Friday, May 22, 2009

2009 05 22. Friday.

2009 05 22. Friday.

Got into Mumbai around 10pm and then took a flight down to Cochin at 1am. The Mumbai airport departure lounge was filled with lots of really fancy shops and upscale trendy bars. Interesting and very stark contrast to the real India I was going to see soon. To be more accurate the "real" India is very diverse, mostly poor but a growing middle and upper class.

At the Mumbai airport I saw some young guy with a long string of binary digits tattooed on the back of his right calf. I asked him if it was a cyrpto key. He nodded and replied in what seemed like a German accent "Yep. Its my 256 bit GPG public key running all the way down from my right shoulder." Cool. I told him about the US guy who had an encryption algorithm tattooed on himself. This particular algorithm (256 bit RSA or something like that) was classified as a munition by the US Govt and thus there was a big stink when he tried to travel overseas. Made for a cool story in Wired mag.

I was REALLY sleepy when I got on this flight. They put me in an exit row seat which was great for stretching my legs, but the seat couldn't lean back! Yuch! I was really desperate to lean back and sleep. Pooh! In any case, I was so tired I was able to sleep a little bit anyway. They fed us another big meal on this flight. One thing for sure, they feed you A LOT on a long international flight! I was stuffed to the gills by the time I got to Cochin at 3am.

After getting my luggage I hopped into a taxi and went from the Cochin airport to the Ernakulam South train station. In the taxi, I leaned my seat way back, closed my eyes, said a prayer to Amma and put my life in the hands of the taxi driver. I snored while he dodged trucks and pedestrians with inches to spare, honking all the time. By Indian standards, a totally boring ride.

Once at the train station, I got the 6am express train south to Kayankulam. The train ticket was 34 rupees (about 75 cents!) for a third class seat. My luggage was pretty heavy and it was a COMPLETE pain in the butt to haul it around the train station. I had to take it up and down some stairs to get the correct platform. A very nice Indian man saw my plight and helped me get to the right train and get my luggage on board. His name was Phillip and he was a real bodhisattva. If an Indian person from Kerala has a western name it usually means they're Christian. Phillip definitely demonstrated the Christian ideals. (as I'm writing this, its starting to rain heavily again, apparently this is the wet season).

The third class seat was definitely not very comfortable and my butt was really sore at the end of the 3 hour train ride south. During the ride the sun was peeking through the clouds while a gentle rain was falling. Really beautiful. From my barred window I saw the usual rundown villages and towns interspersed with brilliant green paddy fields and lush palm tree jungles. I enjoyed seeing the cows sitting down and lazily chewing their cud in the drizzle. Lots of beautiful egret type birds flying around the paddy fields.

I finally got to Kayankulam and once again had to schlep my way too heavy luggage up and down some stairs in the hot Indian sun. Yuch! I have yet to learn how to travel light. I grabbed an auto rickshaw (a motorized tricycle with a roof) at the station and we buzzed down to the ashram. Being a passenger in an auto rickshaw (or any vehicle for that matter) in India is definitely not for the faint of heart. About every 5 minutes it looks like we're going into a certain accident! But at the last second everyone seems to come to their senses and swerve and squeak by with inches to spare. I got totally used to this on my last 6 month stay here so it doesn't bother me any more. Its good practice to just enjoy the ride and leave the safety to Amma. So far so good.

And then there it was! The ashram! With the new bridge all complete. The walking bridge over the backwater to the ashram is pretty high so once again I had to haul my luggage up and down a lot of steps in the morning sun. I was really wiped by the time I got the the check-in office. My enthusiasm for being back was deeply buried under exhaustion and serious jet lag. In spite of that it felt really good to be back. Lots of deep feelings came up. So many familiar sights!

