The Holy River and the Holy Bath

A sixty-year-old man is sitting on a bench in the park. He has already read his newspaper, which lies folded beside him on the bench, and he is now enjoying the afternoon sun.

A dark-skinned young man with black hair appears. He approaches the bench, carrying a book.

INDIAN: Excuse me, is this place free?

ENGLISHMAN: Of course. Please sit down.

The Englishman moves politely along the bench to make room for the Indian, who sits down, opens a book and begins to read. The Englishman glances at him a few times, before deciding to speak to him.

ENGLISHMAN: Excuse me – I hope you don’t mind my asking. You’re not from these parts, are you?

INDIAN (stops reading): No, I’m not.

ENGLISHMAN: Please don’t get me wrong, and start thinking that, because of your external appearance, I immediately concluded that you aren’t British. No, to me, every citizen of Great Britain – regardless of what colour he is – is absolutely equal and with equal rights. I accept that there are those who think differently, but I’ve never divided British people on the basis of their origin. Perhaps this is because in the area in which I grew up there were people of every colour, so as a child I got used to not seeing any sort of threat in those differences – instead I saw the advantages and variety our country offers. Believe me, I never divide people according to their external appearance, but by their character.

INDIAN: I believe you.

The Indian smiles politely and once again looks down at his book. The Englishman quickly continues the conversation.

ENGLISHMAN: The reason I’m asking is because of your accent and not because of your appearance. And my question isn’t hostile, in the sense that I’d prefer that you hadn’t come to my country. On the contrary, I’m very glad that you’re here. I can see that you’re a very respectable young man and I’m sure that your presence can be nothing but a benefit to all of us. That’s why I simply wanted to welcome you in the name of all citizens of the United Kingdom.

INDIAN: Thank you.

ENGLISHMAN: But where have you come from, if I can be so bold as to ask? I mean, I’d like us to get to know each other, since we now have the opportunity to do so. Of course, that is, if I’m not interrupting your reading.

INDIAN: You’re not interrupting. (Closes his book.) I have to kill time for an hour, so I’ve brought a book to read. It’s nothing important. What was it that you asked?

ENGLISHMAN: Which country have you come from? Of course, providing you don’t think my question is too indiscreet?

INDIAN: No, it’s quite all right. I’ve come from India.

ENGLISHMAN: From India? Yes, yes… Er… (Gives the Indian a friendly tap on the shoulder.) I’m sorry.

INDIAN: Why are you sorry?

ENGLISHMAN: Well – because you had to flee from your country.

INDIAN: I didn’t flee. I came here quite normally.

ENGLISHMAN: No, of course, I didn’t think that they forced you to leave at gunpoint. Am I right in thinking that there’s no war going on in India at the moment?

INDIAN: There hasn’t been a war for decades. Occasionally there are conflicts in some areas, but that has no effect at all on life in my part of India. Admittedly, lately, terrorist attacks have become more frequent.

ENGLISHMAN: O.K. – they happen here as well. It’s the times we live in. But what I want to say is, that even if they didn’t force you to leave, I assume that you didn’t have any other choice. Surely you must have fled from hunger and poverty?

INDIAN: Not at all. I can’t say that I come from a rich family, but I can also say that I’ve never actually starved. I’ve never had too much to eat, but neither have I ever thought that I might die of starvation.

ENGLISHMAN: All right. But even if you weren’t threatened by such a danger, surely the majority of the population is starving and it is this that forced you to leave. What I want to say is that you were to some extent lucky, but you wanted to be sure that your children and grandchildren won’t end up in that hungry majority. You came here to provide them with a normal life. Am I right?

INDIAN: No, you’re not. In India the percentage of the poor population is incomparably higher than here, but it’s still lower than in some other Asian or African countries and it certainly cannot be said that in India the majority of the population are starving. Also, over the past years the percentage of the starving has been constantly reducing. You say that life is normal here, but if you take into account that in the world there are about a billion starving people, life in India is far nearer the norm than life here.

ENGLISHMAN: I didn’t mean…

INDIAN: I quite understand. When you said “normal life”, you didn’t mean average or usual – you were thinking more of a decent life.

ENGLISHMAN: That’s right.

INDIAN: And you think that only here it is possible to live a decent life?

ENGLISHMAN: Well, all right, not only here. There’s North America or Australia, for example. But I doubt whether you can say the same for India. Please, don’t be offended. I’m only trying to be objective. I’m sure that there are many people in India who live decent lives, but I’m also convinced that this cannot be said for the majority of the population.

