Like stories on pages in a book the many years that I spent travelling across India slowly turned for me and like a good read I seem to have lingered over some pages longer than others. I often stopped off on a long train journey east from Delhi to wallow in the chaotic beauty that is the city of Benares; I loved to spend my days on foot treading the stone steps that tame the Ganges, and along this dirty, polluted and over populated section of the holy river I always managed to find some peace, as well as a chest infection.
I would slowly amble the Ghats under the midday sun with only chai wallahs and mad dogs for company with sweat seeping and bubbling from my ample forehead; I would on occasion bump into my Aghoree baba. He would appear like the monsoon, never guaranteeing a time or a place, just a certainty that through the passage of time and as we turned life’s pages our paths would inevitably cross.
On one particular hot afternoon during the summer of 2009 I met my Aghoree Baba once again. I asked him if he would accompany me and be my guest for lunch. He agreed to my offer and we both left the river in search of food. Having already known each other for a number of years by now I immediately asked him if we could find a bar? He said no, a wine shop would be better. We flagged down a cycle rickshaw wallah, one of the thousands of men who huff, puff and pedal the congested dust roads that run parallel to the Ganges River. After some time spent searching we eventually bought some curried chicken and half a bottle of cheep whisky (Bagpiper).
During our short ride from the River in search of meat and alcohol we drew many stares as we sat perched high on the bouncing seat of the rickshaw wallah’s tricycle – I think some of strange looks we got were from concerned local people, wondering what a foreigner was doing with an Aghoree Baba on the back of a rickshaw and wondering where we were headed. I was even warned to be careful around him by fellow drinkers outside the wine store. I know he was embarrassed by the concern that some of the drunks were showing for me and I assured them all that all was fine.