At the check-in office I was assigned a room on the 11th floor of the E building. I hauled my stuff up there and set up a few things. Another guy's stuff was also there but he was out. I went back to the check-in office to ask about something and the guy there said "Great! I'm glad you came back. Because you own a flat, you can get your own temporary room while your flat is being built. The flat owner's monthly fee is half of the usual $150 per month." Wow! Now that is a serious perk! Cool! I didn't know that. Wish they would tell me these kind of things.

The check-in guy (with a straight face, I'm not kidding) said the following: "You can either stay in the shared room for $150 per month or move to a private room for $75 per month. Which would you like?" Doing my best not to burst out laughing, I pretended to think for a second and said "Well, I guess I'll take the private room for half price." The check-in guy nodded at my wise choice, approving of my ability to make difficult decisions under pressure. So I went back and hauled all my stuff in my new room (fortunately only two floors down by way of elevator). Yeah! Its on the western side of the E building so it faces the ocean and the old temple building. My own room!

One of things I was nervous about coming back to the ashram was thinking that I would again have to share rooms. I would also be bounced around from room to room until the building with my flat was completed in probably about 6-8 months time. Turns out I didn't need to worry at all! I bet Amma got a chuckle at all my needless worries. Come to think of it, I probably give Amma lots of reasons to laugh and roll Her eyes. Well, She must be an amazing Guru if She's willing to guide the likes of me.

After getting my stuff moved in I finally took a MUCH needed shower. Bliss! I was really grimy after 2.5 days of travel and hauling heavy luggage in the Indian sun. The water (as usual) was chilly. Cold showers is one thing I still take a while to get used to (actually, I don't think I ever get used to the initial blast of cold water. Ouch! But after a few minutes in the shower its not too bad). It was a cool rainy day so the water felt especially chilly. Water is pumped up and stored in big black tanks on the top of the building (that way in the hottest part of the day you can finally get a hot shower. Yeah, thanks.). Then I collapsed and slept liked the dead from 2 to 7 pm. My brain was in desperate need of some dream time. I got up feeling a little rested but still groggy and disoriented. More dream time needed.

Effortlessly and happily stepping back into the usual ashram routine I know so well, I grabbed my bag and trooped off to the 8pm dinner. The rain had obligingly stopped by then. I had some leftover rolls from the flight so instead of watery rice, I just had some hot rice water into which I ripped up my bread and tossed it in. Delicious! As usual, I ate on the Indian side and from across the big hall I could easily hear the westerners at their side chatting away and laughing. For some strange reason I always really enjoy the solitude of eating by myself. While eating I sometimes practice learning new verses from whatever chant or bhajan I'm trying to memorize at the time.

After dinner back at my room I was happily tapping away on my laptop keyboard when some big loudly buzzing bee or hornet suddenly flew into my room! Scared the crap out of me! It was flying all over the place and after a few tense minutes, flew back outside through the grate over the door. Stuff like that always gives me the hopping heebie jeebies. First thing I do when I finally get to my own flat is put some screens on the windows. Reminds me of the time when I was here back in 2006. One night I went to use the bathroom at around 3am. I turned on the light and suddenly saw this huge black spider right there in the middle of the bathroom floor! I almost went to the bathroom right there! After some tense struggle I finally trapped it under a plastic tub and tossed it over the balcony. I think it lost a leg in the process and I got a few white hairs for my efforts.

Waiting for the elevator I had a short chat with Ramesh (not his real name). He's a teacher at the nearby Amma Engineering University (Amma runs a truly vast worldwide empire of schools, universities, charity hospitals, clinics, ashrams, soup kitchens and probably a hundred or more charity programs of all kinds). I said something to Ramesh I thought was clever and it was interesting (disheartening) to see how my ego again and again took pride in it. I kept thinking back on it and feeling good. Always eye opening to see how deep my ego runs even after all these years of meditation and (alleged) spiritual practice. Doesn't seem to have changed me much at all! Oh well, Rome wasn't burned in a day. And Amma likes a challenge.

Finally went to bed around 10pm after typing up some more blog entries.

No comments: