Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Udaipur, Day 1

Stunned.  Definitely not speechless. Definitely not overwhelmed.  Just stunned.  Happily, lovingly, graciously, generously stunned.  Beginning with my flight from Mumbai, the day has been filled with so much fun, help, and camaraderie.  On that flight I sat beside a photographer who was traveling with crew en route to do a fashion shoot at the Palace Hotel — an exotic hotel in the middle of the lake (definitely recommend you looking it up! and I hope to get some photos of the lake soon).  I also made friends with a German traveller who was hopping between Udaipur and Jaipur for the next week.  

As we descended into Udaipur, 6:00am.

The taxi ride to SM was not too wild — it was only 7:00am — but was made quite a joy by my taxi driver, A.  In conversation, Jainism came up and so he dutifully pointed out to me every Jain person, building, and area we passed as we zig-zagged down the road.  The quick trip wouldn’t have been complete if we didn’t pass A’s favorite spot to partake in his hobby:  collecting peacock tail feathers at a spot right off the road before the turnoff towards the Old City.  After all, I did ask him what he enjoyed about Udaipur :)

Two Jain women walking along the highway on the outskirts of Udaipur.  These two are walking because riding in an auto at high speeds would be potential for killing many many more organisms on the ground and in the air than just walking.  Besides the white coverings, a common Jain practice one will also notice is wearing a mouth covering in order to protect small organisms from being accidentally eaten.  Many more thoughts to come on Jainism, but it is important to realize the utmost concern for practicing ahimsā, nonviolence.

Generously waiting for me at the gate to SM was my roommate, Jose, and soon to be friend, M.  They helped me to get right to exploring around SM and we even shared an ideal morning sit-down with some chai.  M works with an NGO up the road, Shikshantar, so is around SM quite a bit.  After chai, I had a day of quick orientations and meetings with my prospective reporting officer, Ms. AB ji.  Ms. AB ji is a widely experienced and passionate individual in the rural development game around Rajasthan.  I am quite fortunate to have her as my guide into development work — not to mention the amazing lunch she shared with me after our afternoon meeting.  Oh don’t worry, you’ll get some, too; Ms. AB ji and I are already planning on a cooking lesson.  I will abstain from now discussing the nature of the project she proposed because we will be doing a type of “fitting” over the next few days to determine if I am the person for it, but will have a full detail soon!
The entrance to SM and one of the jeeps for going out to the field.
The rest of the afternoon was full of so much Hinglish! It was so encouraging to meet so many people who would listen to me and speak slowly for what conversation I could manage.  SM hosts numerous students preparing for exams in their library, so needless to say, there are plenty of new people with whom to talk and practice Hindi.  With no stop to the deluge of events, the evening was absolutely incredible! M was part of organizing a group for an hour of meditative silence, so J and I met him and a new friend, Rama, outside of Shansakar before grabbing a TukTuk.  The four of us picked up two more friends and after a bit of adventure we arrived to our host’s apartment.

In much South Asian thought, there is a common theme of separation of “I.”  Somewhat meaning one’s soul versus one’s body or one’s possessions or one’s attachments as definitions of self.  Our focus of the night was exploring our own internal understanding and relationship with that “I” (or those “I(s)”).  An hour of fragranced, candle-lit, serene silence holds an amazing and enlightening power.  An hour is a grand luxury, but if you have not had at least a little time in silent reflection, lately, I wish for you to stop and to dedicate just a few minutes to yourself.  It doesn’t need to be in a setting structured for that, the candles, the flowers, or incense are all unnecessary, though they are quite nice, but instead just requires of you a concentration within.  It may help to have a prompt like “What do I understand when I say ‘I’?” or it could merely be a few deep breaths of clearing your thoughts.  Whatever may be helpful to you in this moment, I wish you a deserved reprieve of silence for it.  

After our hour and conversation about thoughts and insights gleaned from the meditation, we shared out a wonderful spread of foods everyone in attendance brought — we took some fruits, which I must admit I am excited to have brought home a few for breakfast (J headed back home early to a new roommate we have, S.  He will be staying the next two months, also!) And then, potentially the most thrilling aspect of the day:  getting home.  The TukTuk ride earlier was nothing compared to a blitzing scooter ride. I will leave it at that and the fact I am here writing to you about the day.  

My next post will be much heavier on the photos, and a more about SM, this blog title, and projects on the horizon.

prēm aur āśā


No comments:

Post a Comment