Posted by: bobroth | December 15, 2009

MADURAI, INDIA

DECEMBER 15 • MADURAI, INDIA

It is 6:10 am and I have a room service tray on my bed with a big thermos of chai tea and two fruit plates of pineapple and papaya chunks.

Today we are off on a 4.5 hour drive to the southern-most tip of India, to a holy site called Kanyakumari, in honor of Mother Divine…

Yesterday (a blur already) we caravanned (6 cars) to another holy southern city, Rameshwaram–also along another VERY narrow road. But this time driver went slowly so I relaxed and David snapped photos all day out of the car window with his little Leica camera…

There are no words, of course, to describe the scene along the way….

Belching and screeching cars and motor bikes and wide rivers of humanity converging with cows and goats sleeping in the middle of the road and tiny roadside shops that sell something to someone (although i rarely saw anyone buying anything) and the dirt and dust and terrible, heart-wrenching poverty that makes me want to scream at the powers who would ever ever ever allow such a travesty against humanity and the Divine to continue.

But there are also no words to describe the extreme tenderness, simplicity, kindness, grace, natural glow of inner happiness of the people we saw and met. David said they are like a race apart–and in many ways–above the rest of us.

Back to our travels… Rameshwaram is the name of the city that kept coming to Maharishi’s mind during his two years of silence in Uttarkashi, in the Himalayas. Finally a fellow saint suggested to Maharishi that he leave the Himalayas, go to Rameshwaram, “Get rid of that thought,” and come back to the Silence of Uttarkashi asap. Maharishi did leave but never really came back to Uttarkashi. Because it was during his travels to Rameshwaram that he got the inspiration to teach meditation, first throughout India, and then around the world.

We arrived in Rameshwaram just after 12 noon, en masse (sp?): 6 vans, tons of camera equipment, 13 people. (Our team includes many of the same guys who organized and shot the Oscar-winning film, “Slumdog Millionaire.”)

We headed for a shrine that is sacred to Indians, but where “foreigners” are not ordinarily allowed in. Somehow David and I were given permission. We removed our shoes, and slopped through a wet entry way in our socks… no cameras were allowed to follow us into the “inner sanctum”. I kept asking how old it was, and no one really knew.

My impressions: On the surface–spectacularly beautiful, colorful, noisy, almost frantic and seemingly in need of a deep cleaning… On the depth… overwhelmingly ancient, eternal, silent, DEEPLY breathtakingly and universally spiritual…

Talking afterwards, David said he felt incredibly blessed for such a rare experience and happy we had decided to take the long drive even though it was just for a few minutes there.

Heading back to Madurai, our driver somehow forgot the previously agreed upon notion of driving slowly but David has become quite blase about it all, and he meditated calmly through the twists and turns and close calls.

Me? i remained on the lookout, gasping silently for us both as cars zoomed by close enough for me to reach in a roll up their windows. We stopped a few times along the way for a chai tea breaks. (From a roadside vendor? Uh, i think i will pass… Me: “Hey, where are those Cokes that were stashed in the back seat? And how about those Bounty bars?”)

Back at the hotel at 6:30 pm, we ordered room service–a tasty bowl of tomato soup with toast–and watched the only English-language show on television, a National Geographic TV program on Americans who had been kidnapped by terrorists in India. Okay, well that was an interesting way to end the day…

We were going to watch something on safari’s in Africa, but opted for an early night. So this morning, I pack up stuff (I started this journey so neat and orderly and organized. Now I just jam stuff in my suitcase, sit on the top, and zip it up, hoping it does not burst.)

We will meet in the lobby in a few minutes, load our suitcases and camera equipment into the vans, and head off to Kanykumari. The angels of safe travels willing, I will send more reports from there.

Thanks for listening.

Love to you all, Bobby

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