INDIAN: I’m not offended. I understand perfectly what you are trying to say. You consider the life of the inhabitants of the richest and most powerful western countries the only decent way of life. I admit that many of my fellow-countrymen think the same, but that’s not the case with me. You may not believe me, but I really don’t want to own three cars or twenty pairs of trousers. I don’t want any more food than I had in India, I don’t want the amount of money that would enable me to buy a huge house or to go on holiday in exotic places. I’m used to living modestly, to wearing simple clothes and eating simple food. When I say modestly, I mean according to your standards – to me this is a perfectly decent way of life. Also, from my earliest childhood, I’ve been used to working diligently and conscientiously, and I shall try to instill the same virtues in my children. If I add to this that I inherited a small piece of land from my parents – not enough to make money from it, but sufficient to feed a family – I have no reason to be worried that my descendants are going to die of hunger.

ENGLISHMAN: But imagine that if you and your wife…

INDIAN: I’m not married.

ENGLISHMAN: I’m sorry. I thought that in India you got married very young.

INDIAN: Some do, some don’t.

ENGLISHMAN: All right, I apologize… What was it I wanted to say? Oh, yes. Just imagine if something happened to you and your future wife and your children had to live without you.

INDIAN: Good grief, man – why should something happen to us? You seem very keen that some misfortune should happen to my future family.

ENGLISHMAN: Far from it. I’m speaking purely hypothetically. I beg you not to think that I want anything like that to happen. On the contrary. I honestly want all the very best for you. But imagine – just imagine – that your very small children found themselves without parents. Even if until that time you had brought them up to be used to work and a simple life, who knows whether they would succeed in managing in the world that surrounds them without you. Maybe someone will turn up who will deceive or mislead them so that they end up without that piece of land. Perhaps they will then find themselves on the streets, naked and hungry or even worse – in one of those factories where they exploit children. I read about this recently in the papers, about how in India there are still factories in which very small children work in the most terrible conditions. Surely you must have thought about that when you decided to come here, where there are no such factories. Aren’t I right? Isn’t that why you fled from India?

INDIAN: I didn’t flee from anywhere or anything! I came here to study. At the moment I have a break between two lectures. And when I graduate, I shall be going back to India.

ENGLISHMAN: You’re going back?

INDIAN: That’s right. I’m going back.

ENGLISHMAN: And risk your young children being exploited in some factory? Of course, in the case of…

INDIAN: In the case of something happening to my future wife and me. Yes, I understand. But even if your forebodings actually happen and we both get killed, there will be my and her friends, my and her family. Our children certainly won’t end up without anybody. But just imagine that I stay here and something happens to my future wife and me. Do you really believe that there’s nobody here who might try to use them in some way?

ENGLISHMAN: No, we’re not on the same wavelength. I don’t think that everyone here is good and in India bad. No, people are the same everywhere – some are good and some aren’t. I’m aware that the owners of some of those Indian factories have come from this country and if they could do the same here, they would. But they can’t. The point is that our country is better organized, more ready and able to prevent something bad happening to them than yours.

INDIAN: I agree. But even in the best organized countries terrible things happen to children. You’ve read about Indian factories, but I’ve read about the sexual abuse of children in Belgium, Switzerland, Austria… You will agree with me that these are very well organized and structured countries, but such things still take place in them. That’s why I don’t think I’d be doing my children a favour if I brought them up in Europe or North America instead of India. Terrible things can happen anywhere.

ENGLISHMAN: Even so, there is less likelihood of them happening here, or even in Belgium, than in India.

INDIAN: I’m not so sure. If one compares the number of abused children and the number of inhabitants in Belgium with the same numbers in India, which has more than a billion inhabitants, it’s an open question which percentage is lower. I’ve never had the opportunity to see such information, but I’m pretty sure that India wouldn’t come off much worse.

ENGLISHMAN: Yes, I understand… You quite simply don’t want to say anything bad about your country. Don’t think that I’m criticizing you – I’m not, in fact I respect you all the more because of it. A man should protect his country’s reputation. But, precisely because I respect you, I would like you to look upon me as a friend and to confide in me. I’m not trying to prove that Indians are a bad people – on the contrary, you are proof that they aren’t – what I’m trying to do is point out that there’s something wrong with the Indian social system. You don’t have to be afraid that I will in any way use what you are telling me against you or your country. I’m quite simply interested to know what it was that forced a young, intelligent and devoted man to leave India.

