I started my day off leisurely and went up to Chamundi hill where the temple for Chamundishwari resides. This is another name for Durga. She is the goddess of Mysore having killed the demon Mahishaura who threatened the world. I arrived by rickshaw. You can walk up many many flights of stairs and people do bending down each stair to place powder red and gold on its edge. I only walked down to the huge Nadi statue passing a family of four including the huffing and puffing mail member with a rather large belly I seriously thought he was going to have a heart attack. Devotion? Not sure.
But let me return to the scene. It is dec 24th. It is a holiday here also. Oh yea, they are Christmas off. I love it here how everything is accepted and everything is celebrated don’t matter the God, the religion or a man in red. It’s a holiday! And it was packed. I looked at the line and realized I did not want to go in. So, I went over to a smaller temple, an old temple. Before I could sneeze, this older gentlemen shooed me away from the priest sitting outside and shuffled me in giving me power and coconut milk and flowers to make an offering. He explained some of the meanings of things, repeating himself so many times I started to wonder what was true or not. On one hand, he makes the experience clearer and guides me to do what I’m supposed to do-make and offering. I mean I am in a temple not a museum I should follow the rules. But then he wants and offering too. This is how it is. Accept. I think I’ve had my share of pushing and shoving crowds at temples. I took a breath and decided to take in the scene outside becasue that is far more interesting.
The excited visitors posing for pictures in front of Nandi, a 800 year old statue carved from one rock- Shiva’s transport. Sor to like with Mickey Mouse at Disney land but not. I like Nandi and I like that he comes from before Hinduism and that he is a cow. Outside the temple ice cream vendors, priests lining up offering blessings, piles of shoes, and so much stuff to buy. Many Indians travel for pilgrimage. It’s a holiday with all the buying, the treats, the vendors but it’s als this event that is about offering and giving to God. It’s kinda a crazy scene. But it makes me think of what we do on vacation. We want to see and do and think we have experienced the place pretty much taking in and buying as much as we can. In away the taking and getting and buying is the same but tourists here are or I think they are in a different mindset
ON other point, I was in line getting my railway ticket. Kinda cranky from after the temple crush. It was 280 and my number was 329- yes it was all rather organized. I asked these young boys if one had a pen—actually that makes me feel so old – what happened? I’m old! They were like 20 something and it doesn’t feel so long I was 20 something but I diverge….There was a clear moment of something which I interpreted as discomfort that I had addressed them or that he would have to lend his pen to a woman. And my mind then went off on a feminist rage about inequities and what’s so wrong with asking a question, being bold? I don’t have any mild and meek friends here… my brain was going then all of a sudden, he turns to me and says you can get into that line, the ladies line. Wait? What? I don’t have to wait by virtue I’m a woman? This is kinda awesome. Never mind why I don’t have to wait with the rest of the men, I jumped in that line and was out of there in a flash. Twisted way to have privileged rights, but I’ll take it. I enjoyed a somewhat peaceful lunch and my doggie bag was an ingeniously recycled newspaper with handles and a large an article about violence Fergusson on the front of the bag. Ha!
It’s totally transparent in India and this bothers people. For instance, the other day on the island a precession went by with the dead member of the family in a palanquin posed in a padmasana seat, draped in white. He looked like a tiny old man meditating peacefully in his seat. It’s the first dead body I believe I’ve seen aside from the foot and ankle I saw in the burning ghats of Varnasi – an experience I have yet to write about but one worth experiencing. HIs family formed a procession behind some chatting one women wailing in grief. Everything is out in the open. At least most things – some things are maintained one way on the outside and another on the inside which can be said for many cultures including the good ol ‘ mid west of the US.
It upsets people. It is upsetting to see behind the curtain. And when we visited a sacred ghat Paschimavanini and I see trash, I see bits of dhoti and pots at the bottom of the water I see the garbage, it looks dirty. But it is a sacred river like the Ganges unable to be dirty because it is blessed, it is sacred, it is divine.
Oh, is she romanticizing again? No. I am disappointed with all the trash. There are so many people here so it’s unmanageable it’s hard to keep up with it but on the other there are so many who could help clean it up like the women I saw diligently sweeping up the Balaji temple until it shone. I do get upset when I saw this morning a guy throw a huge bag of trash in the filed next to his house. Like the trash left in the filed behind my house or the diapers I saw dropped down from the 9th floor in my apt in Washington Heights. People can be gross. On Chamundi hiss, I did video tape a sign that said THe lesser the plastic the cleaner the environment and then I panned down to the hillside right under the sign. Yep. Loaded with trash.
People get upset because they expect India to be perfect. What do I love so much? I tell you that when you start you day with annoying tourists at the breakfast table, and then under the blaze of the sun in a hoard of pilgrims on holiday and then get hungry and thirsty but still have to go to the railway station and be pissed off and then thankful for a country that divides gender so much and then ask for Masala Chai and get sweet milkey tea…love fades. What do they say don’t engage if you are Hurt, Angry, Lonley or Tired?
I had a nice rickshaw driver, Satish who drove me around, I bought some kurtas and earrings from a shop that supports the artisans directly and then bought a box of amazing sweets at Maha Lakshmi that you wouldn’t believe how good they are! dinner time!