Of Madmen and Trains


On one of those fabled hot days on the plains of India I was stuck inside a 3rd Class coach between Lucknow and Pratapgarh. The train had not moved for a half hour. Neither had the breeze. The air hung like wet towels.

My father was snoozing on a berth. I stared into the bright afternoon light praying that the signal would fall. The scrubby, beaten earth did nothing but smash the sunlight back into my eyes.

A Sikh suddenly appeared in our cubicle. He sat on a bench a few feet away from me. I may have glanced at him but paid him no special attention. Still the train didn’t budge. I must have closed my eyes for a few minutes because I was woken by loud shouting.

The Sikh was agitated. The hairs on his chest glistened with beads of sweat. His beard was not the bushiest but his turban was quite big indicating a lot of hair lay underneath–baking, baking, slowly away.

He shouted loudly in the way madmen do. At everyone but no one in particular. His eyes darted about the cubicle as he repeatedly smoothed his beard with his hand. I couldn’t make out what he was saying but whatever it was it was at full volume.

He jumped up for a second, and seemed to be heading toward the door. But then he fell back on the berth unexpectedly. A few heads peeked around from other cubicles. What’s all this, then?

The Sikh shouted. “I am my Yes!”

He beat his chest as if it was a dhol.

“I am MY yes!”

I was trying not to freak out at him freaking out. He glared at me with opaque eyes. I sensed if I moved away he’d not follow me. I trotted down the aisle and jumped off the train.

Inside, the muffled affirmations of his existence carried on. The Ticket Collector eventually showed up and escorted the distressed man off the train, which jerked into motion around the same time. We left him behind, still shouting. Still confused.

I’ve often wondered what became of the Sikh. Was he truly pagal? The incident seemed to provide empirical evidence of the oft-repeated joke about Sikhs: that at midday they went barking mad because the heat built up in their turbans. I pitied him the way he was so unceremoniously abandoned by Indian Railways. How did he, indeed, did he ever, make it back home?

Though I’ve gotten a few good laughs out of that story, it came to mind today because I’ve been reflecting about those words, “I Am”.

**According to seers and gurus the words “I AM” represent the existence of God. When Moses asks the burning bush that has so bizarrely commanded him to go to Egypt and free the Israelites, “Who are you?”, the bush replies,

According to seers and gurus the words “I AM” represent the existence of God. When Moses asks the burning bush that has so bizarrely commanded him to go to Egypt and free the Israelites, “Who are you?”, the bush replies,

I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob–has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna,

I AM the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me.

There is an interesting argument put forward in a document called the I Am Discourses by a man named St. Germain that goes like this:

Life, in all its activities everywhere manifest, is God in Action. I AM is the Activity of that Life. The first expression of every individual, everywhere in the Universe, either in spoken word, silent thought or feeling is “I AM”, recognizing its own conquering Divinity.

So I’ve been mulling all this over in my mind of late.

I AM is the name of God.

Not the God of any particular religion or sect but ‘god’, the Fountainhead of all Life, the Universal Intelligence, the Tao, the Way, the Friend that all mystics and seers know about and refer to. That God. The Infinite Source of all Consciousness. The Dream in which we all dream our individual dreams.

Whatever words we use to describe this ‘Force’, IT apparently refers to Itself as I AM.

If that is the case (and it makes sense to me) then each time the word I Am comes out of my mouth, I channel the voice of whatever that grand entity is that we know is all around us but that we can’t see.

For most of my life I’ve said things like, I am an idiot. I am a nuisance. I am no good. I am pretty average. I am a hack. I am unable to do that. I am too dumb. I am weak. I can’t. And interestingly, I’ve piled up years and years of evidence that confirms these attributes: half written books; abandoned New Year’s resolutions by the score, difficult relationships, low bank balances, multiple gym membership cards and on and on.

Pretty ordinary god, eh? Instead of life, liberty and bliss I get the fizz, the failure and the disappointment. Which raises another intriguing question about this I AM character. It seems to be as weak as piss. It does whatever I say. I call IT (I AM) a loser and voila, I lose! Not exactly the sort of Mighty Strong OMNIPOTENT Force we’ve been led to believe. More like a Farce.

All the seers and prophets and gurus also say : be careful what you think about yourself. Beware of how you use those words I AM. Because what you think and say, turns into ‘reality’. Witness the evidence I described above.

So lately I’ve been making a point of following those words I AM only with positive, life-affirming descriptions. Like I AM strong. I AM smart. I AM capable. I AM worthy. I AM cool.

Simple little change really. But it’s making me feel much better. And the supporting evidence is already arriving.

Which gets me back to that hot afternoon on the train on the plains of India and that poor distressed Sikh who insisted, “I AM my Yes!”

Akira Kurosawa, the Japanese film director said,

“In a mad world, only the mad are sane.” 

Perhaps what I witnessed was not a man who had lost his senses at all, but an Unknown Prophet who was simply chanting the name of God.








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