INDIAN: It seems you haven’t been listening to a word I’ve been saying. Nothing forced me to leave! I didn’t flee the country! I wasn’t driven out! I came here to study. That’s all.

ENGLISHMAN: You could have studied in India, but even so you decided to come here. In spite of the fact that you love India. There must be a reason. I suppose the majority of university professors are corrupt, and so you were afraid that your diligence and intelligence wouldn’t be sufficient. Recently I read an article about corruption in Asian countries. The extent to which this has reached is really awful.

INDIAN: So, in your country there’s no corruption, eh? The moment I arrived here, I was met by news of aristocratic titles that your Prime Minister sold to wealthy citizens. If that’s not corruption, then I don’t know what is. And it concerns the first man in the country. And this isn’t Asia.

ENGLISHMAN: I didn’t say that corruption exists only in Asia, and that there isn’t any here. But here…

INDIAN: Yes, I know. Here the mechanism that is in place to stop corruption is better organized and more functional – here the media are more prepared to judge and punish corrupt functionaries.

ENGLISH: That’s precisely what I was thinking.

INDIAN: I knew it… Gosh, you really know how to torture a man. Listen, I agree with you. Forget what I said a moment ago. I accept that corruption, criminal behavior and violating human rights is far more widespread in India than in western countries, I accept that western countries are far better organized in that respect, that those in authority are far better prepared to come to grips with it, and that citizens are more ready to get the authorities to do something about it. But you have to take into account that India, even in comparison with the United States, is a huge country, in which countless different peoples live, some of which have more members than any European nation. There are different faiths, different languages, local customs, local leaders and local conflicts. Just imagine how difficult it is in such circumstances to create a state that functions perfectly at all levels. We naturally come across numerous difficulties and problems, but, in spite of that, things improve and I want to help this process as much as I can. That’s why I’m going to return to India, and that’s why, since you want to know everything, I came here in the first place. I wanted to see a settled and well organized country and to see how its institutions function. I came here to learn something from you and then to use that knowledge in my own country. I came here to learn from you, not to become one of you. It would be easy to stay here and forget about the problems in India. It would not be simply a matter of taking the easy way out, or cowardice – it would be, in one respect, a betrayal. Because you carry a significant part of the responsibility for everything that is happening in India. You ruled India, only taking account of your own interests, and from the moment we became independent, you have done everything possible to prevent us from making any progress. You alienated us from Pakistan and continually stir up tension between us, not allowing us to concentrate on solving the problem of corruption, for example. You have built up your country, mercilessly polluting nature the world over, and now, just as we are beginning to make economic progress, you want us to take care of the environment as we do so. There you are, I’ve told you why I’ve come here, and why I’m going to return and also why I don’t want to stay here. Is everything clear now?

ENGLISHMAN (coldly): Yes, everything’s clear. I’m sorry you have such an opinion of us. (Moves his hand towards his newspaper.)

INDIAN (gently holding his hand): Wait a moment… You didn’t leave me alone until you’d completely got on my nerves, making me say all sorts of things, and now you’re doing everything to make me feel even worse. Listen, when I said “you”, I didn’t mean you personally, nor your fellow-countrymen. You said very clearly that people are the same everywhere, and I agree with you. When I was accusing “you”, I wasn’t thinking of your people, more of your politicians, your state. And all states are the same. India would probably behave in exactly the same way towards your country, if only it was more powerful than it. That’s another reason why I’ve come here. I want to get to know an organized country, but I also want to get to know a powerful country, which has acquired its power and maintains it at the cost of other countries. I want to acquire sufficient knowledge to be able, when I return to India, to help it become as equally well-organized as your country, but I also want to struggle to help it, if it should become more powerful than your country, not to behave towards it, if it is at all possible, in the same way that Britain now behaves towards India. Because if it becomes sufficiently powerful, India will certainly behave like that towards Britain – it already behaves like that towards countries that are weaker than itself. As you see, I don’t think that your people are worse than the Indian people, or that your country is more corrupt than ours. That’s why I beg you not to take offence.

ENGLISHMAN: I’m not the slightest bit offended. On the contrary, I have to admit that you’ve now completely won me over, with your openness, your noble ambitions, your devotion to your country which is united with your concern for other countries. For this very reason I find it difficult to accept your decision to leave us after your studies. I would give anything for your qualities to be built into our society rather than India’s, for you to realize your intentions here rather than in India. To help our country become even more organized and to reduce the damage that it’s doing to other countries. Who could do that better than you, who has personally experienced the misfortunes that our country has caused India? By citing examples from your personal experience you could influence public opinion, especially as a significant part of it shares your opinions. In addition, together with many of my friends, I consider that, outside its borders, our country sometimes behaves adversely to the values that are endorsed within them, adversely to the values that represent the very core of our society. Some of us try to do something to change this, but not particularly passionately, probably because they themselves don’t sense the effects of the phenomenon. But you, with your passionate wish to help India without harming other countries, could shake up the rest of us and actually make a great difference. Believe me this is far from impossible. If you are successful at university you will probably get citizenship without any problem and then you won’t have any obstacles at all in your way. Particularly now that dark-skinned politicians are in fashion. Think about it. This way you could perhaps help India more than you would be in a position to do within it. You know, maybe people won’t welcome you with open arms to start with, but if you’re persistent, with the help of the media and intellectuals you’ll succeed in reaching the people. You said yourself that our country was very well organized in this respect. While in India, it probably isn’t out of the question to lose your head if you oppose some powerful politician. In fact, now I know your political ambitions, it seems to me that it isn’t impossible that you have already got on the wrong side of one of them and that actually you have decided to study here so as to escape to a safe place. Have I finally cracked it?

INDIAN (laughs): You don’t give up, do you? Yes, you’ve finally cracked it. I’ve fled from India. They drove me out, expelled me, ejected me… Is there no way I can explain to you that I came here of my own free will, for the reasons I’ve outlined to you? Why can’t you believe me?

ENGLISHMAN: I believe you.

A brief pause.

ENGLISHMAN: I just want to be sure of one thing. Would nothing have happened to you if you’d stayed?

INDIAN: Nothing.

ENGLISHMAN: And you’ll be going back there when you finish university?

INDIAN: I’ll be going back there. Why does that bother you so much?

ENGLISHMAN: It doesn’t bother me. It’s just that I’m sorry that we’ll be losing someone like you. And I’m sorry that someone like you is going to end up in surroundings that are unworthy of your qualities. I know that you really want to go back there to change those surroundings, but when I think of you in that environment, among people who consider the filthy water of the Ganges to be sacred, you, a rational man…

INDIAN: Not all citizens of Indian, in fact not even all Hindus, think that the Ganges is sacred. But even if they do, what’s so bad in that? Many of your countrymen feel a similar respect for a cross at the top of a church. And when you think about it, it’s far more rational to respect a river, whose water has for hundreds of generations enabled life and contributed to the development of civilization, than two crossed sticks.

ENGLISHMAN: But those two sticks are just a symbol, just a sign of something far more meaningful and elevated. Respect for the cross is symbolic, far deeper and more civilized than the direct, primitive existence of a river. While looking at a cross is simply a motive for meditating about many spiritual questions, your fellow countrymen’s contact with the river is impulsive and physical. Not to mention the potential dangers. I’ve watched on television hundreds and hundreds of Indians going into the dirty, muddy water. Just think of the millions of bacteria that are waiting for them in that water, which some of them even drink. Not to mention that the cleanliness of the majority of those people is, at first glance, to say the least questionable. It’s like a deliberate provocation of illness and infection.

INDIAN: I agree that hygiene isn’t exactly a strong point where bathing in the Ganges is concerned, but its aim is not physical cleanliness, but spiritual cleansing. I consider myself a rational person and a devotee of science, and I don’t think that the water of the Ganges contains any kind of supernatural characteristics. Even so, I once took part in one of those bathing sessions, to satisfy my parents who, like a lot of other Indians consider that life is incomplete without at least one pilgrimage to the Ganges. And believe me, my experience of the river was not the slightest bit more primitive than the Christian experience of the cross. While I stood among those people and felt the water caressing my body, I suddenly realized that that same water had also caressed all the people around me. I suddenly became almost physically conscious of the link between us all, as if the river had become a sort of connecting tissue between all the people in it, who suddenly seemed to me like one huge organism. I was no longer independent of them – I had the feeling that every movement I made and every one of my thoughts were being transmitted through the water and influencing all of them. That connection that I felt also spread to all the people outside the river and to all the animals and plants. I sensed an unbreakable connection between all beings in the world, and all thanks to that river, whose water, in one way or another, had touched all of us. Because at the same time I realized that its water is, in the same way, connected to all other waters in the world, surface, underground and heavenly, as well as to the water in me and the water in other living beings. I realized that everything in the world moves, contacts and penetrates, provoking with its movement and touching new movements and contacts. Borders between individual phenomena no longer existed, the whole world had become one huge, pulsating being, which is constantly changing, this constant changing guaranteeing it eternity. Suddenly death no longer existed. It had also become one of innumerable changes, in essence nothing being any more important than anything else. At that moment, my personal problems, the thoughts that had been haunting me over the previous few days and robbed me of sleep, became almost funny. I could feel the water washing them out of me, like dirt, just as – and I sensed this equally as clearly – it was washing all the uncleanliness from all the other people in the river. I knew that all our fears, pains and problems had been taken away by the tender hand of the river, in whose universality they would dissolve like dust and disappear. I felt calm and serene and was certain that all those around me felt the same, that like me they were prepared to come out of the water feeling humble, good and just people, and would make an effort to live in harmony with that overall connection and to disturb its equilibrium as little as possible. I felt both respect and understanding for everyone in the world and I didn’t want to hurt a single one of them in any way whatsoever, because I didn’t want to hurt myself; quite simply, I knew that they were all me. I didn’t want fame and wealth; I knew that I was just a tiny part of a huge organism and thus completely insignificant and so could not so much as dare to expect other people’s admiration, and I knew that I needed no greater wealth than the realization that I myself was participating in the eternal life of that infinite being. Physical satisfaction became totally unimportant to me; I knew that my body was just a small part of a huge superbody, while my soul was as infinite as the cosmos that was reflected in it and that the satisfaction of observing those reflections was greater than all bodily delights. At that moment, instead of the tastiest dish and drink I chose a glass of that dirty water from the Ganges, water that was connected with all other waters, water that had also sanctified me. The sip of water that was flowing through my body, was the river in miniature, a part of the great holy river, which was also part of the overall course of the universal river of life. I am sure that you will agree that my experience while bathing in the Ganges was no less deep and no less morally worthwhile than any Christian experience of what the cross symbolizes.

ENGLISHMAN: I agree. But it never even crossed my mind that your experience of bathing in the Ganges would be the same as that of the people I saw on television. You’re an intelligent, educated and sensitive person, but such a person is always the exception, not only in India, but here as well. Thanks to your qualities, you have experienced a primitive, magical ritual in an enlightened and civilized way, embodying into it your scientific knowledge of that universal connection that exists in nature. But please don’t deceive yourself that the people around you were sharing your thoughts and feelings. No, you’ve unselfishly transferred your impressions to them. To the rest of the world even. I am absolutely convinced that the impressions of the majority of those present went no further than a superstitious expectation that the water whose flow they felt on their bodies would, through some magical power, rid them of their sins, fears and doubts, and that, you will agree, is considerably different from your experience.

INDIAN: But even if everything you say is true, is it important whether or not they experienced bathing in the river differently from me, if the result of the bathing was the same as in my case? And I’m sure that it was – I’m sure that they came out of the water feeling liberated and cleansed. If that wasn’t the case, why did some of them continually return to plunge into the water once again? Even if it was only a question of superstition and autosuggestion, does that lessen the value of the final effect of bathing in the Ganges?

ENGLISHMAN: You haven’t understood me. I’m not trying to lessen the value that ritual has for them, I’m just trying to underline the difference between your civilized and their primitive experience of that bathing. I want to prove to you that you belong here and not there. Quite simply, this is your natural environment, here there are far more people similar to you, people who will understand you, who will support you in everything you want to do. I emphasize once more that I don’t consider that people in your country are any worse or less worthy than my fellow countrymen, but it is a fact that they are more primitive. That is simply the result of history and geography, the environment in which they live and events whose effects they still feel. I agree with you that my country is to a certain extent responsible for that, but it is here in my country that you will have more possibilities to do something regarding all that, than in an environment where people have to plunge into water in order to be able to cope with life.

INDIAN: But people do that here as well.


INDIAN: Yes. They do it every day.

ENGLISHMAN: Come off it, please! When have you seen people dashing like that into the Thames in order to feel relief?

INDIAN: I wasn’t thinking about the Thames.

ENGLISHMAN: Where, then?

INDIAN: In the bath.

ENGLISHMAN: In the bath?

INDIAN: Yes, in the bath. As soon as I arrived here, I noticed that the majority of the population were absolutely obsessed with taking a shower. They shower as soon as they get up and then one or two more times at least during the day.

ENGLISHMAN: But that’s something different, something totally different – in fact quite the opposite of bathing in the Ganges. That way people simply maintain their cleanliness, tidiness and health, which is one more piece of evidence concerning the civilization of today’s population.

