“WELL, COME THIS WAY SIR, step in, come along, let’s get going on our little tour, the start of our adventure together and let’s see where you might find yourself ending up. Which room will be for you? We’ll give you lots of options, lots of possibilities, people, places and positions to choose from. All you have to do is pick. Be picky. Ask yourself questions along the way. Perhaps this could be your favorite place? Remember that. That’s all I want you to think about as you walk through this with me, okay?”
“We’ll walk quietly, we won’t touch anything and we won’t disturb anyone. Some people don’t like to be disturbed yet others are already and don’t mind it. Just observe, don’t talk, don’t say a thing. All the while I simply want you to clear your mind. Open your mind, all your mind. Everything you’ve got. Follow me with an open mind. Open it up… let your thoughts wander, let your brain drift from thought to thought to thought.”
“You’re going to see a whole lot of things on our tour, some will be strange things. Some things will make you laugh and smile while others may upset or shock you. Just accept it as information. That’s all. Simple information. Don’t concentrate on any one thing, instead try to think about everything all at once. Wait for the big picture to be built.”
“Think about something you see. Then let it go.”
“Have you got that? Think… [pause]… and then let it go. Poof. Just like that. Let’s try it before we go in. Ready?”
“APPLE! Think about an apple, and then let the thought go. BANANA! Think for a second, let it go. BIG BANANA! Think about the big banana… [he laughs] and then let it go. Okay? Okay.”
“If you find it hard to let your thoughts go, you might want to try a little exercise. Think about something, and then count slowly… one, two, three, four, [pause]. Think. And then let it go. Poof. Just like that.”
“LOOK! It’s an amazing yellow flower over there, so beautiful… (now count, slowly: one, two, three, four). LOOK! At that grass, so green, a lush and tropical green, with spritely blades of irregular shapes… two, three, four… and let it go. Just like that. Ready? I think we’re ready.”
“The tour starts out slow anyway. It’s partly my fault. Don’t expect to laugh or be shocked and overwhelmed right away. Let’s take it easy, nice and slow. Like you’re meeting a new family. YOUR new family perhaps. You should find it warm and inviting and not scary. Remember that.”
“This isn’t just India you’re walking into. It’s all that and more, a little something extra, a bit of foreign influence and some very advanced technology. Perhaps it’s… PARADISE!” he says, and then steps back and swings his arms out triumphantly, twirling on his feet a little bit. One would think he were wearing bright pink ballet slippers and a charming purple top. Ooh.
“One, two, three four…”
Look, isn’t this all a little too dramatic? And look what the guide is wearing: a long shapeless robe that is brown. Brown. The same color as shit. Yet here he was, an enthusiastic guide and a man who enjoyed his job.
One of the interior doors to the palace then opened up to bright sunlight shining through and attracting everyone’s eyes. Off in the distance was what looked like a garden nestled in a courtyard.
“We have so many things to show you. So many people too, people who are artists and musicians, dancers, composers, writers, lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers, hard working bodies, gardeners and trades people of all kinds just looking for a place to get away. Even people who work in retail have come here, and we have a special place for them too. We’ll take in anyone if you have the right assets, the right attitude, the right personality and the right point of view. Many people here once hated their jobs and their lives when they first came here, for obvious reasons. The hated their jobs with a passion and look at them now! Many are enjoying their lives today and their hard work here like they never thought possible, with real profound happiness and support from those around them.”
“The people, exhibits and stages on display here are just fun examples of what can be done. We want to highlight what you can become one day if you aspire to truly achieve greatness.”
“Remember. We’re going to take it slow, room by room, garden by garden, and all the while I want you to think about which place you think is your favorite. Which one is the most beautiful, or the most welcoming, or the most warm. And then let it go.”
“And then I want you to think about why you picked that place. I want you to bring it back again. One, two, three four. Think about it… count to yourself again… big bouncy watermellons… and one, two, three, four… and then let it go. What did you think about back there? If they’re meant to, your thoughts will keep popping back. Later on, see if you can figure out which specific image of the room keeps sticking in your mind. But not right now. Are you ready? Let’s get going!”
They walked in as a group, a motley crew of a dozen people who were mostly strangers at the time, lead by the animated tour master Guildorf himself. As requested they walked in silence, through the middle of the bright garden courtyard found at the entrance, then down a dark hallway off to the left and into a small round room filled with plants, with one closed white door slightly shorter than normal on the far side.
“This isn’t a ‘room’ really.” He started to say. “This is just a little vegetable garden that we’ve created in a tiny little space.”
An AeroGarden mini was sitting alone on a white table, its grow lights running brightly and the aeroponic misters were humming along. The rest of the room was alive with a jungle of plants growing all around.
“You’d never think it were possible! Open up your mind, let it fill the tiny room! Imagine if you spent all your time here, everyday! It’s much too small, isn’t it? But look around, and along with all these vegetables you’ll note that there are a variety of fruity things inside here as well. This is in fact a biosphere-controlled room capable of sustaining one person’s biological needs almost indefinitely.”
“You’ll also notice that the garden area itself is very small. It’s not meant to feed and nourish all the people in the commune, of course. But we’ve calculated that it can sustain one person for a very long time if the need were to arise. It’s one person’s vegetable garden! They wouldn’t ever even have to leave the room! Except for bathroom breaks of course, though there’s also a long rubber tube over there, it has a funnel and a metal ring attached on the end for those who choose to use it. It drains out the side of the wall into a NASA-developed waster recycling purifier, much like the one found on the international space station. It turns unwanted liquids and solid material it into pure drinking water of better quality than found in most major cities around the world, plus solid nutrients used to feed the plants that grow here. This is simply a showcase of minor engineering marvel that we can do at the commune. We like to show just how perfect we can grow our vegetables.”
