I returned to New York from my Christmas and New Year's vacation a week or two before Guru and many of the disciples returned from their own.
Ketan had gone on the trip with Guru and on one of his first nights back, we guarded the block together. Guarding the block consisted of sitting in a car all night parked in front of the disciple-owned stores on Parsons Boulevard to ward off potential vandals. It was brutal duty and, therefore, critical that your guard partner be a good one. Ketan was. Despite the fact that I'm generally taciturn, we could talk for hours.
That night, Ketan asked me how my vacation had been. "You see any old friends?"
"Yeah," I replied, "I went to a New Year's Eve party," I said hesitantly. I wasn't sure that it was a good idea to share this information.
Over the previous year, my relationship with Ketan had become distant as I spent more of my free time training for triathlons and less time hanging out at the tennis court and generally making myself available for invitations to Guru's house. So, I wasn't sure that Ketan would hold our conversation in confidence. There was a possibility, I'd thought, that he'd pass on to Guru anything untoward I told him.
In any event, Ketan's questions were direct and I preferred to be honest.
"Did you drink?"
"I had a little beer," I said.
Silence. "Did you get drunk?"
"No," I lied, starting to feel defensive. More silence.
The night was a long one, but as it turned out, Ketan kept my secret. I never heard a word about it from Guru. Not that it would have mattered much. I had already begun preparing my escape and not even Ketan knew that. I had called my dad and asked him if he and my step mom would be willing to buy me a ticket home and let me stay at their home for some time. They had agreed.
A short time later, with the flight information in hand, I secretly began taking my racing bike apart and packed it in a travel box down in the basement of my place. As it turned out, D-day would be a Saturday, a day I was scheduled to work. So, I told Sahishnu that I'd have to leave early that day to go to doctor's appointment related to my earlier hospitalization. I then arranged for a taxi cab to pick me up at a designated hour to take me to LaGuardia.
With a few days to spare, my plan was in place.
Photo credit here.