INDIAN: That’s what I thought to begin with. Then I noticed that some of you shower when you are perfectly clean, when only a few hours have passed since the previous shower, when they have not been sweating or got dirty. Then I realized that it is in fact your form of bathing in the Ganges, only here, instead of a holy river, it’s a matter of a holy bath. Your aim is not cleanliness, but relaxation, bettering your mood and strengthening your will, just the same as with my fellow countrymen who plunge into the Ganges.

ENGLISHMAN: All right, then. There’s some sense in what you are saying. For months now I’ve had problems with my stomach. Precisely half-an-hour after lunch my stomach suddenly starts aching, and then, just as suddenly, it stops a few hours later, during my usual evening shower. Until now, I didn’t connect the two things, I thought that for some reason the pain quite simply always lasted the same length of time, and that it stops during my shower because every day I lunch and shower at the same time. However, listening to what you say about holy baths, my usual showering time immediately sprung to mind and I realized that the pain is driven away by the calming contact with the warm water that is passing over my body.

INDIAN: There, you see that you aren’t that much more advanced than my fellow-countrymen. It could even be said that their experience of the holy river is even deeper than your experience of showering. Unlike you, they are at least aware that the contact with flowing water brings them relief.

ENGLISHMAN (coldly): Maybe, but at least I don’t bow down before a cow.

INDIAN: What do you mean?

ENGLISHMAN: Don’t play the fool. I know perfectly well that Indians believe that the cow is a holy animal. I read in the papers that they lynch anyone who kills a cow on the spot, even if it was done quite accidentally. And you compare such savages with me. Primitive and backward savages.

INDIAN: Do you consider them primitive just because they respect the life of a cow?

ENGLISHMAN: It’s not a matter of respect for life, but a barbarian worship of the cow. If they have the slightest respect for anyone’s life, they wouldn’t kill a man who accidentally hits a cow with his car.

INDIAN: But if in your presence someone runs over a member of your family with his car, how would you react? I doubt whether at that very moment you would think about whether or not he had done it on purpose.

ENGLISHMAN: Please be careful what you say, foreigner. You’re obviously not aware of the fact, but you have just compared members of my family with a cow.

INDIAN: I’m perfectly aware of that. Because for many Indians, including even myself, the cow is like a second mother. For a long time, milk was the only food that kept the citizens of India alive. As soon as they stopped feeding off their mother’s milk, they would move on to cow’s milk and so there’s nothing strange in giving the same respect to cows as to their own mother. You call that primitive, but I think it’s far more civilized than the way you treat your cows, meaning your mothers. You keep them shut away and you hit them, you take their children away from them or kill them, and in the end you often kill and cut up the cows themselves. And all the time you feed on their milk. Can you really not understand how abnormal that is? I don’t eat meat and milk is the only food of animal origin that I take into my organism, but since I’ve been here I haven’t tasted a drop. How could I? My parents taught me from childhood that while I eat I should think about the food I’m chewing or the liquid I’m swallowing. For example, if I’m drinking milk, I think of our cow, which my entire family treats with respect, which no one has ever hit and which roams freely over our land and outside it. However, if I were to buy milk here from a shop, I should have to think of the humiliation and torture of animals that have lived imprisoned and whose life depends on the will of its owner. And on top of all that I have to look at a smiling cow on the milk carton. It’s like drinking the milk of a woman in a concentration camp, while she is waving merrily to you from the carton. Think a bit about this and you’ll want to come back with me to my Indian village.

ENGLISHMAN: Stop. I can’t listen to all this repulsive stuff any longer. (He puts his hand on his stomach.) There, and now my stomach’s started aching. Before now it’s never ached before lunch.

INDIAN: It’s obviously psychosomatic. You’re too stressed. Have you ever tried breathing exercises? I’ll show you, if you like. The important thing is to relax and to free yourself of all thoughts, to concentrate solely on the air that is entering you and leaving you. Think of the contact of the air with the inside of your nostrils, and then on the contact… (The Englishman gets up.) Sit down and I’ll show you. You’ll see that things will get easier for you. Where are you going?

ENGLISHMAN: I’m going home to have a shower and to drink a glass of warm milk. And you can take yourself back to your fucking India with your barbarian sorcery.

The Englishman walks along the path in the park. The Indian watches him for a while, and then picks up the newspaper the Englishman has left on the bench. He opens it and leafs through it, and then he folds it up again and leaves it on the bench. He opens his book and continues to read.


Originally published in BCS (Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian) in Par grama drama (A Few Grams of Drama) in 2010. Translated by Timothy John Byford. Translation copyright by Kosta Tadic.