March 17. Meditating?

Early morning I hike up the mountain. It takes me about ninety minutes from the backside of the temple complex to the peak of the sacred mountain. I walk up fast, carrying only one bottle of water I pick up at a stall adjacent to the temple. I offer this water to a local, but instead of taking a sip she thinks I am gifting the whole bottle (that could be resold). I buy biscuits instead. And offer the biscuits to a guide who denies too. I walk alone and it feels good. It has been some time since I’ve taken a decent walk up a mountain, climbing limestone rocks with hand and feet, and enjoying the view behind me every ten minutes. The temple and the town are down there, and the noise of the traffic is like an audible fume creeping up the mountain behind me.
The view from the top is beautiful and I install myself to meditate. I am 31 years old, I believe I wrote a phd in philosophy once and I have no idea about meditation, yet I just sit down, chest unveiled, and do nothing. The rocks are still greasy with ghee from the big fireworks party and my pants get dirty. A British woman walks up to me and says:
“Are you meditating?”
– “I guess so”.
It is funny to see a seven-year old child meditating. Why? He can’t be serious enough to… but meditation learns to see the vanity in our serious undertakings… he can’t possibly understand what is means to be silent inside… but we were all silent inside before we started speaking… there is just no crap in there that needs to be taken care of by means of meditation. Yes.

I ask the mountain some questions, including the classic “what are we supposed to do here?” and the answer she gives me is “live in such a way that you make other human beings smile, and also nonhuman beings.” Then we have tea with a Hindu whose guru is away. Could be contribute some cash to fix the plastic that covers his hut? The message of the guru sounds familiar: all Gods are the same and Love is the greatest. I say goodbye to the British lady and an Indonesian Dutch man who plays to be very interested in Charity Travel. Go on, the world is your stage, you may play. Let’s all play. And then the descent begins. Well, what happens is that I lose the trail a couple of times but I make it back just fine for lunch.

In the afternoon we say goodbye to Nehru and Ruby and hop on a bus to Chennai/Madras where we will take a train to the north. It will be Yeon’s birthday tomorrow, too.

March 17. Meditating?

Early morning I hike up the mountain. It takes me about ninety minutes from the backside of the temple complex to the peak of the sacred mountain. I walk up fast, carrying only one bottle of water I pick up at a stall adjacent to the temple. I offer this water to a local, but instead of taking a sip she thinks I am gifting the whole bottle (that could be resold). I buy biscuits instead. And offer the biscuits to a guide who denies too. I walk alone and it feels good. It has been some time since I’ve taken a decent walk up a mountain, climbing limestone rocks with hand and feet, and enjoying the view behind me every ten minutes. The temple and the town are down there, and the noise of the traffic is like an audible fume creeping up the mountain behind me.
The view from the top is beautiful and I install myself to meditate. I am 31 years old, I believe I wrote a phd in philosophy once and I have no idea about meditation, yet I just sit down, chest unveiled, and do nothing. The rocks are still greasy with ghee from the big fireworks party and my pants get dirty. A British woman walks up to me and says:
“Are you meditating?”
– “I guess so”.
It is funny to see a seven-year old child meditating. Why? He can’t be serious enough to… but meditation learns to see the vanity in our serious undertakings… he can’t possibly understand what is means to be silent inside… but we were all silent inside before we started speaking… there is just no crap in there that needs to be taken care of by means of meditation. Yes.

I ask the mountain some questions, including the classic “what are we supposed to do here?” and the answer she gives me is “live in such a way that you make other human beings smile, and also nonhuman beings.” Then we have tea with a Hindu whose guru is away. Could be contribute some cash to fix the plastic that covers his hut? The message of the guru sounds familiar: all Gods are the same and Love is the greatest. I say goodbye to the British lady and an Indonesian Dutch man who plays to be very interested in Charity Travel. Go on, the world is your stage, you may play. Let’s all play. And then the descent begins. Well, what happens is that I lose the trail a couple of times but I make it back just fine for lunch.

In the afternoon we say goodbye to Nehru and Ruby and hop on a bus to Chennai/Madras where we will take a train to the north. It will be Yeon’s birthday tomorrow, too.

March 15-16. The carpenter does a good job.

We buy more wood for the remaining tables, this time together with the carpenter who knows a cheaper place. He picks the wood himself and he will do everything. We: pay. Sure, perhaps I wake up from my slumbers one day and realize I can’t really do anything except from distributing pecunnia. So be it then. It means I will be worthless after I have delivered the package.

The carpenter does a great job. He has a toolkit with chisels and an automatic saw that goes “rrrrwwwhhhiiiiii rrrrrwwwwhhhiiiii” and he works almost all day for only six hundred rupees. Three more tables, much stronger, are leaning proudly against the fence when the sun sets. Those days in Tamil Nadu are not too busy, we simply enjoy our time and help Nehru and Ruby if we get the chance. Life is nice here, the roads are dusty but not too dusty. The chaos is not repulsive and the stench of the roadside garbage doesn’t scare away the cows. The town’s hustle and bustle is perceivable by a foreigner’s ears, and the sugar cane juice not too sweet. This is the kind of Indian town I like. Going about town is easy, bargaining is not the only type of conversation with the locals you’ll have, arrogant dressed-up foreigners on their yogi-trip are scarce, and people smile.

March 14. Traveling is very personal.

