INDIA…

Alive…Vibrant…Magnificent!!!

First of all, I want you to know that if it were possible for me to impart everything that I experienced in India to you, I surely would. Since we all experience the world through our own unique perceptions and senses, the best I can do is share a small part of my deeply enriching experience. ;o)))

India…she is truly a magnificent organism to behold.

I honestly felt at home in India, and as the sayings go; “Home is where the heart is” and “Where ever you go, there you are”!

So there it is. I was at home in India! Deeply and profoundly touched by ALL my contrasting experiences and exposure to ancient wisdom and modern life! XOXO

Awesome BudhaTraffic…an Organism to Behold…So…before I even begin to tell you about this amazing voyage, I need to express my unending fascination with the ever changing and flowing traffic in India, as the metaphors found in the traffic really describe and reflect the essence of India, and remind me of the impermanent nature of everything. There iS Order in the Chaos! On any given day, in any given place, my eyes delighted in seeing the following on the roads; Little three wheeled Taxis (decorated differently in each state), Ox carts loaded with fresh produce or building materials, Camels, Camel carts, Horses, Horse carts, Donkeys, Elephants, Dogs and Dogs and Dogs, Water Buffalo, Cows and Cows and Cows, Giant Bulls, Piggies, Men, Women and Children, Peddle Bikes, Peddle Bike Carts loaded with produce or people, Ducks with their duck herdsmen, goats with or without their herdsmen, sheep with their herdsmen, small cars, large animated decorated trucks (the Hindu trucks were amazing to look at and they had a fun sounding horn), Pubic buses packed on the inside, outside and top with two leggeds, a plethora of Motor Bikes, (some loaded with two men and a live goat, while other bikes transported families of 5, men with women in saris riding side saddle, “bad ass” looking women in traditional kurtas and sunglasses…and so much more did people transport on their motor bikes!)

There is a sophisticated and intuitive communication style to the Traffic;

At first I noticed that there are very few traffic lights. Seriously…very few! Some places have no traffic lights. So the organism that is called Traffic, communicates through a sophisticated system of horn beeping, non-violent hand gestures, head nods and once in a while a very serious “let me pass” look. All the varied vehicles have different sounding horns. The Hindi trucks have a whole sweet little phrase. :o))) I began to hear the traffic symphony, understand the communication and derived so much joy from the experience of being a little part of the larger living breathing organism. The traffic like the people, is communicative, non-violent, compassionate, mostly very patient and inclusive as it flows through the veins of India. A wonder to behold…amusing…a source of endless fascination…a beneficial teacher.

My Practice…with much gratitude and recognition for the Zen Practice that has made it possible for me to experience India with an Open Heart, Compassion and Clarity of Mind. I devoted myself to sitting each day in India and had so many opportunities to practice Shikantaza solo and surrounded by Buddhist Monks, Nuns and Practitioners throughout my pilgrimage there. The practice felt profound and was deeply touching with all of our energies dancing (sitting) together!!! It really is impossible to describe. It was important for me to be mindful of being present to each moment and I have developed a deep well of gratitude for my practice, Sensei (my teacher), the Sangha at Soji Zen Center where I practice, Lord Buddha, his ancestors and all of the teachers that have passed on and developed the unsurpassable Buddha Way. (Le Chemin de Buddha! ;o))) The last two days of this amazing voyage was spent in Jodhpur, where I rose early to sit. I will try to describe the experience; at 6am it is dark and I am sitting Shikantaza. I hear a cock crowing, a distant train whistle and then it starts...the Muslim call to prayer…in harmony…from all the Mosques in the “Blue City” of Jodhpur. Profound and indescribable! I must note: Much gratitude for my “wild women” Grandmothers, as they instructed me well in how to “squat” in the woods! This skill came in quite handy in India and I thanked my Grandmothers often! ;o)))

Most dear and lovely Friends… Music brought my dear and most beautiful friend Sabina and I together at a Thich Nhat Hanh Buddhist retreat in Colorado over a year ago. Before I knew it all the conditions were in place to visit India! Pinch me! Pinch ME!I have always had a deep passion for India and now I have had the sacred opportunity to experience her for a few weeks.

