There are dense toxic gases and bacteria the size of buses, but apart from that, unless you’re able to see in the tenth dimension, there’s not much on Venus. Some call it the ninth dimension, some the eleventh, some the first, some say it isn’t a dimension at all. It doesn’t really matter what you call it, except to the Venusians for whom it’s very definitely the tenth dimension, and they get quite offended if you suggest it isn’t.
Up on Triund there are not enough memories to fill the time that passed. I was awake the whole night. I may have slept an hour, but certainly no more than that. A trippy hippy danced around saying we are all organic gardeners, we are all one, we are all one organic gardener.
At the time there were three of us. Four including him. Twenty or thirty around the fire, and maybe a hundred scattered across Triund in caves and shepherds’ huts and chai shops.
In the present tense a woman asks an old man the time. She points to the spot on her wrist where a watch would be but isn’t. He doesn’t understand. He isn’t wearing a watch. But he must understand because he goes over to the clock above the counter and peers at it. It’s a quarter past eight.
I didn’t sleep at all the night before I went to Triund. Someone said that’d be because of the full moon, but how could it be? I was in my bed, the curtains were drawn. I couldn’t see the moon. We’re eighty percent water, she said, and the moon causes the tides so think what effect it must have on us. I couldn’t think of an effect, but I couldn’t think of a good argument to refute what she was saying so I said nothing, but I think the reason I didn’t sleep that night had more to do with other things. There are always other things. Many of them.
On Triund people sat around a fire and talked, played bongo drums and didgeridoos, twirled fire through the night. Other things happened, but my memory has forgotten them. Mostly things didn’t happen. It was a night when many things could have happened but didn’t. The moon crossed the sky smiling at all of the things which weren’t happening. When Venus rose behind one of the mountains the ones who were still awake thought this was highly significant. The moon and Venus in the same night! At first they thought it was a light on the mountain, then Jupiter, then Venus, but a Venus that was moving across the sky more quickly than anything else.
Some of the memories I have of this night are false. They’re screen memories, placed there by the Venusians. The Venusians are not actually from Venus, not the Venus that we know as Venus. There was no physical abduction. It’s all done in the mind. It might just as well be a dream. No, on second thoughts perhaps it was physical.
Those with mundane lives are more likely to be abducted. People whose lives are full of events, people who are rushing from one place to another and back again don’t interest the Venusians. They can’t tune into those kinds of minds. They’re too noisy. A quiet mind with few thoughts but many beliefs is the kind they like the most.
A fork would be nice. The palak paneer and plain rice I ordered has arrived, but with just a spoon. No fork. I’m not going to ask for a fork. I never ask for things. I always accept what I’m given. The palak paneer is good, but eating with a spoon reminds me of when I was about a year old, sitting in a highchair and being force fed some disgusting baby food puree that looked like it had been eaten several times before.
The train disappears into the tunnel.
If you empty your mind of all thoughts, not just the trivial thoughts but the serious ones as well, then you will be able to follow the Venusians into the tenth dimension. How can you follow someone into the tenth dimension? That’s like following someone into the third dimension, or into time. But the tenth dimension is different, and sometimes they say things that aren’t exactly true because if they told us the truth we wouldn’t understand it. They tell us they’re from Venus because they think that’ll be easier for us to comprehend, like a parent telling a child that their Christmas presents come from a fat man with a white beard.
Venus is a tenth dimensional portal.
If there are inconsistencies it’s because I’m making this up as I go along. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not true. Truth and untruth are illusions anyway, say the Venusians. Like reality and unreality. Just projections of your overly thinking mind.
I could make up another story, one about me sitting in the Milky Way cafe, with its hand drawn menu. I could write about the menu, and the food, and the other people in here, and the music that’s playing – it was Phil Collins earlier, and no matter how much I told myself it was just an illusion it was still painful. The Venusians are very fond of Phil Collins. They see him as one of their own. We are all one. We are all Phil Collins. His band, Genesis, took its name from one of the Venusian’s first publications. They are responsible for most of the Earth’s religious texts. Not that they were trying to control us. They were just having a laugh. That’s how they put it. They wanted to see what would happen. Like a child pulling the legs off a spider.
There’s a wooden sculpture of a moose mounted on the wall of the Milky Way cafe. It’s not life size. It’s more the size of a bird, and it looks a bit like a bird, with leaves for ears and branches growing out of its neck. That could be what it is. I don’t know if they have mooses (meese?) here. But they could have sculptures without having the real thing. You can make a sculpture of anything if you want to. Go ahead. It doesn’t have to resemble something in the real world (which isn’t real anyway). It could resemble something on Venus, but only if you think there is something on Venus.
