Have you seen the new Tiruvannamalai Tourist Information Brochure?
It is truly astounding! As I perused each page I felt as if I was holding a rare parchment of the Brothers Grimm Fairytales. It was like being transported to a bizarre realm never seen or spoken of, for fear of breaking its magic spell. Where is this fabled "Spiritual Centre of South India", it looks so inviting? Yoga spa treatments, gourmet food, kind and warm hearted local guides who would never fleece you and who only care about helping you on your karmic journey!
Then it dawned on me as the scales dropped from my eyes and the enchanted glamour evaporated, that this is the Tiru I love and loathe. Those mugshots of our kindly guides are a rogues' gallery of every local villain and scamster. With their dead-eyed venal stare, these boys are looking for blood and geld and YOU are on the menu!
Then I came to the Spiritual Masters page. Duh: Mooji, Madhukar, Gaia (he's so famous they spelt it Gaja: obviously a homage to Lady Gaga!), that bloodless Werepig Torsten, James Swartz (looking like a dessicated cadaver!), Spermananda, Satsang Barbie and then some non-entities who I have never heard of. It looks like a bulletin board for a United Nations War Crimes Tribunal! Page after page, it gets more surreal. I must be tripping. "Curiouser and curiouser," said Alice to the Cheshire cat - let's take another toke on the DMT. Weird Singing Heart Ashram woman (Jacqueline Marie Longstaff) has a full page to advertise her paranoid and confused satsang (will David Icke make a guest appearance?) To top it all she even has a special retreat called Dying for Truth. I take it that this is when the cyanide and orange juice are passed around and everyone signs over their worldly possessions before the journey to the Great Hereafter!
I could endlessly list the delights of this strange publication but suffice to say the best joke is on the inside cover. It's an ad for an imaginary Visitors' Centre: there is no given address and no-one I have spoken to knows where it is. Maybe it will just teleport into place in front of the Ramana Ashram, just as coach loads of wide-eyed tourists stumble into town eager for the wonder of this magical spiritual Mecca.
Next time you sidestep a dead and decomposing sadhu arraigned tastefully among the rotting garbage, pinch yourself and think of this little fantasy magazine that promises the earth but will sell you the same old losers and spivs.
Only Arunachala could cook up the flailing entrails of the Kali Yuga into such a delicious egoic theme park. It is truly a mirror of perfection here. Just remember: SAMSARA IS NIRVANA ...