Sabina and her husband Vijay graciously welcomed me into their beautiful home in Chennai and cared for me in the most loving ways. All the experiences that I had while being a part of Sabina’s family for a week provided me with an excellent “road map” to guide me through India! Deep gratitude! I had the special opportunity of meeting her eldest and ever so beautiful daughter, Shivani, and Shivani’s very fun husband, Prashanth (Prash), Vijay’s parents, Sabina’s parents, Prash’s parents and grandmother, Birdie. (I took a special likin’ to Birdie! ;o)))

I really enjoyed some of the family’s connection time together. Every morning they meet in the garden, before breakfast and showers, to greet one another, read the paper and wake up. The family also gathers before dinner to talk about their respective days, politics and what ever comes up! It is a charming and fabulous way for a family to connect, gather, communicate and love one another. I loved bearing witness to and being a part of this experience with Sabina and Vijay’s family! Very Special!

So Sabina and Vijay have a very talented and beautiful Chef! Meena is her CooL Indian, name. Did I mention that I revel in the musical sounds of all the Indian names? OHH I surely do and I hear music in the sounds of Hindi too! …So… back to Meena and her culinary genius! Sabina wanted to introduce me to the Indian cuisine slowly…well…because many people have reported problems with digestion….NOT I! NOT I! I loved everything Sabina and Meena fed me and…ahem…I ate quite hardily! Dosa, Idli, fresh pomegranate seeds, coconut and guava chutney, saambar (MMM curried lentil and vegetable goodness), Vadaa (a lentil and rice doughnut), Moosambi (a sweet lime juice), paneer masala, bitter gourd, Idiappam kurma, kuzhi paniyaram, mushroom pulao, pappadom, delicious fresh watermelon juice and so much more. How fortunate I feel! YUMMY! YUMMY! YUMMY Sabina and Meena I so thank you for introducing me to Southern Indian cuisine!!! You know, I did not experience a single “flare up” from my neural-muscular condition. Those spices are excellent for my being…body, heart and spirit!!! You two are most excellent!

The first week in India I enjoyed some fantastic joyous times with Sabina. She is the most generous and gracious hostess that I have ever encountered in this lifetime. It was so special to have the opportunity to experience even a little bit of what this amazing giant hearted woman does in our world. She and Vijay are philanthropists extraordinaire!

Some of the excursions we did together;

  1. The breath taking Kapaleeswar Kovil Hindu Templewhere Sabina talked about the deities, architecture and Hindu customs. It was my first Hindu Temple of the journey and it was the most extraordinary structure and all the Hindus worshiping there gave this space such a feel of sacredness. I was deeply touched and inspired.

  2. Sabina and I spent a whole day together where she had her excellent driver, Raj, take us to the Dakshinchitracenter which is a kind of out of doors structure museum that showcases the architecture of several Southern States. This was extremely interesting to me as I am fascinated with architecture. Sabina treated me to my very first tender coconut water and flesh. This was quite the experience; I watched in wonderment the petit woman wield her machete to slice off the top of the coconut, just so and she then plopped a big ol’ straw in the coconut and handed it to me to drink. MMMM Absolutely refreshing! Apparently there are tons of electrolytes in coconut water that keep the body well hydrated and balanced! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE MOTHER NATURE!!! …After Sabina and I finished the coconut water we handed the coconut back to the skillful woman who hacked the coconut in half and carved out a wee spoon for us to scrap out the tender flesh. MMM So light and decadent! After this experience, Raj drove Sabina and I to Mahabalipuramwhere ancient Hindu Temple ruins stand. Talk about having a deep spiritual connection to our ancestors! This temple is located off the Bay and there have been more ruins found under the ocean waters. Sabina took me to lunch at the Temple Bay hotel right off the breezy bay. We could see the ancient Hindu Temple from a far. It was gorgeous and mysterious from our luncheon vantage. It was a magnificent day and Sabina shared some of her favorite music with me while we were on the road to these wonderful wonders. The musician in me was thrilled!

