This has been a fascinating experience, really. I have met some very nice people. Ross the Australian, Carol, Anne and Jim from the US, Paul from France. Paul in particular has taken a liking to me because he is flabbergasted that an American can speak French. He has given me some short films he has made about Baba and shown me around Baba’s home in Meherzad. Each of these people is trying very hard to help me see the light, but I continually disappoint them in my failure to be moved by Meher Baba (who by the way bears an uncanny resemblance to Gallagher, Paul Simon (circa 1970), Doug Henning, or Yanni.)
All the same signs of hero worship seem present in this community. I’m not bothered at all by what people believe, and these people seem for the most part very nice and not harmful, but I just can’t connect with that kind of idol worship. Everybody’s searching for a hero. People need someone to hold on to. I never found anyone who fulfilled my needs… hm…I could make a song out of this, it’s catchy.
So I went this morning after breakfast to the Samadhi (tomb) of Meher Baba. There weren’t many people there and so I thought this a perfect time to sit in the tomb and reflect on Meher Baba and his followers, on their message of love, etc, and wait to be awakened, have an epiphany, be transformed, whatever. I sat there for the better part of an hour, noting the contours of the room, studying the tombstone, the murals on the walls, the painting of Baba’s likeness on the back wall. I opened my mind to, well, everything. Every possibility.
Then I cast my gaze back to the painting at the back of the small room. I kept staring at the likeness of Baba, and became fixated on his moustache. I couldn’t focus on anything else. If this guy was truly the avatar of the age, god in human form…why the moustache? If he had simply let all his hair grow long with beard, etc, never shaving or being concerned with worldly styles of any sort, ok. But a moustache is most definitely a style choice, rooted in vanity. A moustache is a choice to grow in a particular way one’s facial hair. Its upkeep and maintenance are studied. Would someone who is god’s love personified be concerned with such things? I couldn’t get past it, and despite my genuine appreciation for the people I have met and their stories of awakening and devotion, I just don’t feel the same way.
I clearly have an unkempt mind. Focusing only on a single message of love or devotion or holiness is tough for me. But in another way, I feel love and holiness and profanity and humor in everything and at every moment. Part of my trip to India is to help me learn to meditate, to clear the mind and focus. And part of my trip is for learning about different cultures, and this is one.
…is the name of the small city that was the home of Meher Baba, to whom the pilgrim center (and most of the town) is dedicated. This is a community of very spiritual people, all of whom have dedicated their lives to loving Meher Baba, who they see as the latest in a line of Avatars (or messiahs), incarnations of god who come to earth in human form to spread love and understanding of our purpose in life.
The people I have met here have been for the most part very welcoming. I have been honest with them that I am not a follower or believer, but that I am touring India with a desire to learn about the history and culture, including the modes of spirituality here. Several of them have been very kind in explaining to me their belief system and how they came to it.
Most of them seem to have had at some point in the past a very strong awakening or religious experience, normally centered around the samadhi of Meher Baba, which is about a 15 min stroll from the pilgrim retreat. I myself have visited twice, but alas fail to experience the same rapture evident in them.
I will stay at the center for another few days and try to learn more about them before moving on. The center is very peaceful and the food good, overall a very good place to rest and reflect on life, whatever one’s beliefs.
Been hangin out with my pal Lyla in Pune and having a fantastic time. Last night we went to a cafe called Sheesha (and smoked a sheesha, aka the uptown hooka). We today walked around town, bought my bus ticket, and saw the oldest parts of Pune and the market. Really interesting architecture here with a very small scale and lots of shutters. WE also took in the Shaniwarwada Palace ruins and had an amazing south Indian meal at a place called Ram Krishna.
Fyi to both my readers out there: I am heading to an ashram tomorrow outside Ahmednager. It is called Meher Baba and should be an interesting experience. I doubt that I will have internet access during my stay there, whcih I expect to last until the 3rd of Jan or so. Look for strange and/or wonderful tales of enlightenment after that time.
I know this because it is a holiday here too, believe it or not. I have been blissfully unaware of the calendar for most of my trip, but Christmas/New years is unavoidable anywhere in the world apparently. Although here it isnt so much a religious holiday (except for Christians) as it is a state/consumer holliday, bundled together with New Years and an excuse to party.
Speaking of party, Manu and I drove to Pune last night and started to party (LA style, see the pics – forthcoming) with his crazy friend Govid. The guy is really nice, but his driving scares the shit outta me. There were several points last night where I quite literally thought my life was going to be over in a few seconds.
I have many many more impressions from the last few days, but at this point I desperately need a nap and so I will try to write more tomorrow or the day after.
I spent two days in Lonavala with Manu and his family. I was so fortunate to be invited into their lives. So many family members came and went in those two days, it was a great introduction to extended family life in India. I find myself trying to understand so many new customs (and foods, and how you eat them). There are so many layers of activity in Indian homes, everything from the hierarchy of servants (in weathly homes) to the vagaries of daily schedule (I find a lot of Indians take siesta after lunch) to greeting and visiting. It is a little overwhelming, but I have been very fortunate to be welcomed by friends of friends (and their friends) into their homes. So far, the Indian people are about the most hospitable I have ever met.
Yesterday, Manu and I went on a 24km (round trip) trek to one of the Shivaji forts (Rajmani) in the area. The views from the top were breathtaking, although we nearly died from the effort. My legs still hurt.
I took a death cab to Lonavala with my new friend Manu (friend of Nik and Rittu’s) and am staying at the lovely home of Manu’s parents where I am being fed very well and relaxing in the cooler climate. I go to Pune on Monday I think, and tomorrow I will go fort exploring. Internet access here is by dial up, so I prob won’t be posting more until Pune.
Well, this isn’t so fun. Something I ate yesterday definitely disagrees with me. They call it “Delhi Belly” among other things. Was it the mystery mutton in the Parsi stew? The leaf lettuce in the chi chi restaurant? Drinking water? A simple unrelated to poisoning stomach virus? Who knows, but it could be worse.
Rittu and I took it as an opportunity to learn about Hindu weddings and screen a couple Bollywood films.
Wow. Talk about chaotic, smelly (good and bad), exciting. A walk thru Crawford Market is a must in Bombay.
Rittu and I went tooling around parts of town this morning to get more of a feel for Mumbai. We went to a really cool old Portuguese area called Kotachiwadi, then over to Ghandi’s house, then on to Victoria Station and finally to a fantastic thali (this time a Rajastani one, not as sweet as Gujarati) at a favorite restaurant of Rittu’s. After the past two days, I suddenly get how someone could even consider being a vegetarian. The veg food here is so good, you wouldn’t necessarily miss the meat.