Our driver has been sleeping in the car although we have told him to come on the roof and make himself feel at home. We just ask him to take us back to Tiruvannamalai, there are no complications. We haven’t talked much to the Dutch owner of our guesthouse and his great dam project in the region, safeguarding Auroville’s drinking water. A little bit though, and what I get is “traveling? O yes I have done that when I was young too. It took me two years to get to Thailand and…” Traveling is very personal.
We arrive back in Auroville early in the afternoon and meet Malia, who has had a great time in Tiruvannamalai. We show her around the orphan home – she will write an article about it for Auroville’s magazine – and the children perform a dance show! It is brilliant and I really enjoy it. The smallest kids step left and right, clap and smile to a juicy rhythm, then the high school kids, and Gladys and Martin, Nehru and Ruby’s teenager son and daughter, finish up with a wild south American dance.

March 14. Traveling is very personal.

Our driver has been sleeping in the car although we have told him to come on the roof and make himself feel at home. We just ask him to take us back to Tiruvannamalai, there are no complications. We haven’t talked much to the Dutch owner of our guesthouse and his great dam project in the region, safeguarding Auroville’s drinking water. A little bit though, and what I get is “traveling? O yes I have done that when I was young too. It took me two years to get to Thailand and…” Traveling is very personal.
We arrive back in Auroville early in the afternoon and meet Malia, who has had a great time in Tiruvannamalai. We show her around the orphan home – she will write an article about it for Auroville’s magazine – and the children perform a dance show! It is brilliant and I really enjoy it. The smallest kids step left and right, clap and smile to a juicy rhythm, then the high school kids, and Gladys and Martin, Nehru and Ruby’s teenager son and daughter, finish up with a wild south American dance.

March 11-12. Elephant trunk.

We make the table today, with the few tools available. A rusty saw and a hammer that loses its handle twice. But we finish the table and the kids start painting it. Ruby cooks a delicious meal again and they serve us like royal visitors. Are the having any expectations, like some of our very niiiice Kenyan acquaintances? No. They are genuine, honest people and they don’t have the gribbely grabbely grasping grip of greed.

We suggest to support an income-generating program and it is decided to be pickling. Ruby is a learned cook and has done a lot of pickling. If only she had a good stove, dozens of containers, all kinds of spices, garlic, tomatos she could make EphPhata pickles they could sell. So we jump on an autorikshaw and buy everything that she needs. The very same nice Ruby starts the pickling, and many kids help her peeling the garlic in the pale moonlight. They are seated in little groups and merrily tossing the garlic cloves in round bowls. When I go brush my teeth later that night, I find Ruby awake behind the new stove, still preparing the garlic pickles.

Martin, son of Nehru, is the one who drives the motorbike and he is good at it. I ask him and he lets me try the light bike, present of the British benefactor, that is taking him around town, and next thing I know I am sitting on it and he explains me clutch – brake – gear – choke. Everything you ever wanted to know about motorcyles but never dared to ask. Ha! It is not that easy though. I drive a few circles but have to kickstart the bike a couple of times because I released the clutch to spasticly. But in case I need to ride, give me an hour and I’ll have figured it out.

What else? We visit the Tiruvanamalai temple, a huge complex devoted to Shiva and a round-the-clock attraction for enthousiasts of religious practice. We parade along a crowded plaza packed with cheap jewelry stalls, and a row of thick columns occupied by miserable beggars in dirty rags, we then take off our shoes and walk into the temple. They are taking paper copies of parts of the wall engravings by putting a sheet of paper on the wall and rubbing it with something black. Makes a nice souvenir. Deeper inside the temple complex there is a reel elephant taking the visitor’s coin in his trunk, patting the visitor on the hat and delivering the coin to its owner. We also do it and it’s encouraging being patted by an elephant trunk.

March 11-12. Elephant trunk.

We make the table today, with the few tools available. A rusty saw and a hammer that loses its handle twice. But we finish the table and the kids start painting it. Ruby cooks a delicious meal again and they serve us like royal visitors. Are the having any expectations, like some of our very niiiice Kenyan acquaintances? No. They are genuine, honest people and they don’t have the gribbely grabbely grasping grip of greed.

We suggest to support an income-generating program and it is decided to be pickling. Ruby is a learned cook and has done a lot of pickling. If only she had a good stove, dozens of containers, all kinds of spices, garlic, tomatos she could make EphPhata pickles they could sell. So we jump on an autorikshaw and buy everything that she needs. The very same nice Ruby starts the pickling, and many kids help her peeling the garlic in the pale moonlight. They are seated in little groups and merrily tossing the garlic cloves in round bowls. When I go brush my teeth later that night, I find Ruby awake behind the new stove, still preparing the garlic pickles.

Martin, son of Nehru, is the one who drives the motorbike and he is good at it. I ask him and he lets me try the light bike, present of the British benefactor, that is taking him around town, and next thing I know I am sitting on it and he explains me clutch – brake – gear – choke. Everything you ever wanted to know about motorcyles but never dared to ask. Ha! It is not that easy though. I drive a few circles but have to kickstart the bike a couple of times because I released the clutch to spasticly. But in case I need to ride, give me an hour and I’ll have figured it out.

What else? We visit the Tiruvanamalai temple, a huge complex devoted to Shiva and a round-the-clock attraction for enthousiasts of religious practice. We parade along a crowded plaza packed with cheap jewelry stalls, and a row of thick columns occupied by miserable beggars in dirty rags, we then take off our shoes and walk into the temple. They are taking paper copies of parts of the wall engravings by putting a sheet of paper on the wall and rubbing it with something black. Makes a nice souvenir. Deeper inside the temple complex there is a reel elephant taking the visitor’s coin in his trunk, patting the visitor on the hat and delivering the coin to its owner. We also do it and it’s encouraging being patted by an elephant trunk.