  3. Two other experiences with Sabina that I must mention were our visits to a free children’s night schoolwhere Sabina teaches the children English, and the Banyan centerfor women challenged by mental illness. We stopped by the Children’s school to give them treats for Diwali (a week long celebration of light; very exciting and loud, as “crackers”, or fire crackers are set off constantly for days and days.) It is traditional to give chocolate and treats to everyone during Diwali, so the Children were at the top of the list. :o) I brought my Native American Flute and played for an awe-inspired beautiful group of students. Did I mention how gorgeous I perceived Indian children to be! MMMM absolutely fantastically gorgeous! The women and men are magnificent to behold as well.

Banyan Center For Mentally Challenged WomenThe Banyan Center for Women was a very heartening and touching experience for me. As many of you know, my mother suffers from mental illness, and in India this amazing center takes these beautiful yet afflicted women off the streets and does everything possible to care for them, shelter them and give them treatment. The Banyan Center rehabilitates a good percentage of women, who then, become well enough to go back to their families. XOXO I was given a very interesting thorough orientation and tour of the Banyan Center before they had me play the flute for some of the ladies. I had some very profound feelings surface while I played for these women and I believe the music was just as healing/soothing for me as it was for them. Thank you Sabina for the loving exposure to this experience. It meant more to me than words can express. XOXO

OH la LA…The French Colony of Pondicherry!!! Well, I was aware that there was a French Colony in India somewhere and with everything on my voyage itinerary, I never dreamed that I would actually be anywhere close to the colony to experience it! To my complete surprise and joyful elation, Sabina arranged for an overnight stay in the French Colony of Pondicherry! Getting there was a gorgeous drive along salt marches, stonemason villages and rice paddies speckled with water buffalo! The driver, Benjamin, that Sabina hired for me was extremely skillful and intuitive at driving and so very adorable. There is such a thing as a South Indian “head bob”! I can’t not do justice in describing this adorable head motion, so I will just have to demonstrate it to those of you who will be receiving the Storiesof India face to face. Anyway, while in Pondicherry, I visited the Auroville Community and Museum. You must, must, mustlook this place up at learn about it!! I would live here!!!

There is too much to write about regarding Auroville, so here is the website:

http://www.auroville.org/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auroville

There are also fantastic photos of Auroville on the web.

My camera was stolen at the end of my week with Sabina and so I do not have personal photos to share with you of my first week in India. Yeah it was a bummer! It was also kind of funny that this Zen saying came to mind when I figured out that the camera was stolen. “Barn’s burned down, now I can see the moon”. I tweaked the saying…”Camera’s stolen, now I can see India”! ;o)))Fortunately for all of us, Malavika, the gorgeous and extraordinary woman who created my pilgrimage and voyage through India, following my time with Sabina, let me borrow her camera for the following two weeks of travel through India. Merci! Merci! Merci Beaucoup Malavika! You are sooo awesome!!!

Back to Pondicherry….I visited and sat at the lovely Sri Aurobindo Ashram, explored a Lakshmi Hindu Temple ,where a magnificent Elephant bopped me on the head for good luck and allowed me to fondle her trunk. I love Elephants! Benjamin took me to two beautiful Catholic Churches. One where the mass was spoken in the really beautiful Hindi language and the structure/architecture was adorned in Hindu fashion, and the Second Church was a sleek simple French Catholic church where everything was written in French. I could even understand all the “stations of the cross” explained in French! I went running along the Bay early the next morning and sat Shikantaza on some rocks while the sun came up. Although I was in the French Colony and had some opportunities to speak French, I actually had more opportunities to speak French with other travelers that I met along my voyage who were from Quebec, France and Belgium. A woman from France told me that I had a Parisian accent and that she was so surprised that I was from the U.S. :o) Tres CooL EH!

