Posts tagged delhi

Delhi Airport Ride, India, 1st April 2010

I couldn’t sleep a wink on the plane.  Everytime I ordered a beer, the stewardess brought three.  I vowed to fly Air India more often.  I was sat beside Bill, an ex-hippy turned salesman who was returning to India for the first time since the 60’s.  We drank Heineken and discussed his trip from rural Sussex to India and back, in a old Land Rover.  1966 was a different time, different world.  I have long been interested in the old hippy trail and Bill brought it to life for me.  Adding a real sense of adventure and endeavour, an inspirational flight.

Many people, people whom opinions I respect, had told me to be prepared for Delhi airport.  The chaos and hassle are legendary.  My pack was the first off the belt and I wandered out to be greeted by an empty arrivals hall and pan pipe music.  Whats the big deal?

Things changed rapidly as I entered my taxi.  It had the appearance of a mis-shaped bean tin and was surely made up of several different cars, glued together.  It was 40 degrees and yet my driver wore a thick shirt and jacket, the bean tin seemed to retain heat well and after a couple of minutes, I was sitting in a pool of beery sweat, praying for at least a gentle breeze.

As we left the airport, the driver stopped on the motorway hard shoulder and two men jumped over the rails.  One swapped with the driver and the other, who was wearing a bandit style hankerchief over his face, jumped into the passenger seat.  Hold up?  The bandit then started to tell me the history of Delhi airport and we drove off into the dusty haze.  I’ve learned from experience that most things should be taken lightly when travelling and not all bandits are necessarily bad people.

The heat was incredible.  We were stuck in what appeared to be an evil traffic snake, that ended at the horizon and showed no sign of life.  Sweat poured off me, I was worried that I may wilt.  The pollution was intense and I felt like my brain was floating in diesel.   I could taste the smog, burnt plastic and lead.  I turned to see a green bus, spewing out black toxic fumes, proudly emblazoned on the side was the message, ‘CNG worlds largest eco bus company’.

The ride was now hotting up, we moved at a steady, slug-like pace.  I was confronted by the abject poverty of a slum, something that I would have to get used to.  I watched ladies working on building sites, carrying large rocks on there heads.  Work that would normally be done by machines in other parts of the world.

My driver seemed to enjoy the game chicken, with anything.  Walls, scooters, pedestrians, buses.  I was so out of it on fumes, I found it all quite exciting.

I watched Bollywood film stars whizz by my window, this is insane, the centre for the communist party of india, another planet really, a man tried to sell me a large black whip or a cheeseboard as cows chomped on rubbish, there are no rules in India.  I have never enjoyed rules anyway.

I could see urban eagles soaring in the sky.  At first I was surprised to see an eagle in a big city, turns out they are everywhere and have kept me awake on many occasions.

After what seemed like hours, we arrived at Paharganj.  I tipped my driver, mainly for getting me there alive.  The road was closed, so I walked for half an hour through Delhi.  There are no real pavements, well there are, but people are either living on them, sleeping on them or using them in some creative way (peeing).  I bounced of traffic and stumbled over piles of  rubbish.  I wondered regularly, ‘what the hell is going on here?’, ‘where am I?’ and ‘what exactly am I doing here?’

Delhi?

I finally reached Paharganj and it looked like a bomb had recently gone off.  There were piles of concrete and twisted metal in the streets and the drains seemed to be running only above ground.  The streets were alive with noise, energy and spitting.  I have never seen such a sight and rarely smelt such an interesting concoction of odours (ranging from sandalwood to dead things).  Life and activity was everywhere, in everything.  Did I mention that everyone seemed to be peeing?

I checked into a hotel, lay down and closed my eyes.  If this was the journey from the airport, what had I let myself in for?

Leave a comment »

Delhi Airport Ride 1/4/10 – India. What now?

I couldn’t sleep a wink on the plane. Everytime I ordered a beer, the stewardess brought three. I vowed to fly Air India more often. I was sat beside Bill, an ex-hippy turned salesman who was returning to India for the first time since the 60’s. We drank Heineken and discussed his trip from rural Sussex to India and back, in a old Land Rover. 1966 was a different time, different world. I have long been interested in the old hippy trail and Bill brought it to life for me. Adding a real sense of adventure and endeavour, an inspirational flight.

