Please excuse any typos – you writers out there I know are saying “no excuses!” rather than go over this thing for hours editing missing out on more adventures and dealing with the quirkiness of an ipad app on a slow internet connection you get it with typos. so be it. I’m perfect and i’m not perfect all at the same time. Just like india.
and if are the “pictures are worth a thousand of your blabbering words” type- I’ve posted pics on Facebook.
Today I went on a road trip with Vasanth, my rickshaw driver extraordinaire. It was so nice to go out into the country side of rice fields, bullock drawn carts, millet drying on the road, kite birds flying through swaying palm trees and cool clear rivers. This is a part of India that I adore. I had a destination but left it in Vastanth’s hands to show me around. Six trips to India nad four years in Mexico have taught me to let go and let things happen.
Vasanth dropped me off in a village, Chenalli and I walked down the narrow lane lined with the houses called Thottimane. They are low houses with terrecotta roofs and columns on the front porch, As you enter there is a large room with 4 columns encircling a center area. All the house are brightly painted
I greeted everyone with Namaste and was promptly invited in for tea. Sunita and her family and I attempted to communicate in Kanada where I am useless and English where they had a few words. Without language we are required to rest upon our connection as humans as well as try to act every thing out. It led to great giggles.
Namaste with folding the palms at the chest or touch your chest with one hand is the way people say hello. But when I greeted an older woman walking with her sheep and she moved the items in her hands so that she could return the gesture, it struck me that this exchange is so much more than hello. In This particular time, out in the country amongst the palm trees and her sheep, I felt something different. In that moment, when I looked at her and gestrued and she returned it, there was a interchange, a moment where I saw her and she saw me – a recognition of what binds us. It is not hello. I hestitate to write this as it might seem to be romanticizing India as so many westerners do and something I’ve been accused of doing becasue I do love this place but I’m nnot doe-eyed. India is neither a utopia nor a dystopia. It is a complicated world.
I need to share this because it was a moment so different than many otheres I have had. Generally, people don’t say hello and as they do for instance in Mexico with a hug and a kiss to each individual something I find so wonderful if at times burdensome. Here , they will stare and if you are 6foot 8″ as a German guy I traveled with to the Palace was they won’t stop asking you for a photo but generally they will only break out in a smile once you say hello or namaste. So some people find it offputting, the staring or sometimes even the following you down the street as this guy did today. I think he was curious and perhaps wanted to see where I was going.
But back to why I need to share this moment. Because something happened in the moment between us She took the time to shift her load to free her hands to to touch her chest with one hand and then her forehead and her heart once again. I felt seen and recieved. And a bit overwhelmed and undeserving of her gesture. Namaste, my light recognizes and honors the light that resides in you. The God in me sees the God in you. This is not “hi, how are you” or even a hug or a kiss on the cheek though the latter may be closer to it.
I was snapping pictures but I have to say that there are moments every second that I want to record. I finally just let them come through me…the tea stalls in blue, the old man on a bicycle , a white dhoti around his dark legs pedaling a load of millet strapped to the back, the grey blue cows nose to nose creating a heart shape connection between them, a woman combing through the thick long black hair of her sister in the front of their house with the saree salesmen , the rushing river wandering through the fields of rice, a woman washing a bright pink sarree trailing in the pull of the river, beaten on a rock and layed out to dry, and the young couple enjoying the romantic setting who asked me to take their photo. She rested her thin arm on his shoulder to review the image I had captured. Ok, so now I am romanticizing. Maybe it’s the setting, maybe it’s nature – let me have my moment.
We arrived at an archeological site extremely well-preserved which is so often not the case here. Somanthpur and was built in th Hoysan style with dravidian and north indian temple styles. The temple is carved intricately by hundreds of artists whose signature you can still see and took 50 years to complete. It isn’t a “live” temple becuase the Moghuls raided it and took the jewlery that was in the sanctuary and broke the deities. The deities embody gods so once broken the temple is no longer active . There indeed is an energy and an experience of pilgrims lining up for darshan and the priests chanting the prayers and doing the blessings or my colleagues prostrating- belly down- in front of Pantanjali. But here in this temple, I appreciated the tranquility and felt it quite alive with past energy.
My tour guide was knowledgeable and he patiently listened to my questions, gave me a dutiful answer or ignored me both leading him back to his script. My slight knoweldge of the imagery did not sway him from his speech .. Shut up lady and just listen to my speech. So , he enhaced my knoweldge and he really did have some interesting things to tell me about the architecture and symbology. For instance, the three bands on the bottom of th temple are elephants for power, flowers for beauty and rhinos that include parts of all the animas endowing the temple and therefore the king with all the postive qualities of the cow, corocdile, pig and turtle. The temple has sculptures of every god, every incarnation, evey form I can’t believe the craftmenship of these buildings.
We the wove in between trucks, bullock carts and country roads to arrive at a 450 year old banyan tree. Even here, a shrine was erected and pictures of gods in gold frames placed askew in the trunk. for me, the sheer sight of this old tree and it’s branches interlocking with each other and with the roots is enough to show me the meaning of unity or as Prashnt says the interconnectedness of action.
To illustrate the contradictions of India, i went from a small village to a hipster cafe in town for a meal. It was slow and not very good. When in India stick with Indian food. It is in a part of town close to the Pattabhi Jois shala. I sat down next to two Mexican women and we chatted for a while my spainsh coming out like a rusty STudebaker started up for the first time in months. They were all very nice. and all super young, tiny and cute as I expected. Stephen , the loquacious and funny owner of the bnb I am staying calls that area of town the “yoga bubble.”
Lastly, I wet ot the tribal art museum showing pieces from north east Inia. Super interesting and many of the objects reminded me of Mexico.
Tommorow I look forward to a bike tour of the island and Stephane knowledgeable guidance. I love me some history. It often takes an outsider to see the bits and pieces or find the same questions I do interesting. Vastanth was amazing but when I started to ask him more pointed questions aboutthe different gods he looked at me quizzically. For him, it’s all so a part of him these linear anyalytic questions are senseless. All the gods are different and they are all the same. And when he stopped at a building to show me and I fired off a series of why, who , how come? I think he wished he hadn’t stopped. Just look lady. Enjoy.