Sabina took me to two concerts in Chennai. I had the opportunity to hear the classic and seasoned singer Pandit Jasraj and his musicians on classic Indian instruments. Very special sounds!!! The second concert was quite interesting and modern. It was a multimedia presentation of Korean Buddhist chants that included meditative dances and chants by two Buddhist Monks, Video, Korean instruments and a fantastic vocalist. The music seemed to be going through the 7 stages of enlightenment. It was really cool and interesting. HMM Perhaps I will have the opportunity to concertize in India?

Sabina introduced me to her “soul sista” Payal, a very lovely spirit and being! We shared a deep and immediate connection over a delicious lunch and then again at the Korean concert! It always amazes me how open loving hearts find one another in this world. Sabina and Payal‘s friendship is wonderful to behold and I found myself feeling gratitude for the soul sista’s in my lovely life, now inclusive of Sabina. :o)

MMMM Indian Cuisine…Well, I savored every mouth full of Meena’s cooking and all of the North and South Indian cuisine on this voyage! When in India eat what the Indian’s eat! :o)))) It is very aligned with my macrobiotic practice and I love Love LOVE Indian cuisine. Boy o Boy did my body feel vibrant! Even some of the drivers and guides whisked me away to local restaurants where they knew I would enjoy the cuisine much better than what was offered at the hotels. …He HE he… One driver asked me if I would like to eat somewhere more affordable, as he was aware of my financial position. First he suggested KFC, McDonalds and some other Western fast food places. For all of you who know me, you can predict my reaction…I said, “ I do not eat fast food even in the States, would you please take me some place that serves excellent Indian cuisine?” Et Voila, I ended up experiencing many special dishes and local restaurant scenes! FANTASTIC EH!!!

Temple in Bodhgaya, IndiaNative American Flute in India…I brought one of the double barreled Native American Indian Flutes to India and I was inspired to play almost everywhere I went. The first beings I shared this amazing sound and music with were Sabina and her lovely family. Then I played for the children at the Free Children’s school and the Banyan Center for Mentally Challenged Women. When my tour began I played for adorable children in a village during my Buddhist pilgrimage, at the top of Vulture Peak for more children, adults and monkeys, at the Grand Temple in Bodhgaya for Monks, Nuns, children, and other civilians. I played in monuments, parks, palaces, for my guides and Subash, (the best driver ever!), and several times just for myself. The music from these flutes seems to have the same affect of calming and joy where ever I play in the world. It brings people (crowds in India) close to me and seems to open the heart spaces of those listening. What a beautiful and profound experience to have the opportunity to play for the extraordinary beings in India. I am so grateful and touched by the warmth I have received.

The “Beasts of Burden”, The “Two Leggeds…The “Four Leggeds and the Wingeds”… or Les Animaux…

Every being in India works very hard. There is bountiful beautiful fresh produce, bricks, stones and building materials, coal, wood and lots of other natural things that are carted, trucked, trained or carried from one place to another and I saw the most amazing methods of transporting all these goods. The Ox Carts loaded to the sky…the Elephants…the Camel carts… the horses and horse carts…the human produce carts…the peddle bike carts…the women and men carrying heavy loads on their heads in the farmland, villages and even a few In the cities.

Some critter experiences;Tree frog orchestras serenading Chennai in the night. So many Giant Kites soaring gracefully around magnificent places such as, Jama Masjid (the largest Mosque in India), the Taj Mahal, and the stunning Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur (the Blue City)! Farmland and riverbeds heavily speckled with elegant Snowy Egrets! An indigo winged Kingfisher at the Musician’s Pond at Akbar’s Palace. Green parrots adorning many of the ancient ruins. Sweet chattering blue jays. Cool calm Monkeys “hanging out” in Varanasi and at Vulture Peak in Rajgir. Little cute squirrels that resembled a cross between a chip-monk and a small squirrel were seen just everywhere. :o))) Elephants traveling on the road, giving tourist rides and one Elephant named Lakshmi in Pondicherry at a Hindu Temple. (She tapped me on the head for “good luck”) Giant dragonflies during the day in the garden ponds of the Taj Mahal and by a very sickly river. I saw some Seriously GIANT BATS that flew over my head at dusk at the Taj Mahal! So COOL!!! I saw so many many dogs and puppies everywhere throughout my travels in India, and I have some sweet memories of children and puppies at play! Too Cute (Trop Mignon)! I saw camels, goats, big impressive bulls, cows, calves, water buffalo, horses, Oxen, Mosquitos, exquisite flocks of black crows with brown necks…

