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A Close Encounter with Basmati Rice!

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A close encounter with Basmati Rice--a blast from the past: 
by Christ Singh Khalsa, 2010


In May 1971,Yogiji told Sadhu Singh, GRD Ashram, Houston, to buy  >1000 lb of Indian Basmati rice from the 'J" Store  (Indian foods) for summer solstice at Jemez Springs. Carrying  this rice to the mountains of New Mexico in Guru Kudrat Singh's ancient Chevy school bus was an adventure...I understand the rusty yellow  bus had been junked when he found it and changed it to a crude camper. We set out after sadhana one morning, the ancient bus filled with  ~15-18 enthuastic yogis (including Guru Kudrat Kaur and her new baby--Guru Bala Singh), all of our camping gear..and a heavy load of Indian Basmati rice--a 4' high pile of brown burlap bags which filled the rear of the bus. A strong smell of Basmati rice permeated everything.  The bus ran, but--whenever you stop for gas--always add oil. We found the off-highway, mountain roads leading to Jemez Springs were loose gravel, often one lane, constantly winding, very dusty, and with many steep hills . There were no guard rails or shoulder since these were fire-service roads---not public highways.  After starting to climb the first mountains, we had to stop regularly to let the old Chevy's engine cool--it overheated grinding up the steep grades in low gear.  When this happened we would go out and smell the flowers, or do a meditation together in the sunshine.  We found descending the opposite side of a mountain was often terrifying----the fire-roads had been carved out of a mountainside for 4-wheel-drive fire trucks--they were never designed for anything as wide, underpowered, or as clumsy as a school bus--and our Chevy's 3-speed floor-shift was so worn the transmission began 'jumping out 'of 2nd gear, with a loud "BANG"! leaving the engine racing; and the driver's attempts to get it back into gear by double-clutching often didn't work--so there was much frantic grinding of gears. When this happened--at first approximately once an hour, the driver was left with only the bus's worn drum brakes to try and slow our downhill rush.  NB: Drum brakes quickly overheat, then they 'fade'--(stop working entirely) no matter how vigorously you push---so our frequent wild rides going down steep hills and around tight curves was an ever-changing adventure-- I know GRD heard frequent screams and LOTS of loud and frantic chanting...everyone just hanging on while our hair stood up under our turbans.  My most vivid memories are my turns to lie flat in the aisle beside the driver, brace myself against the base of the bus's front seats, and push as hard as I could on the shift lever with both feet to try to hold the transmission in 2nd gear so we could slow down...in the beginning it usually worked... When lying on the floor of a wildly-bouncing bus you can see only people's feet and the bottom of the dash. With the bright sun directly in your eyes through all the dust, your mind can't know if this carnival ride has just careened off the mountainside or is still tearing around another curve on two wheels (and it happened----each followed by a WHAM as the bus slammed back down onto four wheels).. Screams from the womenfolk didn't calm us men at all...The further we went into the mountains the more iffy things got and the higher the mountains---the shift lever next began popping out of low gear going UPHILL too. This was worse--it was very difficult to hold it in low gear going up a steep hill, because the yogi lying besides the driver is holding the shift lever while his body is sliding backwards.  When it jumped out of low gear going uphill, the bus would quickly stop, then begin rolling backwards down the fire road.  (NB: our old brakes had even less power going backwards.)  Neither the driver nor anybody else could see behind us whenever we started rolling backwards...About 3 in the afternoon this happened again on an uphill curve; this time the bus began rolling down the curve faster and faster and didn't stop--a LOT of screaming....  Suddenly--'just by coincidence' the rear of the bus slammed into a earthen bank covered with wildflowers, and we halted, in an 'conveniently-located' meadow in the hillside.  Everybody climbed out to get rid of the shakes and talk to God. It then required everybody (including the women, except the new mother and her baby) to rock the bus out of the dirt and back up onto the road. Then we realized that if the driver had turned the other way we would have gone about 600 feet down an almost vertical rocky hill. .....GRD was obviously on the job. Whenever it was my turn to drive, it wasn't as frightening as when lying flat trying to hold the shift lever in gear--when driving I at least could see our death and destruction coming...

Finally the Solstice Site appeared over a hill...our final approach was a long downhill grade and we could see the site ahead about a mile away.
We could see it, all was OK--then, with perfect timing-- the radiator top hose burst with a loud 'BLAM" --and a big cloud of hot water and steam covered the windshield so we couldn't see. A minute later, with the engine turned off, silent as a ghost and trailing angelic white clouds, we coasted into the Solstice Site and stopped.

The next day we were unloading the bags of rice and 'humping" (carrying them on our backs) them over to the mess tent----and Yogiji suddenly appeared.  I said "We had a REALLY FUN TRIP getting here, sir!!"  I was excited to tell him all about our Marvelous Adventure... Yogi answered, totally matter-of-fact: "Yah, a fun trip."---I was floored to realize that somehow, he already knew--almost as if he had been there on the trip....I thought: ."Could it be..?"

yogi_bhajan_jemez_springs_1971.jpg
Yogi Bhajan at Jemez Springs, 1971
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