31 January 2008
28 January 2008
from gandhi's ashram observances at sabarmati:
The active part of Non-violence is Love. The law of Love requires equal consideration for all life from the tiniest insect to the highest man. One who follows this law must not be angry with the perpetrator of the greatest imaginable wrong, but must love him, wish him well and serve him. Although he must thus love the wrong-doer, he must never submit to his wrong or his injustice, but must oppose it with all his might, and must patiently and without resentment suffer all the hardships to which the wrong-doer may subject him in punishment for his opposition.
from st. paul's letter to the corinthians and erik and jesica's wedding
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
pictures of ahmedabad's old city from the city heritage walk
pictures of the jamma masjid and some arabic writing on the literal walls
back to mangolandia.
27 January 2008
this morning a dear friend introduced me to her teacher. her guru. a guru in sanskrit, we remember, is one who helps the student from the darkness unto the light. a guru in this culture, i am learning, is respected right after mother and father, and is so important and powerful in a child's life that they must even bow to him.
something to do with learning and ignorance understood not as being confined to the realm of classes, wealth, or materiality, but being in and of itself The Ultimate Struggle.
as seen in this most common prayer Rama taught me and wikipedia remembers replete with diacritical notation:
- Asato mā sad gamaya / tamaso mā jyotir gamaya / mṛtyor mā amṛtam gamaya
- "lead me from non-truth to truth; lead me from darkness to light; lead me from mortality to immortality"
what they're talking about is learning algebra. or meditation. or selfhood. or whatever. immortality.
and the point is that somehow the magic is just in the Air here and i knew this would be Important and i asked for humility and to approach as a wayward son and to be shown the way. so i find my way up the backstairs and shoeless joe jackson sit down amidst half a dozen juvenile tabla players, a couple of parents, and my friend heena. he is looking at/past me the whole time at the parents, i have arrived at a dramatic pause before he begins some philsophy.
he is nominally a tablist, internationally known, with schools all over the world. but he is speaking, here, truth.
he starts talking about how everybody has different priorities, their own tension (stress in indian english), their own desires. its understandable. he speaks a little about how the child in question is amazing material, has already played in concerts, and could a gift from god to the performing world. and then he focuses his words and eyes and even spirit a bit, focused to a drill bit, and looking past me and perhaps past them as well he speaks ice to the parents, offering to step off and stop his teaching, asking for them to trust him to allow him to do his job, that as long as he is a teacher the kid needs to come 3 days a week minimum it doesnt matter what they want in their lives. its about education and its much bigger than school and hiphop this is music this is life and if you want your cute little indian kid to be the master you have to give him to the Master, free reign. this goes on in total pacific calm and a powerful undertow for 20 minutes with humor and allegory and wayward paths but the strong fiber is DONT FUCK UP mom and dad and you can tell they are hushed and shamed and they will do their best not to. she moves to speak and he stops her -- yes yes feel free i treat all my students' parents like family, im sorry if i do not speak sweetly today, but before you speak you must know there will be no compromise.
you're either on the bus or you're...
he cuts off their apologies and prostrations with pure sleight-of-hand politeness and begs off, "i have a friend i must talk to for a time" and pulls me into another room.
we sit and smile in a room full of keyboards and he proceeds to tell me all about my past and future from reading my energy and my face, a science he has studied for 20 years. he knows all about my relationship with my mother, my parents separation, my role in peoples' lives. all of it. i look in his eyes and try to focus my thoughts, repeating in my mind what he says. i have a strange sensation i have only felt very very rarely in my life that he can read my thoughts so i better keep it real. he likes me and offers to teach me many things that he has not taught anyone else. the only things that interest him are music and philosophy.