Spiritual Practices... I had so many opportunities to take my shoes off, and with humility, wonder and an open heart, experience being in the sacred spaces of so many Hindu Temples, Mosques, Buddhist Temples, Catholic Churches, an Ashram and a Jain Temple. It is impossible to express in words how my being was affected by all these intimate experiences with Spirituality.

Checking out the Land of Lord Buddha…Sarnath-Varanasi-Rajgir-Bodgaya-Kushinigar…This part of my journey to India was particularly touching and deep. I spent four days driving through the country, mountains, farmland and through villages, visiting and meditating in sacred Buddhist places with a most humble, honorable, compassionate, considerate, trusting and trustworthy skillful driver, Subash Singh. We most definitely formed an unbreakable heart bond through all that we shared on this pilgrimage. It is difficult to articulate. This was a non-sexual spiritual kind of bond. Quite beautiful really!

I started this “leg” of the pilgrimage in Sarnath at Deer park, where Lord Buddha gave the first Dharma talk on the Four Nobel Truths. I did Kinhin (walking meditation) 7 times around the Stupa there and listened to several groups of Korean, Shi Lankan and Tibetan monks, nuns and practitioners chanting in their respective languages. Quite amazing music to my ears!

In the evening I was but a single cell in a crowd of thousands at the Ganga Arti Festival in Varanasi. This Arti festival is a most extraordinary ritualized Hindu ceremony that is performed EVERY night as the sun goes down next to the River Ganges! It is a purification ceremony and a celebration of the 5 elements; Air, Fire, Water, Earth and Space. The music was fantastic and oh so noisy with lots of flutes, bells and deep pitched drums. Several Hindu priests take objects representing each element and in the four directions do a slow meditative “dance” clockwise then counter clockwise. I sat on a stone slab with the locals and became a part of this lovely lovely ceremony! Also, every night after this ceremony there is a free feast, where anyone who is hungry may eat. I was touched by the equanimity of this part of the ritual.

Early in the morning, I was taken to the Ganges River and went on a boat ride along the Ancient City of Varanasi where the crematoriums adorn the edge of the river. People were bathing, exercising and I did see one of the Hindu “Holy Men”, mostly naked and rubbing the ash all over his body. The sun rose magnificently with brilliant colors of pink, fuchsia, orange and yellow across the river from Varanasi that morning, and I spent the time in meditation watching the sunrise until I could no longer look at it.

Next, it was off to Bodhgaya. I was taken to several Buddhist temples and an archeological museum and then the Mahabodhi Templewhere the 3rdgeneration Bodhi Tree is! This is where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment! I sat Shikantaza under the Bodhi tree surrounded by Korean Monks, Nuns and practitioners chanting! I honed into the sound of some throat singers chanting somewhere by this amazing Temple and managed to become “empty” until my guide tapped me on the shoulder. I had forgotten my “self” so completely that my whole lower body had gone to sleep. It took a while for the sensation to come back and then I walked to the North side of the Temple and played my flute. It was an experience that I cannot describe in words. Deeply penetrating and profound!

The following day Subash, Pappu (the guide) and I drove several hours to Gridhakuta Hill (Vulture Peak), where Lord Buddha enjoyed sitting and gave the Dharma talks on the Lotus sutra and the Prajnaparamita sutras. It is a gorgeous mountainous area with splendid views. Here I sat Shikantaza with some monkeys, outside of a Japanese Temple, and concentrated on the sound of a deep drum that was being played inside the Temple. When Pappu tapped me on the shoulder and I opened my eyes, I was surround by the loveliest brown faces of Indian children, and so I played my flute for them. :o))))

We all then visited the ruins of the first University in the world called Nalanda. Shariputra, one of Lord Buddha’s students, attended University here. I saw more groups of Monks and Nuns chanting. The energy from these beings chanting in every sacred Buddhist place was palpable and fantastic to behold!

