Life as a High Cast Brahamin and a Low Life Celebrity

TV performance, newspaper front page, constant waiving to strangers and endless requests for photos – this is my life as a high caste Brahmin and a low life celebrity in India. What can I say? India is simultaneously extremely annoying and extremely amusing yet 90% of the time I am just happy.

My 15 seconds of fame X 2

On my last week in Katmandu while waiting for my Visa to India I’ve been to the Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival. No, I was not working (to answer all the raised eye browsed) just enjoying myself as a viewer. I caught the last day of the festival and got there just in time for the last three movies of the event. The first two are not really worth mentioning although I learned that a low caste in Nepal – the Chepans – are big drinkers. The more interesting part during the first screening was the ambiance in the hall. I was very amused with the way the audience was very noisy – constantly chatting with each other, talking on the phone and laughing out loud.

Then there was the third movie “Sari soldiers” which is an absolutely great movie. It was a very good documentary done with an extremely impressive research and unique characters. If you are interested in international human rights this is one movie you should watch. The film exposed the political revolution in Nepal over the past five years through the eyes of six women. I learned that in 2006 Nepal had the highest number of disappearing persons in the world. I learned allot about the history and political aspirations of the Maoist groups in Nepal and their contribution to the feminist movement of the country by guaranteeing equal rights to women and promoting women tohigh field positions. I also learned that the Nepali National army has been making an effort to compete with the Maoist by recruiting more and more female.

In terms of information it was probably the most educative activity I’ve done in the past three months of traveling. However, once again, what strike me the most was the audience. To say that the city hall was full would be an understatement. It was packed with people sitting on the floor and on top of each other. It was a young, educated and politically involved crowed. These young Nepalese were the most involved cinema crowed I have ever come across. They identified with the characters, screamed at the screen with appreciation and disappointment, cheered some and booed others and whistled at the scenes where young students were bitten by the police forces. For me it was the first time I came across these type of Nepalese rather than the very poor ones or the ones in the tourist industry and it was a hell of an experience. I also remember thinking how lucky was the director who attended the screening to receive such good response to her work.

Since it was the last event of the festival, the screening was attended by two high ranking Nepalese politicians. One of them was the minister of tourism – a lady representing the Maoist party and was in exile for many years. She was there with her body guards. What’s more? each and every possible media faction in Nepal covered the event: newspapers, TV and radio stations. I was caught on camera and appeared on the front page of Katmandu City Post the next day.

2. Bengali TV

A couple of weeks later, on Christmas eve in Kolkota, me and Daniel were heading for the midnight mass at St. Paul Cathedral. Arriving there quite early and being two out of only four other tourists around we were approached by a beautiful Indian TV host who asked if we’d be willing to say something to the camera. We agreed. Daniel was the first to go.  Smiling he was confronted with the first question “did you know that Kolkota is currently under high security alert fearing of hostile activities targeted at foreigners on Christmas eve?” Daniel, still smiling, admits to not knowing anything about the matter. The interview went on for 2-3 minutes and than, for some reason, answering a question Daniel said that there is no difference between Christmas in Kolkota and in Europe. When asked to explain what he meant he looked at me signaling he desperately needs my help. The camera moved towards me but then I admitted that I am a Jew from the holy land and not regularly celebrating Christmas… I also said I was not afraid of terrorists as I’ve been living in Jerusalem though I’m happy that my mother has no idea where I am and what is the level of security alert in Kolkota.

One thought I’d share with you which I didn’t tell the camera was that although I am Jewish “by my parents side” who studies and practices Buddhism, I have traveled for ten days across two Hindu states – Nepal and India- carrying a Christmas tree and in my rucksack as a surprise for Daniel.

Before we said good bye to the beautiful reporter we asked who is going to enjoy this superb interview and were answered that this is “just a local TV for Kolkota and the Bengalis”. A quick calculation revealed that our potential audience is 16 millions Indians who live in Kolkota as well as 30 million Bengalese living in the state of Bengal and 2 million Bengalese living in the UK.


It’s been almost three weeks now since I’ve arrived India and so far I’ve been to Varanasi for a few days, Kolkota for Christmas and almost a couple of weeks in Puri which is best known as a famous Hindu pilgrimage city.

Our room has a balcony overlooking the ocean so we’ve been catching daily sunsets, bathing in the sun and reading allot. Puri for us is a sort of a hide away from India and a place to rest after three months of constant traveling. Puri is relatively quite, nonetheless, our guest house is right on the edge of the fisherman village which guarantees we have action every day. In the past ten days we witnessed a number of fights between very drunk men, a bull fight and an argument between grandmothers over someone’s bicycles. People in this neighborhood, not to say people in the subcontinent, are extremely hot tempered and transforms from quite and friendly to violent and aggressive within seconds and back again to peaceful within another few seconds. This rapid mood swings are rather incredible. Also, whenever someone experiences a mood swing they allow themselves to go crazy and loud and within seconds the whole neighborhood joins the “party”. And so do we.