There are rumours that the Dalai Lama arrives today. Although this is supposed to be his home he doesn’t seem to spend much time here. People say he’s just coming to destroy a mandala, and then he’ll be off again.
His movements are supposed to be posted on www.tibet.com but I can’t find where.
Walking up to Triund at the last chai shop before the top a guy in uniform with a gun (police or army, I’m not sure which) and someone in a checked shirt stop. Namaste. You are from which country? asks the plain clothes one. England. Let me see your passport. I don’t have my passport on me but I show him my driving licence. Two guys walk past and they are asked the same question but their English isn’t good and they don’t answer, they just keep walking.
At the top I’m told there are a number of police hanging around, but I don’t see them. They have asked a number of people to leave but most people have just ignored them and are still there. Apparently there was an article in the newspaper saying there was going to be an illegal trance party up on Triund so the police want to put a stop to it. But there are no sound systems up there, and the only electricity comes from the car batteries the chai shops have to power their radios and portable CD players. Some people are saying they were just after some baksheesh. I don’t know if they took any. They didn’t ask me for anything.
The moon is almost full. It’s hanging over the hills in the East, above Triund. The seas are clearly visible: three dark patches. If I squint I can see a face that’s either happy or angry, but not really.
I’ve ordered French onion soup and Veg. Mushroom Curry Rice. I’m in Dharamkot. This is the Israeli occupied part of McLeod Ganj. Israelis here outnumber all other nationalities, including Indians. At least that’s how it seems if you go to any of the cafes and restaurants. Many signs and menus are written in Hebrew.
I don’t know why there are so many Israelis here. In Kolkata there were many Japanese. On Koh Pangan (Thailand) there were a lot of English, and in the area I was staying a lot of Germans as well. It feels a bit like a new kind of colonialism, though I don’t think the travellers doing their yoga and reiki classes and meditation retreats playing drums and didgeredoos and smoking chillum see much resemblance between themselves and the Raj, but I’m sitting at a table being waited on by Indians and getting annoyed because they don’t get the concept of a starter and a main course and bring my French onion soup and Veg. Mushroom Curry Rice at the same time, but I don’t say anything. Some people would but I never do. I just don’t go back to the places I don’t like. That has an effect. Ordering French onion soup has an effect. The places which only serve Indian food around here don’t do very good business. The most popular restaurant in Dharamkot is Israeli owned and run and serves Israeli food. I don’t think there are any places here that only serve Indian food. They all have Italian sections on their menus, Israeli sections, most offer continental breakfasts and there are many adverts for German bakeries – anywhere that serves a cinnamon roll calls itself a German bakery.
Maybe it’s a good thing that so many young Israelis come here. If they settle here rather than on Palestinian land that must be a good thing, unless they start kicking out the Indians and claiming they were here first.
Wealthy foreigners don’t need to kick anyone out physically though. They can do it with their money, and probably without realizing what they’re doing. Sunil, the guy in the chai shop on Triund, was complaining about how this town had changed, how prices had gone up, which must mean many locals can’t afford to live in the town where they grew up. Some may get rich off the tourist trade, but some won’t. Sunil was saying he used to walk through Bhagsu and he could stop and chat to people for two or three hours, having a smoke with them, but now they’re all rushing about saying they haven’t got time. He used to be able to get a taxi for 7 Rupees but now the same journey costs 200 Rupees. That was six years ago.
There’s an article in the free Dharamshala community magazine, Contact Mag, about life in England. It’s headed: So you want to go to the west? and starts:
What about England? It’s a small island situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea with a population of 60 million. You could live a long life as life expectancy is 80 for women and 75 for men. There are 78 cell phones per 100 people.
It goes on to talk about the animals that English people kill in their gardens and homes, shops full of sprays and insecticides, how expensive a cup of chai is, and how carol singing has been banned.
London is a frenetic fast-paced city which is competitive and materialistic. …it can be scary and lonely as everyone takes care only of themselves.
If you travel on the trains and buses, you are in for a treat. The trains, very often carpeted, are clean with upholstered seats, a restaurant and snack bar… If they are even two or three minutes late there will be an announcer over the intercom apologizing.
London is a very expensive city and accommodation is not easy to find. A shared room in a hostel could cost Rs 15,000 [£200] per month… So how will you afford these prices? You will have to work very hard and long hours. Sometimes you can get two or three jobs like waitering, selling or manual labouring.
The article ends:
When you are in England and your bad karma catches up with you, you might feel sad and lonely. Who will you turn to in a country full of strangers? Where will you go for help and spiritual guidance? Will you miss your friends and maybe family? Will you miss His Holiness [the Dalai Lama]?
