Waste By A.E. Pole

“Well I was too busy trying not to shit to try to figure out who was a prostitute and who was not!” I told my Indian roommate at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

I could see his eyes get big and his smile commensurate with his eyes. 

Okay, it is a long story, I better start at the beginning. 

It was a cold, wintery morning when I was born. Okay, maybe not that early. Too old of a joke for you? MIght as well read on, anyway. 

I have always had a difficult relationship with the Buddha. Yeah, seriously, that really is where this story begins. Karma, being something that I didn’t understand, it had not surprised me that I had somehow won a scholarship to study in India. It seemed fitting. So, I got on an airplane and made my way to Jawaharlal Nehru  University.

At that time, my philosophy was what would Dave do? Dave had been my roommate at the dorms in college. He had grown up in a utopian community. I am not joking. Something like 200 years earlier, his German Catholic ancestors found themselves in Ohio and decided to build a community based on German Catholic values, and now 200 years later, many of their progenitors still lived there. It was just one of those fascinating things about American history – utopian communities. Just, I had never met anyone who had grown up in such an environment before. 

And, what would Dave do? Well, he would drink. He told me that is what utopian German Catholics did. That and farm. Bread and beer seemed to be at the heart of what they did. (I guess some church going as well.) At least that is what he told me. I am sure they did other things too, but I was not the argumentative type, at least then, so I just believed him. 

Dave and I started  a fake club called the Buddha Club. The Buddha part was my idea. The marijuana smoking was his. And we wandered through the library, no stopping at the card catalog or anything, and just found ourselves in the stacks with all the books about Buddha and we thought it was Karma. 

When I told him, I somehow won a scholarship to study in India, Dave just laughed and laughed. He almost seemed like a Buddha then. 

As a parting gift, I didn’t know it then, but it would be the last I would ever see him. He gave me a cassette tape titled, “Songs for a Dharma Bum,” based on the Jack Kerouac novel of the similar name, “Dharma Bums.” 

The dictionary defines Dharma as:  (In Indian religion) the eternal and inherent nature of reality, regarded in Hinduism as a cosmic law underlying right behavior and social order. In Buddhism, the nature of reality, regarded as a universal truth taught by Buddha. 

In a simple understanding, it is your duty within the social order. It is the rules of how someone in your place in society should behave. 

In my humble opinion, Kerouac chose that title because he thought it described his dharma. In this case, the rules of behavior of the bum, the tramp, the wanderer. And, that everyone, even the bum, has his or her place in society. And, if you were a bum, you should be a good bum. Be the best bum you could be! Be an heroic bum! For it is always better to be the hero of your own story, then the villain, though sometimes that happens too, and it is just as worthy to write about. 

And, now Dave had bestowed that dharma on me. Talk about Karma! 

So, I had to seriously think and extrapolate upon this sign that was given to me in that cassette mix tape by my old roommate Dave. I couldn’t just drink and farm here. And, I concluded that Dave would want to spend more time traveling about and learning through travel, rather than stay in some sterile classroom. Let the sunshine on one’s face lead ‘em, instead of the iridescent glow of a classroom lightbulb. 

And, so I wandered off to Sarnat, where the Buddha had first given his Wheel Of Law lecture in what was called a Deer Park. Sarnat is a small town near the Ganges River. It has a big field, which is claimed to be where the Buddha gave this speech. Nearby, there is a massive tree, with a circumference of many, many  feet. I couldn’t even spread my arms around one side of its trunk. The claim is this a sapling of a sapling of the original Bodhi Tree in which the Buddha had sat under and mediated for days on end until he had finally reached enlightenment. Supposedly, a sapling of that tree had been taken to Sri Lanka or Ceylon and planted there. And, then hundreds of years later, a sapling of that tree had been brought back to the Ganges RIver Valley. And, there I was looking up into its immense foliage contemplating my unique vision of my former college dorm roommate as a philosopher. 

I met a few other Western people under that tree, and we decided to go off and have lunch together. Finally, something I thought Dave might approve of, even if he didn’t eat all that much, but at least his ancestors were farmers so it couldn’t have been too far off. 

