Another chapter in the serialized 1981 travel adventure which Walhydra first published on The Crone Thread in 1997.Part 5: In which Walhydra burns with unholy fire...
and tastes ashes
Walhydra doesn't want to tell the next part of this story.
Looking back on these events from the vantage point of nearly three decades, she knows that she has to eat her words. Not to mention her thoughts, her emotions, her actions...and several large, black, Indian crows.
Very much out of character, she girds herself to disclose a series of unenlightened behaviors which no amount of humor can trivialize.
But wait! She remembers that frank confession of one's failings—when there is absolutely no way to avoid it any longer—is another great Virgo virtue. Alright, then, she decides: Get on with it!
The patient reader will remember that we left Walhydra, three episodes back, doing a slow burn at the Indian Foreign Registry Office, where she had just been pegged as an illegal alien. This event in fact came only three days after she had donned the saffron, and only two after her dinner with Gupta-gee.
"How dare they?!" she thought.
She was already fuming that, only the night before, she and Husband #3 had been turned away from a native restaurant because of their dress. "How dare they?!"
Walhydra is capable of unbounded indignation when she thinks she faces abuse of authority. All sense of proportion vanishes, and she is ready to lash out with the Sword of Justice.
(Hey. Libra Ascendant, with a very surly Mars in Scorpio in the First House. What can you expect?)
Unfortunately, personal effrontery doesn't make for a very good gauge of injustice. But we are talking here about Walhydra, the self-important apprentice, not Walhydra, the sadder but wiser…, et cetera.
"How dare they?!"
And, of course, they dared again the very next day.
Walhydra and Nikki were again turned away from a restaurant. Militant American Flower Child that she was, Walhydra saw this as another lunch-counter-in-Selma situation.
Only now as she recalls the story does she notice the incongruity—probably offensive to the natives—of a white man in sacred saffron expecting to buy dinner with traveler's cheques in a middleclass Indian restaurant.
Oh, the perils of righteous blindness.
Walhydra sulked around for days on the rooftop patio of Hotel Palace Heights, feeling stalemated and stir-crazy. Pissed off at every fly which landed on her, every puff of air which blew her hair. Wanting nothing to do with anyone, yet—of course—wanting Papa Nikki to "make it all better."
Naturally, Papa Nikki merely said something annoyingly profound about "the difference between remembering unity and experiencing unity" and left it at that. Smartass Buddhist!
Walhydra did actually manage moments of lucidity, as her journal from that week attests:
Enlightenment doesn't mean constant and perpetual bliss; it doesn't mean forever sailing along, unruffled by the petty annoyances of life. What is it then?Nicely lucid. Clear-eyed. Compassionate toward self and others.
Clearly, for one thing, it means recognizing that these are, in fact, petty annoyances. There is no cosmic plot against me. There's nothing wrong with me, either. I'm not failing in my practice. This is simply “how things are” at present.
On the other hand, while it's silly to keep feeding my bad temper, I don't want to fight or repress it either. I can't make it go away any more than I can make the bloody Indians give me a tourist visa. The inner world is just as “real” as the outer one, as far as the need for observing and accepting goes.
Bloody useless in the moment of outrage.
Walhydra has always snarled at the perversity of this incarnation business. Recall, if you will, her lament at the start of this tale: "I already know this stuff. Why do I have to go through it again?"
Recall also the Crone's answer.
In any event, after a week of such raging and moping, Walhydra decided—with a nudge from Nikki—to give up on the round-the-world goal and surrender to India's clerkly caste.
The two of them trekked back to the Registry Office, persuaded a victorious bureaucrat to give Walhydra an exit visa, and flew back to their "base camp" in Greece. There they pitched their tent once more at Camping Athens, their favorite tourist campground, where they had already spent several months between jaunts to Delphi, Crete and elsewhere.
It wasn't much fun there either.
Oh, well, of course it was fun for the Aquarian husband! He would probably enjoy falling off a cliff because it would be a new and exciting experience.
He promptly leapt right back into his favorite role of "corrupting the youth"—a sort of Celtic-Roman Socrates in saffron drag. He flirted with any young man who was even vaguely curious, went off to the beach with the lot of them, taught flute, read Tarot, and generally mentored any boy who showed a spark of original male spirit beyond that provided for by the basic testosterone hardwiring.
Walhydra, on the other hand, glowered and gloomed and found things to be disappointed about. She had cast off her saffron and replaced it with denim almost before they hit the New Delhi airport.
Now she sat.
And sat. And sat.
Bored. Angry. Envious of Nikki.
Reading and writing but enjoying neither. Still feeling as if her future had been stolen. Still resentful that they "weren't going anywhere or doing anything."
According to her journal, actually they did "go and do."
They met lots of new friends at Camping Athens—adults and young folk from all over the Western world, in fact. They tried out new restaurants. They traveled some more. They even had a subdued yet effective sorcerous battle with some rather ominous teenaged boys who resented Nikki's mentoring of their elfin leader.
All the while, though, Walhydra was still subconsciously lost, along with her stolen passport, back at Allahabad Station. She resented every day—even the best days—without knowing why.
She almost broke up with Nikki several times. Again without knowing why.
She resisted enjoying the rich friendships they were sharing. It was somewhat like sulking over being sent to the "wrong" part of heaven.
Eventually they left Greece to head home.
On their way back to England, their plan had been to stop over in Amsterdam for a few days of business and pleasure, and then to cross the Channel to South Hampton by ferry.
At Schiphol Airport, the immigration officer let Nikki through—despite his outrageously longhaired, be-saffroned get-up—because he carried a Common Market passport.
Poor Walhydra, however—obviously an American denim-clad hippie type—looked too much like a drug smuggler for the bored official to pass by. That, or else the official hadn't made his day's quota of hassling longhaired kids and figured a U.S. passport was too foreign to honor.
He wouldn't let her through.
"How dare he?!"
Walhydra adopted her most imperious civil libertarian pose. To no avail.
She raised great objection to being forced to buy an expensive plane ticket on her credit card when she had cash for the ferry. To no avail.
She seethed with contempt when the bland officials insisted she sit in a detention room rather than in the passenger lobby to await her flight. All to no avail.
Nikki hurried into Amsterdam to do in a few hours the business they had intended to do at their leisure. When he returned, they were escorted by immigration authorities to the very steps of the plane.
Walhydra, in the highest of oxygen-deprived dudgeon, turned and spat deliberately on the pavement.
To no avail.
Well, actually there was karmic outcome of sorts.
That evening at British immigration, an official looked at Walhydra's passport and said, "Why were you turned away at Amsterdam? I'm going to have to investigate in the morning, before I can give you an entry visa.
"Don't leave South Hampton before then."
[Concluded in Conclusion]