In the bar yesterday evening an Indian guy, slightly pissed, was saying all you Westerners you come over here because you’re empty and you fill yourself up with anything you can find, like a rubbish bin, you take it all in, you don’t reject anything. You come here with no God, no belief, and you go away full of rubbish. You’re all looking for the void.
If we’re empty we don’t need to go looking for the void, do we?
I agreed with a lot of what he was saying, but I didn’t like the way he was saying it, and I felt like an argument, so I argued, but it was pointless.
He was with an English guy who had a theory that the world was a body and each nation was a part of the body. People asked him what various countries were. What’s England? England is the intellect. And Germany is the motor section of the brain. And America is the imaginary monkey that torments the brain.
The American dream.
What’s Spain? Spain is the tongue – th th th th th thaybaytha por favor. What’s Italy? Italy is the chin – it looks like a chin, with a beard. What’s Russia? Russia is the back. What’s France? France is the nose, of course. He sniffed across the table. He was with an elegantly dressed French woman carrying a dog. She didn’t seem to object to being described as something that comes from the nose. What’s China? China is the arse. (There were no Chinese at our table, even though statistically there should have been since one in every four people is Chinese and there were six of us.) Australia is the feet, an Australian said, proudly. Where are the testicles? They’re under water somewhere. So the world is male? It’s both sexes.
Everyone here has a theory. That’s my theory. Everyone has a theory and everyone’s theory is wrong, including mine.
What about India? India is the heart. No, India can’t be the heart, the Indian guy objects. India must be the soul. The Englishman says that as far as his theory is concerned they’re the same thing. No, they’re not the same thing! You have to understand the difference between the heart and the soul. India cannot be the heart.
Yesterday people were talking about a German woman who died. She had been missing for two days and they’d just found her body near the waterfall. She must have slipped. The body was laid out in Bhaksu on a bamboo stretcher, covered up and guarded by police.
Spent Saturday night up on Triund, a ridge 1000m above McLeod Ganj, 2800m above sea level. It took about four hours to walk up there, five if you include the breaks in the chai shops on the way up. On Triund there are three chai shops, some shepherds’ huts, some caves, some very basic rooms you can rent, but no toilets and no showers. I wasn’t so bothered about a shower but after the thali we had when we got to the top I felt like I needed a real toilet. Previously I’ve always tried to get back to the guest house where I’m staying when that time of day comes around, and you can never be totally sure when that might be. That can mean planning your day around your shit, but I don’t like squatting over a hole and using my left hand and a jug of water, which is how it is in almost all public toilets. I’d rather have a seat and toilet paper. There have been emergencies, when the time of day has arrived sooner than expected, often after breakfast in the Green Hotel, their special gyathuk, a Tibetan soup with tofu, egg and vegetables, tends to go directly to the bowels without really bothering to stop off at the stomach.
The locals on Truind laugh when I ask if there are any toilets. I can hold on for a while. Maybe something will turn up.
The place is very barren. The trees are further down. At the top is grass, rocks and goats. On the other side of the ridge (in relation to the side we walked up) are snow-capped mountains. Sunil, the chai shop owner, says you can walk up to the snow line in an hour and a half, but that would be Indian time. He says no, it really is only an hour and a half. He can do it in half an hour though, but he doesn’t bother with the path.
Sunil has offered to put us up in his chai shop, but it’s not very big and there are five of us. After the sun has gone down behind one of the mountains, but when it’s still quite light, he points out some unused shepherds’ huts and caves we could try instead of his chai shop. Whichever we prefer. He has sleeping bags we can rent. The shepherds’ huts are very small and not very clean, except for one – but then a Japanese woman shows up and looks at us. It’s her place.
I find a cave which seems okay, though still not very clean. Okay for someone else but I’m starting to think a night in the chai shop, or outside it, is not such a bad option. Just down from the cave is a tree, a perfect spot for a squat. No one about, and it’s starting to get dark. I pull some leaves off the tree and do what I’ve been longing to do for the past three hours.
The following day some women who’ve just arrived and are sitting in the chai shop I spent the previous night in ask me about toilets. I tell them what I did yesterday evening, though I don’t tell them the exact tree. There are other trees. One asks if she should bury her shit. I was told it wasn’t necessary. The goats and sheep don’t bother to bury theirs. Neither do the dogs.
One of the dogs walks down with us. Most dogs don’t seem to belong to people here. They may have human friends, people who feed them, but no one owns them. They don’t have collars and they don’t have names, unless someone decides to name them, but then someone else might give them different names so it’s unlikely any of these dogs would answer to any particular name, but if you leave some rice and dal out for them they’ll probably eat it.