“While it may be small, it’s just the right size for one person to tend to. They must keep it looking and growing perfectly, neatly manicured, and ladies must trim their bush, day after day, after day. The unused food can be dried and smoked for added flavour, too. But mostly, manicuring and trimming are regular duties here. We want a nice tight bush. That’s what we like. That is, until the gardener decides that it’s finally time to move on. We almost always leave the timing up to you.”
“Stay in this place for as long as you want, we always say. Everyone is welcome here, everyone is a contributor and donates his or her time and energy to keep the commune alive and growing. Some people cook our food, others do routine cleaning tasks, and still others tend to one of our many, many other gardens of all shapes and sizes. And then there are those who work in retail. Which room and which size might be right for you? Let’s count… one, two, three four.”
“We put a little bit of everything in here. We’ve got the usual bananas and coconuts, plus some sweet young pineapples from the south. There’s delicious mango, sweet passion fruit beside it too, and look! We’ve got some big cucumbers, wow, look at the size of those things! Huge cucumbers battling for a woman’s attention. Plus there are a few carrots, you can put those things into just about anything, a few chick-peas budding out from their pea pods, and then a bunch of normal potatoes. Everyday, average potatoes that you can add to just about any meal in a pinch.”
“Amazing how we put such a varieties of fruits and vegetables into such a small area, isn’t it? It’s one of our specialties. Making things happen in ways you thought weren’t possible, or at least weren’t going to be in the cards for you. And sometimes, we do it just because someone says that we can’t. We like to mix things up a little bit — grow things where they wouldn’t normally be grown and allow the vegetables to expand in any way they choose. As long as it all stays within the confines of this room, it’s fine.”
“Look up there! We have sun blinds which control how these plants get sunlight. The light is channeled, concentrated and then distributed to each of the vegetables. One person who tended this garden early on was Bill, a mechanical engineer. He was obsessed with perfecting his vegetable garden and always kept mumbling about how he could make it better, stronger, more perfect. An electrical engineer and an environmental engineer both helped him design and build the solar collector. After installing the collector, Bill calculated the drift of the sun throughout the day and figured out how to make a computer-controlled sun blind system that moves as required. In some cases it will shade just one particular plant and give sun to the rest. Amazing!”
“But most of the stuff here is a result of simple, hard work and cutting edge technology. It’s the perfect vegetable garden for one person.”
Marty Funk thought about this in a rather curious way. The guy was right, the garden looked perfect and the tech was outstanding – the latest of everything! As for the plants, maybe if someone on the tour was an expert in the field she or he might be able to point out something, anything, that might be grown improperly in this garden. Tiny cherry red tomatoes too close to the big cucumbers, for example. Competing for resources and neither flourishing. Everyone knows you shouldn’t put those two together, right? The cucumbers will take over and snuff the other plants out. For example.
But nobody on this particular tour had much of a clue about gardens and gardening, or so it seemed, and so they all just stood there in awe. Some even had their mouths gaping open, it was too easy. Everyone in the group, including Mira, thought the garden looked quite perfect indeed and they were mighty impressed.
“I love it Marty. We should setup something like this!” she said. Mira Rai was a huge fan of gardens and plants and liked to cultivate her own vegetable garden in her spare time, as a mater of fact.
“No weeds.” Mumbled Marty, and he did a funny Indian-style head wiggle. “I can’t see a single weed in this garden.”
He’d been practicing his head wiggle for weeks. He thinks he’s being funny and that the wiggle looks funny as well, but it’s really not quite genuine just yet. The head wiggle is the same kind of wiggle that almost a billion people in India could conceivably do every day, a wiggle gesture that first appears very strange to foreigners. Ask an Indian person any question requiring a yes/no answer and they might just wiggle their head to you in response. It’s not clearly yes/no and in fact one doesn’t know if it means ‘yes’ or ‘no’, or ‘I don’t know’ or ‘maybe’, or ‘please repeat the question’ or ‘I haven’t got a fucking clue and stop bothering me’, or perhaps all of the above.
Actually, the head wiggle often means something different entirely. It tends to mean yes, good, cool, no problem and thanks for asking — all at the same time. But it also depends on the situation and appears to be a physical manifestation of happy contentment uniquely found en masse on the Indian subcontinent.
The Indian head wiggle.
Once one gets to know East Indian people a little bit and they see the head wiggle in full swing, it’s easy to learn that it’s a warm expression.
Tour master Guildorf ignored the comment about weeds and pressed on. Mira felt a tension in the air. She knows Marty well enough to know that he is not always the most socially adept person on the planet. Weeds? Nah. Of course not. It’s a showcase.
“It’s beautiful, what you’ve done here.” she says in a somewhat dreamy way. Her voice trails off while Marty’s mind tries to hang on to it. It’s a voice with a certain unmistakeable lingering quality that can reverberate in one’s mind. Guild tour master Guildorf looks up and into Mira’s eyes and… umm, wow! She has nice eyes! Guildorf then exhibits an involuntary physical reaction at this point in the tour, reacting in a hammy sort of way by jumping back, as if we were being treated with a short burst of electric shock therapy. Some people’s eyes look deep enough to see right into their souls, they say. Whoever ‘they’ are.
