Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Catching up part 4

I have been meaning to get this up for a long time. It's come up in a few conversations recently so I guess it's time. I went to India in March of 2006 to train some Dell employees. These are entries from my journal while I was there. Previous posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Thursday, March 9, 2006
6 - 8 pm
Birla Mandir, the white marble temple, Hyderabad, India

Until tonight I hadn’t spent any time out “on the street”. For the last three days it’s been a car ride somewhere, then inside an office or store or restaurant. I got a car and driver at about 6 pm planning to take pictures of the sunset behind the Buddha statue at Hussein Sagar lake, which 200 years ago was the main supply of drinking water for the city. No longer drinkable today, but it is still supplied only by rain water.

We arrived in time for sunset, but rain clouds covered up what little color was there, so we moved on. While I was out of the car I could smell little more than exhaust, or body odor of someone nearby, which wasn’t terribly disgusting, just noticeable. On the way to Venkateswara Temple, an all-white marble temple, we got a flat tire.

My driver, of course, didn’t want me to help so I took the opportunity to walk up the block and take some pictures. There was a welder a block away putting up a sign and I thought it would look interesting in the dark... So I took some pictures of people on the street.

On the way up the block was a strong smell of urine, mixed with sweet, pungent incense and some food spices. There are food stands nearly everywhere, and I had already seen a few men peeing on walls or on the sidewalk while we were driving around, so I wasn’t too surprised at the wide variety of smells. Made for an interesting aromatic experience, though. The streets are filthy.

With the tire fixed, my driver insisted we go to the temple, which didn’t really matter to me much at the time. He said the view was great at night - much better than the day, so I said fine.

First, you must remove your shoes. Most everyone else was in bare feet, so I removed my socks as well. Also cameras are not allowed, so this led to quite a sacred experience for me. It’s easy for me to spend too much time behind the lens of a camera sometimes, trying to take every memory home with me... so I feel a little more reverence, I guess, when I know I’ll be taking mental pictures.

It was amazing! From the cool stone on the bottom of my feet to the many people who had come to pray wearing colored chalk on their cheeks and receiving a blessing, all the white marble (god, all the white marble), the cool breeze, the moon and clouds overhead, the prayer chants.... From the top you can see the giant statue of Buddha in Hussein Sagar. A Lutheran guy with a Muslim guide, in a Hindu temple, looking at a Buddhist sculpture. Pretty heavy.

At the top, a very peaceful place, I stood with my face into the wind and enjoyed a serene moment, just taking it all in, really for the first time so far on the trip. My guide said quietly, “It’s very quiet up here. No traffic.” (And he said sir, or “sa” at the end of each sentence.) He continued, “No stress, sa. Very peaceful, sa. Very quiet, sa... No one to bother you, sa. No one to interrupt you while you enjoy the mood, sa.” And on and on... Actually it seemed like a comedy routine after a bit. I had to laugh.

Don't forget your light-up Vishnu and Ganesh on the way out!

Read Part 5...

1 comment:

Jessica Foster said...

After reading about the smells and the filthy streets I cringed when you said you had to take off your shoes. Then I read further. It sounds amazingly beautiful.