underwater temples

@ mahabalipuram Posted by Picasa

Mahabalipuram, 60 km south of Chennai in Tamil Nadu is a 7th century port city of the South Indian Pallava Dynasty. It was named after either the demon king Mahabali, or the Pallava king Mamalla...or maybe both. The shore temple has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

As the waves from the December 26, 2004 tsunami gradually receded, the force of the water removed sand deposits that had covered various rocky structures and revealed more carvings of animals, which included an elaborately carved head of an elephant and a horse in flight. 6 other temples still remain underwater.


handfulls of enchantment

@ the kailash temple in chidambaram Posted by Picasa
Wed, 28 Sep 2005


Parting the curtains on the mystery has only lead to ...more mystery. We spent 3.5 hours in the astrologer/fortune teller’s office yesterday, which was certainly like a long slow dive down the rabbit hole, through the looking glass and way past the matrix. We arrived as he was doing his afternoon puja, which he invited us to partake in, generosity beyond any reckoning. After the offerings were made, coconuts broken, agarbati (incense) burned and bells rung everyone in the household rapidly dissipated into the ether for an inordinately long time (over an hour)...with no explanation at all. We were left in the waiting room to amuse ourselves.... until otherwise informed. This is a very colorful way of saying...it was naptime. Yes, the siesta still reins supreme here. I recognize that it is probably a very civilized way to approach an 8-hour workday but I still can't quite pull it off. 3 o'clock rolls around and I'm bouncing off the walls, ready for whatever the day has to dish out but instead, the landscape slows into a thick calm and finally halts in its dusty tracks. If we happen to be out with our taxi wala past 1pm, I feel as though I'm torturing him with each request, the hours between 2 and 5 are entirely reserved for sleep...everyone knows that!

After the boisterous sadhu astrologer was roused from dreamland and had his chai (of course) he proceeded to expound (via translator) to Lila and I on every possible nuance of our past, present and future lives...it was fascinating stuff colored with stories of mongooses wrestling snakes, blessing from Durga, frolicking spotted deer, kings from Tanjore empires and countless other magical elements. He gave many prescriptions including a pilgrimage to 2 temples that Lila and I are to visit as a means to be released from some past karmas...maybe next visit to India.

And so-- as promised, here is the final line of the dance that Shyamala has been working into me for the last month:

That woman with the pure heart

She has placed her trust in you

So don't ignore her any longer

She thinks of you now

This is the time to come and kiss her

For she is at you feet!

Dancing has been totally magical, as always. I'm filled way past full and have no way of taking it all in but I trust that it will all come when it is meant to.

Shyamala lives about 3 blocks from the shores of the Bay of Bengal...the same waters that swept away so many lives only a few months ago. Yesterday, as we were sitting on the almost deserted beach (swimming is not a popular activity here), we watched as a man stood on the dry sand and cast his net about 15 feet into the waves...I'm sure he fully understood the whole 'be one with the water' thing and there is probably some hidden skill in what he was doing that my feeble desert-dwelling upbringing cannot grock but by Jove! Whatever it was that he was doing was shockingly effective (no need for any boat at all!). He would cast the net, wait less than and minute and then drag no less than 30 fish kicking and screaming onto shore...a bit alarming for my "Quick! Throw them back in the water" tendencies but I'm coming to grips with this whole life-as-another-word-for-death thing. It was quite an amazing day:

India sings and I become her song

Dancing for the clouds

Feet kissing the Earth

Wave good-bye with

Handfulls of enchantment

Scattering in all directions ...Swaha! (it is so!)

Packing up our dreams and delights, we'll spend tomorrow night in Bangkok and then head off to Hong Kong and that 14-hour flight to L.A. on Saturday night. I'll be watching the waves for the Ganapatis (Ganeshas) floating in the torrents of their surrender.

