I haven't written much lately. We were caught up by a big wave of events these past several days. I'll chronicle all of that and try to keep it “crisp”.
On our last evening in Tiruvanamlalai we went over to YogiRamSuratKumar's Ashram. We had been loving going there every evening and being present for the “lullaby.” This is a chanting to Heaven and Earth, singing “All That Is” into a peaceful sleep. It is overseen by Devaki Ma – and of course it would be – who better to oversee a lullaby than a true MA? After she finished up, Devaki Ma asked Eli and I to come early the next morning, at 5:45, for Arati. Arati is translated at “waving of lights” and involves – well – waving lights, as well as chanting, ringing bells, making flower offerings, etc. It is a beautiful morning devotional ritual to sing “All That Is” into a new day.
When we arrived the next morning, Ma Devaki began directing me to do this and that, light incense, organize flowers, etc. and it slowly dawned on me that I was performing Arati that morning, with Devaki Ma directing me. Wow..... I was blown away.....amazed.....grateful.
After Arati we bid Devaki Ma and Yogi's Ashram a sweet-sad goodbye, and went back to our Tiny-Treveni II ashram to climb into a car with Volker, Ute, and two very sleepy little Indian girls. Arati (yep- that's her name) wanted to sit on my lap – I was having a VERY GOOD MORNING – full of Arati.
We drove to Pondicherry. Asha and Arati were car sick and threw up all the way. Ute had a very organized system to deal with this which is a normal occurrence. When we arrived, the girls were immediately “all better” and Volker and Ute very happily took us all to their “favorite place to go in the morning in Pondicherry”. It is called Daily Bread which doesn't give a clue as to what it is, which is a French bakery. We sat down to buttery pastries and wonderful capuchinos . (Yep- I'm still carrying those extra 5 pounds that I put on ahead of time in case of TD – travellers' dysentery. Sheesh.)
Pondicherry is an old French port. I feel like I am in both France and India all at the same time. It is the home of Sri Aurobindo and “The Mother” whose ashram is huge and thriving. Eli and I checked into an ashram guest house right on the Bay of Bengal. Volker and Ute went on to Auroville where we would meet up with them the next day.
We had a great day and night exploring Pondicherry. I got a haircut from a woman named “Pritti”. It isn't exactly easy to get your hair cut in India if you have any vanity at all (I've got some). But this woman was recommended by Ute and I got a nice cut that cost me 120 rupees – about $4. I think I'll go back there for a “skin treatment” because my skin is sunned out by now. I have to start thinking of making myself “pritti” to go back to my beloved Chris.
We left for Auroville the next day. That was a fiasco – read Eli's blog for the details. We met up with Volker, Ute and some other wonderful friends from our school – Lalitha, Jim and Immanuel. Actually, it was the first time I'd had a chance to get to know Immanuel. She is a 23 year old French woman who has been living in Chennai for the last 4 years studying Classical Indian music. She is a singer. She told me she feels she is just beginning and will need several more years to even begin to be competent. She lives with her teacher and his family, sings for 6 hours a day and studies for another 6 – 10. She is so clear, bright and open....really present, undefended. We will spend some time with her in Chennai, before I fly out.
Eli and I had to say a sad goodbye to our little India family, Volker, Ute and the girls. We headed back to Pondicherry to take part in a conference on Spirituality in the Workplace. This runs for several days and is going on right now. We were invited by Sunita who some of you met at a Saturday morning class in Coeur d'Alene last Autumn. We had NO clear idea of what we were showing up for. So it has been an adventure – a whole different sort of foray into the unknown in India. First we checked into our ashram guest house. This place costs 100 rupees per day – that is about $2. From there we took a rickshaw to the Annamalai Hotel in which a room costs 10,000 rupees per day – about $200. We had memorized what we were supposed to say at the conference registration desk: “I am a special invitee of Sunita Sangupta”. We repeated this mantra often until we began to feel we were saying “My name is Inego Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die”, That mantra in turn morphed into “I am a special invitee of Sunita Sangupta. Prepare my Chai”.
We got registered and in the process I realized I was in no way dressed to attend a conference at a 10,000 rupee hotel. So – yipee – I was forced to go to Fab-India to buy a Kirta top and a skirt. That barely got me decent for the conference and who knows what I will do as the conference rolls on – probably just keep wearing the same outfit until somebody approaches me and says “You are an imposter. You cannot possibly be a special invitee of Sunita Sangupta. Prepare to die”.
I will see if I can upload a video clip of the keynote speaker because if I can it will be worth a thousand words about the conference. It is very interesting even though really I am just pretending to be an academic / researcher. People know I'm an impostor for the following reasons:
• I am dressed wrong
• I immediately tell anyone who approaches me – even before I say my name – that “I am a special invitee of Sunita Sangupta. I am not an academic researcher. Sorry”.
Eli and I both took the morning off – Eli because he is 19 and me because I realized I was starting to get depressed. The depression lifted the minute I started writing. So this is good and bad news. I love it that I have to write to stay even and bright. But it can be a little tyrannical – this writing muse. Anyway, I'm not feeling that heavy quicksand feeling of depression pulling at me anymore. And that's good.
Eli and I will probably leave here on Tuesday and head to Chidamburam and Tanjavore. From there we will go to Chennai and spend some time with Immanuelle. But we're not completely decided yet. India continues to be a surprise and we are staying open to that.