My dad, James Whitmore, Part Twelve

I had done it. Went ahead and did exactly what I was warned not to do. I drank the water. Got terribly sick with malaria or some such ailment. I was on a houseboat on a frozen lake in Kashmir, a region in the northern part of South Asia. We had gone there on holiday. Good choice. Middle of winter. Frozen houseboat. No heat. Fun, all the way.

The temperature was well-below zero and I was in need of swift medical attention. We were going to move me to a medical facility that could combat the 104-degree fever, liquid pouring forth from every available orifice and my only company the ubiquitous three-dimensional hallucinations. Some not so friendly. Trouble was there was no nearby medical facility.

“Watch your step. You do not want to fall into the lake,” one of the attendees cautioned. “It’s frozen, and with your fever it will be instant frostbite.” I was being maneuvered onto a deck, slippery with ice and oh yes, into the lake I go, my foot crashing deep into the frozen lake.

I was taken to a small hut, nothing but small huts in this day, and they placed my frozen foot inside a burning pot-belly stove, “This will take care of the frostbite,” they assured me. The fire was raging and hot, caught my pants on fire, which didn’t seem to bother my hosts. The pain was excruciating. I was lost in the mountains of Kashmir, watching my foot burn. I looked at my foot again and wondered “what am I doing?” It was the first time I’d pondered that question. Everything had been a roller-coaster ride but the ride was slowing down. I wanted to get off.

My dad had given me a round-trip ticket so I could just go home, but I wanted to check in with Callison folk before deciding. And my leg and foot continued to burn. I managed to buy a small amount of opium which helped with the pain. When everything had turned black and the fire had turned to coals, they told me to take my foot out and I did and to the wonderment of the universe my foot had recovered without loosing any part of my foot. Another mishap avoided by the grace of god or whatever runs this thing.

Back at Callsion, housed at the Shilton Hotel in Bangalore, India, there was revolution a foot. Stoned crazed people, there were drugs everywhere in those days, had decided to shut down the school that India had graciously granted as an adjunct to the University of Bangalore. Some had made a list of demands to be presented to the head of the American and Indian side of the college. In the lobby of the Shilton Hotel, a run-down facility hanging on for dear life. It was a place to house dogs or the homeless, but alcohol makes any place livable. If the list of demands were not met, and I must say the demands were fueled by smart people imbibing way too many drugs. There minds were twisted and I liked it. By way of example, and if memory is correct, which may not, the list included longer longer meal breaks already at our discretion, more American food, more involvement in the curriculum, and more hands-on experience with the Indian people, et al. We were foolish but adamant, I burned my draft card in India as a sign of protest, Silly really because I wasn’t going to war anyway. But it rallied the troops. The fever was high.India took the only logical step and booted the program out of India, unless those that agreed to the strict guidelines set forth. Some stayed but many left. I left and off we went. We were thrown out.

Now, I must be honest I spent my days in Bangalore sitting next to an old drug dealing woman who called herself Mary in a place called Russell Market. It was an open vegetable, fruit, meat market. Flies were as present as the air we breath, especially on the meat. Flies, maggots, I think, crawling over the meat searching for Gold. Ostensibly, she was there to repair shoes. I gave her one of mine once and upon its return it was unwearable. Mary could get opium and since alcohol was in short supply, opium would have to do. Mary and I sat next to each other, day-in, day-out. So much so, she showed me where she lived. In a clay hut with a family of eight, I think. They slept on top of each other separated only by mats. The huts were on each side with a sewer of sorts running through the middle. A trickle of the feces, urine and food scraps that proved uneatable even for starving people. These people who lived here were called untouchables. I liked ‘em. A lot.

In the middle of the lines of hut, there was another hut, Sitting empty at the moment. I asked, I was told it was the bleeding hut, where women went to have their periods. The bleeding hut and this was 1970-71

They had found and empty clay hut, just like all the rest, with nothing in it but a place to build a fire, a clay stove of sorts, and offered me to live there. My girlfriend at the time, although reluctant, was game. We petitioned the college and received a flat no. This was before the school closing and us getting the boot. We did get the boot and because of a round-trip ticket my dad had paid for and given me, I was off to parts unknown; namely Tehran.

Now, that’s a place. Then there was the ambassador’s daughter. I only had one problem, no money. That my dear now-departed pop would not give me. A friend said “not to worry. I know people in Tehran that can put us up.” Yeah, right, but off again I went, a guitar and a duffle bag. Action is what I was looking for always and I was going to get it. Absolutely.

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About stevewhitmore

Former award-winning newspaperman and broadcast journalist, both radio and TV, spanning three decades. Army-trained paralegal, court bailiff and prosecutor's lead investigator for the 8th Infantry Division's Judge Advocate General's Corp., Mainz, Germany. 1973-1975.
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