Stumbling down the cobbled streets of Ulm after one of those interminable post-conference dinner discussions in the old part of the city – all tilting Tudor houses and tiny bridges over streams rushing to join the Danube – we caught up with a large lumbering man whose hair spilled down over his white wool caftan as far as his mid-calf – I kid you not, it could have been a cape.

I quickened my pace to catch up to him and his lady – not conventionally dressed, but obscured by his outlandishness – before they reached the bus stop, and caught his eye. “Wonderful hair!”  He must hear it all the time, a silent acknowledgment.  “How long have you been growing it?” I don’t even know why I asked, as this must be everyone’s first question.  “This I will not tell you,” he said, facing me with a twinkle in his eye.  I held his stare, and he must have found the old hippie beneath my slicked back hair, knotted scarf and shiny leather long-coat, because at the same moment we bowed and said a mutual “Namaste”.  As he came up, he gave me a look that said “I’m still not going to tell you” while I gave him a return look that said “And I wasn’t going to ask again”.

He was several more times at the bus stop outside the hotel when I went to and fro, but we said not another word, but the spaciousness – dare I call it ‘no-mind’? – that passed between us each time our eyes met was a sustainer in what was otherwise a very intellectualized week.


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