Because of our prior filming at the Parmarth Niketan ashram in Rishikesh, Jennifer and our assistant Ratshit and I were … hold on, I mean RaChit… and I were invited to the launch of the International edition of the Encyclodedia of Hinduism.
Attending was the Vice President of India, along with a plethora of saints.
The biggest Saint of the lot though, and the bloke who invited us, was Swamiji Chidanand. The encyclopedia is his baby
It's 11 volumes in all, over 7000 sections, and more than six million words. Twenty years ago Swami Chidanand instigated this massive work, and now it's been published. On Amazon it costs US$720.
I'd pick up a couple of sets for Chrissie pressies but I'm concerned about excess baggage.
Anyway tonight was a huge event, covered extensively by tv and press, and Jennifer and Ratshot and I were treated as VIPs. Sorry, I meant Ratshit.
In part, out VIP treatment was because of the blue jacket.
I call it the “power blue” jacket. I'd picked it up in Rome on a “promotion” for €99. Beautifully tailored – a smokey Dean Martin kind of colour.
One thing I've learnt, if you wear a snazzy jacket – even if you're wearing Stubbies and thongs and you smell of Four X, people take you seriously.
They took me seriously tonight.
Holy men came up to me and gave me their business cards, and said how wonderful it was to see me again. I said yes, you too – you're looking great. Meditation does wonders for the skin.
There was a Sikh dignitary in the front row. He was wearing a striking blue turban and a blue vest. We later passed each other in the gents and nodded our joint approval at each other's blue splendour…
As I was leaving, a bloke wearing saffron robes, and with a huge supplicant entourage in tow, suddenly stopped when he saw me. The whole circus behind him had to stop too, each devotee bumping into the one in front with the sudden de-escalation in ambulation.
How wonderful to see you again, he said, extending his hand.
I'd never seen this dude before in my life.
Wonderful to see you too, I said. Meditation does wonders for your skin, I added.
You must come visit me at my ashram. My special guest, he said, and gave me his card.
I took a look at the card. I had absolutely no idea who he was. But obviously given his entourage, he was important.
By this stage, a swarm of photographers had encircled us, and was taking photos. I proffered my best side, which showed off the blue jacket.
I would be delighted I said. But tomorrow I'm off to Bermuda, and then Madagascar. Work, I said, and sighed.
Ah yes, and how is your diplomatic work going, Ambassador? he asked, querulously.
I paused for a beat, quickly constructing a reply which might sound plausible.
The Middle East is still problematic, I said, frowning with concern. And of course there's ISIS. Cheeky buggers. But thank God for drones! I said, and slapped him on the back and quickly got lost in the crowds.
During the interminable speeches, which lasted a couple of hours and were made more interminable because they were in Hindi, I watched the Swamiji, whom I'm interviewing tomorrow.
He is an extraordinary man. A true activist. He not only initiated and brought into being this amazing encyclodedia, but he's started up a string of orphanages across the country, he's active in educating the poor, he is a big stirrer internationally on environmental matters, and very vocal on climate change, and is regarded as one of the world's most important spiritual leaders. He counts as friends world leaders, rock stars, and the Dalai Lama.
This is not some monk sitting in a cave up in the Himalayas. He's out in the real world working hard to make it a better place for us all.
So the interview is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon, and I'm very excited.
I'm thinking I might wear my blue jacket…
(note: pic taken by Jennifer, and hence it's out of focus…)