The Grim Reaper
* The following are excerpts from Transcendental Journeys – A Visionary Quest for Freedom, a book by Omananda
I prepared for the arrival of the thirteenth child of an Irish family, truly a magical creation, Scarlett! She arrived with one of her sisters in Calcutta where I had prepared the art deco hotel room with a lot of flowers so that both of them would feel welcome in this rather spooky place.
Upon their arrival they were amazed by the flowers, but despite my attempt to make it homey and friendly, Scarlett’s sister Fabiola hated India from the moment she set foot into it. Scarlett loved the country immediately, but I felt that the terrible comments from her sister could ruin the magic of our trip. I did not know what to do other than to serve the two women as best as possible, but our situation did not improve over time, on the contrary!
We traveled as a group to the holy city of Varanasi. When I took space for myself to practice Yoga on a rooftop of a hotel there, I made a heartfelt prayer that life would provide a solution so that I could continue to travel with Scarlett alone, without Fabiola! The prayer was not specific and I did not consciously wish to harm anyone, but after I made this prayer, I looked at the Ganga, where I saw many Indian people swimming and bathing happily. I never swam in it myself, because this holy river was such a polluted mess. It was even possible to swim into a floating corpse and just thinking about how germ-laden the Ganga was gave me the shivers. Nonetheless, the Indians had so much faith and belief in their prayers that they thought the water of the holy Ganga could heal them. They bathed in it and even drank from it, although many diseased humans were thrown into that river and lots of dead animals too! But that day the water suddenly looked inviting and cooling and I couldn’t help myself.
I ran downstairs, plunged into the river and swam to the middle. Varanasi is the most ancient living city in the world and it used to be called Banares. It was the capital of the kingdom of Bharat, which is called India today. I wanted to see if I could dive and reach the bottom of the holy Ganga. I had heard that the ground was made of skeletons from the dead that had been thrown into it for thousands of years. I dove a few meters through the murky waters with open eyes, but I could not reach the bottom before I had to swim back up to catch my breath.
We ended up drinking bhang lassis together that night. A bhang lassi is a yogurt drink with marijuana in it that most Hindus in Varanasi drink during Maha Shivaratri before praying all night long! While it is legal to drink a marijuana-containing beverage in that holy town, drinking alcohol is prohibited. The bhang lassis come in various strengths. We took the extra strong ones and they knocked us out for a few days. Before they did, we took a boat on the Ganga where we watched a thunderstorm that illuminated that architectural masterpiece of a city. The long flashes of lightning produced roaring peals of thunder and drums were played at the burning ghats. The energy in Varanasi is absolutely magical. Ghee candles are lit every night by the thousands and placed on the astonishing buildings and temples. Brahman priests who sing sacred chants while ringing bells and gongs conduct pujas. Small boats with floating lights are set into the holy river every night by many people making prayers for themselves, their beloved ones, humanity, and our planet as a whole. The fires lit to burn corpses on the holy river’s banks have been a tradition for longer than two thousand years! The smells there are a strange mixture of burning flesh, incense, holy water, feces, urine, flowers and yummy Indian food.
When I woke up the next day my throat was hurting, so I thought I was coming down with the flu. Our next destination was Khajuraho, which is a famous set of temples with erotic stone carvings that depict orgiastic Tantric carved imagery. I developed a strong fever in Khajuraho and could not sleep during the night. Scarlett and Fabiola slept fine, but I heard intense chanting coming from a location near our hotel, so I decided to check out what was happening there. Upon entering the large room filled with men drinking bhang lassis and listening to acoustic trance music performed by a band of musicians primarily using Indian drums, I witnessed something very unusual. Every once in a while, participants suddenly jumped up and danced themselves ecstatically into a trance-state before collapsing and losing consciousness. Two men with a stretcher would then carry the unconscious person out, who was not seen again. The music continued to play and nobody seemed to mind that this was happening. After a few minutes, someone else jumped up again, and so on. This repeated over and over with different people collapsing as the crowd slowly thinned out. As I watched this, I was also going in and out of feverish trance-like states, sometimes feeling energetically charged, while at other times I felt more and more unwell.
We saw the famous erotic temples the next day and in the morning of the following day we had booked a bus trip that was scheduled to take us towards Agra. It would take all day to travel there. I had a strong aversion against going to Agra, where I had been before. I had no desire to return to what I thought was an unpleasant place, but Fabiola and Scarlett wanted to see the spectacular Taj Mahal and since we were traveling together, I agreed to go there. Otherwise, I would have been left with the undesirable option of traveling alone while sick. I saw a doctor in Khajuraho about my fever on the morning of our departure. He supported my suspicion that I had the flu and prescribed paracetamol that he recommended I pick up at a local pharmacy, but when I arrived there, I began seeing stars! Before I knew it, I woke up surrounded by a crowd of concerned-looking Indian people. One of them kindly handed me a plastic bottle of water and encouraged me to drink from it. I soon realized that I had collapsed and lost consciousness for a short period of time. I walked back to the hotel to pick up my backpack, but on our way to the bus, I collapsed again. While waiting for the bus, I collapsed once more and I started to notice that the time intervals between these mysterious collapses were rapidly decreasing!
The local bus drive was hot. I was not getting better and my fever seemed to be intensifying. I was suffering heavily and my breathing pattern changed to shorter breaths. I constantly poured water over my body to cool myself down. When the bus stopped, I had to pee, but I was afraid I would collapse again. The bus driver was in a hurry, so I had to go quickly, but while standing and peeing, I felt the collapse approaching again. During that moment, I also heard that the bus was about to leave without me! I then ran for the bus during the middle of an approaching collapse and made it inside while half-comatose. I barely managed to jump into my seat, as I was losing consciousness. Thankfully, Scarlett, who saw this happening, caught me in her arms and I regained consciousness looking into her compassionate eyes, although mine might have looked rather terrified.
We caught a train after hours of bumpy bus rides and I somehow made it through that journey all the way to Agra where we arrived late at night. After a bouncy taxi-ride through a thundering night, we found a hotel where we rented two rooms. Fabiola had a bladder infection and Scarlett wanted to spend the night supporting her sister. It was hot and I was dehydrated and if things weren’t bad enough, I also got a migraine! Barely still conscious, I prepared for the night with a wet towel and a bucket of water as a method of cooling my fever down. The paracetamol I had purchased was useless since it contained caffeine that was dehydrating me even more and I could not find any paracetamol without caffeine since all pharmacies in the city were already closed. The fever steadily climbed!
Flashes of lightning illuminated the room and intense thunder was ringing in my ears. I could not sleep and felt deathly ill. I realized that this was no ordinary flu. I had to go to the bathroom often, but at this point, the collapses took place even when I sat up. I could lie down to remain conscious, but I did not want to defecate in my bed, so I crawled to the toilet where I sat enjoying feverish hallucinations. Remaining conscious was an effort and it reminded me of shooting out kundalini energy through my spine. I normally did this practice once a day and had developed a method that allowed me to shut off my mind completely, within five minutes. I was able to pull my mental plug consciously, but this fever tried to put me out for good. After having managed to eliminate without falling into the toilet, I crawled back into the bed where I continued putting the now warm and wet towel over my steaming body. The lightning intensified as I lay shivering and rain pounded on the window that was next to the bed. I then felt a grey energy approach and tried to wrap me in a blanket of death. This dark presence felt just like what I imagined the Grim Reaper to be and as I had that thought, a surge of life-energy arose within me like an explosion of kerosene that ignited the clear will to live. I then verbalized a loud “No!” to repel it and immediately stood up while willing myself not to collapse, no matter what! As I was standing, my will to live felt stronger in that moment than this death energy that seemed like it was trying to harvest my soul!
In the morning after that freaky night, I was able to walk across the hallway to check on Fabiola and Scarlett. I told them I needed another hotel room and wanted to see a doctor. Scarlett found a hotel a couple blocks away and I was amazed that I could walk there while carrying my backpack! I had read warnings in travel books about doctors in Agra that said they are well known for trying to rip people off. The doctor I saw diagnosed me with Typhoid fever immediately, although I did not believe him at first, but after the laboratory tests came back, they confirmed that I indeed had this disease that can have serious side effects. People typically contract Typhoid fever from ingesting contaminated food or drinking water. If not treated properly and promptly, possible complications from Typhoid include perforated intestines with peritonitis that often turns into a painful and slow death. Vital internal organs such as the lungs can get infected with Typhoid and a high mortality rate is normal, if left untreated.
When I asked for treatment options, the medical doctor said that intravenous antibiotics was the only way to treat it in three days, but I did not fancy checking into his dirty clinic and would have rather died in the hotel. Also, the treatment would have cost hundreds of dollars that I did not have and borrowing money from Scarlett was not an option. When I asked for alternative treatments, the doctor said there were none. After I made the doctor understand that I really did not have any money and that I had no insurance either, he gave me a prescription for oral antibiotics with recommendations for a simple diet to follow. Because I was not vomiting, I could eat oral antibiotics. We were able to use a kitchen in the hotel to prepare the only food I could eat, water from boiled rice! Scarlett was the best person imaginable to help me through this terrible sickness. She lovingly prepared our daily food while I was shitting foam as a result of the Typhoid fever. She also made love to me every day, even though I was too weak to do anything other than lay on my back. Fortunately, she had been immunized against Typhoid and so could not get infected by me.
After two weeks of heavy antibiotic treatments and a rice water diet that steadily contained more veggies, I could finally get up and walk again, but I had lost a lot of weight by that point. I went to see the beautiful Taj Mahal on that first day out, which was my reward for finally being able to walk again. I loved Agra in that moment when I knew I had survived this almost deadly sickness that got me closer to spirit and helped me learn to appreciate life again for its immaculate beauty! Looking at the Taj Mahal with nearly no tourists present made me feel as if I were in heaven! India had given me another important life lesson, to be careful what I pray for and to not take anything for granted. As a direct result of me getting sick, Fabiola decided to leave India and travel to Australia. My prayers in Varanasi were answered, but they nearly killed me!
I was still weak but we managed to travel to Rajasthan, where I felt better and stronger every day. During a magical new moon night in Pushkar, Scarlett and I shared an extraordinary experience on top of a sacred mountain while overlooking the entire desert that ooze tribal sounds from all directions. We had a deliciously yummy energetic Tantric orgasm together there, without even making physical love and I was very pleased to discover that I could share an energetic high-point with her, without having sex. We then traveled from Rajasthan into the Himalaya Mountains, where I got my full strength back after I danced all night while taking acid at a Goa-style trance party in Manali. I felt completely renewed in the morning and also became aware of Scarlett’s gift that night.
* This story has been published in Transcendental Journeys – A Visionary Quest for Freedom, the multimedia book by Omananda.