What Can I Tell you? About my first time in India?

by Joan Dobbie

5am sun rising up over the sea & me doing my sun salutes up on the roof of the Sri Aurobindo Beach House they call it. Crow-birds god knows their real name making their harsh morning racket. Look down over there, see the joggers, the bikers (where French ladies in bonnets once walked their poodles.) Look down over there: it’s a cow, chewing garbage. Look down over there: sad yellow dog’s still sound asleep in the dust & that dark slender woman sweeping the street in her beautiful sari. And those HUGE moon-white oxen, still pulling that wagon, just as they did five thousand years back. (The world’s very first yogis.) See the pretty bald baby with beads in her hand? She’s given her hair to the temple I’m told.(Nothing so lovely as real Indian hair). Still some stars hanging in. Look up there at the sky, clouds hovering heavy and that jewel of a sun rising up over the sea & look here. It’s ME right here REALLY IN INDIA high up on a high holy roof praising the coming of light. Bindi takes form in my brain, luminescent, this dark inner jewel, the sun’s after image. Those crow-birds are REALLY damn ugly but smart. I saw one today up in a tree pecking some sort of something, out of a cup it had clutched in its claw & the people I meet like to eat with their fingers (right hand only). I need to learn how. Toilet’s no more than a hole in the floor & a bucket of water I can’t figure out quite WHAT’S WHAT I mean I need to get potty trained, thank you. Not to mention that GODAWFUL traffic! the beeping. The roaring. I can’t cross the street. So what do I love here so much then? Namaste to every single person I see & they to me. What is it that’s magic here? Well, maybe the music rising up out of the so early morning. Or the coffee smell sweet with thick cream. Or maybe it’s the incense from all of these temples. My G O D ! I’ve been blessed by an elephant. A real one. A real blessing. Not one time but two three four I don’t know how many times, every night for the last holy week & a half. I love that elephant. Her name is Lakshmi G O D D E S S of wealth, but really she’s more like GANESH and this is HIS temple. Everyone wants me to buy this or that stuff & I want to buy it too. I want to bUy something for everybody I can think of back home. I want to buy everything it’s all so cheap. I’m a millionaire here! I could buy anything I want for anybody even for me (I could even get my eyes fixed if I just had the time) but I don’t have the space to carry it home don’t even have a suitcase not really & I just can’t decide what I want. There’s this parrot this guy has on the side of the road & the parrot creeps into this kind of a doll house pulls out a paper & ON IT IS WRITTEN MY FUTURE that really comes true in a day or two anyhow I didn’t even KNOW I was in danger, except now it makes some sort of sense & ON TOP OF ALL this I’ve got a NEW FRIEND who says kind of in wonder,”Look! I’ve got a new friend!” & it’s real but it’s only REAL here where everything is magic even the sad things like how lonely the dogs are the needy street people desperate yowling the motherless kitten. There’s this gesture they make, these women with babies, fingers NOT QUITE touching the mouth gracefully, gracefully, feed me I’m hungry. Please feed my baby. Did I tell you the farmer who loves like a child his land, every leaf, every blade of green grass? Did I show you that VAST AWESOME HALL, that they’ve built out of mud baked into brick built up into magnificent arches? The architect come for a visit, stayed for a decade. Did I tell you the tricky Norwegian? The buckets of snakes whose poison is healing? The temples once hidden down under the sea. Did I tell you the beauty of brilliant sun rising up out of the roiling deep dark? Did I tell you the HUGE WHITE full moon? Did I mention that truly wise man, Vijay, so humble, who welcomes us here to his city, his Ashram, his home? HIS birthday. Our singing. The magic of silence. Or the lovely wise woman, Harvinder, her teaching… Did I tell you that all of the people I meet seem to know for a fact that GOD IS CREATION not the cliche but the REALITY of it. Simple as that. All of us GOD even the dog & the beggar & the pretty black baby, her necklace of flowers. God Kali. God Lisa. God Krishna. God Hannah. God Yuki, God Anna … every single one of us GOD… even me, foolish me. One tiny god person. The crocodile. Centipede. Sweet thoughtful Shreya in search of her roots. Did I tell you the temple guard Paul whose wife– whom he loves– is dying, scoops me up for a ride on his bike & we almost tip over. Did you hear about Sharanam? Satya? Those strong VILLAGE MOTHERS who stand UP LIKE MOUNTAINS day after day for the sake of their children. And us, who are we? Well, we’re the guys: Logan & Chuck & our hero, Surendra, who crafted the gift of this journey … but mostly we’re girls… Ok! Women: wide-eyed American WOMEN IN INDIA all dressed up in our long silken saris. We’re like Lotuses blossoming. And the kids ALL THOSE BEAUTIFUL KIDS at the school & the center all the time laughing & laughing arms & hearts open. Laughing I say for the pure joy of laughing. And loving. And living with HOPE.

(Written after a 2013 visit to Pondicherry with Surendra Subramani’s University of Oregon Students)


Bio: Joan Dobbie has been teaching Hatha Yoga at the University of Oregon since 1997. She has been practicing  yoga since the mid 1970s.  With her love of yoga, came a love of the Indian culture, and a great desire to someday, travel io India. In winter 2012, one of Joan’s yoga students, who had just returned from volunteering in Pondicherry, South Eastern India, as part of her “Family & Human Services” class, invited Joan to the group’s post-travel presentation. By the time the presentation was over, Joan had been invited to join in with the next year’s group. And so, over Christmas break, 2013, her dream of going to India became a reality.  

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