It was one of those unique Indian eateries that I would come to understand were common at that time. Each of the four of us gave our order to a waiter who then disappeared into another room. What we didn’t know at the time was that he was also the chef. And, the other thing we didn’t know at the time was that there was only one stove. And, another thing we didn’t know at that time was that the stove only had one burner. And, that he could only cook one meal at a time. So, about five to ten minutes, later, the first person who had ordered, finally received their meal. Then, the busy fellow went back to the kitchen to start on the second meal.

I was lucky. I was neither first nor last. I was third. But, I had not made the wisest of choices. I had ordered a sandwich. And, when I received my sandwich, I noticed it had lettuce and tomato on it. 

I started to think deeply about my sandwich. I remember reading that one should not eat uncooked, unpeeled fruits and vegetables in India. It should at least be cleaned well. But, I also thought about that wait. Did I want to ask about my sandwich? And, I thought to myself, it is probably okay, and I decided to take a bite. And another and another, until, I had eaten the whole thing. 

I had left my companions and I made my way to the “hotel” where my guide book had recommended.  And, I got a dorm room, as it was quite cheap. There, I met two British couples, slightly younger than myself, who were also sharing the dorm room. 

We wondered about some more together and had a really good time together, though I will never forget the question one of the males of the group had asked me. He said he had visited America. Then, he looked at my shyly and with sincerity asked me, “I’ve been to your restaurants. I really don’t understand how all Americans are not obese?”

It is times like this that you realize how various culture really is. 

I just laughed. Well, we don’t always eat like that. I mean I don’t think. 

But, that was not the trouble. The trouble would come that evening. I started to feel the gurgle in my stomach. Then, the rush of panic hit my brain. The feet began a-moving as fast as they could. I just barely made it to the toilet when whatever was in my bowels evacuated. And, it was not a pretty sight at all. And, in the middle of that mashed up brown were streaks of red. My eyes squinted. My stomach rumbled again. I could feel it clench. But, my brain asked a question: Was that blood? 

If it was blood, it could be dysentery. And, if it was dysentery, I needed to see a doctor. And, not just a doctor, but a real doctor, with a real degree and all that fancy stuff. Not just an Indian doctor in Sarnat. 

My newly acquainted British friends were leaving in the morning. I thought I better as well. They were heading north to Nepal. I decided to go back to New Delhi. 

But, that night I grew feverish. And, in the morning, I was barely conscious. I tried to pack my bags. Suddenly, I couldn’t find my passport! This was awful! I packed and unpacked but nothing. I had no idea where it was! And, I really had to go to the toilet. I had been going fairly regularly – on the tens of every hour like news and traffic on the radio – except it was another evacuation of my bowels. 

Worse, well not really, nothing is worse than violent diarrhea, but Indian train stations could be chaotic messes. Even Indians, if you wanted to travel second class, hired people called tauts to elbow their way through the masses and claim seats before they were all gone. But, I was feverish with a bad tummy. And, though I had done it before, as I was just that kind of tourist, I didn’t think I was in any shape for it. 

I wanted to use the tourist quota. The Indian Tourism Bureau, in their infinite wisdom, realized that most tourists were not like me. They wanted reserved seats but they didn’t want to pay first class prices, so they reserved a percentage of seats for tourists, so they didn’t have to fight with the masses to get them. The only thing was you needed a foreign passport to get one. And, now, I couldn’t find my passport. 

But, I had to get back to New Delhi so I get someone to find me a decent doctor. So, despite it all, I made my way to the train station. I decided to go there, and beg for mercy. 

When I arrived at the train station, I found my way to the Tourist Bureau Reserved Ticketing office. To even enter, you have to show your foreign passport. When I got to the door, I reached into my bag to pull out an empty pocket to show that I had no passport, when my passport fell out. I was stunned. It had been there the whole time! I had somehow missed it! I don’t know how these things work but they sometimes do!

I was able to get my second class reserved seat. It was your typical Indian train car of the time. There were three bunks on each side. During the day, the middle, and sometimes the top bunk were folded down, and everyone could sit on the bottom bunk. No one wanted the middle bunk as you were totally at the mercy of your other companions. And, second worse was the bottom bunk, which  you had to share with your other two companions. Thanks to the tourist reserve, I had a top bunk. I need to lay down and deal with my gastric problems. 

Then, I discovered a new problem. I visited the toilet. But, it was not much of a toilet. It was not really a toilet at all. It was an Asian style toilet. It was not much more than a hole in the bottom of a train car. You could even see the tracks below! Though it did have something of a plaster base. 

