Swami P-Dawg, chillin’ in the Temple. Seri swore she saw him breathing.
I almost needed rolled across the yard into the Temple after winning the blue ribbon in my Lunch Buffet Bender Championship, in which I competed against no one. I couldn’t even stand entirely erect, so I’m sure all the community residents were thinking, “Sri Krishna, get a load of this lazy white American, how disrespectful that she comes here and demoralizes our cuisine with her trash-mouth and then slouches in your presence.”
Which is still worlds more respectful than the time my friend Brian took me to this tiny but intense chapel called the Burning Bush and first I got all resistant when I saw that I had to take my shoes off, and then I laughed out loud at a man lying prostrate on the floor in front of the altar; Brian kindly asked me to wait outside. Afterward, in the parking lot, I realized I left my keys inside the chapel. Brian physically blocked the door with his entire body and hissed, “No! I’ll get them. YOU WAIT OUT HERE!” This is a story for another day.
Like the Burning Bush, we were asked to remove our shoes before entering the Temple. This time, I did so without acting like a Riot Grrl. Look at me, getting all mature!
Inside, a little Indian boy ran over to me and shoved a yellow flower in my face.
“Aw, thank you!” I said as I started to take the flower from him.
He snatched it back and said, “No! Just smell it,” and stuffed it back into my face, which still had Indian spices seeping out the pores. Thanks for making me feel like an asshole in front of all of your gods, kid.
And then of course I sniffed it like I was doing a bunny bump of Special K (which is probably the only way I’d ever make it to India); Krishna-forbid I do anything gracefully.
There were only a handful of worshipers inside, watching a peach-robed Hare Krishna fan the tableau of deities with peacock feathers while chanting the official Hare Krishna mantra, the words of which can be found all over the grounds. (But I still, to this day, remember it after learning it in high school.) There were other words to the chanting as well, but we couldn’t tell what he was saying. It was monotone, yet fascinating. We followed the example of the other visitors and sat Indian-style on the cold floor.
Seri kept asking me questions about what was happening, and I was like, “I don’t know. I’m Catholic.” I know it’s hard for her to believe that I don’t actually know everything, and that’s one of the many reasons I keep her around. I’m practically her Swami.
After he was done with his prayers, he blew numerous times into a large conch shell. It was equal parts horrific, annoying and completely captivating. I felt all spiritual and cleansed. Except that my stomach still felt like an Indian food clown car.
“What do you think that means?” Seri asked when he finally ran out of breath on the last shell-blow.
“I don’t know. I’m Catholic,” I reminded her gently, making a mental note to add Hare Krishna for Dummies to her Christmas wish list. Where was our Palace of Gold tour guide when we needed her? (Taking a joy ride on an ATV, we’d later find out. It was probably bought with donations guilted out of us dumb Christian tourists.)
(I can’t believe I just called myself that.)
I do not know what these crazy anime-looking things are, but if I was promised shit like this to look at, I would definitely start going to church more often. (Scratch the “more often” part of that last sentence.)
While we were permitted to take pictures inside the Temple, there were signs everywhere that asked us to please not stand with our backs toward the deities.
“Are we supposed to walk backwards when we leave then?” Seri asked sincerely. Good question.