wondered.

I pointed to a rolled up plastic sheet attached to the roof on her side of the rickshaw. “That comes down, on one side only. Keeping dry in a downpour is a real challenge.”

She shook her head in disbelief.

And now, some rickshaw rules, learned the hard way:

Rickshaw drivers who are waiting in a line never go by meter. If you try to insist on ‘meter fare’ you will quickly become embroiled in a useless and frustrating argument, the only cure for which is screaming loudly in Dynamic Meditation in Osho Auditorium the following morning.

Accept the inevitable and negotiate. Warning: it is essential to fix the price of your trip before stepping into the rickshaw. Trying to bargain at your destination is like pulling a wad of notes out of your purse and saying “Here, how much do you want?”

Short local fares are now 20 rupees and even though the drivers ask for 30-50 rupees they will usually come down to the base rate, especially if they know you’ve been here awhile. Often, the final figure depends on how much time and energy you like to invest in bargaining, complaining, looking angry, looking bored and pretending to walk away.

The meter fare to MG Road is 50-60 rupees, but you will probably be asked ‘Coming back, baba?’ If you say ‘no’ then you may need to add another 30 because ‘coming back empty… long way… no business.’

At night, of course you pay at least 50 percent more – ‘night-time charges, baba’ – although as far as I can tell the amount of fuel consumed by the rickshaw is the same in darkness as in daylight, so the reason for this nocturnal fare hike is something of a mystery.

Rickshaws that you flag down as they speed along North Main Road and other routes will usually go by meter. Many of these meters are now electronic and actually state the real fare, as opposed to the old, wind-up meters whose rates had to be multiplied by ten or more.

One final word from Shiva:

“If you make a report on us, say ‘hello’ to our customers!”

Will do.

 

These four diaries were written in February 2014.
Read previous sections of ‘The Pune Diaries’

 

SubhutiAnand Subhuti has been a disciple of Osho for 38 years. He first came to Pune in 1976 and has been a regular visitor to India ever since. In the 70s, he worked in Osho’s Press Office and in 1981 travelled with the mystic to Oregon, where he founded and edited The Rajneesh Times newspaper. Subhuti has written a book about his life with Osho, titled ‘My Dance with a Madman’, and recently authored a romantic novel set in Koregaon Park titled ‘The Last White Man’. Both are available on Amazon.

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