“Oh yeah, beautiful.” Guildorf says in return, forgetting for a moment where he was. He’s back now. Conducting a tour.
“Yes, it’s very beautiful. You’ve done a great job here.” Mira repeats.
Some guy named Rob steps in and in front of Mira to avert Guildorf’s gaze. He says something rather awkwardly about over-reacting, which is a good subject to get on the table. Indeed, Guildorf tends to over-react too often when he sees beauty.
Whew. Sign of relief, a snap back to reality. Tour guild master Guildorf is suddenly relaxed again. Let’s continue the tour, he thinks to himself. No one else was saying anything, just as instructed until…
“I’m a gardener too. I love what you’ve done here.” Someone says, from the back of the tour group. There about a dozen people here, after all, so they were bound to have other gardeners in the group.
“I’d like to remind you that questions should wait until the end.” Interrupted Guildorf, but the lady continued anyway.
“I wonder if you can tell me how you figured out the details of how to grow everything so incredibly close together? You know, some plants feed off each other, and other fight for the same nutrients in the soil.”
The guild master paused and then smiled every so slightly like he’d been asked a question that was simple, yet also a key to unlocking the universe. He was especially dramatic and grandiose as he silently pointed out major tech adorned in various places around the small room. Some devices had a NASA logo on them, while at least one other had a radiation symbol, a clean water symbol, and yet others were water pressurizing systems with high pressure metal joints coated in stainless steel, with electrical wiring and routing nearby that was top notch. Then after several minutes of this, Guildorf starts to talk again.
“Oh, we’ve had everyone go through here. You’d be surprised. Dentists, lawyers, plumbers, electricians, home-makers, the works. We turned them all into gardeners in this room, those vegetable lovers. Those amateurs. Of course we’ve had our share of horticulturalists and professional gardeners too, engineers of all sorts plus plant biologists and even microbiologists, scientists that helped us perfect our craft. And this all in just one tiny room! We like to think that we have the perfect room for EVERYBODY. Especially for those who want to grow with us and leave here one day with an entirely different profession than the one they had when they arrived.”
“Maybe you can see yourself ending up here? It’s just a thought… two, three four. Maybe this is where you’ll start, or maybe end up. That’s why we like to start off the tour five six, slow, inside the vegetable garden for any one. You’ll note that we use technology extensively to make everything work here, starting with our closed-loop aeroponic system which is a type of accelerated hydroponics developed by NASA. We control every aspect of a vegetable’s growth. Take a deep breath, relax. We’re goin’ in.”
It was time to walk.
“Now as we walk, think about each fruit and vegetables that you saw… one, two, three four. Did you know there were over fifty varieties in that one small room? Can you believe it? Think, and then let it go. Breathe in, breathe out. Think about another vegetable. Like a cucumber. Then let it go.”
The corridor surrounding the garden on all sides was much like a very small courtyard permitting natural light to come in through a simple open roof. The walls were painted white and were completely bare except for a textured white plaster, and one solitary window along one side, halfway up the wall. There was a small windowsill with a single pretty flower growing in it.
The window looked like the window to someone’s bedroom, Mira remembered thinking somewhat absently. Perhaps the person who tended to the garden lived just next door?
The tour group does not pause at the window. Instead they walk along the garden path, down to the end of the small courtyard and under a single, large sealed observation window far above. The walk along a hallway that leads to another room, through a heavy concrete doorway and then, wow. Stop. Look at that. One never would have expected it.
Through the doorway the first thing they see is a complete forest and jungle contained inside of a very large room, with rocks and trees and a steep hill at the end, next to a massive waterfall, with plants like ferns and bamboo and large palm trees and more. The room had very large walls completely covered with plants much like the tiny room they’d seen, only much larger, and far above was a clear, paneled ceiling that let in only light, not rain. The ceiling panels were broad and strong enough to spread across a massive jungle of nature extending a great distance. It’s a giant sealed room, another biosphere. It’s like bringing the outside to the inside. Very clever. Except for the ceiling panels, the forest was a perfect bio dome.
Mira thought the jungle-waterfall-in-a-room idea was amazing, like something she’d like to have one day in her dream home, a mansion somewhere in a tropical country. Marty rather likened it to walking through the lobby of a Holiday Inn however, only it was larger. He smiled and nodded and said it was nice anyway. It’s not clear why Marty was in a foul mood that day or why he didn’t like it at first, he just didn’t. Maybe for it it was all just a bit strange.
When they were back at the tiny vegetable garden there was no sounds of a waterfall at all, yet here it was loud. Then as if the room sensed their presence, the waterfall erupted and mist was everywhere, the roar of water crashing on the rocks. Just open the heavy door, walk this way through it and bang. There it is, a giant waterfall in a massive room that is completely self-contained, an ecosystem running off a series of complex computer-controlled systems that must somehow recycle its own water.
The waterfall returned to its previous level. Now the sound of the water flowing was everywhere, there were even small creeks that cut into the soil below that twisted and turned until they reached the walls of the room, where the water is recycled back to the waterfall again.
The noise is suddenly loud and intense, as if the decibel level had quickly changed again. The waterfall roars, spitting mist across the room. They tour steps in and glances around, and most people seem to be quite impressed. Off to the far right was a small opening in the forest, revealing a white concrete wall in the distance with three closed doors along the right-hand side. All the doors were painted a flat white and had foot paths leading up to them. On the far left of the room was simple a wall covered in tropical plants that started from the edge of the entrance and continued on into the forest, blending into the rocks of the waterfall. It was difficult to see the start of the forest and where it ended, but it was hundreds of meters deep at least.
