We’ve been away now for one week, and it’s been action-packed. We landed in Chicago to pick up Dharmadas’ father and two sisters, and we watched the Superbowl with them and the rest of the family. I kept waiting for the commercial with the “Puppy Bowl,” but it never came on….ah, such is life…
We flew Air India the next day; a 15-hour direct flight to Delhi. We all really appreciated not having a layover anywhere, and it was fun to start right off with Indian food! We arrived Tuesday late afternoon, and were met at the airport with friends and flowers, and got settled into our hotel very happily.
Wednesday, we visited the Gandhi Memorial, the place where he lived the last few months of his life, and the scene of his assassination. Peace permeated the place, which seemed to us to prove that his peace was stronger than any act of violence…he died with “Hey Ram” on his lips; may we all remember God in every moment, no matter what happens…
After visiting the Memorial, our friend Chenga Acharya took us to Janpath, where there are some Tibetan artifact stores, one of which is run by her family. We got some interesting patchwork bags made from saris for the church boutique and for Sunlight of the Spirit Bookshop. We are also bringing back a few 7-metal singing bowls that are really lovely.
From there we found an Italian Restaurant (!) nearby, which turned out to be a new branch of a restaurant that we all used to go to with Swamiji years ago in Gurgaon: Tonino’s. As we were seated and looking through the menu, Baraquiel and his brother Hezequiel (two young men who were part of the Pune community when we lived there) noticed that there was a copy of Swamiji’s “Essence of the Bhagavad Gita” on the shelf on the wall in front of us.
Dharmadas said it might be a signed copy, since Swami and the Tonino’s chef were good friends. We opened the book, and there was Swami’s signature! We felt he had joined us for lunch…
After that we visited the Delhi Ananda Ashram that is new, and we hadn’t seen it before. it’s a huge house in a very good part of Delhi, with a beautiful garden. Outdoor programs can be held there, seating 200 people! The focal point of the garden is a huge altar comprised of larger-than-life statues of our gurus in white marble ~ beautiful!
We had tea with Day, Keshava, Narayani, Shurjo, Gaurav, Shamini, Mansi, and others, with lots of laughter, and very good chai…oh, how we have missed good chai!
From there we went back to the hotel, and then out to another restaurant for a fabulous buffet dinner with Rony and Chenga Acharya’s family, including Lipa and Ria, who spent a year at the Ananda School at the Village: Ria attending school, and her mother Lipa as the house mother at Banyan house. Also joining us was Rony and LIpa’s cousin, Sangeeta, who is a dancer, and who runs a school of dance in Chicago (where Dharmadas’ family is from.) She travels often to the Sacramento area, and we will keep in contact and see if she and some of her students might do a dance concert for us sometime.
Thursday we took a long drive and visited a famous outdoor festival and market, with stalls from countries from all over the world. There were somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 people there! In several hours we explored only 1/5 of the fair! Dharmadas’ sisters had their first experience buying shawls while I found a place that sells Benares silk altar cloths, and had a great time finding all the most beautiful ones to bring home for the boutique and the bookstore.
We came back in time for a tea and satsang at Kanta Chanda’s house in Gurgaon, where many friends had gathered to greet us, and meet Dharmadas’ family. It was so lovely to see people we hadn’t seen in four years.
On Friday, we met Kaarthikeyan ji, who was with us in Sacramento for Swami’s birthday last year. He was very close to Swami, and has remained a dear friend to all of us. He had a lunch catered at the Ananda Delhi Ashram for Jyotish and Devi, many friends from the Gurgaon ashram, including Devarshi, Dhyana, Devendra, as well as all of us and everyone living in the ashram. He thoughtfully made sure that the food was not too spicy, which was so much appreciated! Also, joining the group was a Swami who lives only on sunlight by practicing Surya Yoga, a young Ayurvedic doctor who is opening a new series of clinics, and a young woman filmmaker who is in charge of creating the first-ever 4-day film festival at the Kumbha Mela that is happening this year in April-May. (this is the 12th-year Kumbha Mela)
She is going to be showing “Finding Happiness” and is working on also showing “The Answer.” It will be wonderful if some of the 50 million people who attend the Kumbha Mela can see these movies!
After the lunch, Kaarthikeyan ji had arranged for us to visit Akshardham Temple, which is about 45 minutes from the ashram. We visited there before with Dharmadas’ father years ago, and he really wanted to see if again. There is a “boat ride” that is particularly interesting, as it takes you through dioramas depicting scenes from ancient times, including the origin of democracy, the invention of the zero, the discovery of atomic energy: all thousands of years ago in India….the temple is exquisitely beautiful, and after sunset there is a laser light show with fountains and flames! Hard to describe, but state of the art, and fabulous. Akshardham is only about 10 years old, and is immaculately clean and sattvic, and entirely run by volunteers. There is an Imax movie on the life of the saint that inspired this temple and tradition: Neelkanth, from the 1700’s. very inspiring.
Today, after getting a relatively jetlag-free night’s sleep, we look forward to more good Indian food, some shopping, a few errands, and then a satsang in Gurgaon with Jyotish and Devi, who arrived just a couple of days after we did. This will be their welcome satsang, which will be wonderful. We look forward to seeing many more people who have been dear to us in the past.
Dharmadas’ father, who inspired this trip to India, is 86, and has held up very well. Dharmadas’ two sisters are having a great time, and all of them are a pleasure to be with. Please keep us in your prayers for good health and stamina, and a safe return. We appreciate your prayers.
Love and blessings to all of you! We miss you, and wish you were here with us! Maybe someday soon we can bring a group from Sacramento to India, and you can enjoy all of this with us.
Aum, Nirmala and Dharmadas