India Trip Notes
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5-19-11 - Wallah to Guru
There's a tea stand that's open early down the street from the Narayana Gurukula in Varkala. No sugar please. The man there pours the hot water through the strainer so I can see the dark tea going into his stainless cup to which he adds milk then pours into a glass then back and forth one hand high one low so there's a ribbon of tea in the air as I'm used to except I don't remember any drops being spilled before. I'm used to seeing the milk tea flow through the air from container to container in a graceful demonstration of the finesse of the tea wallah. Nobody says wallah here. At the tea stand opposite the Ramana Ashram I'd buy fresh from the moo cow milk from a bucket that the guy would pour with perfection into a narrow mouth bottle without a strainer - and if it was a used Ginger Ail bottle then the milk would have a refreshing hint of Ginger Ail. However, this unique Varkala tea stander splashes excess to the table and floor with each pour - but the final product is the same full hot glass of tea.
I sit on a block of concrete, my sandals in the red dirt and rocks, watch busses and their colors. Across the street is a bus stand with concrete benches, the wall behind reading in each of the four compartments, "Maintained by SFI" - with a star over the I - and under that, "Stick No Bills". I'm in the large ashram library with auditorium upstairs a half kilometer from the ashram and the librarian explained that SFI is Students Federation India. I couldn't understand the first word even after he spelled it, had to write it down. The bus stand roof is capped with the words Rotary Club of Varkala. Next door is Sree Narayana College and inside the wall another sign reading "Cadet Corps." Wonder if that's like ROTC. On the roof of the next building is a large poster all red with flames above and a yellow hammer and sickle as the sole message.
Swami Tyagi came to visit me at the library shortly before lunch. I'd just realized that the music that had been blasting wasn't being played by the library. It did seem out of character. It was from the church next door. I should have known when they put on Silent Night then stopped it I suppose realizing it was out of season. Now there were people doing Christian Karaoke. Tyagi said it's usually quiet. Some holiday. From the other side a call rang out from a Mosque. "We have all religions here," he said. He took me through the yard of a school Narayana had founded and as we walked he translated a poem he'd written today, jubilant and dancing along as he read his scribbling. My favorite line was, "You're as much a part of me as I am."
Guru ate with us at lunch at his own little table at the end. I made sure to be there early because yesterday he'd had to call over to me while I served myself last to let me know everyone was waiting for me so we could chant and eat. It's a silent meal - though the man next to me took a cell phone call this morning. And at lunch Guru asked me what my plans were and when my train was. He was concerned because tomorrow is a bus strike and maybe rickshaws too.
So after lunch I packed up - darn, wanted to clean that room. When I got there it had sand and stuff on the floor that I swept under the bed. Left the key in the lock. There's a guy who sleeps in the hall there, it's a very wide hall with tables. He always tells me to lock my door. Everyone tells me that. I let him know without using words I was leaving the lock in the door and leaving and we say goodbye with hands on heart and smiles.
At the computer room got some copies of poems from Tyagi. He's only translated a handful from the six volumes he's published. He doesn't use a computer or go online. Didn't even know how to use the copy machine. He's fifty maybe.
I said goodbye to Guru and gave him five hundred rupees as a donation - I'd asked where to leave something. I remember Genadi, the Russian from earlier who said they had a sign that said, "We don't accept donations." I didn't see it but I think I understand - the Guru accepts them. I asked how Guru was - he's had a prostate operation recently - and he said he was fine, just tired. I thanked him for the stay and the teaching. The night before he'd summarized his talk to me - I'm not sure what language he gave it in because there were a bunch of visitors from Pune and they speak Marathi there and I don't think of Malayalam as a popular tongue. He said that there's the individual and the race and species and we're mammals and then animals and then all life and then all phenomena and then god which created it all and each part of this scheme contains all the other parts. Something like that - he was speaking louder now so I could hear him. He said that Narayana Guru taught that all our problems come from thinking but that we can use our thought to better the lives of others. As he spoke everything else disappeared, including me.
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