Most people would describe this room like a giant backyard, except one fully contained within a room with a large open skylight for a roof. Vines and ferns were growing along their edges as easily as they’d grow anywhere, finding any boundary and then trying to take over the space. This room was alive. It was like Mother Nature in a box, alive and kicking in an unlikely biodome found somewhere south of Mumbai.
“You know, the forest is very nice and beautiful isn’t it? And so loud. Water rushing and crashing, seemingly from nowhere, and then turning into streams to hydrate the rest of the room. The forest here is the first thing you saw, isn’t it? Westerners always seem to see and hear the inanimate. I bet you didn’t even see something else. What about all the BIRDS?”
And then suddenly, birds were everywhere. They were camouflaged in the trees at first but then they all seemed to just appear and come alive. Some even started flying around, as if on cue. They had perfect colors to blend in with the trees and colorful flowers, red and blue and yellow flowers that climbed up along the hill near the waterfall that sloped up for some distance.
How many birds? Hmm, there could be dozens and dozens of them. They were so well hidden at first, it was hard to even see them… as if someone was playing tricks on the mind.
“Try to count how many birds are actually there, make a a game of it. Then count them again and see if you can break that number.” Guildorf suggests.
How cool. Bird habitats in India are sparse, people say. But that’s not true. They’re everywhere, one can hear them even if they’re not always seen. Chirping away in the early morning dawn in Bangalore, they are everywhere. Hearing them makes one look, seeking them out to study where they rest. And then suddenly they appear, like being alone deep inside a jungle only to realize one is surrounded by a large number of small creatures all around.
“And look at the lizards.” Guildorf needed to add. “Most people don’t like lizards, and I’ll admit that they’re a little harder to find, but they’re here and everywhere too. It’s good to see so many of them. Welcome, friends.”
Some were just geckos. Geckos eat insects which is desirable because then the insects don’t eat at people. Most people would rather sleep under a dozen geckos than under a mosquito net, which makes sleeping hot and sweaty. Both do an adequate job of keeping away the bugs.
Marty saw one large spider and pointed to it, but it quickly scampered away. It’s amazing how something as large as that spider can survive with all these large geckos around. Most people in the group didn’t even see it! Ha, he thought. Their puny minds must not be as open as his.
“You won’t see many lizards, they’re not really needed here. Nothing wrong with this place. But let’s stop to take in the scenery anyway, take some time to think about it… two, three, four… and then let it go. Now let’s keep moving.”
The object of the tour, it can be said, was to help open one’s mind. Or something like that. The group entertained the scenery for a while, and then continued on.
The tour was fun, everyone agreed, and guild master Guildorf seemed particularly pleased. They stayed, stood and stared at that waterfall for a good five minutes before it was really time to move on. The guild master did not get impatient at all, and he has probably done this tour a hundred times or more. No need to rush them, Guildorf thought to himself. Some people will find this to be their favorite room, after all.
“At first glance I’d bet you didn’t see any of it, did you? Besides the waterfall I mean. You didn’t see the birds, flowers, the lizards, the insects, the fruit, the wide variety of plants, and so on. That was the point of all this when we created the room — to make everything disappear. Everything. Even the people who tend to this courtyard. Did you see anyone off in the distance? I bet you didn’t. But they were there.”
“We don’t ever want you to see the people if they’re here, tending to the forest. Sometimes they’re here during our tour you know, just as they were today and only once among hundred of tours did anyone in a tour group ever spot them. And it was because that person off in the distance had sneezed. If we put people here in the large forest room, we want them to disappear. They must do all their maintenance in as perfect camouflage as possible, and that means either full camo gear with makeup, or working at night (if required) or very carefully and covertly hiding during the day and especially during any type of tour. We supply the clothing, the make-up and the paints but the best way to disappear is up to you.”
Somehow this sent a chill down Mira’s spine. The thought that people might be in there, amongst the trees, watching them, completely camouflaged from head to toe, doing what they have to do. Trying to disappear. Even their ears, they’d even have to paint their ears!
The group looked again and strained to find someone in the mix. It seemed fruitless. It would take a strange kind of person to crave this as their favorite place, Mira thought. Her mind wandered…. wondering if telling the commune people this is her favorite place would make her responsible for maintaining it, becoming camouflaged, all that. Disappear, they’d tell you that you have to disappear.
“Usually people don’t volunteer for this room, unfortunately. We have to ask them, sometimes, if no one has looked after things for a while. Sometimes we have to ask them to work here for a little while, and then we ask them to disappear.”
“We like just about everyone here, you know. All ages from the age of consent and onwards, and from all walks of life. Anyone with an open mind is welcome in the Commune. All shapes and sizes and colors and religions. And we celebrate the arrival of each and every one of you. Each and every last one. Sometimes we celebrate your departure as well, it can be a happy day for almost everybody. This is because we like to think that you’ve grown during your time here, and you’ve tended to your vegetable or vegetables. However long you stay, when you leave you’ll be finally ready to take on the world as we see fit.”
The tour master continued to lead them along the garden path, carefully walking along the stoned steps that lead them another direction, across a whole berth of mystery forest to one of the three white doors at the far end of the room, and then into a short-but-dark hallway that had another closed door at the end.
