At Auroville, about 3 times a week I’d visit the center of the community – the beautiful golden dome called Matri Mandir. More than the dome, it was the meditation chambers around the dome, or petals as they call it, that i wanted to isolate myself in. They’re a marvel of art and tech. Unfortunately you won’t know anything about it until you actually visit it. I’m glad they keep it that way. I spent anything between 45 minutes to 2 hours in there every few days, and it was always the best start to my days.
My last day there, while I was walking out, I saw this guy talking to my friend Jonas i wanted to say goodbye to. I couldn’t help but ask this new guy his name – Yoann. His warmth i could feel from a few yards out. I told him i was heading for brunch to one of my favourite joints ‘Bread & Chocolate’, and he said he had some work, but he would drop in after.
This lovely girl Lea, who wanted me to teach a yoga lesson to her batch of yoga students from Paris had promised me lunch at B&C before i left Auro. So i get there with Jonas, who i love but he never stops talking. After he’s gone, Lea and i catch up on her India trip. In walks Yoann. He goes to the counter to place his lunch order and sits, politely, at a different table cos Lea is still talking to me. I’ve got this really strong urge to just hug the guy and I don’t even know why. So I ask Lea if it’s ok i invite my new friend to our table, and she’s totally fine with it.
They start chatting, and me, as always – playing the role of listener/observer/whatever while i shove my majestic banana-date-walnut smoothie down my throat, and then order another one. It’s during the course of their conversation that i get to know more about Yoann. He looked Spanish, he knew great French, but he was from Israel.
‘Don’t see too many Israelis hanging out alone.’
‘Me, i’m just traveling with my girlfriend and 2 guitars. In fact till i met my girlfriend, I’ve always traveled alone.’ Totally my kinda guy.
We talked about music, we connected too much over funk. About his time in Australia and the Philippines, where he gave me directions to the most amazing people living on a remote island fishing and farming and playing ukulele. And of course, we spoke about war.
Born in Paris, he spent 20 years there till he felt a strong urge to go to his homeland. And as is routine there, soon as he got to Israel, he was enrolled in the army.
I noticed the tattoo on his arm.
I have yet to see a more balanced-in-the-head Israeli. If you heard him talk about the war, it was like he spoke about ice cream flavours. Calm, composed, and his contagious straight-from-the-heart smile never left his face.
‘I have friends who are Arab. When i meet them, there is no hostility or danger, i don’t even feel a little bit threatened. We smoke together, we eat together. I know I’m safe with them. Except on the battlefield. Then there’s no identity except for politician or corporation you’re representing. Nobody realizes it’s the same corporations delivering guns to both sides.’
You can’t expect them to have a bus full of school children shot up, and not react. We’re humans, that kind of ugliness has repercussions’, still smiling.
‘So why did you enroll?’, i enquired.
‘I was naive. I thought it was my purpose. I know better now, much better. No regrets though, none at all cos i made some amazing friends in the army.’
‘What’s the song on your tattoo?’
His smile got twice as beautiful, ‘knockin on heaven’s door’.
My heart sank a bit. I was conflicted between what a clichéd song it was and whether it was the Dylan version he liked or the GnR version. Either way, i did not really like that song too much.
Even if it was the first song I ever learnt on the guitar.
‘What’s the birds for?’
‘Oh these are for my two friends. Same team during war. Such good guys, hearts of gold. I remember this bonfire we had once, a few of us around the fire, and these two sang the most amazing version of the knocking on heaven’s door. And we promised that night right next to the fire that after the war, we’d take a looong holiday, go to India, and smoke a BIIIG FAAAT CHILLUM with the babas, the three of us.’
Just for a second, and only for a second, his smile disappeared, when he said ‘they both died two days later.’
It came right back with ‘so i came to India, and i smoked a massive chillum, and i know they know i kept that promise!’
And i hugged him.
Over the course of the next 24 hours, we were literally inseparable. He bought his guitars and came over to where i lived. I cooked while Maya & Jay from the same guesthouse brought a ukulele and then it never stopped.
Some connections lay perspective to the little issues and worries in our heads that we turn into gigantic blackholes.
Connections are important. Perspective is importanter.