I had really bad diarrhea. And, I really, really wanted a proper western toilet where I could sit down and then afterward flush my cares away. 

If I could have seen my face at the time, I am sure it must have been green. 

I went back to my seat and I put up my bunk, much I am sure to the anger and frustration of my bunk mates. I laid down and I thought to myself:  it is mind over matter. I am going to lay here and concentrate on my mantra:  I don’t have to take a shit. I don’t have to take a shit. I don’t have to take a shit. Over and over again. 

And, you want to know something? For the next 24 hours on that long and winding train ride, I didn’t go to the toilet…not even once…it was like a miracle…it was like the Saint of not Shitting had finally smiled upon me. 

But, as soon as we arrived at the New Delhi Train Station it was a race to the toilet. 

Then, I had to find a way to get back to the dorms, where I knew people who knew people like doctors. 

I finally arranged an auto-rickshaw driver to take me to campus. It was a long ride and the pressure was building in my gut. I knew I had to go soon but I did my best to keep myself together. 

Finally, we reached the gates of campus. It was a privileged and restricted area. I showed the guard my ID and he let us in. Once on campus, the auto-rickshaw driver turned to me and said, “You know I know some students here who will have sex with you for money.” 

My stomach was rumbling and clenching. I had my arms around my belly, somehow, thinking that would keep everything in. 

He pointed to one of the dorms. I know a very pretty woman there. I am sure she could make you very happy. Her breasts are really quite large!

I just shook my head. At that moment, the only thing that would please me was a proper Western toilet. One I could sit down and forget all my problems into. 

We finally pulled up in front of my dorm. I got out and thanked and paid the driver.

Then, I ran to to the toilet and payed the one Western toilet there was unoccupied. Thank God it was! THank God!

The next morning I woke up. I was starting to feel a little better. The pressure in my gut had lessened. 

I started telling my story to my Indian roommate from meeting the people at the sapling of the sapling of the Bodhi tree to eating lunch together to meeting the two British couples to my diarrhea to losing my passport or not losing my passport to not shitting on the train to taking the auto-rickshaw here. 

My roommate listened and then said, “the guy offered to introduce you to students who were prostituting themselves! And, you didn’t take him up on it!”

“Well I was too busy trying not to shit to try to figure out who was a prostitute and who was not!” I told my Indian roommate at Jawaharlal Nehru  University.

I could see his eyes get big and his smile commensurate with his eyes. 

“Dude,” my Indian roommate said, “ I have heard stories about this! Every girl here is an elite person. Yet, some still want money for tuition or pocket money. They decide to work as prostitutes to very rich men who have fantasies about elite college students. Their identities are strict secretes. No girl here will admit to it. You could have found out who they are!” 

“Dude!” I returned. “I am sick. I can barely go an hour without taking a shit. That was all I was thinking about! Anyway, for all I knew, he was setting me up. I could have been blackmailed or something even worse.” 

“That was the opportunity of a lifetime,” said my roommate. “Just knowing one of those girl’s faces!” 

He started to look longingly into the air like he was trying to imagine something.  

“I am sick here!” 

“I am sick you had such a lost opportunity.” 

“Well, at least I don’t think I need a doctor, I am starting to feel a little better.”

My roommate shook his head. “Wasted opportunity.” 

All I could think about is how I was going to deal with my “waste.” 

You start to realize how various culture is. 

I wondered what Dave would have done. Maybe, he was right, just have a drink. His German ancestors must have known better than to drink the water and eat spoiled food. 

(Prologue:  A few days later of starving myself and I recovered.)

A.E. Pole is the author of You Can’t Get Jack Out of This (The Story of Language Whore) his debut novel due out on Amazon this summer. You Can’t Get Get Jack Out of This is a work of fiction, unlike this short story, but if you like stories like this, please check out Jack.and feel free to communicate in this Forum or on Facebook. 

What do we do when we feel the world is tearing us apart? What brings us back together? What do sandwiches have to do with anything? Read You Can’t Get Jack Out of This (The Story of Language Whore) and find out! I don’t know if you can get Jack out of this, but I certainly hope you do! 

Published by Damien Lee Hanson

I am the founder of Damien Hanson Books. Come check out awesome authors right here at my website!

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