The Third Eye Model (continued...)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Religion and Spirituality  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is an update to an earlier story about a conversation I had on the road to Cochin. As in everything in India, I have no idea what was real...

Submitted: December 27, 2007

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Submitted: December 27, 2007

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Nothing in the man’s demeanour suggested anything out of the ordinary. But he had a smart mouth, so they threw him into the flames. The little brown man lay back into the fire. He snuggled into it wriggling his hips and sighing contentedly. The mound of hot coals pushed against his skin and gave nothing to him but light. His skin should have crackled like bacon. Even his dhoti remained unsigned.
The town official – marked with the clothing and stance of a Brahmin – glared at the untouchable who started to laugh. His laughter was the thin, reedy laugh of someone whose body had not been treated kindly by life.
The fire gathered itself and smoke rolled around the little man.
“What magic is this?” asked the Brahmin, his baldhead glistening.
At this, the little man in the fire doubled over hooting and gasping with mirth. His laughter became deeper and fuller and his shape changed to match the sound.
His flesh doubled and his belly became huge. Where his little snorting nose had been a trunk appeared. Likewise his ears seemed to have expanded to the point of becoming wings. His laughter turned to trumpeting as it funnelled with hilarity through the trunk.
“That’s not the question. The question is am I a man who is a God or a God who is a man? And then,” he chuckled. “And then, what are you?”



The road to Cochin cuts through the heart of a deep jungle. It’s not the best road in India and certainly not the worst. A thin strip of bitumen that clung to a spine of dirt. The edges of the road fell away dramatically. About half an hour out of the outskirts we crossed a bridge. Against the backdrop of green, bamboo poles with flags were spaced out along the railing festively. The flags, a striking slash of red against the foliage marked with a hammer and a sickle, marked this state as different to all the rest. Kerala is India’s only communist state. But there is more than that. Kerala is the state that, through it’s own negotiations with the Gods, has sought to dismantle the caste system.
I thought about a God who would sacrifice himself for the common man. Are we worth it? Is there enough good in an ordinary person to warrant such a selfless act? Is not a dog – the loyal, unquestioning hound – more worthy? Dogs don’t ask for much while we humans never seem to stop asking. The big questions kept popping up like billboards along the way.
There’s a lot of time to think on a long drive through India. I rolled down the window to try and find some kind of a breeze. The air was thick and wet.
The backdrop of green was starting to surrender to the outskirts of the town. Bessa block constructions – all grey and clunky and easy to assemble – gathered together in tighter and tighter formations.
A tatty street parade wound its way down the street. Skinny, bare-chested men clad only in white dhotis and funny red hats made up a large part of the spectacle. Some pounded on drums that sounded so tight that they exploded in sharp clacking sounds. Quick machine gun bursts of headache inducing rhythms. Others played double reeded wind instruments that gave out high wavering tunes of discord and mystery. It sounded like an oboe and a bagpipe played by a duck.
There were other men who were carrying smoking pots of incense with a look of self importance. At the head of the procession was a big man with a face like an elephant.
He staggered under a towering headdress on that made him over twelve feet tall. Under his belly he wore a grass skirt that was flaming with candles of fire and his skin had been coated in a thick layer of blood red goo.

···


 Arriving at the place had seemed to me like it would be enough.

Come into the town and there you are.

Where is the love?

There he was on the wall. If it was true that Jesus loved me, it occurred to me after all these years of not really thinking about it, he must have loved me in the same way a little girl loved me at school. She smiled when she looked at her friends but she didn’t smile when she looked at me. I knew she was pleased to see me and that’s all that ever came of it.
When I saw the face of Jesus, he looked happy to see me. Kind of sad, but happy in any case.  I looked around to see what he was staring at. He was facing the traffic like he was counting cars. His eyes were deep, deep blue and clear and caring. Like he really looked after himself. He could have been an eye model he was so handsome. Come to think of it, he was the third eye model. I am the way and the light – he certainly had a healthy ego.
Even though we were getting closer to the city, the road felt open. There was none of the claustrophobic squeeze that you feel in many towns in India. It was a wide road blessed with a sense of space. Yes, there were the small shops that you see everywhere. Tiny temples of hopeful commerce - selling spices, cigarettes, Limka (take time to linger!) and grains - rammed together like books on a shelf. Flaming with indignant colour and noise, they huddled together like last outposts of traditional India against the milestones of a growing middle class. Men stood around holding hands, smoking and talking. High-rise apartments and office blocks sat back from the road snug in their beds of lush, landscaped greenery. Scattered here and there were large tracts of land scarred with the markings of construction.
Down a side street, children played happily in a drain as if it was a funpark. The ground was littered with a carpet of waste. Plastic bags were scattered like rose petals on the ground. They were wet and heavy. Unsurprisingly, none were swirling poetically in the air.

