calling on the king

Calling on the king

 The sun was no longer unbearable,
a cool breeze had begun to blow,
and it was nearing the time
for a late afternoon walk
along the ghats in Pushkar

 I wonder who lives in that palace over there,
the one with the cool domes

 Maybe one of the Rajasthani kings

I heard there are a few kings in town this week

 Shall we go call on the king
and see if he feels like hanging out?


 And so off they set
down the steps of Gujjar Ghat
and to the water

 ♫ ♫ ♫

 A troupe of blacked-faced monkeys,
gray langurs,
sat quietly at the top of Chari Paidi Ghat,
a flock of birds stood silently to their right,
and on their left
a group of humans mingled

 A dog passed slowly
through monkey territory
as the two friends walked
along the lake below,
now and then passing a cow
that was moving in the opposite direction

 ♫ ♫ ♫

 At Hanuman Temple
on Yogya Ghat
some old men were singing bhajans in Sanskrit,
at the far end of the lake
some drummers were playing an African rhythm
for the departing sun,
and somewhere off in the distance
someone was ringing a bell

 ♫ ♫ ♫

 It looks abandoned, man

All these palaces look kind of abandoned

 Let’s knock on the door

 And so he did

 And to their surprise,
the door immediately swung open

 Good evening,
said the butler

 Good evening

 How may I be of service?

 We’ve come to see the king

 And you are?

I’m King Dom,
the king of the streets,
and this is my street musician,

We’d like to offer the king a song

 Please come in
and have a seat
I’ll inform the king

 King Dom and Kalimbaba entered the palace and sat down
on some of the softest cushions they had ever seen,
dark blue, purple and green,
and enjoyed the cool silence
of the room

 ♫ ♫ ♫

 The king will see you
Come this way, please

 The butler led the way
through a number of passageways and courtyards
to the sitting room,
where the king was sitting
on his throne

said the king
as he got up and walked towards his visitors
I’m Ganesh

 I’m Dom
and this is Kalimbaba




 Nice throne

 My grandfather had it made
when he became king

 Beautiful carvings


What kind of throne do you have?

 A Mexican hammock,
Mayan weave

 A royal hammock

 Most comfortable throne I’ve ever had

 Would you like some tea?

 Some tea would be very welcome

 Oolong or Darjeeling?

 Darjleeling in the evening
is a pleasure

 King Ganesh nodded to the butler
and then motioned to his guests to sit down

 My throne is not really very comfortable
I prefer sitting on the floor

 Me too
I’ve never cared much for chairs
Kind of limiting
The floor is the best throne

 The three men sat down
on woven straw mats
and King Dom took out his chillum

 Do you smoke?

 I do

 King Dom handed King Ganesh
a thola of charas
and said,
I just got back
from Great Himachal National Park

 It smells delicious

 It was rubbed a few days ago
by a teacher from a nearby village
and his students

 King Ganesh tried to hand the thola back to King Dom

Keep it
I’ve got plenty more

 He then took out another thola
and began to prepare a mix
When it was ready he loaded the chillum
and then offered it to King Ganesh

 Kalimbaba struck a match,
King Ganesh boomed the chillum
and the three men smoked
in silence
for a while

 ♫ ♫ ♫

 And while the kings cleaned
the chillum and the stone
Kalimbaba took out his kalimba
and began to play Viswa’s Journey

 Gentle music flowed
and the butler returned with the tea
and a jar full of cookies

♫ ♫ ♫

 The tea is excellent

 And the cookies are really good

 My girlfriend made them this morning

 The men continued to eat and drink in silence,
and when no cookies were left,
King Ganesh said,
Let’s move to the music room

 He got up and walked over to a wall
covered with a mosaic of some camels at an oasis in a desert,
pressed a hidden lock
and a secret door swung open

 King Ganesh led the way
through a narrow passage and up a flight of stairs
to a room filled
with almost every kind
of musical instrument

 Nice collection

 A hidden treasure

 Feel free to play
whatever you like

 King Ganesh picked up a bansuri
and began to play an enchanting melody
while King Dom and Kalimbaba
had a look around

 ♫ ♫ ♫


 Yeah, man
Nice song

 King Ganesh walked over to his medicne chest
and took out the royal chillum
and a thola of charas

What a fine bouquet!
said King Dom

 Malana cream
Buried under the mud somewhere in Goa
and aged for two years

Vintage charas at its best

 What a beautiful chillum
It looks like one of Marco’s

 It is
He made this one for me
the last time I paid him a visit

 And the cover is gorgeous
Did Lucy knit it?

