Ann C, Norwich: "This is a fascinatng book packed with stories about adventures on the "Hippy Trail" in all its reality.It was harsh with extreme discomfort.heat and dust and sometimes illness. It took strength and endurance .but then. the rewards were a rich awareness of other cultures and beliefs. I recommend it warmly.and did I mention, it is so funny!"
Roger W E, Swansea: "My Hat is becoming an independent friend, as I read on - he/she/it is competing with you! Roger WE"
Chris P, Essex: "Awesome read fella, most enjoyable."
Ian L, Norfolk: "Read it before Christmas, liked it, very entertaining, definitely a good read, well done Alun."
Frank K, W Sussex: "Loved the book Alun and have shown friends, also travellers with a Hippie hat. Great days to remember for you I bet. I like the way you laid out the text too, great read."
Mark S, Norfolk: "Loving the book."
Melissa D, Italy "I really enjoyed this book..... but I have to admit I skipped some of the travel book descriptions. My favourite part is..... No, I won't spoil it for you!
Simon B, Norwich: "You were lucky to survive. Loved the book."
Let me introduce myself, I am called Myhat.
I am quite an old hat. I was made decades ago. I had been passed many times to a few heads, yet had seldom found one that I felt really comfortable on.
About 40 years ago, everything changed. I found myself upon a head that I had a close affinity with and I found myself seeing, hearing, smelling much through this young man, Al - and even picking up on his emotions and thoughts.
I was lost then for several years, stored in a cupboard until, once again, I found myself on Al's head and now I can tell my tales.
Al and I spent some nine months together on our first trip, visiting many big cities and several small villages, in eight countries, all different, all new to myself and my new head – an adventure of a lifetime.
I had sat on Al's head and witnessed all sorts of strange places and events until we had travelled to India and then to the UK.
When Al arrived back in the UK, he was quite ill, having suffered from a problem called Hepatitis and also dysentery. Al went to his parent's house in Wales and then to hospital. But whilst he was in that hospital, I was never on his head after he had arrived, and ended up in a box in a storage cupboard.
I didn't know what was happening. Why was Al leaving me? How long was I to be here? What would become of me now? Would I get a new head? Would I get more adventures? Would I be treasured or neglected?
Then one day, Al took me out of my box and put me back on his head.
That is how it came that I found myself back on Al's head. I have been on and off Al's head for about forty years and now I can tell my tales. Al had done a lot of travelling over those forty years.
I had always been able to understand any language spoken and understood by whatever head I was placed on - but never been able to utter anything myself – until now! I have discovered that I can help Al remember the places we had experienced together and I somehow I managed to place the idea of writing my tale for me. Anyway, that idea came upon Al and here he is, writing this for me!
As well as understanding the thoughts, memories and feelings of my head – I felt as he felt - I have been able to see through the eyes, hear through the ears and even taste through the mouth and tongue of my head – Al – and over the days developed a strange connection so that so long as Al was nearby, I could watch what was going on around him – even when not on his head!
I watched, I listened and I remembered – and that is how I come to write this story through a head called Al.
A DIP IN THE GANGES
After a pleasant afternoon with Ashok and his family, they drove back to Haridwar and Al was dropped off back near the railway station where, once again, he slept on the wooden bench.
The following morning after a breakfast of fruit, yoghurt and bread, Al took a stroll around the town. It seemed very old. The streets were crowded with people going about their days amidst the cows.
After a while he found a bridge over the river Ganges. It looked greener on the other side, with trees to sit beneath and watch the powerful currents pass. So he crossed the bridge and turned right to follow a rough path running besides the River.
He spotted an orange-robed elderly and bearded man sitting cross-legged beneath a tree, a semi-circle of younger people sitting facing him.
Al knew that they were called Baba’s, as he himself had been called a few times.
“Maybe he’s one of those guru teachers,” Al thought.
Back in England Al had read about the pop group The Beatles who had taken up with a Guru called Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who had taught them how to meditate and himself gained great publicity and popularity – maybe it was something to do with that.