The next day, Pappu stepped off my “touring circuit” and Subash and I finished the next two days together (sans un guide) in the “land of the Buddha”. There were many more hours of driving through little villages and the stunning country farmland to Kushinagar. I loved every moment!!! Subash took me to a little Japanese Buddhist Temple on the way and I played the flute for some beautiful village children there. I reveled in the expressions on their faces. :o))) We also stopped at a local road side Hindu eatery where there were beautiful posters of the Hindu Gods on the wall of the structure and cots for workers to take a snooze. Charming and so useful!

Once in Kushinagar, Subash took me to three sites: First, where Lord Buddha was said to have taken his last “bread”, Second, the Stupa where the ashes of Lord Buddha were said to have been excavated, and the Third, where the giant golden covered stone Buddha is laying on his side facing West. Here, I sat in the North and chanted the four vows. I experienced a deep a profound emotional response in this place. Tears just free flowed a river down my face and into my lap. Deep gratitude for my life, my practice, the beings in my life and for the unsurpassable Buddha Way surfaced! There is a way out of suffering…it is beautiful! Subash was a kind and supportive witness to my experience and it just pulled us closer spiritually! WOW!!! After this experience, Subash and I bumped into a group of gorgeous sari wearing Indian women and we shared a lovely exchange.

Farmland, Flowers and Trees…India is a gorgeous place to experience the abundant variations of Mother Earth. Now…I was manifested and raised in one of the most gorgeous places on Mother Earth, Colorado!The Rocky Mountains are my heart space! Growing up, I had the unique opportunity to be a “wild thing”, running around barefoot and dirty with the animals on the ranch that my Granny took care of! I felt the same wild nostalgia while I was in India! I did not want to leave, just as I never wanted the summer to end in Colorado, when I had to leave my Granny and the wild mountains, to go back to my mother and school. So, I have a marvelous appreciation for the Earth in India and I am going to list some things that I experienced with my senses:

  1. The gorgeous Neem Trees. (Neem is a natural antibacterial and is used in a lot of beauty products, creams and tinctures.
  2. The Lotus pondsin bloom!!! Spectacular!
  3. The Ashoka Treeswith their serrated long leaves. Tall and really stunning dense foliage!
  4. The Banyan Tree:This is an extraordinary tree that roots more trees from its branches. It can create it’s own forest! They are incredible to behold! I saw a gigantic Banyan and it’s forest at Auroville.
  5. The Rain Tree with its twisting branches and thick trunks were always occupied by flocks of crows.
  6. The Frangi Paanni Tree and flowerswere Gandhi’s favorite flowers and trees. The flowers are creamy white and smell divine! My guide, Binay, and the elder grounds keeper gave me several flowers. I put them in my hair! ;o)
  7. Margo Jasmine (Necklace Tree) produces thousands of deliciously jasmine scented flowers. These flowers along with roses and marigolds are strung and used in ceremonies, used to decorate temples and women particularly enjoy adorning their shiny black hair with strings of “Jasmina” flowers! I gathered some and put them in my hair! ;o)))
  8. The Aakasia Fulkesha or Amal Taas has long pods hanging from these trees. The leaves and beans in the pods are ground up and can be used to treat stomach ailments. It is said to be quite bitter. Medicine in India is very Earth related. There are many homeopathic treatments, Ayurvedic treatments and herbal/food remedies! My kind of doctoring! ;o)))
  9. Samosa fieldswhere samosa is started in the mud.
  10. Banana, mango, apple, pomegranate orchards of beauty
  11. Palm and coconut trees:
    Every bit of these trees is used for something.
  12. Food, housing, in the bricks. Shal trees Lord Buddha was said to have passed into Nirvana between two of these trees.
  13. The Bodhi trees: A lovely type of fig tree with a beautiful leaf.