From all of us here @ Shakti Transmissions

far and near

lila with nandi Posted by Picasa
Tue, 27 Sep 2005

Good Morning,

Paying attention to everything and knowing all the while that infinite intricacies of this land are far beyond comprehension...all that's leftover is to surrender and know for certain that its all blessing! Dance class has been brutal and fabulous all at the same time. I'm in the end strokes of notating everything that Shyamala taught me. This always feels like the ultimate survival of the dance rests on my ability to be able to draw stick figures...the pressure is on!..but this time I have a back up plan, Lila has been enjoying (asking for more and more) her dance classes with Shyamala, so if I can't pull it off maybe she can.

Who would have suspected that a day vesting temples would result in scorched feet? I truly feel as though I walked over, under, around and through the proverbial AND literal fires. Stone floors get VERY hot in the mid-afternoon sun of these equatorial regions. We hired a taxi to drive us the 2 hours to Kanchipuram. This town is home to the Kamakshi Temple, who we pay much homage to in our dances. Kamakshi is a goddess possessing 3 eyes, each eye bestowing the grace of a different goddess: Lakshmi, Saraswati and Durga.

Sri Kamakshi Devi Posted by Picasa

There are several temples which refuse to let "non-Indians" past the outer sanctum, the Kamakshi Temple being one of them. I'm not sure if I'll ever get used to "breaking the law" in order to lay myself at the feet of the divine but ...ya gotta do what ya gotta do and I guess that's what it is for me this time around. I tell Lila to keep her head down, avoid all eye contact...and don't worry, its no big deal! It generally seems to work, we've only once been escorted out of a temple by the police....neat huh?

Back to the story, Kamakshi is sublime! Her eyes follow her devotees, seeing, cutting through and gracing everything. After making our way through the crush of humanity I was utterly entertained by watching the temple cats scale the (1500 year old) stone carved walls to procure precariously high perches ...all the better to pounce on the green temple parrots from. And from that vantage point, if one turns 180 degrees north, one might see 3 elephants getting the total brillo pad scrub down. We stood and watched as a man scoured the third eye of one pachyderm for at least 15 minutes (they were covered in technicolor paint)...now tell me - who wouldn't be enlightened after a scrubbing like that!

4 temples later, we made our way to the Amanakshi Aman Temple where Srimati Balasaraswati (Shyamala's dance guru) gave her arangetram offering (debut dance performance).... back in the days when temple dancing wasn't a crime.... this is a sacred site, especially for anyone in our dance lineage...a visit there is like stepping into the river of past, present and future.

I've now come to consider any scooter with less than 5 people on it as 'empty' and unless 3 of those people are not priests with top knots fluttering in the breeze and the other 2, 70 year old grannies perched sidesaddle as their saris lingering frighteningly close to the back wheel...well then, its just a waste of petrol (which by the way is about $4.50 per gallon here).

One of our nightly rituals: Shyamala hears a cow a kilometer off, scrambles for the bananas and we all head for the door. Let me mention here that the cows move very fast through certain neighborhoods, mostly those that have ALOT of dogs.... such as ours. We have yet to see this drama play out fast enough for her to feed any cows, dang they're quick! But it’s totally fun to watch everyone wielding bananas and chasing cows...

apsaras, monkeys and buttons

@ the banyan Posted by Picasa
Thu, 22 Sep 2005

Friday Morning Sandalwood Scented Greetings,

India has a unique ability to assault and caress all of the senses simultaneously. In one moment you'll be inhaling a heady brew of rose, sandalwood and thick floral mystery and the next moment you'll be gasping for anything that even remotely resembles oxygen as you pass by the fish stall/trash heap/outdoor latrine/charnel ground...a land of drastic contrasts hosing you down with gale force intensity.

I've so been enjoying the 4ft x 4ft corner temples into which the hurried people dodge for their 20 second puja fix..."Yes! I'm late for work but there's always time for (one more) God!"...When divinity is the drug that gets you through your day, I'm all for it!

So often the sagas, which people tell of their travels through India, involve trying to "get what you want". One asks for something rather specific, say...a napkin and invariably something else arrives, perhaps day glow pink "high quality" ice cream and then a heavily gesticulated conversation ensues involving a lot of head bobbling and punctuation marks. "Do you have any peanut butter?", "What!? are you asking for madam!?", "peanut butter...", "What?!!!” "peeeaaa....nnnnnuut buuuttterrrr..." No! We don't have anything like that here madam!!!” "What do you mean!! I bought it here 2 days back! For the love of Vishnu -This is a grocery store! And you don't have any peanut butter!!!?” "Oh! PEANUT BUTTER!!!..Of course we have...yes yes, aisle 3, bottom shelf, 4 varieties..." Unless one approaches communication as a full-on pranayama exercise, utilizing a maximum number of mudras, nothing can be conveyed.

Yesterday's saga involved much of this sort of pranayamic communication. As I've accepted the mission of having several items of clothing stitched for students trapped in the colorless, tailorless wasteland of Boulder, I've been spending A LOT of time with my new friend -- The Tailor who has No Buttons. How can this man who has probably spent his entire life and his 14 previous lives stitching, always be out of buttons!? I go to pick up my order (unfinished for the 3rd time), which is very finely stitched, stacked and ironed but lacking the vital component of buttons?! He then runs (more like- siesta ambles) to a shop down the dirt lane to, what I can only assume is, The Keeper of the Buttons and so begins the button process...which I'm not privy to the nuances of...but I'm sure its extremely involved and will take some undisclosed amount of time. He shows up at our door 11 hours later (that would be 10pm) to deliver the goods...whoa..."Nice Buttons!!" I exclaim but nobody seems to get the comedy here besides the crows, who retell the story amongst themselves till 3am.

Lila's Thursday behest:
"Today we search for monkeys!".... And monkeys we did find!
Banyan trees full of um and so terribly cute they are!

Culinary note from the last 3 weeks:
Would you like some coconut with that coconut...or perhaps you'd prefer some coconut?

Spotted from the road:
Apsara Electrical. This might require some background to appreciate--Apsaras are "Celestial Nymphs", they dance in the heavens, always slightly beyond comprehension and always female. I imagine they are sparkly, very giddy and leave a trail of glitter where ever their feet touch down...that clarified; imagine a flock of apsaras showing up at your door (pink tool pelts for sure!) to remedy any and all electrical problems! What fun!!!!

Dance class update:
Finished Daneke Varnam last night and started on a lovely padam (short gestural dance) called Natrandi Neratilay.... its more delightful than I could have conjured in a dream.... lots of riverbank dalliance, birds fluttering, moonbeams dancing, lotuses blossoming...on and on it goes…too much grace for words! And so we dance....

temples and frogs

going up? Posted by Picasa
Mon, 19 Sep 2005

The morning began with a long trek north across town (involving much gridlock) to visit an amazing temple of the Sri Vidya Tradition. This day is hugely significant owing to some astrological transit (something about the planet Guru moving into Virgo) that Shyamala was privy to. The first thing I noticed about this temple was that the priests actually look happy (this is extremely unusual).... which makes me happy! The main murti (focus of devotion) is a 3 dimensional green granite Sri Chakra (yantra), looking like a mountain of triangles. To one side was a trio of Naga (snake) deities and to the other side a series of 18 siddha saints, there was a homa (fire) burning in the center of the temple into which all sorts of sacred offering were being given (rice, ghee, gallons of honey, flowers, coconuts, camphor, etc.). A few of the dance students in Boulder had asked me to have pujas (ceremonies) conducted for them if I got a chance and whoa nelly! Did I ever get a chance! The priest was very nice and took care of everyone's requests...

Let me make another note of the local fauna here-- while the puja was occurring a chubby frog, about the size of an orange, jumped across the temple floor and placed himself squarely under the Ganapati (Ganesha) shrine and looked out at everyone. I was doing my giddy, "How cool is that?" thing to which the priest replied the frog lives there because its cool.... yes! Just as I said...COOL! I so enjoyed watching him hop across all of the kolam designs, smearing rice flour all over his belly. If none of this speaks to you let it be said that the entire thing was my masala cup of tea!