The orange-robbed ‘teacher’ shouted something and motioned to Al to go over and join them and sit down. Al complied. The elderly teacher smiled and asked Al where he was from and why he was in Haridwar, in a broken English with an almost German accent.
Al explained that he had travelled overland from the UK, simply on an adventure and that he was here because he had met a Spanish man in Delhi who had recommended it as a good place to stay for a while. The teacher laughed and from under his robes produced a chillum. The chillum was prepared, wrapped in a safi – a small piece of cloth that served as a sort of filter – the tobacco hash mixture poured in and the lit chillum passed around so that everyone including Al had a good puff.
The teacher-come-chillum-maker – the Baba – asked Al if he had a few rupees for another chillum. Al handed over a small note. A young boy suddenly appeared from amongst the nearby thickness of trees, took the note, ran off into the trees to return seconds later with a small lump of black hash which he passed on and which was instantly made into another chillum and smoked.
Al stayed a short while and as nothing was being said and he was quite high on the hash, he said his goodbyes and left, carrying on in the same direction as before. Within minutes he was sitting with another group under another tree, smoking again.
“This is the good life!” thought Al, so high that he was beginning to feel like he was in a Holy city in India. “By the Ganges!”
He left the second group and walked some hundred yards before he had the idea that immersing oneself in the Ganges was supposed to purify the soul.
“Well,” he mumbled under his breath so only he (and I) could hear, “Why not, it’s hot and I’ll soon dry off.”
Across the river he could see a long walled building complex with steps going down to the River. As he got closer he could see steps going down on this side too. A few steps, “I should be OK."
The water was moving very fast. Al thought maybe he would not immerse himself, just splash himself all over.
“After all, I can’t swim.” So he put down his bag, took me off his head and put me on his bag, took off his sandals, and stepped down and in to the water.
With some hesitation, one step, second step, third step – then his feet were swept from under him. He felt himself falling backwards into the water which he knew would sweep him away. Too high to feel real fear, he envisioned the situation if he was to be swept down the Ganges – he would have to try to float. He had to hope he would be saved, but who would swim in this? How many bodies had ended up like this. Was this really Holy Water?
As he fell he reached out and somehow managed to grab a chain that was attached to the land, maybe for mooring a boat. He grabbed the chain but the force of the water was now tugging at his body like a hungry monster and now splashing his whole body with his head about to go under.
As his head went under he felt a wrenching on his arm but he pulled stronger, now his head was out, now his body, now he was clambering up the steps, drenched and coughing up Holy Water. He made it to the grassy bank and collapsed on the floor.
I felt so many emotions and thoughts and images flooding Al’s brain.
“So fucking stupid! I could have died.”
“Am I cleansed? Am I saved? Don’t feel any different.”
“God I’m stoned! I shouldn’t have done that. What would have happened if that chain wasn’t there?”
“Glad I took Myhat off!"
So was I.
Had I been in that water I would surely have been swept away for ever.
But it wasn’t long before Al was dried out and sitting with yet another group smoking another chillum.
After a while, that particular teacher said that they had seen Al go into the River and now his soul was clean. That was about all he said, except he asked Al if he wanted some chai and said that “Mahatma is coming, he will take you for chai.” Al liked the spicy milky tea drinks.
Al wondered if this was the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi or maybe some local lord or lord’s son, a rich man probably. Everything was so strange that Al did not know what to expect next. I was wondering about who this ‘Mahatma’ was - maybe he made hats?
After a while a man in orange robes accompanied by a small group of Indian-looking people approached. Apparently he was the Mahatma. He exchanged words with the teacher under the tree and said to Al: “OK, you come now for chai and this evening we will do our ‘Arti’ parade through town and then you join us and come to Ashram maybe?” They walked a while, crossed a bridge and entered a small chai shop where the Mahatma said something to the owner or waiter – who did not look too pleased – pointing at Al who, seemingly somewhat disgruntled, delivered to his table with “No charge, Sir” and the Mahatma and his entourage left, saying “Join us for Arti parade.”
There were still a few hours before evening so Al decided to go and wait on his bench back at the railway station.
That was when everything changed.
AVAILABLE AT http://www.buffry.org.uk/allaboutmyhat.html
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