Thursday, September 27, 2007

Returning To India - The Land Of Festivals

Returning to India hasn’t been as tough as I thought it would be. This is what I wrote to friends I’d left behind in Germany a couple of days back. In Europe they often ask me about my dual life, the one I lead during the months I spend in Europe and the life I lead back in India. In actual fact it is a bit of a pain I suppose, exchanging (among other things) the clean orderly environment of the west for the grimier, garbage filled, chaotic streets of India. Somehow it didn’t seem so bad this time round. I reckon that with time it gets easier, to slip back into the old routine and on this occasion I even found myself luxuriating in the feeling of being home again. Bucket baths, (which I love) being able to eat with your hands, being able to live and work at your own pace rather than to adjust to that of your host in whichever city you happen to be visiting. “I’m happy to be in Bombay again,” I mailed a number of people.

I’d forgotten about Ganesh Chaturti. Two days after flying back from Frankfurt I woke up from my afternoon nap to the dhoom dhoom of a deep bass which sounded like it came from the flat above us. Neighbor’s planning a bash tonight, I thought a bit woozily and went back to sleep. Over the next half hour it got worse. When I finally made my way to the guest room which doubles as my office and which faces the road, I discovered the noise wasn’t coming from the neighbor’s place at all but from the street outside our house.

“Ganapathi”, beamed our maid S at me who had spent the entire afternoon gawking at the spectacle unfolding below. She seemed simply delighted with life. Huge loudspeakers had been set up just outside the gates of our building to welcome the holy procession to the sea which was preparing to start from some enclave close by.

The noise predictably got worse with time. I found I could no longer work. I could no longer think, no longer write, no longer do much more than just listen to the thump and clash which reverberated along the entire street. The drumming and the booming at some point seemed so much like they were happening inside my head that I was threatened by a very real headache. With some luck I found that by closing the door of the room facing the road and escaping into the living room I could avoid about fifty per cent of the furor and even clear up a little space in my brain to think.

What were the festivities about, anyway? Ah, yes it was all centered around this elephant god who was supposed to smoothen your path to success. At times, noise in India brings on an amnesia which makes you forget your own name. The ruckus seemed to make mincemeat of any sense which might have been originally attached to the ritual. It was the birthday of Lord Ganesha wasn’t it. The day on which he was believed to uplift mankind with his very presence. Although Ganesha himself has been revered privately for centuries, the festival was popularized by the freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak, in order to increase people’s awareness of the freedom struggle. Ganesha himself stands for wisdom and intellect. Freedom, wisdom and intellect however seemed to be the last attributes which the horrible sounds emerging from the road reflected.

So what did those sounds reflect? What was the drumming really trying to say, I sat and wondered and it seemed to me, the noise was actually a reflection of the frustration and boredom which characterizes a large part of today’s youth. “I’m going crazy, I’m bored, save me from the burden of repression” seemed to be the main underlying message being banged out by the drum which lacked any sense of rhythm or musical quality. As with so many festivals in India, Ganesh Chaturti too – at least according to me – has lost its original significance. It is no longer about wisdom and intelligence and brings with it none of the sense of peace and sacredness which a spiritual ritual is supposed to be about.

At night, when a couple of huge idols in the vicinity had at last rolled out of sight to make their way to the sea, the world fell silent again. Lying in bed after dinner, listening to crickets chirp and the waves of the ocean lap around the rocks beyond the garden wall I sensed peace making a comeback in my life. In those last few minutes before being overtaken by sleep I felt I was once more in touch with something sacred.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Musical Evening

Petra, Tilmann, Thomas and Lulu studying chords of "King of the road".

Petra came over yesterday to say goodbye. Incredibly my time in Germany is coming to an end and although on the one hand it feels like a long time, on the other hand it feels like just yesterday that my parents and I were sipping wine at the airport lounge in Bombay, on our way to Munich. Strange thing time. Very difficult to really grasp.


Unlike the last time I was here when we made a lot of music, we hardly got together in the evenings this time round, to play the guitar and fool around. So I asked Petra to bring along her guitar and for the first time last night we gathered around the dining table for a jam session, with Lulu, Thomas, Tilmann and Petra on the guitar and me accompanying them on the harmonica. All the good old songs were turned out. Leaving on a jet plane, King of the road, Bee-bop-a-lula (whooo man!) Yesterday, Five hundred miles. At the end of which everyone sighed and wondered why didn't we do this more often.

Today is my last day in Prien. On Friday I join my parents in Munich and Saturday we fly back home. It always feel a bit sad to leave friends behind but on the other hand I'm also looking forward to getting back. Ariela and I have great plans for this coming year. There is a possibility of her making a


film about Samuel in which case part of the filming will be done in India and I will get a chance to help her. Other plans are to do a few joint groups, both in Germany and in India - to form a sort of friendship circle where it will be possible for us to work together. More about this when we meet.

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Ride On the Chiem Lake

View of the shore, from our boat on the Chiemsee (the Chiem lake)

The last couple of days the sun appeared in full force again. Ruth also made an appearance here yesterday and we drove down to the lake. We had to return the car to A. at around noon which didn't leave us much time but in the hour or so we were there we decided to rent a paddle boat on an impulse. There was no time for me to back out and so, amidst of visions of me tumbling into the water and having to flap around till I was rescued, I clambered gingerly onto the tiny rocking boat. But once we took off it was fun. There was a cool breeze blowing and before we knew it, it was time to return.

Ruth on her way back home

We had a fabulous buffet lunch at the Chinese next door where for under 6 euros you get a choice of at least 8 dishes, including just about every kind of meat and also a decent choice of vegetables. I was so stuffed that I could have easily skipped dinner. Only being greedy I didn't of course. It would have been difficult to say No to the juicy steak which Thomas had cooked and the fried onion and mushrooms which Ose (who dropped in yesterday evening) had tossed up.

With Felix the usual games continue. Today we got back to playing Joseph and Maria with a limp little teddy serving as baby Jesus. In between Felix metamorphosed from Joseph into Tee-Wex (Tyrannosaurus Rex) and went round stomping like a great big dinosaur would probably do, kidnapping and eating up all and sundry including this large cuddly duck made of wool named Tante (Aunt) Suzanna and her baby daughter "Peeps".

A and Tilmann who left for Munich at around noon are still not back. Thomas, the kids and I are done with dinner, Felix is in bed and I'm doing some last minute mailing and posting before I make my way downstairs.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Visitors from Paris

Suhail posing for a photo in Shasha's "chicks" pajamas

Once again, Suhail and Shasha flew down from Paris for the weekend. Actually they were supposed to get here Thursday night but Suhail arrived late at the departure gate and they wouldn't let him board the flight so they had to take one the next morning. What happened was that there was a bomb scare on the airport train he was taking and all passengers had to disembark. He lost twenty minutes figuring out how to get to the right terminal and by the time he arrived the gate had already closed. Anyway they finally showed up on Friday morning and we had a really good time. Did a small meditation together with A on Saturday night and wound up going to bed at the crack of dawn.

Yesterday was a pretty busy day. As Suhail and Shasha were leaving Walter and Anya who live in nearby Ebersberg, dropped in to say Hi. They are both therapists and among other kinds of work they do "water therapy" in a special warm water pool, which they claim is very healing. Walter is one of the early students of Samuel whom I got to know years ago. He and Anya got together through their children. W's son Dustin met and started to date Anya's daughter a couple of years ago and along the way the kids both discovered that their parents attended workshops conducted by a weird man called "Samuel". Anyway, shortly after W and A arrived the weather started to clear up and the sun actually made an appearance after what seemed like days so we drove down to the lake for a coffee, then walked around a bit before they dropped me back home.

This morning I woke up from out of a weird dream in which Samuel had come to India and we had our workshop in a big shed on the edge of a busy road in Bombay. We were lying down, meditating while people walked by, often stopping to stare and to sometimes point fingers at us and laugh. I don't think I'll bother with interpreting that one!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A Rainy Spell

Ayse's garden (she now lives in the house across the road from Samuel)

It rained heavily the day we left Prien for Switzerland. I mean not just rained, it poured as we started out, though it cleared up later on and parts of the journey were even somewhat sunny. But as we neared Solothurn it came down in sheets, almost like a tropical downpour. Luckily it stopped for a few minutes when we reached Rupert and Brigitte’s place in L├╝sslingen, long enough for us to dash in without getting drenched. We found out that it had been raining heavily for over a couple of days, and part of R and B’s house had got flooded the night before we arrived. Everyone was making jokes about Noah and the great flood and it being time to build an arc and escape to safety. I thought of our flat in Bombay which gets regularly soaked during the monsoon and told people that I thought this kind of thing happened only in India where the fittings were bad and the doors and windows all had cracks or were not waterproof for other reasons. The subsequent days were not too bad and on Saturday the sun appeared for several hours and it was mostly dry.

Sabine B

It was great catching up with old friends, many of whom are now willing to pitch in to get the trainers group in India going. Brigitte has offered to do a course in body work and Sabine B whom I recently got acquainted with, is a musician who would love to do a workshop in India based on music therapy. I stayed at Ayse's place. She lives a lot of the time in Switzerland now in a beautiful house with a garden frequented by many of the kids in the community. The side of the drawing dining room overlooking the garden is sheer glass and gives out onto a patio which is semi enclosed. Brigitte

Apart from people at the workshop, old friend Jean Pierre came over to Ayse’s for breakfast on Saturday with his wife, Karin and their two kids. K. is going to have a baby and yet planning to come to India for the workshop in December, when she will be seven months pregnant. She was uncertain about it and they had earlier written to ask me what I thought. When I forwarded the mail to our friend in the village he remarked that they had had several women come to to the village who were pregnant and everything had been fine. As long as there were no complications to do with infections a person might already be carrying he felt it ought to be all right. Of course it is one of those things. After hearing it all you have to take full responsibility for the decision you take and JP and K felt that having got all the pro’s and con’s they would still like to come to India.

The workshop itself was a masterpiece, as I never tire of telling people. One of the best I’ve done with Samuel or for that matter with anyone. What we all realised is that you cannot bring healing to others until you yourself are healed and so that is what it turned out to be. A workshop with a real healing touch.

The night we returned to Prien we discovered it was Tilmann’s birthday so naturally we opened a bottle of wine to celebrate and sat up till almost three in the morning. The weather is cold and wet and last night in spite of it being technically “summer” I was forced to turn on the heating. And Feli and I are back to roaring like dinosaurs and chucking plastic balls and soft toys around and at each other.