For many years India has been recognized as having the most effective recycling program in the world and I would have to attest to the truth of this....NOTHING is left behind. From the moment our trash bag hits the garbage man's hands the process begins. He comes by at 7am each morning and yells for us to bring the 'rubbish' outside. He then stands on the sidewalk sorting all of the various materials into tidy piles (which can prove to be a little embarrassing but I try to convince myself that he's seen it all), which he carries away on a (non-polluting) bicycled lorry. Not a single shred of paper or banana peel (given to the cows) escapes his keen eye.

And a couple days ago I was trapped in one of those famous Indian lines, the sort that move 3 inches per hour. I spent the entire time transfixed by the "Saga of the Paper Cup". The cup in question was perched on top a 5 gallon water jug and was used by no less than 50 people before I finally had to move on and let the conclusion play out on its own. I've no doubt that the cup is still there, waiting to hydrate the next person. People simply don't touch the cup to their mouths; they hold it high up and pour. ...In theory this seems to work nicely but let me tell you a secret-- I think I may have been the only person watching when a flock of children used to cup as a soccer ball for a good 5 minutes.... and then placed it atop the jug again (they've been trained well!) when finished...of course!....

Shyamala's quote from dance class last night:
"Don't think and everything will come out right."

That's all for this evening from Shakti Transmissions

ushered into song

lila with simha Posted by Picasa
Sun, 18 Sep 2005


The full moon is dazzling this evening, totally worth the chaotic ruckus of last night. The crows woke me up around 2 am shouting obscenities at the stars.... who knew that crows would even be awake in the middle of the night? It was a little weird. Then they woke up the neighborhood dogs who proceeded to spend the next several hours barking at the shadows. The dogs here are an interesting bunch, they don't pant (ever!), they sleep almost all day, they understand the dangers of traffic better than most humans and they project a shocking aire of extreme intelligence.... most of them are full on vegetarians as well.

There is a troop of 3 black dogs that live on Shyamala's street, nobody owns them but everyone feeds them. A few days back the gypsy that collects trash was asking Shyamala if she had seen them, as he was afraid the dogcatcher had gotten them. In a moment of pessimism I said, "Well, that's the end of them then!" and she replied with a, "Whatever are you talking about Laurissa?" and proceeded to tell me that when the dog catcher comes to fetch a stray dog he merely takes them in to be 'sterilized' and then returns them to the exact spot where he found them. Still riding a bitter mood, I pulled a, "Yah sure, right...wink wink nod nod." How could a 3rd world country possibly reserve a section of tax funds for dog welfare!? Well! The day before yesterday the dogs returned, just as Shyamala said they would and much to the gypsy man's glee!

A gray and tangerine colored moth the size of a sparrow flies into our bedroom almost every evening, I need to assume it is the same moth each night as we have given him a name; Mort the Moth. With eyes the size of saucers he is really quite cute. He seems to enjoy getting dizzy riding the air currents from the ceiling fan. It usually takes me about 10 minutes to catch him and show him the door but I don't really mind, I'd like to believe that he is a benefic spirit from another land.

Dance class has been a luminous transfusion of rose water straight into my blood. My feet touch down in front of Shyamala and the world warbles a little, everything falls into place as I'm ushered into the song. It’s a beautiful dance, the more I surrender the more I am opened and dissolved into. For those of you that are waiting for news of Shyamala's schedule; this morning she was looking into tickets for Oct.6th, after her California programs she might make it to Boulder as early as Oct. 20th...probably a 3 week stay and then up to Canada and back to Chennai for a performance in late Dec.

"Let life be beautiful"

-Rabindranath Tagore

dust and jasmine

kolam Posted by Picasa
Fri, 16 Sep 2005

The billboard down the street reads:
"Life is an illusion and you are the dream"

An advertisement for a very swanky sari store...India never ceases to inspire me.

