India Travel – March 15, 2012

12:53 a.m.

Ah, finally: I have left Delhi, and after a dusty 4 hour+ ride have made it back to Vrindavan area, near Shyamdas’ home in Jatipura overlooking the big temple on Govardhan Hill. 10 days after getting off the airplane, I am finally back in India!

Chilled out at Shyam’s for a couple hours after arriving, then the bunch of us—Shyamdas, Narayan ji and some other visiting bhaktas, went on walkabout and did a partial evening parikrima around this most-encircled hill on the planet. Eight miles (out of the full 14-mile circumference) of barefoot trodding in this land of deep devotion, Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

We stopped in two places along the way—a small chai stand where we had impromptu satsang discussing various matters related to devotional practice, and then at Govind Kund where we watched the shadow play of light reflecting off the water and onto the walls nearby, and listened to the sweet strains of an old school mahamantra being sung by a small group of bhaktas at the temple across the way—sweet!

Arrived home and enjoyed Prasad with Mohan and Govind, and now about to climb under the covers and rest up before tomorrow’s journey into Vrindavan proper. I’ll try to get some mala and other shopping out of the way pronto, and will meet up with SD and crew after lunch and see where the bhajan winds blow us off to… Jai Sri Krishna!

11:18 pm
Just in and showered down from another epic day of Vraja lila. The day began with a semi-surgical strike down to Vrindavan’s enchanting Loi Bazar, in a successful effort to conduct all of my necessary mala business so that I could focus the remainder of my time here mostly on my higher priority, bhakti business.

All seemed well when un-requested adventure struck. Anyone who’s ever been down to the Loi bazar knows the grave and central danger of that neighborhood: the mischievous monkeys, and in particular their penchant for stealing the glasses right off your face. The concept is to either take your glasses off defensively (sort of defeating he whole point of glasses, of course) or pay careful heed. No mystery on today’s affair; we were walking out of the market and almost free, when bam! A big monkey hopped upon my back, grabbed the glasses off my face, and hopped up onto a perch to enjoy and destroy his new treasure.

I was stunned for a moment, and especially grateful that a passerby took it upon himself to jump into action. He engaged the monkey for a moment, then disappeared around the corner, confusing me momentarily, until he reappeared with a plastic bag holding a banana. He passed the bag up to the monkey, who took it, and good as his monkey word, simply handed my glasses back to my savior and got to bananafying his bad self.

My glasses, meanwhile, were utterly scratched and destroyed—but this guy who helped me managed in 2 minutes to at least put their scratched lenses back into the chewed up mangled frames and stabilize them—awesome. I offered him a 100 rupee note (about $2, or most of a day’s pay for half this country) which made him happy, and he ducked away.

Several years ago, this same thing happed to my friend Vitthaldas, so I recalled where the amazing eyeglass wala was at the other end of the market, and in ten minutes he was sussing out my situation. He spent five minutes eyeballing my lenses against a piece of paper with lots of funny geometric designs on it, put together his ‘sample’ eye gizmo with his guess as to what my ‘scrip is, and voila—he nailed it. I expressed awe and gratitude, and he said something like “90% of work in India is still done by hand—it depends on the skill of the practitioner. I can do my best, but in the end it’s God who decides the result!” What a sweetheart.

He tweaked my just-wrecked frames and got them wearable; I picked two not too cheesy frames from his limited Indian-village selection, and in three more days I’ll have two new sets of glasses for less than $40.

That little adventure paled in comparison to what was to come though. After lunch at MVT we re-convened with Shyamdas and friends over at the Neem Karoli Baba ashram—always a happy and blessed pilgrimage.
We hung for a few in Maharajji’s takhet room, we had very brief darshan with his son Dharma Narayan ji, and then continued down the road where we had an amazing little moment with Choti Maharaj, a tiny ancient little guy in an even tinier stone hut on the road. He helped Maharajji find and get the land NKB’s ashram is on, and apparently he was old back then. Best guesses now are that he is somewhere between 120-150 years old.

We had a great darshan with him; he and Shyamdas talking and babaji talking turns rubbing his lovely, crooked hands over our heads, one by one, vibing us in the sweetest of ways. I was not the only one of the 10 of us in that tiny 6×9 hut whose eyes were overflowing with tears in the wake of Choti Maharaj’s sweet firm touch. It felt like a genuine special moment.

And then. We drove on and parked on this side of the holy Yamuna River, and then began our daily yatra, our group walkabout to various devotionally-soaked people and places in the ethereal Vraja countryside. Shyam wanted to deliver a new translation of devotional literature he’d recently completed to an old baba he knew there. We walked through endless hectares of barley field, peppered with wild ganja throughout, through a land-that-time-forgot kind of mini-village—amazing!—until we got to the ashram where this man had lived for 50 years. We had darshan of the temple there, enjoyed some satsang, and watched the sun set into the sweet green fields of ‘real India.’

Walking back an hour in the dark, watching the play of planets in the sky, we finally came across a Yamuna boat wala Shyamdas knows, and floated down the final mile in style—Vraja style, anyway.

Now it’s way late and I’m going to turn in. Tomorrow is another day…