he says he can that i have no interest in money, in cheating, in fame, in fraud. and i will always have lots of money and never be in need. that my family is worldly in their concerns and cannot understand or approve of the path of knowledge, and that i have many complaints in mind we must get rid of and first of all is the complaint that nobody understands me. even though its true. he says all manner of pleasant and unpleasant things about my mind in a gentle fashion and both assumes and concludes that i should spent as much time as possible with him and he would take care of everything.
so that might change my plans. it's hard to know anything of course and i'm just reflecting on his observations and trying to rein in the confusion and just be.
so there's that. i just know that there is a strong wind and a hard rain and gandhi says he opens his house to the winds of all faiths and is blown off his feet by none. all the teachers and medicines and friends and revelers have shared with me that it can Only be about the Love. only. only. avatars are avatars and its important to focus on the prize.
something good. like that.
back to mangolandia.
Il faut être toujours ivre.
Tout est là:
c'est l'unique question.
Pour ne pas sentir
l'horrible fardeau du Temps
qui brise vos épaules
et vous penche vers la terre,
il faut vous enivrer sans trêve.
Mais de quoi?
De vin, de poésie, ou de vertu, à votre guise.
Et si quelquefois,
sur les marches d'un palais,
sur l'herbe verte d'un fossé,
dans la solitude morne de votre chambre,
vous vous réveillez,
l'ivresse déjà diminuée ou disparue,
demandez au vent,
à la vague,
à tout ce qui fuit,
à tout ce qui gémit,
à tout ce qui roule,
à tout ce qui chante,
à tout ce qui parle,
demandez quelle heure il est;
et le vent,
"Il est l'heure de s'enivrer!
Pour n'être pas les esclaves martyrisés du Temps,
enivrez-vous sans cesse!
De vin, de poésie ou de vertu, à votre guise."
Always be drunk.
The great imperative!
In order not to feel
Time's horrid fardel
bruise your shoulders,
grinding you into the earth,
Get drunk and stay that way.
On wine, poetry, virtue, whatever.
But get drunk.
And if you sometimes happen to wake up
on the porches of a palace,
in the green grass of a ditch,
in the dismal loneliness of your own room,
your drunkenness gone or disappearing,
ask the wind,
ask everything that flees,
everything that groans
everything that speaks,
ask what time it is;
and the wind,
will answer you:
"Time to get drunk!
Don't be martyred slaves of Time,
On wine, virtue, poetry, whatever!"
back to mangolandia.
over town, here is one i like a lot
"The Gospel according to Tacoma. let the good news go out that you don't need to pretend that YOUR HEART IS NOT BROKEN. that you are not alone in your suffering. you are not alone. you are not alone. you are not alone. let everyone hear the good news and press into it."
24 January 2008
and i will have nothing scheduled. this wedding ends today with a groomic reception in ahmedabad and then i am free, careless and floating in the hands of nirali and jayeshbhai and mukeshanand, flute teachers and ashrams.
i have an idea to plant trees with shvass on saturday and to write the next draft of my gandhi book ('sometimes we walk alone') if i can find a laptop. there is a month of flute lessons and meditation awaiting me and then potentially a magical workshop on kabir in march. if things work out i might bicycle from bangalore to the futane farm in maharastra and be with the mangos for a while.
back to mangolandia.
working on putting them
but only the gods know, collectively, if that will work. they do have
flat screens at internet cafes ("cyber") these days here in nadiad,
and i think that bodes well for all of our futures.
speaking of which, the indian stock market suffered a "correction"
recently, and my nephew (who studies finance) was trying to convince
me it demonstrated the strength of the indian economy. maybe it was a
translation issue but then again, i have found way more nationalism
than malaria in my supercontinental travels...
at least as dangerous.
but the wedding. its not over yet. i arrived to the mother on tuesday
morning after 36 hours of transit to the early morning nip of
ahmedabad, and was quickly en route to a shave. if numbers were power
the most powerful experiences of my "visit" so far have been the
cut my hair
there is an internal logic and dissatisfaction i fear i will never
undestand. i came firmly convinced i would shave and be a kind
gentleman about it and did so within an hour of setting foot in the
country. even before meditating. and yet, predictably, it just ushered
me even more quickly into the cut-your-damn-hair discussion (still in
progress). the marriage thing makes even less sense to me -- i have no
idea how these people think they're going to convince me to get
married when they are so far from convincing me to cut my hair.
