Meeting the Madonna

It was a beautiful spring day, late morning as the shadows told. We were winding our way on a very old public transport bus to the village if Simla, then a tiny if capital city of Himachal Pradesh in the north of India, backed up against the the foothills of the Himalayas.  The elevation in this small town went from hundreds to many thousands of meters. The British Raj summered there to get away from the oppressive Rajasthan heat, but that’s another time and another story.

This day was crystal and the sky was clear.  I saw through the front window a woman making her way up the road with a huge bundle of sticks on her head.  I jumped forward and told the driver in my broken Hindi to pull over and pick this woman up. The next village was a mile further up this climb and we could take her that distance.  A short argument ensued but with my assurance of payment he pulled over and we climbed out of the bus and greeted this woman.

I was astonished by her face. It was old. Ancient, in fact, with lines like the crevasses of these many canyons. She was casual, even as she stood under this pile of wood, stacked three-quarters again as tall as her height. The smile on this face was effervescent. She was glowing out to a couple of feet, and I was stunned by the stillness that surrounded her.

With my best Hindi and the driver’s best whatever-it-was-he-was-was-speaking, we managed to get her to understand our offer of a ride to her village.

In a very sing-song voice that came from everywhere she laughed and garbled a response that embraced me.   She nodded as she spoke and we knew that an agreement had been made. We all walked to the back of the bus and she casually set her sticks on the ground.

I directed the driver to climb the ladder up the back of the bus, explaining that I would hand the sticks up to him and he would lash them to the luggage rack with the other baggage.  Up he went, while Madonna looked on with her incredible smile and crinkly eyes.

God, she was lovely.

He was in place and I took a grip on the bindings of this bundle and gave it my best weight-lifter’s move.   I probably tore every muscle in my body and cracked a few bones. For sure I pushed out a hemorrhoid. The pile did not BUDGE off the ground.

I recoiled from this simple assignment in astonishment. I thought I had simply gotten hung up on the bus’ bumper, and thus could not budge the load. I looked and did not see the binding spot.  Nevertheless, certain that my explanation was the most obvious and therefore correct reason for the problem, and not willing to deal with the notion that I could not handle with ease a bundle that this tiny woman had carried for miles, I took another grip and gave it a heave.

I saw stars. I had now a family of hemorrhoids. I was confused. I looked over at this five-foot-nothing granny and she  smiled back, completely unconcerned with my incompetence or my frustration. I told the driver to come down and hand the bundle up to me. Down he scrambled, and up I went.

He got a grip, and with an impressive grunt  and his neck thick with bulging veins and quivering muscles, he actually managed the herculean accomplishment of raising the bundle off the ground for a shaky two seconds.  He dropped the sticks and stood back and spewed a few expletives with which my Hindi could not keep pace.

The Madonna stood forward and calmly motioned the driver up the bus. She leaned over and grabbed the straps on the bundle and handed it up to us like yesterday’s laundry.  We were stunned at first and just looked at each other, and then reached down to grab it by it’s ropes. We were powerless to move it – both of us together pulling with all our might.

Madonna climbed on to the rear bumper and climbed the ladder, holding on with one hand and pushing the bundle with her other.

Once on top,  the driver lashed it down – an unnecessary precaution as I’m sure the dent it was causing on the roof was sufficient indication that it was going nowhere.  We scurried down and ushered Madonna inside.

The smile never left her face. Her sing-song voice never stopped its happy serenade, and we rolled up to her village in wonder. We got out and went back on top of the bus and rolled it to the edge. She caught it with one hand and walked down the ladder supporting the bundle until her feet touched the ground when she effortlessly shifted the load to her head and walked casually away in to the morning.

The driver refused payment for her fare.


Categories: General | 20 Comments

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20 thoughts on “Meeting the Madonna

  1. WTF? Jesus H. Christ!

  2. Sapere Aude

    What an incredible story – written by a great writer who knows the essence of communication. I enjoyed this, thank you.

    • I’m happy you enjoyed my encounter. Its a thrill for me to revisit these from time to time, and to recall the people who have had an impact on my life. You have inspired to do another, so stay tuned!

