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The Essay
Show #529
Punjab Patel
David Gunn

Daybreak. A cock crows, awakening Punjab Prahesh Yogi Patel, Supreme Guru of the Dew Drop In Ashram in southwesternmost Lincolnshire. With practiced precision, he rolls off of his heated waterbed and simultaneously presses a button on the nightstand, extinguishing the row of lava lamps on the headboard. In the dark, he pads back into the alcove behind the bed, opens the refrigerator, pulls out the beaker of leftover Alabama slammer and drains it. His appetite whetted, Punjab uncorks a bottle of Flintstones Vitamins and pops half a dozen tablets (two grapes, an orange, a strawberry and two tangerines), then washes them down with a demitasse of cold espresso that had been left on the counter for more days than he'd care to remember. The glow from the refrigerator illuminates his reflection in a mirror, and he peers at his face to see how well the depilatory cream is working. Lingering by the toaster, he considers a poptart, but then he hears the sound of approaching voices from outside. Hurriedly, he shuts the refrigerator, dashes to the nightstand and presses a second button. With a soft rumble, the bed slowly slides into the alcove. Punjab whips off his silk pajamas and tosses them to Mitzy, his sleeping companion, who catches them expertly on one finger, as if she's done it many times. She blows Punjab a kiss as the wall closes on her and the bed. He picks a threadbare sackcloth robe from a basket and throws it on just as there is a gentle tapping on the door. He lights a candle with his Zippo, quickly scans the room for any telltale incongruities, sees none, and clears his throat.

"I, Supreme Guru Punjab Prahesh Yogi Patel, extend felicitations to Namo Bhagwate, the dawning of the new day, and to its disciples who now greet me. Please to enter my humble cell."

The door opens, revealing three men in similar sackcloth garb. They bow deeply to their guru while intoning "amman exx." Punjab suppresses a smirk, for what his followers think is an ancient Sanskrit mantra is really the mispronunciation of a breakfast entrée at a nearby Denny's. The men look up and Punjab waves them in, which they do after removing their sandals and respectfully picking the grime from beneath their toenails. Each carries a guttering taper that provides flickering illumination to the room--enough to reveal an open bottle of Southern Comfort next to the guru's sleeping mat.

"Let us meditate karana sharira!" Punjab says suddenly. As the three men all fall to their knees, he grabs his candle and tries to jam it into the top of the bottle. But the neck is too narrow; it won't fit.

"Karana sharira omm," drone the three men.

"Mukti Ka sees that you are sincere; thus, she allows you to enter her womb of equanimity," responds Punjab, taking a deep pull on the bottle.

"Amman exx," the men murmur. Punjab's stomach rumbles in empathy.

"Be brave. Be courageous. Bebop!" says Punjab, as an illustrative tenor sax jazz riff wafts through the room. The three men remain prone, so awed are they by holy yogi's great powers. Punjab, meanwhile, presses another button on the nightstand. The stereo in his alcove shuts down and the room is again filled with silence, save for the soft whoosh of the dishwasher behind the wall. Taking another swig from the bourbon--and then another, emptying the bottle--he walks, a little unsteadily, to the door and opens it.

"By the grace of Lord Krishna," Punjab continues, pompously, "I, the self-realized saint of Sadhana spiritual energy, bid thee rise and follow me outside where together we may reap the fruits of the divine sunrise." Lowering their heads deferentially, the three men get up, file out of the room and join Punjab in the courtyard, where he is blowing into the bottle. The sound summons other inhabitants of the Dew Drop In Ashram, who spill out of their meditation cells into the courtyard. Among them is Swami Bengaze, a mysterious figure in that he never appears to be quite in focus--at least to anyone who's just put away a fifth of Southern Comfort. It is, of course, Beano, the musical shaman, attired in brightly patterned dashiki and adobe hat. He, too, is cradling a bottle, though on closer inspection, it tuns out to be a bottle-nosed dolphin. The two of them share an inter-species joke, which elicits a roar of laughter from the cetacean.

As the first rays of the sun flicker over the Ashram's east wall, Punjab holds his hands above his head. "The Heavenly Dawn blesses each of you, so long as you are paid up in full for your stay at Dew Drop In," he says. "Now we focus on the fourth of the seven chakras, Manipura Chakra, located behind the navel." As one, the acolytes reach down and touch their umbilici. Punjab shakes his head. "No, not there. For the transferal of wholly divine energy, you must go further inside you--all the way through your body to the other side." The forty-odd sojourners then reach behind them until their hands simultaneously light on ... their wallets. Punjab smiles. "Lord Almighty Krishna himself will be pleased to receive a token of your appreciation of the new day's breaking," he says, blowing into and licking the last drop from the bottle. Then he nods to his attendants, who wander through the crowd, assisting with yet another spiritual donation shake-down.,/p>

Swami Bengaze, however, does not reach for his wallet. When the guru's subordinate approaches, he instead holds up his dolphin. The dolphin blinks, and the instantly mesmerized assistant hands Beano his own wallet. Though borderline besotted, Punjab notices the irregularity at once and he stalks over to Beano and the dolphin. Again, Beano holds the bottlenose up and again it enthralls its quarry. Punjab Prahesh Yogi Patel reaches for his wallet but instead pulls out a remote control device. As he offers it to Beano, his thumb inadvertently presses one of the buttons. A shriek issues from inside his cabin as the waterbed folds up into its cupboard with Mitzy still on board. Shaking off his torpor, Punjab frantically presses another button. The shrieks are drowned out by loud movie music as his big screen DVD player is activated.

"Simsalla karana!" shouts Punjab. "Lord Krishna calls to me. Go now and meditate!" Still clutching his bottle, he rushes past his confused devotees back into his cabin.

Today's 529th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar is all about adobe hats and, yes, Southern Comfort--the latter provided by today's guest, the former provided, no surprise here, by Kalvos.