Many people, people whom opinions I respect, had told me to be prepared for Delhi airport. The chaos and hassle are legendary. My pack was the first off the belt and I wandered out to be greeted by an empty arrivals hall and pan pipe music. Whats the big deal?

Things changed rapidly as I entered my taxi. It had the appearance of a mis-shaped bean tin and was surely made up of several different cars, glued together. It was 40 degrees and yet my driver wore a thick shirt and jacket, the bean tin seemed to retain heat well and after a couple of minutes, I was sitting in a pool of beery sweat, praying for at least a gentle breeze.

As we left the airport, the driver stopped on the motorway hard shoulder and two men jumped over the rails. One swapped with the driver and the other, who was wearing a bandit style hankerchief over his face, jumped into the passenger seat. Hold up? The bandit then started to tell me the history of Delhi airport and we drove off into the dusty haze. I’ve learned from experience that most things should be taken lightly when travelling and not all bandits are necessarily bad people.

The heat was incredible. We were stuck in what appeared to be an evil traffic snake, that ended at the horizon and showed no sign of life. Sweat poured off me, I was worried that I may wilt. The pollution was intense and I felt like my brain was floating in diesel. I could taste the smog, burnt plastic and lead. I turned to see a green bus, spewing out black toxic fumes, proudly emblazoned on the side was the message, ‘CNG worlds largest eco bus company’.

The ride was now hotting up, we moved at a steady, slug-like pace. I was confronted by the abject poverty of a slum, something that I would have to get used to. I watched ladies working on building sites, carrying large rocks on there heads. Work that would normally be done by machines in other parts of the world.

My driver seemed to enjoy the game chicken, with anything. Walls, scooters, pedestrians, buses. I was so out of it on fumes, I found it all quite exciting.

I watched Bollywood film stars whizz by my window, this is insane, the centre for the communist party of india, another planet really, a man tried to sell me a large black whip or a cheeseboard as cows chomped on rubbish, there are no rules in India. I have never enjoyed rules anyway.

I could see urban eagles soaring in the sky. At first I was surprised to see an eagle in a big city, turns out they are everywhere and have kept me awake on many occasions.

After what seemed like hours, we arrived at Paharganj. I tipped my driver, mainly for getting me there alive. The road was closed, so I walked for half an hour through Delhi. There are no real pavements, well there are, but people are either living on them, sleeping on them or using them in some creative way (peeing). I bounced of traffic and stumbled over piles of rubbish. I wondered regularly, ‘what the hell is going on here?’, ‘where am I?’ and ‘what exactly am I doing here?’

I finally reached Paharganj and it looked like a bomb had recently gone off. There were piles of concrete and twisted metal in the streets and the drains seemed to be running only above ground. The streets were alive with noise, energy and spitting. I have never seen such a sight and rarely smelt such an interesting concoction of odours (ranging from sandalwood to dead things). Life and activity was everywhere, in everything. Did I mention that everyone seemed to be peeing?

I checked into a hotel, lay on the bed and closed my eyes.  I had arrived, what now?

Leave a comment »

Hare Krishna ISKON Temple, Delhi – Discussion with Prithudas

I had spent a number of hours wandering around the Delhi ISKON temple.  Sitting chanting in the main temple with a small crowd and watching the people making pujas to the three shrines.  I looked at the white marble, the gold, the bling, the large offering boxes full of rupee notes.

Without a guide, religious ceremonies can be a little overwhelming and as an Englishman (sort of), etiquette is of high importance.  The eternal question, ‘what do I do?’.  I muddled through some pujas and clapping and then looked at a map of all the Hare Krishna shrines across the world.  Impressive and comprehensive, they have it pretty much covered.

