A Train Ride Home

September 14, 2010

There are few things I enjoy more than watching the Indian countryside go by from my train window, a mix of village dwellings, rice paddies, and raw jungle. Smoggy factories and muddy rivers too. The chandani of the full moon watched over me as I slept. The train provides meals, tea, and a morning copy of The Indian Times, so needless to say I am happy as a clam.

The Hindu calendar is based on the lunar calendar. There are several calendars that vary slightly by region. Every month is 28-30 days, and begins at the day of the new moon. There are twelve months per year, named after the zodiac signs.  The Indian ancients had calculated that a year cycle was 360 days, with an extra month every five years.  Now the Western calendar is used more prevalently, but many Indians will at least know at least the date of their birthdays in both the Indian and western calendars.

Nights of no moon and full moon are considered auspicious. Two mornings ago I took prashad with the Aroras of milk, fruit and a sweet mixture that is sort of like ground cookie crumbs, only more sugar and less cookie. They eat this every full moon period.

Vikas and Arti Arora

I said goodbye to the Aroras for the second time; more gracious hosts I could not have asked for. I reached Pondy late last night and was happy to come to work today and be reunited with all of my colleagues. Today was an especially good day to return, as there was a delicious South Indian feast organized by some of the society staff. We all ate on the floor off of platters of banana leaves. Home sweet home.



Namaste, dada

September 7th, 2011

I am now on the 8-hour train back to Delhi. I had a wonderful time in Amritsar. I met very interesting and compassionate people. I learned tons about Sikhism and experienced life at the niwas. I am starting to miss Pondi and am happy to be heading home.  I am so thankful for Gurprakesh, Shivakumar, Vijaybhai, Arti Arora, and the Sikh Who Gave Me His Shoes for watching over me. 

I wrote this poem this morning, inspired by a real event and all that I have learned here. As you enter the Langar dining hall, volunteers hand out utensils. Dada means grandfather.

Langar kitchen, Amristar

September 7, 2011 5:30 am

Namaste dada, what time did you rise?

Was the sky black tar or sweet lavender?

Thank you dada for your gift,

This morning’s bowl and spoon.

Pressed palms to my chest, a thousand thanks to you.

A pat on my shoulder in delighted surprise,

Nay dada, there is no need.

I recognize the Divine in you as clearly as I see the glory

of the white ibis in the fields of Punjabi wheat.

My tin bowl half-filled with hot chai, my heart filled to the brim.



Delhi, ho!

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

– St. Augustine

I have been hatching a plot to go to Delhi for a creative writing workshop. Society staff member Harvinder, who used to be an IB school principal before coming to the society, will give the workshop. Now she writes curriculum that incorporates integral education for mainstream schools. Really cool stuff. Harvinder is a fiery, no nonsense poet, teacher and English major herself. The workshop is three days long, and I’ll be staying at the Sri Aurobindo ashram there. Delhi is the society’s Center for Media and Communication Arts, so I’ll be interested in what’s going on there.

After the workshop I’ll be staying with Maneesh’s aunt Arti near Delhi University for a few days. The Taj Mahal is only a day trip away!

I am taking the train almost the whole way. It takes two days to get to Delhi on the train, so I’m leaving on Wednesday. Taking the train is a trip in itself, and I’ll get about 5 whole days of train travel to read, write, and stare wide-eyed out my window.

My last stop will be in the far north, in the Punjab region, in the city of Amritsar. I’m very interested to see the differences between the north and south India, in food, dress, climate, everything. India is so diverse and varied; I love it.  Amritsar is famous for the beautiful Sikh Golden Temple, built on the water. I’m staying with my good friend Shabd’s friend, who is now a teacher at the school they both attended together.

I found this map online. I’m going north, north, north, then coming back on the same track. You can see how how far New Delhi is from Pondi, about 3/4 of the length of the country. Amritsar is on the northwest border, printed very small.

I will be back to Pondi in about two weeks. I don’t know how often I’ll be able to post, but I will definitely write about all of my adventures. I will likely find internet every few days then post a lot at one time.