Riding a motorbike in India

Last week we rented a motorbike for a couple of days driving to some locations around Puri. Initially, I was concerned with riding a bike in India bearing in mind that most drivers in this country are suicidal.

Indian drivers tend to normally drive on the “wrong” side of the road, meaning against the traffic. Whenever a car is coming towards, driving on the’ “right” lane, the first driver will do the sensible act which is of course speeding up towards the poor guy driving according to the law while constantly honking. Sarcasm aside, it is extremely dangerous and an average of 3000 Indians die daily in traffic accidents.

Nonetheless, we rented a motorbike and found out traffic wasn’t so bad around Puri, although I shrank countless times to the horrific horns of buses and trunks. Besides shrinking, riding a motorbike in India made me feel, once again, that I am a princess or a queen as each and every man, woman or child we passed by waived at us while crying Namaste and Namaskar. The scariest ones were the drivers in the big new fleshy jeeps that drive 189 km an hour. They first honk behind us like maniacs just to let us know they are coming through, I would shrink behind Daniel waiting for the scene to be over but then these well dressed fleshy Indian men (always men) stick their heads out of the window, without really slowing down, screaming “hello sir, Which country? Your wife?”

I’ve been practicing my Queen style “hand wave” and my TV interview skills for the past few weeks yet, there is one other thing that makes me feel like royalty or at least a celebrity and these are the endless requests of people to take our photos. Ok, most of them are (horny) young blokes that God knows what story they will tell their friends. But young women as well as extended families also request me/us for a photo. As photo-phobic as I am I’ve been posing to endless cameras over the past few weeks. Royalty – have I already said that?

The Kama Sutra Temple

The other day we took the motorbike and visited the Sun Temple in Konark  a very ancient temple dated 1255 which was rediscovered in 1924.

Daniel was really keen on seeing this temple and out of character he was actually willing to pay extra money for a guide and so we did. We hired an authorized guide and entered the beautiful temple which is a shrine for love and contains thousands of sculptures portraying men and women making love in every possible imaginary way.

Following our guide’s presentation we were left with no idea as to why the temple was built, who built it, who rediscovered it or what is the importance of the buildings. We have no idea why were pornographic sculptures used or how did the community relate to the temple. We were left with no historical, cultural or architectural information about the temple.

What the guide did reveal to us, very explicitly, is how to perform the already very straightforward kama sutra postures which are spread all over the place. He refused to answer any question we had which did not involve sexual positioning.

Japanese new year

On the train from Kolkota to Puri we met a few Japanese and to make a story short we ended up celebrating new years’ eve with some 30 Japanese in Puri. Daniel and myself were two out of four whitees in the room and we were hospitalized in the warmest and most generous way.

Apparently, new years’ eve in Japan is a family holiday. The nuclear family meet up, have dinner and than go to the temple to say a pray for the New Year. Later, the younger people go out clubbing and partying.

We arrived early to assist in the joint cooking of the meal. I was only allowed to chop some leafs than asked politely to leave the kitchen. The menu included what seems like a ten course meal made with many different kinds of seafood as well as loads of beers and other chemicals.

After dinner, it was time for some “talent presentation”: a boy made a really nice punch, one guy rolled endless joints, another demonstrated some Japanese martial arts, one other guy was playing the guitar and I was dancing salsa. Surprisingly, I found myself using my education as a certified salsa instructor and actually gave a salsa lesson to some eight Japanese.

At midnight we climbed to the roof for some traditional fireworks and new years blessings and toasts. We went to sleep rather late but I found myself wide awake at 5:30 am and so I got out to our balcony to watch the sunshine and meditate and I welcomed the first sunshine of the year while meditating on forgiveness and compassion….

I will end with one last story that happened two days ago – I’ll call it my 15 seconds of fame X3

On our way back to our guest house after watching our last sunset in Puri, we came across an outdoor TV set. A gentleman approached us explaining this is panel discussion about tourism in Orissa aired live on local television and pledead us to take a sit at the audience. We were a bit reluctant as the show was in Hindi but the guy was nice and the audience received free chai so we set down. The only whitees we were. As soon as we set down at the back row the host approached us with a big microphone. I think this time around the interview was less embarrassing but in any case only 32 million people have potentially seen it – after the local Bengali TV it seems a rather low number, aint it?

TV performance, newspaper front page, constant waiving to strangers and endless requests for photos – this is my life as a high caste Brahmin and a low life celebrity in India. What can I say? India is simultaneously extremely annoying and extremely amusing yet 90% of the time I am just happy.

With good wishes of a peaceful present and for the end of agony and unnecessary suffering. Please drop me a line when you can – I would very much like to receive your news.

From Mamallapuram (south India already – it did take about 3-4 days to write this email )



About advaharma

Been fascinated by the mystery of life ever since I can remember. Have been practicing meditation for more than 20 years. Dedicated two years to an ongoing silent meditation retreat whilst living in Buddhist monasteries in Nepal and Burma. A Yogi and a Front Line Humanitarian.
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