Amidst all of the pollution, dust, traffic, chaos and poverty people still conduct their lives with such dignity and grace. The dirt-poor taxi driver I've been hiring for our daily gallivanting makes a point to purchase strands of jasmine flowers to hang from his rear view mirror each morning. So there we are, knee-deep in scorching sun, smothering humidity, cars, rickshaws, two-stroke mopeds (spewing the worst exhaust of all!), lorries that laugh in the face of government weight limits and city buses so overflowing with humanity that only God's Grace keeps them from tipping over as they round a corner...and the jasmine swings on.

Yesterday was the festival of Onam, which I’ve now learned, is celebrated primarily in Kerala (the state west of Tamil Nadu) but as the Indian Diaspora is in full swing, this holiday seems quite popular even in Chennai. There are many stories attached to this festival mostly associated with King Mahabali. A flower carpet called 'Pookalam' is laid in front of every house to welcome the vanquished king, and earthen mounds representing Mahabali and Lord Vishnu are placed in the center. Rituals are performed followed by a lavish feast called 'Sadhya'. Onam also means new clothes for the entire family, sumptuous delicacies on banana leaf plates and much consumption of sweet payasam...so sweet in fact my adrenals haven't quite forgiven me. I mentioned to Shyamala that the quantity of sugar people consume here in a day is on par with what I take in a year, her response, "It's ok because it’s dissolved". ...I'm gonna take her word for it.

more kolam Posted by Picasa

One of the women who directs the dance school at which Shyamala is a senior advisor is from Kerala and invited us for her Grand Onam Lunch. It was truly spectacular- banana leaf plates contrast so nicely with the multi-colored arrays, textures and tastes of Kerala cuisine. They showered us with gifts and afterwards I delighted in a chat with a Tanjore Style painter who had just completed a "Traditional Saraswati" mural in the woman's dance studio.

saraswati devi Posted by Picasa

He gave me enough details about his painting techniques to leave me feeling like a silly-ninny-yahoo who can simply gush with exuberant glee but never really grock the complexities. My impression is that any art which is less than 500 years old is folly.... the sari store down the road is a mere 105 years old ...mere youngsters!

Speaking of saris, the house across the road from Shyamala's is under construction from sun up till sun down. Those in charge of delivering bricks and cement are all women.... IN SARIS of course! I mention this with such volume because it is just so dang lovely to watch them languidly scale the outside of the building with no less than 12 bricks piled atop their heads, saris waving in the breeze. At times I wonder if I am a total dork for admiring a site like this but it really is way beyond extraordinary...like a rainbow dancing across a sky scraper. ...Oh and what passes for a ladder in these parts is a few rickety (the goats chew on them) bamboo poles tied together no less than 3 feet apart by some very frayed jute rope.... more of God's Grace.

Tata from the land of Dust and Jasmine

om shakti

apsaras Posted by Picasa

Wednesday Evening Missives from Bharat,

We are now rounding the halfway mark of our time here. Lila's morning questions were first; "What is a blouse piece?" (Answer: a small piece of fabric, which is stitched by a tailor into the small top that is worn under a sari. We giggled for a moment that it would be considered a 'blouse" as it consists of a hankie size piece of fabric...there's nothing 'blousy' about it) and second; "Do we have to leave India?" ...I'm a bit stupefied that she is so enjoying all of this- its not as if it is familiar or easy in any way though we are renting the apartment upstairs from Shyamala and have settled nicely into a daily grove we both still wax poetic about the merits of hot showers and snow and many other things. Shyamala always opts to rent flats that have only cold running water which trickles sleepily out of a spicket located on the wall about 2 feet above the floor, it takes some getting used to (ok--yes, that is the understatement).

Dance class has been fabulous. Shyamala is not currently working at the high school whe
re she teaches biology, making it possible for her to focus a lot on dance. My classes have been about 2.5 hours long each day. The minute-by-minute detailing (mostly for the Boulder students) is as follows: we've completed the first 2/3's of Daneke Varnam, abhinaya and all. ...Oh! It is so magnificent...I'm feeling utterly blessed that everything continues to work out for me to let this dance 'be done to me'...in this moment its just really big. In class last night, around 9pm (we start late because the temperature is less...just say it with an Indian accent and it'll make sense) I felt as though I became Shyamala's canvas and she was painting the expressions (colors) onto, around and through me.

This morning the apartment was flooded with some very frisky abhisheka (ceremony) sounds. I drearily made my way downstairs for my daily intake of caffeine via sugar (a.k.a - chai) and was greeted not by a legion of bhahmins but infact only THE TELEVISION! It turns out that on the days when Shyamala can't make it to the temple by 6 am she simply turns on the old tellie...a virtual puja as it were. Apparently these programs air live for about an hour each morning...I'm still trying to wrap my mind around this one. Yes, I've got some issues around bringing my palms together (anjali mudra) in front of the idiot box...I expect I'll get worn down in another day or so..when in Rome and all that....

Two note-worthy entries were added to the running tally of inspired business names driving through the automotive district yesterday: Om Shakti Transmissions and Kwalithy Tyrez.

There are currently only 37 hours remaining in 'Wedding Season' so when spontaneously invited to one of these gala affairs I figured it was now or never. I managed to throw on a sari and get out the door in 4 minutes to catch the wedding van 3 blocks away (no shock absorbers of course means my kundalini is still asking what it ever did to deserve such treatment). The whole thing felt so rushed as the cosmos threatened to shift the stars into an unfavorable alignment for marriage...I kept having visions of the huge stone door closing down on Indiana Jones in The Temple of Doom. He slides under with only seconds to spare...SAVE! The knot is tied, the camphor is burned, the gifts are given and the flowers tossed. The wedding favors were...the fabled "blouse pieces", coconuts and mysore pauk (the afore mentioned mass of sugar, ghee and ???). The wedding lunch was a full on culinary presentation of no less than 20 different dishes slopped onto a huge banana leaf plate, rice as the entree. It must be mentioned here that these people eat unbelievably fast. Everyone was speaking to me in Hindi because I am often assumed to be from North India...if I said it once I said it 100 times--Pani Nahee (translation: No Kind Sir, You can keep your water jug away from my cup and yes that is a fine looking cow you have, now good day to you!)

Lila's commentary, "Eat it quick before it jumps off the banana leaf!

Ok Ok Ok...I'll stop there....but there's sooooo much more!

tracking the great ganapati

ganapati on the beach Posted by Picasa
Mon, 12 Sep 2005


Yes!!! Dancing Dancing Dancing! Yesterday I had my first class with Shyamala, I breathe a huge sigh of relief here, like sailing into the pristine harbor after far too long at sea. We dove right into a huge dance that I've been chiseling away at for a couple of years now, Daneke Varnam, a 40-minute (extremely complex) item that involves a third person plea made by a maid to Lord Siva. She poetically expounds, in every conceivable way, that her mistress is the perfect 'match' for Lord Siva. He is of course (!) completely un-phased by all of this and has many well thought out reasons as to why he need not take interest in the lovely mistress...I'd tell you where the story ends.... if I knew... I've not learned that part yet, so perhaps it will be a cliffhanger for the time being.

baking day Posted by Picasa

Since the first night we arrived I've been asking (far too many) questions about this Ganapati (Ganesha/elephant-headed god) Festival. Everyone was giving different, if not entirely contradictory information about when, how and why the main festivities occur. Yesterday I came to realize that much of the confusion was due to the government declaring that the tossing of mud murtis (statues) into the ocean is creating an ecological hazard...not knowing how much truth there is in this statement, I remain the ever oblivious outsider. BUT! After much debate we finally tracked down the (government approved) Ganapati by the Sea (yes, that is the title of this adventure) and oh - was it ever cooool! The huge murti was paraded down the road, the flowers were-a-fly’ in and the priests were-a-chant’ in. When everyone finally made it through the crowd of political protesters and the veritable army of Indian police that were present to do I don't know what (sense the disdain?) then Ganapati was dragged across the beach and floated out to sea...it was just lovely. BUT! It gets better--for all you arty-photographer types--picture the beach strewn with the hundreds of small mud Ganapatis (and flowers and shells of course) that had been offered into the tide during the previous week. There is something so primal about tossing one's prayers into the waves and having them wash up, maybe eons later, on some unknown shore, more beautiful than ever.

Oh! So there I was, thinking that we were finished with the whole festival thing and it turns out that next Thursday is Onam... yet another festival. This one is somewhat like a New Years celebration and is punctuated by gala food preparations, purchasing of new saris and the creation of mind-bendingly elaborate kolam decorations made with flowers instead of rice/chalk. I'm utterly delighted by this news as kolam has always had the magical power of dissolving me into happiness:

Showing up - letting go - and crossing the ocean of eternity!

wake up! its 4am!

local color Posted by Picasa

Thu, 8 Sep 2005

Grammar...getting.... sloppier by the minute... the mental stretch of attempting to speak Tamil/Indian English (don't forget to add the head bobble or nobody will understand a word you say!), the noon-day sun, the mosquitoes and the disabled spell checkers on these Indian computers make for quite a quezzie communiqué.... please to be excusing me.

The field notes from Chennai on this Thursday afternoon begin with the 4 am wake up call. The lime green house next door to Shyamala's has been celebrating a marriage so our room is lit up with soft glow of no less than 10,000 X-mass lights that have been strung all over their palm trees...its really quite nice. At 4am each morning I am awaked by the sound of ...yes! ...You guessed it! AUM.... AUM.... AUM.... there is a temple near-by that has just the right acoustics to make those ruckus priestly mantras permeate everything for a 10 kilometer radius. The priests begin quite early and go on for several hours...the crows chime in (LOUD) around 6am...I'm not complaining or anything...I rather like having my kaleidoscopic Indian techni-color dreams fade into the X-mass light glow via waves of A...U...M...

ganapati dreams Posted by Picasa

Last night we visited several temples to bask in the ocean of Ganesha that is swirling all around for the Ganesha Chaturti Festival. I just love how when the arati (ceremonial fires) are all lit up everyone gets all frenzied. In a couple days all of the murtis (statues) that everyone has been puja-ing and parading about will be cast into the ocean. Everywhere we go the temples are ROCK'IN! The doors are flung wide open, the priests are covered in sweat, the women are 'dolled up' like nobodie's bizness, 40 ft. tall neon Ganeshas stand on each corner, flowers everywhere and traffic is brought to a stand still when the huge Ganeshas are brought into the streets on temple chariots...I just love these mobile pujas.Oh yes- one last note: after attending a kauravangi dance drama (bharata natyam done gypsy style) we headed over to the famous Grand Sweets where we partook in the sugary goodness of 'mysore pauk' (a dense alchemical mishmash of ghee, sugar and besan flour), there's just nothing else like it.

The mosquitoes are telling me that's enough for now...Running away now!
Aum Shakti!

ganapathi bappa morya

tsunami territory Posted by Picasa
Wed, 7 Sep 2005


Day 5 in Chennai brings rain and get this! A temperature of 85 degrees..very nice indeed.

Yesterday was just simply amazing. It all began 14 years ago when Shyamala took me to Chidambaram (a huge Siva temple built in the Chola dynasty, containing 999 stone pillars - the last pillar being Siva's leg - making it the temple of 1000 pillars), I had a premonission that I was to bring my daughter (not born at that time) there and have her do an "Opening Namaskaram" on the Koothambalam (the dance stage)...well, it all happened yesterday. Everything became very dreamy...time slowed down ...the temple bells were beating our hearts...the arati fires were the light/love that moves through us all...on and on. So I don't know what happens when one completes a chapter as big as that one but I'll be sure to let you know.

taxi driver siesta Posted by Picasa

We hired a very nice driver named Krishna to take us on this massive excursion (5 hours there-5 hours back) in his taxi...I know, I'm a total wimp for not taking the bus but I'm using Lila as my excuse. On the way back he asked if we could stop at his wife's families house, about 3 hours outside of Chennai since we would be passing right by there and he hadn't seen her in a long time AND SHE JUST HAD A BABY! How could I refuse? Whoa Nelly! Was that ever a delightful turn of events! He drove us down a bullock path amidst beautify constructed mud huts, the kind that have a shrine alcove constructed into each wall and asked us to come in and meet his family. GEEZ! His wife was about 18 and utterly gorgeous, his father in law has that sleek "work ‘in like a dog" physique and totally covered in mud...it goes on and on. Nobody spoke English of course, they placed the one month old baby girl (not named yet because she will be having a naming ceremony in two months time) in my arms and needless to say I melted into a puddle...right there on the mud floor. Then they machetied green coconuts for us and we all sat around enjoying each other in the noonday heat.

Just before Chennai, we stopped in at the Sri Aurobindu Ashram in Pondicherry, where I proceeded to have several moments of angst brought on by the westerners in their shorts.... the worst part is that when asked to remove their shoes they place baggies over their socks so that they can walk on hallowed ground with out actually touching it? ...i'm embarassed.

chidambaram temple Posted by Picasa

Lila's quote from yesterday--"I'm learning so much about everything!"

She particularly enjoyed making a study of who gets the right-of way creature or machine. Cows seem to be at the top so the goats and dogs strategically place themselves amidst the cows whenever they need to cross the road, next down is the government bus and by golly! Everyone had better clear the way....

Happily Landed

jaya jaya!

@ annalakshmi in chennai Posted by Picasa
Mon, 5 Sep 2005

Namaskaram All,

Lila and I are happily landed at Shyamala's....and OH MY GOSH! This is sooo wonderful!!! Enjoyment is far too small a word! The flight was not quite pleasant but totally tolerable, it still amuses me that the airport code for Chennai is MAA...which is exactly what I feel from this entire continent, "Maaaaaa!...". Shyamala's new flat is on a very quiet street and ideal in countless ways. I've been happily drenched in the local flora and fauna, the meandering cows and water buffalo, crazy-eyed dingoes, Shyamala's pet crow that comes and asks for food at the door, the chipmunks that come and eat whatever is left behind, the tulsi basil (blessings from the goddess) that grows outside everyone's door, geckos that decorate the walls and I don't think I'll EVER get bored of the blue butterflies. AND THE FOOD!...need I say more? My body jumped for joy when I ate that first round of Johan's coconut chutney. Every little thing is fortifying my spirit, the kolam outside of this internet cafe was over the top and then that we take out shoes off before entering...yes, even the internet cafe! Well...its all really nice.

billboard Posted by Picasa

Lila is having a fabulous time, eating things that she can't pronounce, braving the heat, wearing a dupata for REAL and studying Tamil...one that I gave up on years ago...who in their right mind would make words with 16 syllables and no consonants? We are off on a temple adventure tomorrow to visit Chidambaram (Oh My GOSH!!!) and Pondicherry (the French port) and then the next day is the Ganesh Chaturti festival, we'll be paying much homage to Vinaka and then watching the murtis float into the ocean....ahhhh...there is so much more but it feels silly to tie it all down with words.

I now have an Indian cell phone...and it even seems to work, though I haven’t quite figured out how to answer it. Keeping in mind the time change (I'm about 11.5 hours ahead of you), feel free to call, I would love to be caught in the midst of some Indian moment and share it with you. I don't think the voice mail works so- no need to leave a message but I'll see that you called and call you back. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Wed, 12 May 2004
Bonjour Mes Amies

oooo la la.... Posted by Picasa

Greetings from the Land of Crepes, Chocolate and Culture Galore!

It took a while to figure out the whole cyber scene in this city of gothic churches and gaggles of eclair stuffed pigions. We've been utterly entertained by the never ending list of sites to see. The gargoyles on the cat walk above Notre Dame made my little heart pitter-pat. AND! The people have been a delight to interact with...I'm serious! When we are polite...like REALLY polite, they seem pleased as punch to have us here. Etiquette seems to be the name of the game...

For those who asked, there is no phone in the apartment.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.