I had caught a snake, my first success. Naturally, I wanted to go to school immediately. And I didn’t bother to wear the uniform, and nobody can expect me to. I never did, even in primary school. I said, “I have come to learn, not to be destroyed. If I can learn anything, good, but I won’t allow you to destroy me, and the uniform – chosen by you who don’t know a thing about beauty and form – I cannot accept. I will create great trouble if you try to impose it on me.”
They said, “Keep it ready just in case the inspector comes, otherwise we will be in trouble. We don’t want to trouble you because we don’t want trouble ourselves. It is a costly affair,” my teacher said, “to create trouble for you. We know what happened to Kantar Master; it can happen to anybody. But please keep the uniform just for our sakes.”
And you will be surprised that my uniform was supplied by our school. I don’t know who contributed its cost, nor do I care. I kept it, knowing perfectly well that it was almost a mathematical impossibility that my visit to the school, and the inspector’s visit to the school, could fall on the same date. It was not possible, that’s what I thought, but I kept the uniform. It was beautiful: they had done their best and they were not insisting that I should come wearing it.
I was always a foreigner. Even now among my own people, I am not wearing the uniform. I just cannot. Even a uniform that I have chosen for you, I cannot be in it. Why? That day there was the same question. Today again, it is the same question. I just cannot conform. You can think of it as a whim; it is not whimsical at all, it is very existential. But we will not go into that, otherwise what I was saying to you will be missed. I will never come to it again.
I had caught my first snake. It was such a joy, and the snake was so beautiful. Just to touch it was to touch something really alive. It was not like touching your wife, your husband, your son, or even your son-in-law, where you touch and bless them, and you don’t have any feeling – you just want to go and watch T.V., particularly if you are in America, or if you are in England, go to the cricket match or the football match. People are crazy in different ways, but crazy all the same.
That snake was a real snake, not a plastic snake that you could purchase in any store. Of course, the plastic snake may be made perfectly but it does not breathe; that’s the only trouble with it, otherwise it is perfect. God could not have improved upon it. Just one thing is missing – the breathing – and for just one thing why complain? But that one thing is all. I had just caught a real snake, so beautiful and so clever that I had to put my whole intelligence into catching him, because I was not in any way interested in killing him.
The man who was teaching me was an ordinary street magician. In India we call them Madari. They do all kinds of tricks without any charge. But they do so well that in the end they simply spread their handkerchief on the ground and say, “Now something for my stomach.” And people may be poor, but when they see something so beautifully done they always give.