Circa 1977

“Soul searching is best done whilst sitting on a wall overlooking a garbage dump,” says Guru, my new office colleague-cum-friend.
I nod in reply.

It is late evening. We are sitting on a dusty ledge looking down at a mountain of human refuse. The smell wafting up is nauseating and I fight the impulse to throw up.

My pal isn't a 'guru' in the classical sense of the word, meaning spiritual master. But once in a while, he lets loose profound statements that has earned him the nickname.

Guru is an eccentric introvert and I am his only close friend. For some reason, I find his thoughts attractive and like listening to him.

“This is Tamas,” he continues, pointing to the dump below us, “what we human beings are stuffed with. Darkness and filth.”

“Hmm,” I murmur. He has a point, in a strange, unexplainable way.

“And it is our duty to recognise this fact, shake off our delusion, and elevate ourselves from our despicable situation. Bye.” He hops off the ledge and walks off.

The next morning, I learn that Guru has left town and moved to somewhere in Guyana, South America. I feel a pang of regret on hearing that, wishing he had told me his new address. It would have been great to visit him and discuss spirituality.

I don't hear about Guru again until one year later.

the lingering stench of
bitter almonds

wrong map my Driver takes the right turn


According to Hindu philosophy, 'Tamas' is one of the three qualities that constitute the world. It represents darkness, ignorance and destruction.
In 1978, the cult leader Jim Jones killed almost a thousand of his followers in Jonestown, Guyana. He is supposed to have convinced or forced them to consume potassium cyanide, a poison that smells like bitter almonds.