The Spinning Bowl

by John D. Ritchie

The morning air is damp and sticky, thick with the scents of incense, diesel fumes, dung, and humanity. I walk down a street seething with bodies and machines, where a Brahmin bull lounges nonchalantly half on, half off the choppy surface of the sidewalk. People walk blithely through the bull’s droppings and yet are careful not to step on his tail. A lorry edges past the beast, the driver leaning on the horn with his steering arm while his free hand simultaneously begs forgiveness for his impatience.

Fingers tug at my arms, pluck at my shirt, try to seduce my hands from my pockets where they guard my money and passport. I ignore these unwanted attentions, even when those fingers handle my more intimate parts. These tricks of the petty thief are as old as time.

I can picture the map superimposed on these twisting streets and don’t need to look at the paper in my billfold; I know exactly where I’m going. My hands stay where they are, even while everyone else’s move restlessly over my body. I have traveled too far to be distracted now.

My journey suddenly rewinds six thousand miles in a few seconds. I am back in a squat in Battersea, Southeast London, at the start of my travels even as I approach the end.

It’s dawn. Jonty lies dead on the floor, the needle still in his arm. Rainbow and Jake are gone; I am alone. I frisk his body. Bingo! Something taped in his left armpit. A couple of hits, maybe? A hand-drawn map is not what I expect. Printed on the back are the words: “The Spinning Bowl chooses, the Spinning Bowl decides.”

I weigh my options. Things could get uncomfortable for someone found with a dead man, even a junkie. The Spinning Bowl is in Mumbai, if this map is to be believed, and Mumbai is on the way to a whole lot of other places with a scene. If Jonty thought this was important enough to hide, maybe I should check it out. This bowl might be valuable.

Without warning, I turn to the right. My sudden change of direction fools the probing fingers for a moment. Briefly, I am untouchable. But the hands find their way back and we continue our intimate progress across the street and into an alley.

A rusty sheet metal door covers a gap in the white-washed wall of a house. The groping becomes increasingly frantic as the crowd senses my imminent escape. The number 3 is evident amongst a jumble of arcane symbols, some of which I recognise. The ones I know are charms against the “Evil Eye,” and so, I assume, are the rest.

I get round the problem of knocking on the door by landing a solid kick with the sole of my sandled foot. There is an outbreak of muttering at this. I wonder if I have just broken some local taboo, but a voice calls from inside and I announce my presence.

There is a moment’s pause and then a response of delighted wonder. “You have come, Mr. Jonty! Most welcome, most welcome.”

The door opens. A small man dressed only in a dhoti beckons me inside. As I pass, he hurls insults at my followers, encouraging them to have intimate and unnatural relations with most of their relatives. Pleasantries concluded, he slams the door and bolts it firmly.

I stand in a small, tiled courtyard surrounded by a strange and eclectic mix of potted plants, statues and votive symbols. My host stands beside me and surveys his domain.

“An ill-favoured thing, sir, but mine own,” he says.

“A poor humour of mine, sir, to take that that no man else will,” I respond.

He gasps in delight. “An educated man indeed. Touchstone was my favourite character when I studied at Oxford.” He shrugs. “My father had ambitions. I have failed him. I am a poor son.”

He brightens. “You will take tea.” It is not a question. Here, hospitality and its acceptance are sacred duties.

We sit in the shade and sip a hideously sweet, tarry concoction. I feel the onset of heartburn and am grateful my cup is small. He studies me intently over the rim of his much larger mug. Black eyes buried in a seamed, brown face like currants in a Bath Bun.

“Not like English tea, eh?” I shake my head and he grins. “You have traveled far.”

He refers to my inner journey, not my trek from England. I nod.

“And now you are here.”

Again, I understand the reference is to the ephemeral and I nod.

“The Bowl chooses,” he says. This time I simply return his gaze. He nods, looks at me for a moment, and nods again. “It has chosen well.”

Eighteen hours later, it is dawn, and I am anxious to be moving on. Anxious to see this mythical bowl. In truth, just anxious. He seems to have been up all night. I slept fitfully, and whenever I woke I heard him chanting or the pure note of a bell. I feel like a sacrificial goat, aware something is planned for me but unable to comprehend what it is. I questioned my host about the properties of the Spinning Bowl, what it does, what it is for, what will happen, everything — but what is it worth? He would not be drawn.

He says only, “The Bowl chooses, the Bowl decides.”

Alone in the courtyard, I dress in a sky-blue silk robe, decorated with tiny mirrors and Sanskrit, that I found in place of my clothes this morning. I kneel on the hard tiles. Before me is an altar fashioned from an upturned plastic beer crate and a white-and-blue-striped Marks and Spencer’s tea towel. I find this surreal reference to our common heritage surprisingly comforting, a thoughtful gift from a stranger.

The chanting gets louder as he approaches. He walks round me from behind and kneels opposite me on the other side of the crate. He wears a robe like mine. He lays the bowl he carries reverently before me.

Is this it? I gotta tell you I am seriously disappointed. The bowl looks like something on sale at Wal-Mart. Value, fifty cents, tops. It’s made of some dull, silvery metal and has a fine groove spiraling down from the inner edge into the centre where there seems to be a tiny hole …

… I am slipping, sliding, turning, spinning, spiraling down. Following the groove with my eyes affects my balance. I cannot close my eyes or lift my head. I cannot get my attention away from …

After a moment of infinitely brief strangeness, I stand before five … beings. Three appear to be women, two appear to be men, but I know they are not. Not in an earthly sense. We are all dressed in pure-white gowns with a swastika, ancient symbol of Light, emblazoned over each of our left breasts. Six … voices … sound in my head, each beautiful beyond expression. I realise, with a sense of wonder, that we are communicating telepathically, and the sixth voice is mine. I am welcome; I thank them. They bow to me. We are now one. Our work can begin.

We hang at precisely defined points in space, Gaia spinning beneath us. Four of my companions are visible, one over each Pole and one to each side. The sixth is on the far side of the planet. I lift my arms and turn my hands outwards. Immediately, pulses of light radiate from the Chakras at the centres of my palms. Corresponding pulses reach me from my companions. As the pulses synchronise and interlace, the beams solidify into a network of platinum bars crossing over and around the earth.

The network complete, our crown Chakras begin to absorb Universal Life Force Energy. Emerald beams of Unconditional Love are released by our heart Chakras to illuminate the planet before and beneath us. As the Earth turns, our beams spread until every inch of the surface is bathed in pure divine love. Gaia is gathering the energy she needs to shift to a higher spiritual dimension where the Age of Aquarius can truly begin.

Moved to the uttermost depths of my soul by this beauty, I close my eyes in ecstasy — and my head hits the tiles. A moment later there is a dull, metallic clang beside me, then a diminishing clatter as the bowl rolls into equilibrium.

I open my eyes. The old man, on his knees, peers eagerly into my face. “What happened?” he asks.

I search my mind for a crumb of memory, but the cupboard is bare. “Nothing,” I say.

Bio: John can be found, assuming you have lost him, in a sleepy little place called Dubai. He has been hanging out there for over ten years now and it’s kinda become a habit. John writes for a living because he is too lazy to do any real work and because somehow people keep taking pity on him and publishing his stuff. John could become a beach bum, but he lacks the ambition and drive to achieve that kind of focused lifestyle. John is gathering material for a couple of books, so if you have any words you’re not using ….

For broken links or other errors, contact Asher Black via his website.