      And thanks for stopping by.


  3. Becky

    Thanks, for sharing this. Your writing let me see this, feel this, hear this wonderful experience.

    • Hello Becky,

      You’re very kind, thank you. I’m thrilled that you enjoyed it so much and that you appreciate my skills as a writer. The amazing people I have encountered in my travels have left such and impression on me that it’s quite easy to reflect them in stories. I have many yet to record, and with the response they have received so far I’ll start regularly rolling them out so others can enjoy them as I have.

      Thanks again for your feedback!

  4. What a fantastic story, Mark! I loved it. And your writing style is pure poetry. I’m beginning to understand why your reputation precedes you.

    Please keep them coming.

    • Hello Margaret,

      Thank you so much for your beautiful compliment. Usually when people say they have heard of me I need to explain my side of the story!

      I have a bunch of these tales from my travels over the years and I’m always happy to share them. Your feedback has inspired to write another, so stay tuned!

      Thank you for stopping by.


  5. Jerry

    Amazing what one can do when one needs to. Thanks for the travel adventure. Your descriptive writing took me on the journey and reminded me of why I love travel…adventures such as your Madonna.

  6. Great story Mark,

    It reminds me of a story I read once about an order of monks. The first task applicants to the order were given as initiates was to carry a bucket of water up a set of stairs and dump it into the top of a series of switchback wooden flumes. After dumping the water, the initiate would need to hurry back down the stairs and use the same bucket to catch the water once again at the bottom – repeating the process over and over for 8 hours each day – from after the meal at noon, till cleaning up and securing for the night.

    This initiation would separate all but the most rare and determined of applicants from acceptance into the order. Often, none of the applicants could endure this trial.

    For rare individual who could somehow endure the ceaseless, arduous, monotony – the initiation process would continue, often for years on end – until one of the masters, checking on the initiates progress, would enter the room as usual to find the initiate indeed still performing the task – but not as ordered.

    Oh no, the master would find the initiate LEVITATING up and down the stairs to carry and catch the water! If the initiate could not continue to do so in the presence of another, the initiation was continued until he could do so without falter.

    At that point, the acolyte was done with his initiation and was accepted into the order of monks as an acolyte.

    The next step? Why, levitate the bucket, of course!


      Thanks for contributing this beauty to my blog, Scotty. It’s a very cool story, and very on point with the notion that people are actually so much more able than anyone ever allows them to believe.

      Throw some more in here, man!

      I’m back in New Mexico but things are cracking out there and I’m looking forward to that return to LA.

      Stay in touch!


      • Thanks Shreff! You’re my kind of guy. A man who is unafraid to face reality and who knows that we can evolve to higher states of being. You’ve done it. I’ve done it. So we know it’s possible (if two idiots like us can evolve, anyone can!).

        Thanks for turning me on to your blog, mate. I like the flavor.

  7. Bela

    What a great story! Funny and tender, all at the same time. It’s the beautiful souls, like Madonna, that touch our lives and make me happy to be here and a part of this game. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Lana M.

    I love this story. I could say it all has to do with intention — but then, you would take offense (as a man) — Ha Ha!!

    • 🙂 Quite to the contrary! I am in firm agreement with the notion that INTENTION contains in it every power a being has. It’s the weenie that makes everything happen. I would agree that effortless power is the expression of perfect intention. I read once that the only mistake that can be made in this universe is the mis-estimation of effort. In other words, too much or too little intention. Madonna was the perfect embodiment, for me, of correct intention. 🙂

  9. Pamela

    Great story and I love your blog!

    • Thank you, Pamela.

      I’m glad you stopped by and I appreciate the kind words. Did you get a chance to watch the various videos? Some killer stuff!



  10. Michael Priv

    A wonderful story, a nourishment to the soul. Thank you, Mark! How did she do it? Well, she obviously started with a BE and only then went to a DO.

    • Hello Michael,

      How did she do it, indeed. I don’t think it ever entered her universe that she couldn’t. It happened many times in that part of the world where I saw people doing things for which there was no explanation other than it did not occur to them that it was hard or too complex or any other blunting idea with which we are commonly saddled in the West.

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