"Full many a ray of purest ray serene the dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness to the desert air."
from "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" by Thomas Gray

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Kailash 2010 Day 0 - In Delhi the Day Before, Jun 24, 2010

Thanks to Jyoti, I now have a new mobile with free incoming calls and a pre-paid charge for 10 hrs of outgoing calls, all in $50!!!

And we have had the pre-trip meeting with a few people from Dallas - a very small group had gathered at the Airport Radisson. There is an alternate meeting place where the others may be meeting. I now have the bright red backpack and the bright red duffel bag that the travel agent wants the group to use. Also, we have been given a bright red cap and a bright red raincoat to be visible from afar, I guess. Hopefully someone will come running if they see the red spreading in the snow.

Highly value Swamiji's leadership for this trip - we have a single point of contact and authority who thinks in an organized manner. Besides Brahmachari Uddhav Chaitanya from Dallas and Br.Vinayak Chaitanya from Amritsar who led this meeting, we would be joined on the trek by Br.Anshuman Chaitanya, Br. Jaganmitra, Br.Suveda Chaitanya and Swami Shivayogananda. They have given up worldly life, and are addressed as Swamiji - Master, since they are on the path of mastering the mind to stay free of worldly attachments and desires. The Swamijis devote their life to meditation, contemplation and study of the scriptures. They are also acharyas - teachers, and give discourses at the Chinmaya Mission centers all around the world. They eat what they are served and would go hungry if not offered food, and they wear the colors of renunciation - shades of yellow, saffron and ochre. Any spiritual guidance I can get on this visit is very welcome to my steeped-in-worldly-life self.

Just read the newspaper at Jyoti's place - Col. Neeraj Sood became a martyr at the age of 40, defending India against Islamic terrorists. He is survived by his wife and 11-year-old daughter who were visiting him during the summer break, and flew back yesterday with his body to Delhi. I cannot imagine that they were probably landing in Delhi around the same time as I did. Col.Sood is the fourth Indian Army Officer to be killed by terrorists in 2010.

Met Delhi businesswoman Gauri, whose original Muslim name was Gul before she married her Hindu boyfriend thirty-five years ago. They settled in Delhi because of the risk to life and limb in Kashmir. Their families who initially vehemently opposed the union, eventually reconciled with it. Gul discussed her initial hesitation to go to a Hindu temple because of the deity installed there and the Islamic concept of the formless Almighty, but she said that over the years, her horizons have broadened and she understands that the visual icons help people connect. She said that if she had given in to her family and had not married her boyfriend, her thinking would have been limited to a communal perspective. She now understands the views and concerns on both sides and does regret hurting her parents. She said that she had married at twenty when she did not fully understand the social impact of her decision, and if she had been older, her decision would have been different.

The sensationalizing of news items has desensitized us to the import of some news. Just read that a girl's parents in Delhi invited her boyfriend to her uncle's home and electrocuted the young couple. Apparently "honor killing" is a concept that has taken on a new life in India, or the media may be sensationalizing it and I do not realize that as a visitor. Jyoti's neighbor Revathi told me about her marriage forty-five years ago. She is Malayali and her husband is Bengali. Both families were so opposed to the marriage that none of them attended their wedding, and it took years for everyone to come around and accept one another's culture, though they are all Hindu. And yet, at no time, did anyone ever think of fighting it out or taking it out on the young couple. Another young man has been arrested today, accused of killing his sister and her husband, who had married against the family's will four years ago - whatever happened to Raksha Bandhan vows?

Shailu was to visit Delhi the next day but he pre-poned his flight and caught the red eye from Mumbai to see me before I left for Kathmandu. I got to meet him after sixteen years, he is an officer in the Indian army and has always been in remote areas any time I have visited India. He reached at 2 am, and we had barely an hour with each other and yet the years fall away, he is my kid brother who like most of my family is doing far greater things than I am, risking life and limb for the country so people like me can live a life of material comfort.

Jyoti packed me off to the airport at 4 am, her husband is on tour of duty in Sudan as a part of the UN peace-keeping force, and has called several times already to make sure I have everything for my trip and I am doing well. My uncle from Almora called to make sure everything was OK - he has made the 40-day trek to Kailash and Manas Sarovar on foot in 2008 at a 70-plus age, and has plenty of advice for an urbanite like me. My parents are a bit worried, Anish and Ash are quite worried. At this point, I am done preparing and have left everything to Shiva.

Aum Namah Shivaaya!!

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