Wrestling In Spaghetti
In 1979 my companion Subarata and I travelled from Perth in Western Australia to Adelaide in South Australia via circuitous ways and innumerable adventures, eventually settling out near Port Adelaide and the beginnings of another kind of odyssey.
For it was here we found the Sri Chinmoy Centre. Travelling east from Perth you can cross the endless Nullarbor Plain by road along the Eyre Highway – a 2,700 km epic – or in leisurely fashion on the Indian Pacific railway, gazing out for two days at the vast, unpopulated desert which features the longest dead straight stretch of rail in the world – 478 kms! So flat you can see the slow curve of the earth's rim.
But we caught a ride by car on the edge of that red expanse, shared the journey with two strangers who ended up being firm friends and who gave us four months of work in their outback motel, the Quorn Mill Motel on the edge of another wilderness, the Flinders Ranges. Subarata became the new waitress to the tour bus arrivals, I a charlatan wine waiter and handyman and we lived in a caravan parked up in the dusty back yard of the motel.
Sometimes our new friends towed our caravan-home 200 miles north and left us for a few days at roads end in the empty, endless hills, their rust-orange escarpments and valleys of pale eucalyptus spread out in all directions. Wandering under extravagantly beautiful sunsets and dawn skies filled with flocks of wheeling birds, their wings turning grey, then pink, then silver as they turned in unison in the first sunlight, an aerial spectacular high up against the blue, exulting in the new day's gift of life.
Three years in the Adelaide Sri Chinmoy Centre followed, then a 'promotion' – a move to Auckland in New Zealand. There, simple living in a succession of small flats, short-lived jobs, our first years littered with abandoned careers. Subarata was a domestic help, motel cleaner, walker of wealthy people's pets, office temp, puller of staples out of paper with the Archives Division of the Department of Internal Affairs – and fired after only three days for wearing headphones at work, which they felt would interfere with productivity! I an arborist, incompetent night auditor, trainee bus-driver, ice-cream stacker, kitchen hand.
Then we joined forces as a clown duo, Cleo and Koto. I wore a giant pair of polka-dotted pink pantaloons under my clown trousers and Subarata the renegade clown would say a magic word in complicity with the children and my trousers would keep 'falling' down, revealing over and over the spotted outrageous bloomers, much to the mirth of the kids and Koto's dismay. The children howled and shrieked, insatiable for more, almost apoplectic with excitement every time Subarata invoked the magic words and the trousers tumble.
At one Auckland restaurant where I did children's face painting and animal balloons, the entertainment featured a bizarre piece de resistance – two large women wrestling in a giant vat of spaghetti. It wasn't easy for diners to enjoy their meal with a pair of 200lb behemoths grunting and struggling nearby in a great trough of tomato sauce and spaghetti, and the experiment failed, the restaurant closed and I moved on to a salesman job selling sheet metal. Subarata and I befriended the women wrestlers – Natasha the florid-cheeked former Russian baker and Mel, a bankrupt florist seeking quick money to get ahead. We recognised in each other fellow misfits in that secret society of the disenchanted, the silent fellowship of nous autres.
One day we decided never to work for anyone else ever again, no matter what happened – our real vocation lay elsewhere and a blossoming sense of our soul’s deeper purpose gripped our life. An inner call had come.