but the cajoling is honestly quite cute and tender. a long harrangue
from some unknown masi that ends with a little jab to the ribs, along
the lines of "come on have another x" (rotli, tequila, puff, fried
dough ball) except it likes, "come on and let us find you a girl". as
if i would just gave to the peer pressure. peer being the wrong word
for an army of tradition culture and old women, clearly.
also these people have no sympathy for "i think my karma is just
different" or any of that eastern new age spiritual "baloney" (as my
mom calls it). if you dont follow the program, the general protection
fault is your own. punto.
but the wedding. and the shawls. the shawls. every man woman and child
in the gujarati winter (getting to a little below 50 fahrenheit, and
absolutely frightening for the natives, myself included) has a shawl
at all times, and they are so varied and beautiful that i pass my
non-meditating hours in a sea of sartorial desire.
it's the one thing that can pull me out of the ego-d morass at a
wedding of 800 people where the only real friend i have is my mom, and
im trying to avoid her because 70% of our public interactions consist
of her physically or verbally berating or fixing something about my
appearance. which of course isn't the best fertilizer for my
self-esteem in the one ambit i have always always felt uncomfortable
and shitty: the indian social gathering. it's really a whole other
level. i have never felt so uncomfortable, ugly, and shy in my life as
i do at these indian social gatherings, and that has not changed since
i was a small boy in california.
what the fuck?
but the point is really the shawls and perhaps the wedding. in the
depths of discomfort -- i have taken to examining my cell phone (!?)
and individually deleting the spam messages from the telecom provider,
thats how low it gets -- i spy some sort of white and purple mirrored
shawl on some auntie across the pavilion and all is right and soft in
but the wedding. tuesday was devoted to mehndi (henna, natural plant
tatooos) as you can see in the pictures. all the womens' hands and
feet covered in arabesque designs (don't tell the hindus!) and even
the adventuresome male. i complied with a promise made under the
huichol full moon last may and got the word Ahimsa tatood on my right
nice to know that i've come to the point as a graphic artist that i
would have prefered doing it myself to the design of the beautiful
girl (picture), but that's okay. as it's temporary, i will have many
so i have shawls on the brain and ahimsa on the palm. i passed my time
between ceremonies playing on the flute and everybody in my family was
psyched and appreciative. which was nice. i mainly hang out with the
14 and under crowd, who are full of life and curiosity and dont mind
dedicating hours to things they cant do. still not so into the
cartwheels but then again we make the road by walking.
tuesday night there is a formal dinner and musical program, and
wednesday was the day for dancing. formal meals all day tuesday
wednesday and thursday -- when your daughter has a wedding you feed
the town for the better part of a week. most of the ceremonies saw
100-150 people, except for the grand finale (non-binding in finality)
last night, where 800-1000 people came to eat dinner and give
there are some really interesting customs and i have had some minor insights
* there is a guy with a bag and a notebook collecting money from
whomever wants to give. he writes down the name and the amount so the
family knows who gave what and can give More when their daughter gets
married. in this way we have a natural system of inflation... there
are even various accounts, open at different time, if you want to give
to the brides parents, the bride, or the bride and groom.
* there is a procession of all the relatives from the bride's mother's
side of the family, where they carry a basket full of gold and silk,
jewlery and saris, and sweets to the bride's house. they lay it down
at her feet to display to the bride's father's side of the family what
they're bringing to the occassion. she opens all the gold and tries it
* there is also a procession to bring clay pots that are filled with
various powders and liquids by the priest. all day the priest is
conducting rituals with flowers, nuts, seeds, stimulants, paint, and
gods, and nobody has the least idea what he is doing. it all has very
specific and esoteric meaning no doubt, but it's not clear to the
marriage party exactly what and why. 5000 years of intense culture.
there is no school to be a priest, its a caste system thing. there is
a six month training program to be a barber and learn the razorblade
which im pysched about.
* all these processions are proceeded by a distressing amount of
firecrackers. almost lebanese in volume and voracity.
* the food is incredible and varied. i ended up vomiting all night
from the water (welcome to indian tripper) so its diminshed my
consumption fervor, but really, the food has been incredible.
* thursday morning there was the pitti ceremony, where the priest and
the women cover mansi's skin with turmeric and other natural beauty
creams to make her shiny and whiter. the role of the mama (= mother
uncle, myself) is to pick her up after she is covered with the
powders, help her to her feet, and give her an envelope full of money.
which i did.
* later the mamas (= mothers uncles) carry a dholi (= marriage cage)
across the field to the wedding pavilion, effectively giving her away.
theres a lot more of course, why wouldnt there be, but at this point
let me get to the meat of the vegetarian marrige, which is the tragic
finality of it all. at the grand mexican wedding we attended in
cuatla, the whole atmosphere was of joy and union and two families (or
more -- if you count our strange intl tribe as a sort of family)
coming together and getting to know and to love one another. there
were tears of joy, mostly, as far as i could tell.
at this wedding, the undercurrent throughout, rising to a public
climax at the end, was of loss. she and the boy had been introduced 6
months before and talk on the phone daily. which is to say, its not 7
years of intl courtship but neither is it a veiled trip into the
unknown beyond. they're friends at the least and have had time to know
and to love each other. but the overwhelming sentiment had nothing to
do with the boy or with two families joining but rather a huge family
publicly morning the amputation of its beautiful daughter. and all the
rituals are structured to make the point indubitable -- the mamas
giving away the daughter, the whole family walking behind the
newlyweds and saying goodbye as they get in the car, all of it...
so that's what i'm left with. loss. an awareness of death. and no
redemptive alcohol for people to return to and celebrate like some
sort of irish wake or whatever. anyhow.
happy and almost healthy and full of love and grace and thanks for
being in india.
21 January 2008
ive made it back to the motherland. which to say, the love. that
fountain which springs eternal to guide me and fill me with that which
i take for hope, wisdom, charity, and the pure all-encompassing love.
the love which i feel walking out of the arrivals hall to see a world
pre-dawn dust, workers sleeping comfortably on cement, taxi drivers
who apologize for offering their services once they know your mom is
already on her way.
it's the complicated melodies in the cheesy music, the emphatic tabla
in "pretty woman" cover, the morning shave.
the morning shave by a man so confident in his amplitude that he could
prod me using his stomach like an arm. he was that good. joking i'd
have to pay 15 times the price because my beard was so unkempt (and
really it was nothing) and threatening to cut my hair. all good
natured and the standard indian twice-over with the straight-edge,
face massage and slurry of strange powders (i'll be whiter any day
now!) i can only refuse because i've practiced so painfully with tea
and parle-g (the refusal that is: the reversal of perspective).
but i'm here and safe and headed to a wedding tonight. it's just the
first day i think, where the womens' hands will be covered with mehndi
and god-willing, they will allow me some as well (i do have long hair,
remember). ever since the summit in may (oraworldmandala.org) i have
wanted a tattoo of the word Ahimsa (in sanskrit) on my right palm. and
due to various factors in the mental and material worlds, i think i
will start by doing a henna (mehndi) version of it, learning how to
draw it every week or so, another meditation. and if the paint sticks,
well, i can wear it.
so there's that. i leave the barbershop and can squeeze the barber on
the shoulders as if he were greg. this intimacy between males barely
strangers is something i treasure and have miss. we can discuss
touching the females another day.
back to mangolandia.