There were impressive blue fountains, with Krishna bursting from the jets and a very tasty looking restaurant (I have enjoyed the Soho branch of the Hare Krishna restaurant on occasion).   I have always thought there must be something to the Hare Krishnas, they seem so happy, so radiant.  Whats the secret?

This temple was opened by the prime minister and Hare Krishna is huge across India.  The are a powerful force and growing.  ISKON is a large company, that from what I can tell, make bags of concrete and building materials.   My Indian friends had warned me that Hare Krishna was  simply a cover for the C.I.A.  I need some clarity.

As I was wandering towards the gate I noticed a older gentleman, dressed in full Hare Krishna attire, approaching me.  His name was Prithudas and he was a German, ex-hippy, who drove a bus back and forth to India and then settled. He rarely stopped moving and never stopped learning.  He offered me some great advice about my trip and was incredibly caring and peaceful.  He had light in his eyes.  He gave me some top tips of small places to experience a  purer India, less tainted by travellers (i.e. me!?).  We started to talk about spirituality and he invited me up to his room in the Hare Krishna Hostel, he had meetings to attend.

Prithudas was a big deal, in most respects, a top Hare Krishna director for years.  He turned to Krishna after studying Comparative Religion and asking many questions of himself and the cosmos.   We settled down with a cup of warm water and had talked of many things.  I am a lucky man, my first Guru chat, day three.

I have an open mind all the time, especially with religion.  New ideas and thinking fascinate me, thats why I’m here.  To be fascinated by it all.  Whether I believe or not is unimportant, I am here to experience, not judge.  Learn and grow.

He knew George Harrison and showed me pictures on his phone.  George was a Hare Krishna, and was challenged his whole life by conflict between the material world (music business) and his spiritual life.  Prithudas had been a close friend and there was emotion in his voice when he told me of Georges last days.  Ravi Shankar, Paul McCartney and several Gurus were present when George passed.  A good bloke.  The Beatles were a major influence in my formative years, and still, they are a major reason why I am here.  To meet a pal of Georges means alot.

Prithudas started by asking many questions like ‘How many times must you shake a watch until it reforms into a watch?’ and ‘How may monkeys would it take to jump repeatedly on a typewriter to create Hamlet?’.  I’m always baffled by this type of question, is there an answer?   Could scientists just experiment a little and work it out?  Soon after, Prithudas would answer and inspire me.

Generally, these were Prithudas’s words:

‘Man proposes, God disposes’.  Krishna is controlling everything.  Krishna is white light, surrounding the universe.  He has many other gods below him (Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma) who oversee the function of the universe and its balance, there are then many (millions) of demi-gods (Hanuman, Ganesh, Lakshmi) who control different aspects of the universe and life.  This is why people pray to different gods at different times, it can depend on what you want or what your problems are.  Recently a Bollywood actors was made into a god, jesus and buddha are there too.  Hinduism encompasses all.   Krishna is the boss and controls every second, like a director.

We are living in a virtual reality, we are outside the material world, connected to it only by our conciousness.   Our soul and body are connected by this conciousness.  Krishna can give us freedom from all.  A spiritual life demands many years reflection, this is a choice that must be felt deeply and understanding is important.  No rush.  Always asking questions, don’t blindly follow.  Then come alone, leave everything behind.

‘The world is a bridge don’t build a house on it’.  Keep evolving, moving forward.

Bad things happen to good people.  How can god let this happen?  How does Keith Richards keep going, when many younger, purer types have passed away?  An eternal question for all religions.  Why does god not always protect the good and devout?  Why is there suffering?

‘Everybody drinks there own soup’.  You get what you give.

The vedic knowledge states that life is for meant for self-realisation, but many people (especially in the west) find it hard to even be themselves, never mind realise the rest.  We all identify with matter (what is the matter?), but our ultimate self is our spirit, our soul.

‘Where there is sunshine there is no darkness, turn to god.’  Gods can be like a good cop, bad cop scenario.   You have been warned.

Sanskrit is a beautiful language.  To speak the name of the word ‘fire’ is to feel how fire is created.  This goes for the whole language, a deeper meaning.

‘India is a beautiful country, beautiful people.  Thats why Krishna chose to be here.  I have seen Sadhus (holymen) aged 7 wandering in the Himalayas.  Be careful and when you get into trouble, call me.’

This is a rather poor attempt to capture a conversation that lasted over an hour, after which I felt truly inspired and bright.  At no time did Prithudas attempt to ‘convert’ me to his way of thinking, it was an equal exchange.  All was meant with great care and kindness, he was helping me along the way, opening new doorways to explore.  He was a busy man with meetings lined up, but sat with me, never rushed and answered all of my questions with sincerity and passion.

As I left he blessed me with two different types of Ganga water, one from Gangotri (source of the Ganga) and another from a point where all four tributaries of the Ganga meet.  Prithudas perched on his bed beside his huge suitcase, at peace with the world and himself, simply sharing with me the knowledge gained from a full life of asking the right kind questions.

Prithudas – Hare Krishna

See http://www.omjesus.net if you fancy more Prithudas.

Leave a comment »

A Brief History of Lord Krishna – Delhi, April 2010

Firstly, a brief history of Lord Krishna and all things Hare Krishna.  This knowledge was all taken from my tour around the ISCKON temple Lord Krishna animatronic show.  Quite a sight, like a theme park ride meets a spiritual quest.  At one stage IMAX, the next a fairground ghost train.  The music was load (with many cymbal clashes), the narrator dramatic.  Fun.  I might add that Hinduism is equally fascinating, beautiful and complex.  These are some mere basics.  In no particular order or form:
Karma, the energy of reaction/ action,  a constant.  Karma not eternal, we can end the cycle of life and death, we can alter our destiny.  We can ascend to samsara if we live a devout spiritual life,  and join Krishna in a lovely looking garden (Guruhu), connected with all things natural.   Possibly on a swing.  We can also be demoted to an animal, plant or even worse a small particle.  Once we drop a level, it takes a lifetime to make up the difference.  The material world leads to temptation and many opportunities to sin.  We should aspire to a peaceful, simple life, free of wants and needs.  Full of love, family and god.  We must embrace spiritual realisation.

Krishna said practice yoga, become a yogi.  Through the mastery of hatha yoga, a yogi can transport himself to different spiritual planets.  They can meditate through the heart to Lord Krishna.   This is the ultimate goal in life.  “Stopping the wind with your hand”.

Krishna will help you if you seek him, otherwise he has the power to destroy all.  He is the white light, the space beyond the universe.  Krishna is in everything, he is everything.   Krishna in life was a naughty boy.  He was of the ‘milkman’ caste and was said to steal ladies clothes while they were bathing and look on.  It wasn’t until he recited the book ‘Gita’ that he became a mighty god.

Hinduism colourful, eclectic, ancient……..  I look forward to learning more.

This and many other things formed the basis of my discussion with Prithudas (next).

Radha and Krishna

Leave a comment »

Streetside Puja, Delhi, April 2010

Uncle dancing

My first night in India.  Bewildered and slightly jaded, I headed to a bar.  I was drinking on a rooftop, in a palm hut, with your usual bunch of ragtag traveller types.  The conversations were good and rich.  The type free people have when they are really living.

We were enjoying some cold beers in Cafe India, Paharganj.  It overlooked a building site were bulls fought, younger black male challenging tan alpha male contest, men slept on wooden carts amongst the bovine madness.  Packs of dogs fought around the cows.  The orange smog hung heavy; the air was thin, empty, except for the smell of burnt plastic.

Cow stand-off, Paharganj

After one too few, we called it a night and headed out into the thick Delhi night.  The bulls still battled away.  Ian (Chester), Fei (Chester) and I wandered back through the now deserted streets, our only company packs of maingy dogs and the occasional sleeping policeman with a machine gun.  We heard what sounded like a massive street party, a explosion of whooping, the sound was coming from a back street.  We decided to investigate.