I’m in the Green Hotel restaurant in Mcleod Ganj. Though it is at least half an hour from here to my toilet, and though much of their food has caused me to dash back to my toilet, I keep coming here. They do real coffee and excellent carrot cake, though tonight there’s no carrot cake left so I have chocolate walnut cake. I’ve just been teaching web design to some Tibetans. I was about to head home but it’s just started raining so I think I’ll hang on here until it stops. It looks and sounds pretty heavy. They’ve closed the windows and the door out onto the balcony. Lightening. There were black clouds yesterday as we left Triund, but it only really rained up the top. I met one of the women I’d dexcribed my toiletry adventures to down in the town in the evening and she asked if I got caught in the rain. I said no. We only felt a few spots. She said they had to wait in the chai shop until it stopped.
Talking to an Israeli guy who’s been living up there in a cave for the past month and a half. Someone asks him if he likes it here. I must like it here, he says, otherwise I wouldn’t be here for a month and a half. He doesn’t say much more than that, except that he likes the simplicity of just thinking about shitting and eating. Nothing else is important. Or maybe he doesn’t say that. Maybe it was someone else. I’m sure someone said it and it wasn’t me.
People sit. Some wander from one chai shop to another. There is the sound of someone playing bongo drums, which we could hear on the way up. That was about the only time I’ve found the sound of those drum welcoming. Some shepherds sit on a rock chain smoking billis, or binis, I’m never sure how to say that word. They’re the very cheap strong smelling hand rolled in brown paper Indian cigarettes. Skarmarka billi = your mother smokes billis, a Hindu insult I learnt in Calcutta.
It’s not necessary to talk. You can just sit with other people and not say anything. If you talk all the time you’ll run out of things to say.
It gets cold once the sun has gone down. The wind gets up, but can’t decide which direction it’s blowing in. Sunil gats some firewood from lower down the ridge where there are trees. We sit around the fire with sleeping bags around our shoulders drinking bottles of beer and smoking charis. It takes time to slow down. I still have the feeling that I’m waiting for something to happen, but then remind myself that nothing is going to happen, except tomorrow morning the sun will rise, we’ll sit around for a while and then walk back down to McLeod Ganj. I’m not sure what time it was when I stepped over the sleeping bodies and crates blocking the chai shop doorway and got outside to have a piss. The sun was not yet visible but it was light. If I’d stayed outside for a bit longer I would have seen the sun rise, as I had been saying I would do the night before, but now I just want a couple more hours of sleep.
Lightening flashes outside the windows. A wet woman walks in and asks for an ashtray. This is a no smoking restaurant, the only one in town. She’s told she can go out on the balcony to smoke but she doesn’t fancy it. At another table an American woman (or possibly Canadian, but I don’t think so) is talking about realizing that there is no I, I don’t exist. In our community, when we realized someone wasn’t in their body we would stop speaking to them, and then when they came back we’d say welcome back, now we can continue our conversation.
Up on Triund a guy (who said he stopped believing in God ten years ago – only ten years ago, he said), one of the people I walked up with, talked about everything being God’s will. I don’t feel guilt any more. I haven’t felt guilty for at least a year. I can’t remember what it’s like to feel guilty. If I do something it’s not me doing it, it’s God doing it, so it can’t be bad. This is what the Indian thugees used to believe, he says. They would go around killing people – that is, God would use their bodies to kill people.
Sitting in a cafe. Thunder rumbling. Stomach also rumbling. I went down to the LHA the other day, a Tibetan education place, where they can learn English from volunteers and also computer skills and website design. I know some people who have been doing English conversation groups there, and thought I could offer to do something. I told them I had website building skills. I was asked if I knew Dreamweaver. I said yes. Good, that’s what we need. I was shown numerous pages handouts for the students and as I glanced through them I started to think that I don’t really know Dreamweaver that well. I spent yesterday morning, before my first class, teaching myself some of the things I don’t know. Once you know one of these computer applications the rest are all pretty similar. When it came to the class I realized the main problem was not my knowledge of what I was supposed to be teaching, but more the language barrier. The guy who interviewed me said I have a strong English accent, and then asked if I was Scottish. I don’t think they understood much of what I was saying, but were too polite to say so.
In Thailand I heard English people speaking pigeon English to Thais to make themselves understood, which to me always sounded patronizing, but they were able to make themselves understood. The Thais smiled and laughed at their anecdotes, but perhaps they were just too polite to tell the stupid farangs they couldn’t understand a bloody word.
They’re playing some terrible music in this place, some female singer, American, singing about love or something. It might not be so bad if I didn’t understand the words, but it would still be bad. The speaker is crackling. I’m the only one in here. Time to go.