 She did

 I see that we have some friends in common
Marco has made all of my chillums
And Lucy has knit all the covers

 King Ganesh began to prepare a mix
and Kalimbaba sat down
in front of a harmonium
and began to play
Music for a King

 ♫ ♫ ♫


 King Dom had boomed the chillum
and then passed it to King Ganesh

 Good stuff, man

 King Ganesh smoked
and then passed the chillum on

 Great taste

 Kalimbaba handed the chillum to King Dom,
and round and round it went
while outside the bats began to hunt

 ♫ ♫ ♫

 The call of a peacock
broke the silence,
and then King Ganesh said,
Shall we go and sit
with the silent baba on the roof?


 Sounds good to me

 And so King Ganesh led the way
up a spiral metal stairway in one corner of the room
and through a trap door in the ceiling

 The moon is orange tonight

 And the stars are especially bright

 The baba is in his hut

 The men walked over
to a hut made of bamboo and straw,
pressed the palms of their hands together
in front of their hearts
and silently greeted the baba
Then they sat down
and sat quietly for an hour

 ♫ ♫ ♫

 The arrival of a carrier pidegon
was a sign that it was time to get up

 The men took leave of the baba
and then King Ganesh accepted the offered message

 My girlfriend is coming back tonight
She took her camel to her village this morning
so that it could visit its mother,
and she sent us some opium

 King Ganesh removed a small pouch from the bird’s leg
and took the opium out

 Fresh is best
Her father must have collected it this morning
Shall we have some?

 King Dom and Kalimbaba nodded yes

 Do you prefer to eat it or to smoke it?

 I prefer to eat it

 Me too

 So King Ganesh divided the opium into three portions
and then gave some to his new friends

 Looks like Hanuman is coming over

 From the roof they had a clear view of the lake and all the ghats,
and the men could see a troupe of monkeys
running and leaping towards them gracefully,
jumping over walls,
swinging from trees,
and always landing softly

 ♫ ♫ ♫

 King Ganesh summoned the butler
and asked him to bring up a bunch of bananas

 Greetings, Hanuman

 Hello, Ganesh

 Make yourself at home
Some bananas are on the way

 The monkey king and his troupe
made themselves comfortable
while some geckos took their positions on a wall
and some pigs squealed and oinked in the distance

 ♫ ♫ ♫

these bananas are good, Ganesh

 I had them brought up from Hampi for you

 Thanks, man
Feel like drumming?

 I do

 Go get the drums, guys,
said Hanuman to his troupe

 The monkeys climbed down the spiral stairway,
gathered a number of drums, bells and gongs
and brought them up on the roof
And soon everyone was playing a compelling rhythm
that ever changed and flowed

 ♫ ♫ ♫

 Mind if we sleep here tonight, Ganesh?

 My palace is your palace

 And so the monkeys returned the instruments to the music room
and then returned to the roof
and settled in for the night

 King Ganesh and his friends
said goodnight to the monkeys
and went back inside
and down to the den

 ♫ ♫ ♫

 Nice crown, man
Where’d you get it?

 This one belonged to my father
I don’t wear it very often

 I don’t wear mine much anymore either

 Sometimes I wear one that my girlfriend made for me

 I usually make one out of flowers
when I feel like wearing one

 Sometimes I wear a feather


 This opium is nice

 A subtle presence

 The men then fell silent
and lay down on some cushions
for a while

 ♫ ♫ ♫


 A gypsy girl in a purple sari walked into the den

 Guys, this is Lala

 Lala, King Dom, king of the streets,
and Kalimbaba,
his street musician

The two friends greeted her in turn

 How’s the opium?


 My dad says it’s the best he’s grown in years
And I made some more cookies

 You’re an angel

what’s up with the abandoned look?

 In ’47 the government took the palace from my family,
but then they didn’t do anything with it,
so in 1968 I moved back in,
and Lala’s family moved in a few years ago
There’s plenty of space
and I don’t mind the company
Her parents divide their time
between the palace and their farm

 These cookies are really good

 They’re bhang cookies

 They’re delicious

 So basically I’m occupying my former residence
and I maintain the abandoned look
to avoid attracting too much attention
A lot of the kings have moved back into their palaces
We keep a low profile
and the cops leave us alone
The place looks abandoned,
but we’re but fully stocked
Lala does most of the cooking,
but I like to cook too

 Tonight we’ll cook for you
Lead the way to the kitchen

 King Ganesh got up and led the group
down a set of stone stairs
and to a large kitchen

 We’ve got pretty much everything one could want,
but if there’s something you need,
we can send the butler out to get it

 King Dom and Kalimbaba had a look around
and thought about what they could make

 I’ll make a soup and bake some bread,
said Kalimbaba

 And I’ll make a salad and a dessert

 King Ganesh went to get his bansuri,
and when he returned he played
a haunting melody
while Lala danced slowly and gracefully
and King Dom and Kalimbaba began to prepare
the evening meal

 ♫ ♫ ♫

 I think the soup could use a bit of weed

 I’ve got just what you need

 King Ganesh went to his medicine chest
and came back with several ounzes
of Idukki Gold

 Nice, man

 Kerela’s finest

 This soup is going to be good
And the bread is almost ready

 The salad is done
and dessert is chilling in the fridge

 Let’s eat

King Dom served the salad
and Kalimbaba took four baguettes out of the oven
and placed them on the table

 Bon appétit

The friends then began
to enjoy their meal
while the soup continued to sit
over a low flame

 ♫ ♫ ♫

this salad is fit for a king

 And this bread is divine

 I think the soup is ready

 Kalimbaba went to get the soup,
and as he was serving it,
a pack of street dogs nearby began to howl,
and their beautiful song echoed
from palace to palace

 ♫ ♫ ♫

 I think the soup is beginning to take effect


 Good soup, man

 It was delicious

 Is everyone ready for dessert?

 I am

 Me too


 King Dom then went and got
the whole wheat puttu,
covered in chocolate sauce
and laced with California Sunshine,
that he had prepared

 A Kerela specialty,
he said,
as he served his friends

 ♫ ♫ ♫

 That puttu was excellent

 Yeah, man
It was really good


 Shall we move to the drawing room?

 Good idea

 Let’s go

 And so the four friends
made their way
to the drawing room,
very slowly,
stopping now and then
to admire something
that had caught their attention

 ♫ ♫ ♫

 Nice room, Ganesh

 Yeah, man
Super space

 Pens, pencils, charcoal and paper are over there,
paint, brushes and canvas are in the corner
and crayons are in the top drawer of that chest
And you are welcome to paint on the walls if you like


 King Ganesh decided to draw Lala
as she sat meditating on the floor,
King Dom went for some paper and the crayons
and Kalimbaba began to paint flowers
on the walls

 ♫ ♫ ♫

 Some music would be nice

let’s go back to the music room

Shall we take the short way
or the long way?

 The long way

 Yeah, man
Definitely the long way

 King Ganesh then led the way
from the drawing room into the library,
and when he removed I Am That from a bookcase,
a secret door swung open

 A powerful book

 Nisargadatta sure knew
how to explain things


 King Ganesh passed through the doorway
and into a narrow passage
that went both to the left
and to the right

 The king went left
and the others followed,
slowly stepping
until they reached the wine cellar

 My grandfather used to collect wine,
so he had this celler made
I use it to store honey that I take from the bees
that live in the hives built in the walls

 The older homes in Himachal
have beehives in the walls too

that’s where I got the idea
Would you like to try some honey?



 I’d love to

 King Ganesh took a jar from a shelf
and placed it on the table in the center of the room
Then he opened it and poured
a bit of honey onto four spoons
and handed one to each of his friends

 This is from spring last year
One of the best harvests ever



 It’s the most delicious honey I’ve ever had

 What a treasure

 And this is from late summer this year


 It’s very different

 But just as good

 I have honey
from each year for the past thirteen years
Shall we try them all?


 Definitely, man

 I never put my homedmade honey on bread
or mix it in a drink
It is perfect as it is
If I were to dilute it with something else,
it would not be possible
to appreciate the subtler characteristics

 And so the four friends sat
around the table and savored
an incredible variety of honey
until they had tried them all

 ♫ ♫ ♫

 Let’s take a bottle of mead
and head up to the music room


 Sounds good

 And so the king
took a bottle of mead from a rack,
which caused the rack to swivel open
and reveal yet another
secret passageway

 Up and up and up they went
until they reached two doors
King Ganesh opened the one on the left
and everyone stepped into the music room
He then closed the door
and from inside the room and it appeared
as though it had never been there

 The king opened the bottle
and served his friends,
Kalimbaba took out his kalimba
and began to play Dominique’s Dance,
and soon both of the kings and Lala
were dancing slowly

 ♫ ♫ ♫

 After a while
King Ganesh took out a microphone,
connected it to a lead,
and then plugged it into a jack in a wall

 I have a secret connection
to the loudspeakers on that island in the lake
You can play a lullaby for the whole town
if you like

 Kalimbaba moved his cushion
a bit closer to the microphone
and then began to play Lullaby for Pushkar
while the others lay down
to rest and dream

 ♫ ♫ ♫

 The night came to an end
and the sun began to rise
Kalimbaba took out his kalimba again
and began to play
a lullawake

 ♫ ♫ ♫

 Thank you, Ganesh
Thank you, Lala
for your hospitality

 Yes, thank you
We’ve enjoyed your company very much

 And we’ve enjoyed yours
Come again
the next time you’re in town
And please,
accept these gifts
in memory of our evening together

 King Ganesh handed King Dom
a thola of two-year old Manala Cream,
and to Kalimbaba he gave
a Rajasthani mouth harp

 Thank you, Ganesh
We wish you both
an excellent day

 And then King Dom and Kalimbaba
took leave leave of King Ganesh and Lala
and went for a walk along the ghats
as the birds sang Good Morning

 ♫ ♫ ♫