The Farmland in India is stunning and absolutely breath taking! From an airplane I was able to see how fantastically the land was laid out! India has excellent urban/farmland planning practices! There are acres and acres of rich farmland between the villages where people dwell. I did not see urban sprawl and it was so refreshing. We Americans could learn something from the Indian way of life. It is sustainable!!!! From the vehicle; the farmland is colorfully dotted with women wearing their saris at work. I saw beautiful rice paddies, fields and fields of abundant cauliflower, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, muskmelon, yellow mustard flowers, samosa crops and more! Along the sides of the roads I watched as brick makers formed the bricks for dwellings. They make the bricks right there on the same road that all the traffic flows on! Then the bricks are placed in a kiln (several kilns dot the country side) to cure for several days. I am impressed with how sustainable life is in India and touched by how the Hindu population in particular creates shelters for the homeless and the equivalent of food kitchens for the hungry. There is not a shortage of food in India. Produce and grains were everywhere I looked and it was beautiful, vibrant, and organic! Could be why I felt so incredible in India eh! Life is honored and celebrated in India artistically, musically and agriculturally!

It is Wedding Season…Yep…There is a Wedding Season!!! ;o)))…It is the glorious wedding season in India and Sabina took me to experience a Hindu wedding ceremony of a family friend! It was colorful, smelled of divine incense and stringed flowers, and was incredibly loud!!! There was a tambour player (drummer) and some ancient shwam like double-reeded instruments being played very loudly! It was quite exciting! Many places throughout India, I saw white horses being escorted through the streets. Traditionally the Grooms ride a white horse through the streets and the Bride walks surrounded by all her maiden friends and family and the wedding party is backed up with a “loud enthusiastic” brass band and drums! My amazing guide in Jodhpur took me for a motorbike ride through the narrow streets of Jodhpur (OOO I know…so romantic eh!) and we had a few opportunities to experience these celebrations up close! All I have to say is WOW! HOLY COW! What a way to celebrate!!!

The Grand Palaces, Monuments, Forts and Magnificent Structures of Today and Antiquity…Here are some of my favorite cultural places in India...SO MANY…and the Architecture is absolutely STUNNING!!!…The Raj Ghat, the cremation site of Mahatma Gandhi in Old Delhi. The Grand Jama Masjid Mosquewith hundreds of majestic Kites soaring above in Old Delhi. The crematoriumsalong the Ganges Riverin the ancient city of Varanasi. The Architecture is stunning in Varanasi from the vantage of the river!!! The Grande Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgayawhere the 3rdgeneration of the Bodhi Trees grows. The Delightful and Magnificent Taj Mahal in Agra. The Beautiful Jahangir Palace built by Akbar has a beautiful blend of Persian and Hindu architectural styles. OH…”and it is good to be the King”…harems and all! ;o))) HE he hE! …Well, until one of your sons puts you in prison or kills you! The Jantar Mantar, in Jaipur is the largest Observatory in India! Cool giant sundial! Numerology is interesting to me and it was cool to see this out of doors natural Observatory! Time is a funny idea and concept if we think too much about it eh. What is time anyway??? The Hawa Mahalalso known as the Palace of the Winds in Jaipur is magnificent! Excellent view from the top! The Chandra Mahal Palacein Jaipur has a wonderful Peacock gate and an exquisite room of mirrors! Mirrors are a huge part of India’s culture. I found mirrored rooms in most of the Palaces, some of the Temples and sewn into the ancient and modern clothing. Stunning! …O.K. Now I am in LOVE LOVE LOVE with the Mehrangarh Fortin Jodhpur! I do not know if it has anything to do with the sexy guide that toured me around for the day and night, or if it is actually solely due to the magnificent location, the gorgeous architecture, the vantage points of seeing all of the “Blue City” or hearing the music wafting up from below! Most likely my love affaire is due to all of these factors. I captured a few photos of this magnificent amazing structure! There were also many majestic Kites soaring above the fort as well, adding to the charm and grandeur!

