Another incredibly precious moment here in India, this time in Palani where i’m spending a couple of days. It’s a major pilgrimage place. While on the bus coming here, one could see many, many groups of people walking together in this direction. I knew then and there that it would be a special place and it is. Last night I met a couple different groups of people who said they had walked here from Madurai, which is about 130km. A three day walk! One of them told me that there were 53 of them walking together. He was sweet and bought me a simple black string bracelet which he tied around my right wrist. Once you get here, the ritual is to make the 2mile walk around the hill and then climb the 760 or so steps up to the top where the most revered Murugan temple in India is located (Murugan is the son of Shiva and Parvati). So far in two days here, I’m the only westerner I’ve seen although I did meet a family from Malaysia last night after the 7pm golden chariot procession up top where at least a couple of thousand people were all gathered. I wish I understood these spectacles more from the inside, from the heart or spirit, but as it is, it’s still nice to simple see how powerful these things are for the people. Many here have shaved their heads and have covered their scalp with a yellow powder.
Anyway, for the sweet moment, I was doing the walk around the hill last night. There are many people including probably 100 Sadhus who line the long path (the man to the left is one of those who had incredibly soft and sweet eyes). I walked past a woman sitting on the ground on the side of the road, nothing unusual here. Something in me said to walk back to her so I did and for the next 15-20 minutes we had an incredibly dear conversation. The only catch is that she spoke only Tamil and i spoke only English. The sweet thing was that it didn’t matter at all in that it was our hearts talking and not necessarily the words. She was facing to the hill/temple and tears would fill her eyes and she spoke and gazed at the temple, and gazed at me, and touched her heart and touched my hand and gazed more at the temple and then pointed to the heavens. Many others gathered around at times, none of whom could speak English so we were all left to just be there together in that moment speaking our own shared language.
I took some photos of her, hoping in a way to work her and her sweet loving eyes into my “Eyes of Compassion” photography project, but as soon as she looked at the camera, her gaze would slightly change. Whatever happened the pics still came out great, and my heart was deeply touched by the whole event. She kissed my hand goodbye, which felt honorific, which is a first for me here.
Another fun thing happened, and it’s generally due to my having a camera. While walking down the many steps from the temple last night around 9pm, a group was making it’s way up to the top playing drums, and dancing and shouting with one person playing a clarinet sounding reed instrument (think snake charmer only more frenetic). I pulled out my camera and readied myself on the side of the staircase. When they got close, the clarinet guy stopped everybody and positioned me up the steps for a photoshoot of them while they all performed for me for a few minutes. It was amazing and i did my best to think on the fly with my camera and lenses to capture this spectacle in the artificially lit scene. Things happen so fast here in India that it’s forcing me to really learn the camera in a way i never had to before. so many movements to capture authentically, and framing things just so, and managing ISO and working with strange lighting. Anyway, i got a great one and here it is (it’s worth double clicking). The wonders of India.
Funny, I’ve talked with probably twice as many people in India in a month than i’ve spoken with in Fort Bragg in 2 years. People here are just friendly and curious. This morning it was a Sadhu (although another man referred to him as a Siddhi, a man who runs the water pumping station (who bought me a cup of chai) to get water up tothe top, and an Assistant Commercial Tax Officer, and a dozen others.
This morning I also befriended a group of boys selling drums and tambourines here and got them to all stand for a photo session in the street. A woman cop (they can be really sexy here – but not this one – since they are the only women whose figure you can see here as they wear slacks) tried to shoo them away with a big stick at one point, but i smiled her away.
I finally lost my cool last night when this one young man, probably 20 years old who never once cracked a smile even but kept appearing out of nowhere and walking next to me and bumping up against me and asking me simple questions. He even said, I go to your hotel? I don’t think it was sexual at all, he just wanted to be my friend. AiYah! No, please just leave me alone! and then there were at least 10 young children who were asking for money all at once and they have this incredibly annoying taptaptaptaptap tapping thing they do on your arm and leg and hand until you give them something. It’s not that common here for me on this trip (and I never give money to children here as I’m told it makes it more desirable for them to beg than to go to school), but for some reason, i was like chum to a school of piranhas last night and they swarmed me. I actually said fairly sternly, “Leave me the fuck alone!” and they quickly scattered to the four winds. Sometimes even our hearts need a little physical space I think. I was so happy to get to my room finally as there was so much energy happening with and around me. I don’t discount these events though either, they are all just part of the swarm of life that is India. To reject any part of would be a rejection of the whole. So keep tap tap tap tap tapping and i’ll do my best to love you or slip and call you a little mosquito, but whatever it is, i’m here and i do love you, i just forget sometimes. As Nancee suggested to me in an email the other day: Just surrender to the Source. I’m trying.
So many many moments here shared sweetly with so many different people.