Sunday, October 09, 2005

Another Art and Music session

Yesterday’s group session with Mahendra’s students was fun. We had it in the living room in my grandmother’s flat because it is so much bigger than our own drawing room. At first only two guys turned up (apart from Mahendra and Chandran) and we thought this is it. Mahendra felt it was because of Dassehra and people were scared to get caught in the mob at the Mahalaxmi temple. But by 6.15 about 10 students had shown up which was a good number.

Last time M. had made us draw a banana. This time the exercise was to crumple up a sheet of paper and to then sketch it. (Boy, the topics Mahendra comes up with!) So like the last time the students sat and sketched for a while before I conducted the meditation. About four of the boys and girls said they felt verrry relaxed (one girl said she felt she was flying through the air during the music part!) and one or two said it was difficult for them to get rid of the thoughts in their head. But we all agreed that it was precisely this “noise” which made it difficult for us to observe anything and so the first thing was to try and quieten it down. Almost everyone said that regardless of how they experienced the meditation, they were able to concentrate much better on the subject after the spell of lying down.

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The fair on the Mahalaxmi temple grounds was unceremoniously dismantled a couple of days back. Bomb threat! Now the grounds are quite empty, except for a few guys sitting with their baskets of channa and plastic bags of puffed rice and mounds of crystallized sugar. According to Tukaram, three temples in Bombay have received threats from some extremist party: the Mahalaxmi temple, the Siddi Vinnayak and one more which I have forgotten. So now it is a pleasure to be able to walk or drive unhindered down the road again. But the main road itself is a disaster. The traffic jam is not funny. And the bomb threat has not put off the devoted millions, who continue to shuffle along the pavements to their destination to lay garlands and fruit and other offerings at the goddess’s shrine. The men seem to appear en masse in the evenings (probably after work) though during the day the queues are made up almost entirely of women.

Volunteers stand guard every few feet of the way, to keep the masses in check and to shove them on - mainly women, dressed in white saris and black blouses with a black sash and spiffy black waist pouches. Some of them wear yellow and black peaked caps too, against the sun. Along the way are water sellers, standing in front of their metal containers balanced on wooden carts and women squatting on the pavement in front of baskets full of marigolds which they thread into garlands for you to take along to the temple. The tuneless rendition of Om Jai Jagdish seems to have mysteriously stopped. In its place are ear splitting announcements on the loudspeakers about lost children and the like. Poor kids. How traumatic to be separated from Mommy and Daddy and to find yourself in the midst of a mammoth crowd of strangers which literally engulfs you.

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