···

 

There was a time where Jesus was like Jennifer Aniston – everyone copied his hairstyle. He wore it long, but it was clean and neat. Back then, it seemed like everybody wanted Jesus’ hair. No one was copying his hairstyle that day. Every head that wobbled past was smacked with a thick, black hatch. There were no shades of grey. Oil had been applied and reapplied until the hair glistened. Even the long hair of the women had been tamed by oils into slinky straightness. I noticed a young man with pale blotchy skin and hair as white as paper. The tips were orange like he used to apply henna and then tired of the habit. He caught me looking at him and stared at me defiantly with pink rabbit eyes. He was obviously used to people staring and had built himself a citadel of defiance. I didn’t want to look away, so I smiled and dipped my head from side to side. The albino’s face softened and he waggled his head in reciprocation.
So it was that the finest head of hair on the street belonged to Jesus. Likewise with his beard. It was clippered back and sculptured to the shape of his face. It was nice to see the Son of God taking such trouble with his appearance. And he made you feel like it was just for you.
If I had seen him in the 1970s, I would have called him a hippy. But from the ‘80s onwards, he could have passed for a mid-level accounts executive. It’s funny how that happens. One day your hair makes you an outcast, the next you’re given the keys to the management washroom. I wonder what clients he would have refused to see. Would he have had a problem with tobacco advertising? What about gambling or contraception? I always thought he had bigger fish to fry. Loaves to break. Wine to make.
He held his heart in his hand. He held it in his hand and it was glowing. I’m not sure what he was saying with that. I mean, you can’t hold your heart like that or else you would be dead, right? Was it a trick that he used to convert the unbelievers? Or was he showing off? It actually looked more like a tropical fruit than a vital organ. More like a saucy mango than a flesh blood pump. But maybe that was just a part of being in the tropics. Everything here felt sexy and ripe. Succulent and saucy.
There he was, just standing there, looking attractive with his heart in his hand.  Two words kept blinking in my head like a neon sign on an old hotel.
Heart. Throb.
Heart. Throb.
There was Jesus, framed by coconut palms, covered in dust, radiant in the gold light. He was just so relaxed. Like he belonged there in the south of India. Maybe because there were already so many Gods there, the pressure was off. Maybe even Jesus needed a holiday now and then. I wondered if Ganesh was his drinking buddy. India sometimes feels like that. Like it’s the Club Med of the Gods.
I was thinking all this when Jesus spoke to me.
“Hey, look at that,” he said in his cool, Californian Jesus voice.
I saw a white van packed with people glide past. It was tied together with rope and wire as the frame fought a losing battle with the sea-induced rust. Streams of brightly coloured cloth rivered off the women hanging on for dear life. Anywhere else it would have been unusual. But on the road to Cochin, it was only spectacular in its ordinariness.
I looked back at the Son of God with a bemused expression.
His blue eyes danced back at me. “On the back window, man. It’s a paradox, but kinda cool.” He flicked his head in the direction of the van and I followed his eyes to look at its diminishing rear.
On the back window someone had scribbled a Jewish Star on one side and a swastika on the other.
Jesus was right. It was very cool. And, in a way – in many ways – slightly sad. It made me think about how easy it was to put two symbols together. Like placing the image of someone who is morbidly obese in an advertisement for a slimming supplement. Almost as a taunting reminder of what could never be.
We came from the east, though not bearing gifts. “Have you come from Chennai,” Jesus asked. “Did you visit my friend Thomas?”
Doubting Thomas was the disciple that stuck his fingers in Jesus’s wounds which is why they labelled him “Doubting”. He was killed on the outskirts of Chennai, formerly Madras, formerly a series of fishing villages. He was spreading the word.
Thomas, it seemed, had started to believe.

...


The light went dark and flat and the golden glow wavered. I looked up at the sky and saw that the sun had been lost behind a black, angry mass. Storm clouds hung around like surly bullies waiting for trouble. The humidity had coalesced into a sweet top note of intensity.
“Something’s coming,” I said.
“It never stops,” Jesus replied, his voice sounding tired. “There’s always something…”
His voice trailed off and the silence built between us. I looked out at the street. The unending motion of people continued – as if constant movement was some sign of success – but the sounds they made, were hidden by the water-saturated air.
When I turned back, he’d stopped talking. The tattered corner of his framed world shuddered in the breeze. The sun reappeared as the clouds released their hold. His face was smiling as he warmed himself. He soon disappeared in the dusty glare of the fading orange light.
The discordant parade – half obscured by blankets of smoke – dragged the end of the day with them as they frittered down the road. The fat, red man with a face like an elephant was still burning. He burned and burned, the spiralling music driving the flames around him. Someone handed him a curved knife and a chicken. He pulled at its neck sending an explosion of feathers from its too white body. Then the white was slashed with red. It’s head left the body looking startled while the wings still flapped pointlessly.
I could see that people thought that the chicken did a good thing. Hopefully it would not be going to hell.
I realized that I had so much that I wanted to ask Jesus. “Am I going to hell?” I whispered. No one answered. The street kept moving as the last bit of daylight flickered and died.


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