There was a large pink tent taking up the entire width of the street.  We could hear other-wordly music and a man singing in a high-pitched wail.  As we walked around the tent we saw a few hundred people sitting cross-legged, clapping, smiling and singing.  All sat before great golden statues of differnet godesses and a child dressed and painted as Lord Krishna.  There was a small man dressed as a white monkey and a brass tower of burning ghee (butter).  It was midnight.  This would be my first brush with Hinduism in India.  A kid spun around and spat on my leg.

We were not sure of the etiquette, but as is normal in India, the people embraced us and beckoned us to sit in the crowd.  We took off our shoes and slumped down.  There was an eight piece band and a compere/ singer (MC portly chap), all of the songs were prayers.  The music was hypnotic and built up into mighty crescendos.  The tabla hit me in the heart and the high keys tickled the stars.  Everybody knew the words, I hummed and wobbled my head.  Every now and again a person would rise and erupt into and a shaking, spinning, twisting routine of dance moves.  Seemingly part possesed by the spirit of my Dad dancing at a wedding.

The festival was celebrating Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.  There are over 80,000 different deity’s in Hinduism, some say more.  The stage was a hive of activity and vibrant colours.  Huge paintings of Lord Krishna, Hanuman, Ganesha, Shiva and Lakshmi hung in gold and red cabinets topped by red, white and blue balloons.  Disco lights flashed all over the tent and the atmosphere was more New Years Eve 11:58pm than religious gathering.  There was elation in the air.

Two men tended hundreds of ghee lanterns, spiralling around a stand, topped by a larger ghee lantern.  These men were offering puja’s to people lucky enough to battle their way to the front of the stage.  We entered the fray, a radiant young lad appeared and became our guide through the flailing limbs.  As we approached the front, I was worried about people smelling my stale beer breath and felt disrespectful for sipping that evil juice.

Using my height advantage and pointed elbows, I reached the front and put my hands into namskar.  I was then blessed my the ghee lantern tender and one man wrapped orange string around my wrist, as the other placed a red bindi on my brow, mixed with rice.  The men smiled brightly.  I looked up at Lakshmi, protected by her lion and looking rather ravishing.  The images of Hindu gods are mystical and evocative.  I must know more.  I placed 10 rupees into the large golden collection tray, the first note I grabbed in my pocket.  A modest offering to the goddess of wealth!

I had read of Hinduism’s inclusive nature and have many Hindu friends, but this was the first time that I had felt the love.  The happiness and the light.  Religion isn’t supposed to be like this.  In my experience it’s about people taking things a little too seriously, this was not that at all.  This was an out pouring of colourful joy, through the medium of flashing disco lights and funky dance moves.  There was a ritual going on here, but in all the chaos, it seemed irrelevant.  This was a party!

We made some pals, young lads, incredibly open and shy.  Sourav lived locally and we all needed a trip to the little boys room.  He offered to take us to his home.  We walked through a maze of alleyways until we reached a little door.  Inside his family all slept in one room and as we used his toilet, his mum shouted through (they were all asleep at the time) to ask if we wanted any chai.  Big, big hearts in India.

Sourav was studying his 12 level, like GCSE’s and planned on getting a job after he got his results.  His older brother would decide which direction.  I asked if he ever wanted to go to England, ‘England is very far away for me’ he said and told me that he would be happy living a life supporting his family.

When we returned a cute toddler dressed as Lakshmi, riding a man dressed as a tiger, had made their way onto the stage.  There was a scrum as people fought for the better camera angle.  Flash, flash, flash.  The little guy looked miserable.  Dressed up as a woman.

It was now approaching 4am and I was shattered.  We said our goodbyes and it was difficult to leave, we’d only been there a short time, but felt a real connection to these people. We had shared in unconditional kindness and hospitality, of the like I’d never experienced.

We picked our way through the sleeping bodies in the narrow, dark alleyways.  Back to my hostel room, sat on a slanted rooftop, behind a pile of rubble and twisted metal.

I had been blessed by Lakshmi.  My brow was smeared red with dye.  My first night in India had gone well.  I had been christened by the Hindu’s in the backstreets of Delhi.  It felt like a new beginning.

Lakshmi

Leave a comment »

%d bloggers like this: