Mahatma_Gandhi_Ashram

Recently, I had a chance to speak to several disciples of Neem Karoli Baba, 40 years after their stay at Kainchi Ashram coincided with that of a young, soon-to-be-famous entrepreneur. They had much to say about their least favorite member of the community…

“When Steve first came over, and he wasn’t wearing any shoes or sandals or anything, we all thought he must be one of those Westerners who have a very specific and somewhat confused idea of the culture.  But the other American he was with, this Daniel guy, said Steve didn’t wear shoes even back in America.  And we thought, wait, aren’t the streets over there paved with discarded drug needles?  And he doesn’t wear shoes?  What a dummy.  No one had sex with him after that because we were all scared of catching something.” – Debdan

“I’m not entirely sure how serious he was about the whole thing.  He routinely confused Sanatan Dharma, which is an important Sanskrit phrase meaning, approximately, “the eternal way,” with seitan, which is wheat gluten.  To be fair, he was also very interested in fine vegetarian cuisine at the time, and he did manage to find great seitan.  I think he must have had it shipped in from somewhere.  Did you know they eat it all the time in certain parts of China?  What a delicacy!  I miss Steve greatly.” – Raj

“Babaji stressed cleanliness as a great virtue, but Steve had a very peculiar smell, like burnt dust and old bananas.  One time we grabbed him and carried him over to a pond — he cried the whole time — and threw him in to wash off some of the stink.  When Steve tried to climb out, Debdan just kept kicking him back in, and we all had a good laugh.  But Steve had the last laugh, because he showed up for dinner that night smelling worse than ever.  We think he rolled in something.” – Vijay

“He thought our quarters were insufficiently pretty, and he kept moving the furniture around, which was upsetting, because it wasn’t really his.  I could never find my bed.  Also, there had been photos of important Indian figures tacked to the wall near the entrance way, and he replaced them all with pictures of himself.  When we called him on it, he said not to judge until it was done.  We didn’t know what he was talking about.  The next day we came back and everything was painted white.  It actually looked really nice at first, but man, what a pain to clean.  Eventually we just stopped trying.  This pissed Steve off, but it’s not like he ever picked up a broom, except to paint it white.” – Harish

“He tried playing us a record by this American singer named Bob Dylan, but the little Victrola kept malfunctioning, and finally he had to give up.  Then he looked off into the distance with this funny, thoughtful expression, and you just knew he was creating something great in that mind of his.  Then he turned and said, ‘Someday, I’ll make a machine.  It will be a little box and, instead of playing music on vinyl discs like this, it will sprout arms and beat the shit out of the guys who made this awful record player.’” – Raj

“Someone had the idea of drawing mustaches on those self-portraits that Steve had put up, but he already had a mustache in the picture, so instead we had to draw skin-color over his lip.  It looked like part of his face was missing and disturbed me terribly.  I did not sleep that night.  We all agreed that we’d crossed some sort of line.”  — Vijay

“Babaji said that religion was not very important and that the main thing was to be humane — to be kind and gentle and not show hatred for anyone.  Steve told him to shut the fuck up.  Babaji started to cry, and then Steve started to cry.  We all cried.  After a while Steve stopped and said ‘isn’t this great?’  But no one else thought it was great.” – Harish

“Steve frequently mangled the word ‘ashram’ into ‘a sham’ and ‘ass ram.’  There was one poor guy in particular he called ‘ass ram.’  When we didn’t laugh, Steve kept explaining the joke.  But we understood it the first time.  He kept laughing, and if we didn’t join in, he’d start to call us ass rams too.” – Vijay

“Babaji preached what he called Karma Yoga, which was about the divinity and virtue of hard work, and the damage of laziness.  Steve seemed to take it to heart, because he started kicking us awake at 3 AM one night screaming about how our yoga poses were ‘aesthetic shit,’ and insisted we stay up all night crafting new ones to show him in the morning.  Finally, we just threw him in the pond again.” – Debdan

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