“Take it, Take it All!”
“Dis money, dis good. Dis no money, dis no good,” Sohan Giri said to me from behind, emptying his entire warehouse of English vocabulary in one shot. I turned around. The baba from Thanakpur, on the border of Nepal, wore an army olive-green trenchcoat and nothing underneath. He sat down next to me at Bam Baba’s dhuni and continued his discourse in Hindi.
“When you white people first came, you were rich, important, and powerful. You were sahibs and governors and viceroys, even,” he said. “Now look at you. You are begging from beggars, you don’t wear shoes and you sleep on the ghat! What happened?” He crinkled his nose in feigned disgust.
I explained to him that “they” came to conquer you and rule you, but “we people” have come to learn from you.
“So before you came to take our land and our wealth and now you come to take our knowledge!” he commented logically. “And what will you give for the knowledge? Or you just take it and run away?” he said and laughed.
It turned out that Sohan Giri was poking fun at me. He had never been serious for more than a minute in his entire life. “Take it, take it all,” he said, “we give it all to you with love!”
Although this was just a joke, which the other young sadhus around the dhuni were enjoying, I had to admit that he was right. I just walk in, and because I’m a white boy, and logic and experience dictate that probably there is some money somewhere, the streets of Am-rika are paved with gold (or at least gold-plated), and because of my privilege, I presume that ten thousand years of secret knowledge should simply be handed over to me just for the asking.