“You’re going to meet someone here in this next room, someone very special. I want you to talk to her, listen to her, really try to hear what she is saying. Unfortunately I can only take you in one at a time, and so we have to limit this part of the tour to five minutes a piece. But it’s five minutes that you should take advantage of, some people say it could even change your life, if you really groove to what this person has to say.”
“Ask her anything you want. Anything. About this place, the commune, even about me, if you like… you can even ask her deep personal questions about herself and she will tell you the answer without reservation, even though you’ve just met. And then listen to the answer. I mean, really listen to what she has to say. We’re not all brilliant people here, and she’s not a genius you know. She won’t be able to answer everything. At the commune we don’t have all the answers. But we have some of the most important answers to questions that are meaningful to you.”
“She’s not an oracle or clairvoyant or anything like that either. She’s just a very special person and this will be your only opportunity to talk to her throughout your entire stay here, should you decide to stay. So look it as an opportunity, a great opportunity to really learn about what this place is from someone who has really been there, tended to her own vegetable garden and trimmed her own bush. Okay, now who’s first?”
Mira giggled. She certainly didn’t want to be the first, but she was intrigued. Everyone in the group was equally apprehensive. Or maybe it was just anxiety or nervousness. Nobody wanted to be the first. Everyone either looked at each other and smirked, looked down at their feet or in a daze off into the yonder sunset.
Mira’s lips were pursed. She was clenching her teeth and her eyes were wide, looking around, trying not to get noticed, hoping someone else would volunteer to be the first. Of course this is exactly why she was noticed, and guild master Guildorf was just about to pick her when Mira nudged Marty forward and then quickly looked the other way. Feeling a little dumbfounded, Marty turns to her and says “Yeah, thanks, I knew you were going to do th..”
The tour master takes the lead.
“Great! We have our first volunteer!”
Mira let out a squeal of approval. Not like it was a big deal or anything to be first. It was just a tour of the commune, right? A place that they had come all the way to India to visit.
“You’re the strong one, you know it.” she says and then laughs, nudging him forward again. Damn. Even when she’s evil one can’t help but love her.
Marty, the strong proud fearless man that he’d become, stepped forward without a word, opened the door and disappeared. Inside there was a smart walkway with planted flowers all along it, and it lead into yet another courtyard, this one painted a cool baby blue. Next to the courtyard was a small open room, also painted blue, with a wicker bench and colorful flowers growing all around. Sitting on it, like someone you’d find in a park, was a very pretty girl in a sun dress sitting with her legs crossed. She wearing a silky one-piece robe, of the same baby blue color as the room itself. It appeared she’d been waiting for the first visitor to arrive.
Her hair was long and flowing, and she turned to look at Marty. Her face beamed with all the colors of the flowers surrounding her. Her eyes held a twinkle of starlight, the kind only seen when someone’s really happy and she wants you to know about it, too.
She’s so beautiful. Wow! She’s… umm, no, wait a minute. On second thought, she was a pretty girl, sure, but not quite Marty’s type. She had unusual features, expressive eyes but an unusually big nose. And she was quite overweight. She smiled the kind of addictive smile that makes one feel all warm inside. The way she looked at Marty, she seemed to indicate at that very moment he was the single most important person in her whole entire life. For five minutes, she would completely focus on him.
“Hi.” She says.
“Hi.” Marty says back.
“What’s your name?” she asks. It’s Marty.
She stands suddenly, holds one of her arms straight out to shake a hello.
“I’m Laura, and I’m pleased that you will be my first today.” she says, and looks straight into Marty’s eyes, her own eyes a sea calm. Then she smiles big and sort of nods her head once, slightly. What a cute way to say hello.
She continued. “I’ve been waiting for you. Some might say I’ve been waiting my whole life for this moment, although that sounds rather funny and remains to be seen. Thanks for coming to see me.”
Laura gives him the quick once-over, looking him up and down and all around while still holding contact with his eyes all the while. Rather intriguing, the way she does that! It’s the kind of look that one gets when someone’s instantly attracted, as if she wants Marty, but only subtly wants him to know about it too.
Wow, how’d she do that? For a fleeting second Marty had to wonder if she were on meds, as if something strange was going on here. She didn’t have the looks he would tend to go for as a prospective woman to date yet he strangely found himself very attracted to this girl right from the start. Maybe it was the way she looked at him. He blinked and a moment later the thought was gone — she was just a nice friendly girl again.
“You’re HOT.” She says and then giggles like she’s eighteen.
Most interesting of all was her body language — how do women do it? Casual gestures with certain undertones, a calculated amount of deep breathing, and eyes that never leave Marty’s gaze. It’s like she’d figured out a way to appear interested in him, and maybe in every single man or woman who walked through the door. Impressive.
“Why did you come here? And what are your intentions with me?” she asked all of a sudden, and there’s a surprisingly stern look on her face. She tilted her head slightly, exposing her neck. She then ran her hand along the length of her neck and paused to touch her lips. Wow, this girl was good. But it was a hard question to answer, for Marty was only there on a tour. She asked the questions as if every one of the many people who must come to see her had their lives all figured out well before they came.
“Umm, I, uh… I’m not really sure…” Marty starts to say. “I’m just on a tour you know. I didn’t want to be the first one. What am I looking for? Hmm. Generally speaking, I guess we’re all here to find happiness.”
That seemed like a good, neutral answer.
“Who’s the ‘WE’?” She asks.
“Oh, Mira and I. And Pete, my friend. He’s sort of Mira’s boyfriend. It’s, ah… kind of complicated.”
“You mean the three of you are together?”