The Guides and Special Beings that I met in India…There were so many incredible beings that I met in just three weeks of experiencing India!!! Without going into a separate novel about all these amazing individuals, I will simply list their names and a quality or two that I perceived and enjoyed about them.

Uttara Garg and her helpful son: A compassionate being who helped me in the airport even though she was grieving for her mother who suddenly passed. A beautiful heart connection.

Subash Singh: An amazing heart connection of compassion, consideration, kindness, witnessing of emotion, protection and plain and simple sweet humanness.

Indra de Silva (and her Shi Lankan family and friends)I met this amazing elder and her family and friends in Kushinagar! They had heard me playing the flute in the courtyard of the Lotus Hotel under the ¾ moon and the music captured their hearts and their essence, and their radiance captured me! An immediate HEART connection!!! I have been invited to visit Indra in her home in Sri Lanka! Who knows? ;o)))

Ranveer Singh: Lots of heart and an excellent attentive listener! A shopkeeper in Jaipur who I so enjoyed connecting with and sharing my fresh experiences of India with. Ranveer was very nurturing to me; he brought me ginger masala tea to calm the cough that I had. A kind and and sweet spirit! Thanks for the tea and the Sarswati Jee bookmark Ranveer!

Michael Lobo: Tour guide extraordinaire, generous, fantastic voice, alluring, intelligent... A CooL and attractive disposition.

Deepak Dan: A man “in love” with his life! SOOO Charming! Fantastic tour guide who inspired me to love the story behind the Taj Mahal! OH yeah and Deepak smelled great!!! His wife “puts out” the cologne he is to wear each day (sweet!) and so I was able to procure the name of this excellent smelling cologne! We shared the grand appreciation of the food markets where the produce was extremely fresh, colorful and so gorgeously displayed!

Heera: An extraordinary and oh so skillful masseur! Thank you for what may have been the most... massage I have experienced to date! ;o))))

Pappu (Randhir Raut) My tour guide through two days of the Buddhist pilgrimage. Pappu was extraordinarily patient; as I wanted to sit Shikantaza everywhere we went. He just patiently waited. :o) A kind and intelligent being who had a great sense of humor.

Dr. Rani Joseph: A professor in Rubber Technology! I know!!! How cool! This amazing woman works with real live Rubber tress in Southern India. (The state of Kerala where Sabina is from.) This state enjoys a matrilineal heritage! Rani and I enjoyed dinner together at the Hotel in Delhi! Rani means Queen in Hindi and Dr. Rani did have the strong presence of a queen and the sweet South Indian head bob! Marvelous!

Binay Singh: Tour guide extraordinaire. Very intelligent, patient and a great sense of humor. Sweet face and smile!

Forgive me if I have not named everyone, as there were so many gorgeous women, children, young men, monks, nuns and even a few men who stopped to listen to the flute and then chat, and sometimes I just

connected to people without the flute. We would strike up a conversation and VOILA!... an instant heart connection!!! So BEAUTIFUL! There was a palpable energy of quiet, calm confidence. I really felt ALIVE in India.

The People, The Animals, The Earth, The Colors, The Traffic Organism, The Organic Produce…I felt completely engaged with each moment, each experience. India has transformed every cell of my body and mind. I must return someday. Perhaps to concertize eh!

Malavika Arvind

I feel it quite necessary to highly recommend that everyone taste, feel, see, touch and be touched by the exquisite Culture and Spirit of India! It is impossible for me to relay in words the Magnificence of India. Deep felt gratitude to dear Sabina, Malavika and everyone at LPTI! Thank you for everything!!! The most lovely Malavika Arvind, with Footprint Holiday, is the wonderful being who created this trail through culture and Buddhism for me. Between Malavika and the LPTI tourism of India, I was really taken care of and had the experience of a life time. So, I am going to recommend them with flying colors:

Malavika Arvind

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Footprint Leisure Pvt. Ltd.,

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Kotturpuram, Chennai-85

091-44-42112967