Meher Baba Amartithi Update
Went to the Ellora Caves on an overnight trip yesterday.
Things are getting out of hand here at the Meherabad commune. The modern day Christ figure that people worship here - Meher Baba - dropped his body on January 31st, 1969. Every year on that date, followers come to his tomb/shrine and worship together. People say that it is a lot of singing and dancing and generally a good time. It is starting to get crowded.
The day that we arrived (a week ago), there were two or three dozen other pilgrims. I'm just a culture-vulturing tourist, so I shouldn't complain. I will make a guestimate that, at morning prayers today, there were at least a thousand people. We have all been moved to a new huge dormitory that resembles a two-storey castle in the middle of Indian farmland. Most of the new arrivals thus far are Indian people from nearby towns and villages.
I saw somebody playing a tabla - Both drums of the tabla have an inner circle on the head composed of sandalwood or a tar like substance called 'tuning paste' this morning. I was hypnotized for a solid hour staring and these Indian men and women pass the drum around and sing their praise songs of worship. I can best describe playing a tabla drum as dribbling a basketball sideways while rattling your fingers like a tamborine.
Mosquitoes are still a big problem at night. I will get a bus into town, find an ATM and then purchase a mosquito net.
At the suggestion of my friend Akshay, I have been spending the last few days at a compound in the middle of India named Meherabad. It is the permanent encampment for followers of Meher Baba. The friendship and the community here is lots of fun. If you can imagine what a religious commune in India primarily populated by Westerners would be like, then you probably have a good idea of how my days go. Waking up at 5:30am, prayers and songs over sunrise, etc. The defining difference in my attack can be summarized in that fact that I read from The Toyota Way instead of God-Brother or A Love So Amazing during reading hours.
Pete Townshend (ding) spent a lot of time here - there are some funny home movies from that era.
I will try to tell you about some things you would notice as a first-time visitor to India.
People make fires along the sides of roads, in their yards and even on golf courses. On a good day, I will see a dozen different fires. These are created for different purposes:
"You can't eliminate problems, but you can make trades to get problems that you prefer over the ones you have now."
Eric's Axiom of Software Management, via
Outsourcing my travel writing - Interesting Indian delicacy: paan.
Kaushal got me to try paan a few times. It's really a head trip for me, because there are so many different tastes in my mouth at one time. I end up chewing, spitting, and slurping all at once - then usually spitting it out after a few minutes, because there's nothing left but the betel leaf.
Chatting up two Israeli soul-seekers at a nightclub with Akshay and Sid. I ask them to tell me what they are doing here and what their swami has been teaching of their last month. I'm not aggressive about it, but when they give me vague answers, I keep asking. They are still not forthcoming, and I am trying to be understanding. We are in a Friday night bar, after all, and zen is much more personal than introductions.
Or is it? I'm not giving up now. It's honest interest, so I keep pushing them to talk about their Search. I request a concise, layman's explanation to what their instructor instructs as she sits in a center of Buddhist students for a few hours each day. The Israeli girl - she's draping a nice red frock around her shoulders - starts to open up a little. "Some people study zen for ten or twenty years of meditation - and still they don't have anything. Our darsham says that might be the wrong approach. Well, not necessarily the wrong approach. She just offers to teach us a shortcut."
A shortcut to what? The girl and her male friend hem and haw. Do you stop wanting, do you lose your desire for material objects? More hemming and more hawing. More pushing from me.
"Here, like this. You work in front of a computer all day, you bag groceries, maybe you do construction work. We're learning how to do anything, and to not care about it, to be able to do it for one hundred hours and be..." There's a pause. These kids speak with a lot of pauses, I just haven't been documenting them. It's like they want to say Be Happy, or end it with another obvious, but they are holding back.
"Our darshan explains it and says that once you Understand, if you wanted to lay in bed all day and never leave your bedroom, you could be a perfectly happy tomato."
I mull this over in my head. Depending on what sort of mood I am in, I will remember this as either the dumbest thing I have heard all week - or the most spiritual.
Just finished watching If I Were Rich (France). The movie we saw before was Sky Hook (Yugoslavia).
I know what you are thinking. "An international film festival after a weekend of paragliding? In India? You could do that in Atlanta, Chicago or New York! That's not India! That's not third-world experience!"
The theater was full. Throngs of Indian college students packed two to a seat and filled up all the aisles and even the stairs. A neat thing about this cinema complex was that for an extra five rupees, you could get your lunch packed into a parcel and eat it in the theater. I had Chinese okra, which was like seasame chicken, but with okra. Really good.
And everybody wanted to be where we were. Everybody is moving up.
By the way, mad ups to Kaushal, who is on fire right now with a new job in the pipeline.
I still think it would be a really great idea to work hard and make an Amazon.com of t-shirts. Zach told me a few months ago that AllPosters was trying it, but I think they were going to keep the physical inventory. I'm suggesting an affiliate-driven t-shirt aggregator, where you pass around the XML order information and keep your hands off of billing and fulfillment.
Jakob thinks that sites like this already exist, but I haven't heard of one. The important thing would be to invest all profits over the first few years to market the site as "The Amazon.com of cool t-shirts." E-mail me if you have some links or comments on this.
It figures that as soon as I was ready to tremble in fear at the prospect of India rising to dominate the globalized world of intellectual capital, something totally backward was bound to happen.
Last night I was ready to party. New Year's Eve is a time to party! So with the wonderful help of the lovely Swati Ayer who recently accepted a nice position at Cartoon Network India, congratulations, my friend Akshay and I found ourselves welcoming the new year in the company of many beautiful Indian women (and their yuppie husbands, but that's another story). No countdowns, no balloons - just fast active dance music until midnight, and then the power was cut for a long minute, and everybody knew it was 2005. Except for me, because I just assumed it was another power outage. In hindsight, this method of New Year announcement was simplistically beautiful, because you're left with a pitch-black and otherwise-silent room of screaming humans.
Our after-partying was cut a short around 1:00am - and here is the backwards part - by demonstrators for a big political party in India. These bhen chuths shut down all of the popular discos around Pune under threat of violence, and they were protesting and yelling outside of our very club! This group is famous for their anti-Western celebrations on nights like this. In February, I'm told, their henchmen smash storefront windows of businesses with Valentines Day heart and rose decorations. So the police had to come up to our little peacful club and nicely say that unless the music was turned off, the large crowd downstairs was going to get violent. Oh, and please do not take any alcohol bottles outdoors, or else you will get lynched.
I think that everybody celebrating Western-style took it in good stride, and there probably wasn't any real danger - just some unhappy people showing off their political muscle. The club had a great buffet upstairs, so most people simply stopped dancing and started eating.