“Well, err, ah… yeah, no. Kind of… anyway. I don’t know. I’m not sure what you mean. Wait. Why are we here? Okay. Here goes. I’ve heard you can find happiness here… in lots of different ways.”
Marty struggles to find these last few words and he’s trying very, very hard not to be provocative or suggest anything that might be offensive. He’s heard the rumors about this “commune” of sorts. He’s read books about such things and he saw a movie about one. He told himself he’d never use the word ORGY, his favorite word of them, the best among all the words in the English language and perhaps the most elusive and evasive one of all. No, they did not come here for that, for goodness sake. Well, actually they did, but he would never admit it to anyone because he could barely admit it to himself.
“But what are you looking for?”
Don’t say anything offensive, Marty, don’t say it. He repeated this to himself over and over. Keep your cool, Marty, you have three minutes remaining and then you’ll be back with the tour group and then off for lunch and maybe something to drink.
Marty laughs. “Gardening tips.”
He looked her up and down. He couldn’t help it! Marty thought he could avoid her question by asking her one instead. She looked offended, of that he was sure.
“You like a nice, trimmed bush don’t you Marty? At least you’re honest about it, even if it upsets me to hear you say that. We don’t discuss such things like that here in the commune. So let’s change the subject now… what kind of questions do you have for me about this place?”
“Do you like it here?” he said sheepishly.
“I LOVE it here. I just love it. I’m… [and she pauses] I-N- L-O-V-E … with the flowers and the trees, the birds, the people, the peacefulness of the place, everything really.” she says breathlessly, slowly, and one can’t help but believe her. A little weird, but whatever.
She lets go of his hand. Marty didn’t realize that she was even holding it all this while, did he? Such is the nature of interactions at Aishu’s Commune, and one that she has evidently adopted with style. Then she steped back and removed her robe, the soft silk material falling to the ground without a sound. In one quick swish it landed as an elegant fabric floating off her body, the body of a model of sorts, with a few extra pounds, and yet the robe fell flat onto the floor. This was quite an unexpected treat…
She was now naked of course. Naked and yes far from perfect, just like most people, but still attractive. She was a little short too, a little chunky here and there, and her nose was awfully big, just like her breasts, overall a beautiful woman. And naked. It takes courage to do such a thing, courage was something something Marty deeply respected, and of course it made him realize that there in the commune things might be just as were rumored. Perhaps it was a place where wild things happened, maybe even the orgy capital of the world, and he had only five minutes to find this out, of which now four were already up. Maybe this was just a glimpse of what was about to come.
“Do you like my body?” she says, and looks wide into his eyes.
No response is required, just a nod. What can Marty say to that anyway? After a pause, she continues, “I’m not supposed to do this and I only ever do it for a few people, singles, mostly… oh, I forgot to ask if you were single… wait, this is okay, isn’t it? Oops! [she giggles] Umm, well it just makes me feel good, what comes next.”
“And so I have to ask you. If you were sitting here alone, just like I was, watching the flowers and I came up to you right out of the blue… having never met before… and I disrobed like this and started touching you, would you like to sleep with me?”
She really wanted to know.
“Umm… yes!” said Marty, trying not to look surprised. He’s a guy. Duh. Of course he would.
In an almost child-like response she smiled big and sort-of danced around on one foot, twisting her body slightly, and said that yup, she knew it. Thanks for being honest, Marty. And then she reached down, pulled up her robe and everything was back to normal again. Time’s up, too. Her little test succeeded and seemed to make her feel quite happy. She had gotten the right reaction, exactly as programmed. It must have boosted her ego. It probably always did.
”Now that we’ve got that over with,” she said and then sat down again. “Come, sit with me. Our short time is up but you still have time to ask me one more question! Any question that you have about this place.” She giggled again.
Marty sat down and they had a very short but frank discussion. Too bad Marty really missed the boat. He asked her where is she from, how long has she been here, what does she do here? That sort of thing. The same boring travel questions that everyone asks all the time, all around the world. Did she dislike anything here? No? Okay. Marty got in more than the one question and then there was a knock on the door.
“Just a minute!” she shouted, and then turned to Marty. “I know this place seems like a bit much. It’s a bit of a shock for some people. But it’s natural. Just like when people visit India for the first time, it can be a shock to one’s senses because it’s not something you’re not used to. We like to think that if you come here and stay a while and truly experience our commune with an open mind, you’ll find it as warm and as inviting as we do, just as any place you might call home. Your new home away from home.”
Knock, knock, knock.
“JUST A MINUTE, PLEASE!” she calls out to whoever knocked on the door again, and then continued.
“This place is a big hoot. It’s a lot of fun, that’s the whole idea. Stay a little while, or stay a long time. Have some fun, enjoy, and for as long as you want. Leave anytime you feel the need to. Personally, I think that if you can’t just kick back, relax, and have fun here, then you’re really in the wrong place. You’ll love it, I know it.”
And with that, the door opened almost on cue and the next person was coming through the doorway. Marty’s time was up, and he heard about as much as he was going to hear. His five minutes of fantasy was over. Next.
Suffice it to say that the same sort of thing happened when Mira went through, though Mira and Laura ended up having a fairly snappy conversation near the end. A cat fight perhaps, all in the course of a few minutes.
“We’re here for the the full moon parties!” he could hear her saying as the door shut behind Marty. Okay, that was not exactly true. In fact she actually took Laura’s hand and said quite simply that they came here for the ORGIES and wanted Laura to discus such things. A glimmer of hope shined in her eyes all the while, but alas it was not to be kindled into a fire.
“We do nothing of the sort here, although we do practice the Tantra. More properly we call it Tantric Exercises and there are classes you can take here to learn about it from the many ancient Indian teachings.”
There was some of disappointment both women’s faces.
“You’ll see. This place is probably nothing like what you’ve heard about from others.”
It all sounded well and good. They talked a bit more, mostly about where Mira bought her clothes, where to find sun dresses and hair products, and how to look good in a baby blue robe. They compared notes on make-up too and then the time was up, Mira’s five minutes of fascination. She went away satisfied. Next.
Pete went in next and soon came out, refusing to say what happened. He was looking rather embarrassed. Marty figured that he had gotten too excited and had to apologize for it, that was all.
After everyone had gone through the room, the tour master turned to the group in silence, gestured with his arm and led them to the next room. Turns out, it was pretty much the same thing, except this time there were two people that to meet. Mira and Marty opted out, as did most others in the group.
The tour continued on.
They walked another garden path following Guildorf until they entered what was not actually a room at all but a pleasant, sprightly courtyard that opened up to a colorful pond with a fountain. There was water splashing everywhere with fish and tadpoles clearly visible in the pond. There was also statue of Krishna in the centre, the blue Hindu god who is always carrying a flute. The statue was elaborate, showing Krishna sitting and playing his flute, laughing and being flattered by a group of a dozen or more Gopis all around him. Ahh, now wouldn’t that be the life to be worshiped like that…
People were everywhere in the courtyard. Real people, in robes of all colors scurrying about. It was like a small circus of monks and nuns who were either sitting around, standing around, laying around or farting around. Doing whatever it is they wanted to do.
Guide master Guildorf pointed to four people sitting under a tree.
“They’re in love. See. See?” Yeah, you can bet on that. They were couples intertwined like a knot.
“And over there?” He points to a group of five laying and rolling around on the top of a grassy knoll. “They’re in love too. They’ve only known each other for five months, and every month they add a new member to their group. Soon there will be six. There has been talk of starting their own commune, but that would mean they’d have to leave and we don’t want that, do we?”
“But more than that, it’s important to know that people here just like to have an excessive amount of FUN!”
Guildorf YELLS out the word ‘fun’, which reverberates in echoes when it hits the courtyard walls. Then he yells it again, as loud as he can. FUN! It appeared to be the cue for everyone to stop what they were doing, jump to their feet and start dancing around, or walking around, or mingling around with others. It was like a circus that came alive and performed as required.
Oh, it was definitely a circus. It was WEIRD, there is no question of that. With a flurry of activity all around him now, the tour guide Master G spoke.
“You can just be yourself here. Be playful and enjoy. Do and pursue anything you want here, any kind of activity. Just be!”
Yeah, one can imagine. But do it on cue.
“There are artists and musicians, homebodies and hard-bodies. Just about every type of person that you could imagine here. And all here for the same reason.”
What about all the full moon parties?
Guildorf Master G the guide master extraordinaire said he was sorry to interrupt but they must keep moving, and he led the group along a winding path and into an adjacent building nearby. It wasn’t obvious at this point but he was being rather careful. No one on the tour was to have any interaction with any of the robed people wandering around in the courtyard.
“There’s just one more room that we’d like to show you. Step this way.”
Too bad the guy didn’t have a limp. They’d really like to step that way; instead, they followed him in.
They entered a room that seemed remarkably like a bedroom. Maybe it was once a bedroom. Or, maybe it still is!
“This is one of our meditation rooms. They’re freely available for member use, all you have to do is book them in advance. A day in advance is preferred, but an hour is often okay too. You can book them just five minutes in advance at times, but you’ll get a stern look from anyone who sees you doing so. We like people who plan their meditation in advance.”
“We’ll show you all the recommended ways to meditate and who you should take with you along the way. Group meditation is our specialty, and we don’t let any guided meditations finish until everyone in the room can honestly say that they are happy and completely satisfied.”
Happiness is what it’s all about, Marty thought to himself, and if all he has to do is don a silly robe and jump around flapping his arms in the air yelling, “Yippie! Yippie!” on cue to find it, then by all means he should try it. They had met some of the robe people outside of the commune, but they didn’t want to talk much with people on the outside.
On the way out they walked past another large courtyard, this one designed like a Roman stadium only smaller, and there were all sorts of people in robes moving about inside. Guild guide master Guildorf had no plan to stop there and didn’t realize that most people in the group had stopped anyway, without him. This was not a scripted part of the tour.
There were two hairy, bearded men sitting cross-legged, apparently in some deep conversation. If one watched their eyes and their body language, it would appear that the other person wasn’t even there, and that each of them were talking into a concrete pillar. Hello concrete pillar, how are you doing today? Yes, I’m fine but also a little messed up, in fact I’m a nutcase as well, and perhaps you’d like to talk to me, while this other person is talking to me as well. Hmm? It was disturbing to see such a thing. At least each man was polite enough to take turns speaking into the wind.
There was one woman bent over a bench, crying.
No. Not just crying, it was more like she was balling her fucking brains out, and shaking uncontrollably, and moaning the most awful moans. It was really sad to see.
“One, two, three, four… pink panther, let’s move along people!”
Another woman lay on her back, looking at the sky and laughing and laughing, over and over again. She giggled like a small school child until suddenly a whole throat full of laughter exploded from inside of her, causing everyone in the tour group to laugh as well. There was obviously something funny going on here. One can’t help but wonder what it was.
“One, two, three… no, wait. That was really funny to hear her laugh, wasn’t it? Let’s hear it again shall we? LAUGH!”
Another woman, tall with a short haircut walked around the area slowly like a robot, stopping periodically to interrupt other people’s conversations by saying some of the most vulgar things one could think of, and then moving on. She’d let out the most profuse profanities one could ever expect to hear from a human being, oil rig language in fact. The people to whom it was directed would pause their conversations in astonishment, look at her, say nothing, and then continue their conversation as if nothing had happened, as she moved on to her next victim. Guildorf the guide master seemed uncomfortable and he looked over his shoulder to explain that this is yet another form of meditation at the commune, a more aggressive form of therapy but perhaps they should keep moving. He simply said that this woman’s therapy was to get the most filthy, vulgar things off her mind as soon as she thought of them, so all that’s left were happy thoughts. Or something like that.
“It can get a little crazy in here sometimes. Unfortunately we’re running late… two, three, four… We must soon head for the exit.”
It appeared the commune had some rather exhaustive therapies after all, and not all of them were public.
“Everyone has to find the kind of meditation that’s right for him.” Guildorf started to say. “It just depends on what you need. We can make you cry, rest assured, if that’s what you need. And you’ll cry for a long time, perhaps for days or weeks if needed. Not too many people need that type of work, however. We’ve all had way too much of that already back home.”
“That’s the great part of meditation. Isn’t it? You can let it all out. We can also make you laugh, which happens much more often. You will laugh for the entire day if that’s what you need. And then do it again the next day, and again the next. You can laugh until your belly aches, then we’ll feed you really incredible food and you can laugh some more. They say laughter is the best medicine, isn’t it? We think medicine should also be measured and administered in a controlled environment for one’s own good… don’t you agree? We should know how to tickle your funny bone.”
“We can also make you work hard, really hard, even rock hard at the rock quarry, or we can make you really slack off and do nothing at all if we think that’s what you need. Though most people don’t need to slack off, they do enough of that already. Instead they often need a work ethic like most of the rest of us have around here, as if it were injected into them.”
Silence… one, two, three, four… the tour headed towards the exit door.
“Remember, meditation is the core of what we offer here, and why most of you’ve come. We hope you join us. Truth be told, we’ll do an evaluation and help decide if we’re the right fit for you, which meditations you must take while here and which will be optional. We use methods of meditation to heal each of you, and you will all progress through each of our 128 rooms should you decide to stay. Because you need healing. We know that now. Everyone needs healing, and we are here to help you.”
But it was still shocking to see — that woman balling her brains out like the world was coming to an end… one, two, three, four… it kept popping back into the minds of a few people in the group. It didn’t seem natural or normal or healthy at all. But someone must have told her it was good for her, that it was what she really needed so therefore it must be the right therapy.
The last room they found themselves in was actually the bookstore on their way out the door. They had made a detour and took a shortcut through the compound to make it there.
At the bookstore one could buy all sorts of propaganda. Hundreds of books on obscure subjects were displayed on the shelves in tight shrink-wrapped packages so that no one could browse through the pages without actually buying the title first. There were books about every odd thing that one could imagine, from New Age music to Exhaustive Meditation Theory to one called Climbing The Himalayas Nude While Using Only Naturally Occurring Skin Products And Safety Gear Found In Nature (such as tree bark, which some say can soothe the skin when worn around oneself like a skirt, and banyan vines used as climbing rope, plus a collapsable tent made out of woven palm leaves that can pop up for shelter on the side of a mountain).
They had now reached the end of the tour, the tour de force, the tour fou, and there was only one thing left to do — be pressured into buying some books!
“Don’t feel pressured to BUY too many books right now. You’ve got lots of time and the prices start out low. We’ll keep you busy with all the meditations at the commune throughout the day, should you decide to stay and join us. And we sure hope you do. You can read the books at night. One or two books are enough to start you off on your journey, and they only cost a few hundred dollars. They are probably all you need. You can always buy more later, and you can deposit more credits into your account at anytime if you need to purchase the pricier ones. Thanks to our retail team our central bank is open for deposits 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We never close! And it’s only staffed by three people! Members here carry PROXIM cards instead of cash, making it simple to live here in a cashless society, by the way.”
“I’ll give you guys some time to think about it.” Guild master Guildorf said when he saw the uncertain looks on some faces within the group. And then he leaned over and whispered to Marty, Mira and a few others. “Membership.” Ooh.
“You’ll need to complete an application form if you decide to join the commune. Following the evaluation you will have to complete a series of small tasks by following lessons before you’re allowed to take the medical exam. If you’d like to get the process started, we have forms available over here…”
Most of the group were eager to exit the bookstore as quickly as possible, and to leave the commune forever. But they couldn’t do so before eyeing a bulletin board listing a few of the many classes that are offered on-site:
Learning to touch
Are you touching too much?
Talking, tasting, texting
Who’s going on inside?
Finding the real you
Letting someone else find the real you for you
Learning to feel
Are you feeling too much?
Grappling with fear
Pull my finger.
Actually Marty was trying to get Mira to pull his finger. It was his way of saying it’s time to leave, and quick! He was bored and hungry, and he wasn’t about to let one rip in the bookstore, as much as he wanted to. Hunger provoked strange actions of goofiness in some people.
“Let’s do it!” Mira calls out, all of a sudden. “C’mon, let’s do it Marty, it’ll be CRAZY!”
END OF CHAPTER ONE
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