India 2007 – Contents

Brief Contents

  1. Blasting to Bangalore and Prelude to India (19 Sep 07)
  2. Countdown Crescendo: Mixed Messages and Medication (4 Oct 07)
  3. Bangkok Butterflies and a Bangalore Nocturne (7 Oct 07)
  4. Day One: Chapattis, Chips and Polychrome Chaos (8 Oct 07)
  5. Driving for God: Taxis and Theology (11 Oct 07)
  6. Meeting Minnesotans and Ecumenical Encounters (12 Oct 07)
  7. Paths to God, Gandhi and Yogic Yearnings (14 Oct 07)
  8. Spiritual Sponge: Styles and Stages of Hinduism (15 Oct 07)
  9. Painting Guru Jesus Blue: Indian Christian Art (16 Oct 07)
  10. Mangos and Elephants: Bailing out Karma with Jainism (17 Oct 07)
  11. From Sanctum to Summit: Circling Shiva’s Holy Hill (19 Oct 07)
  12. Lutheran Looms and Pilgrimage to Pondicherry (20 Oct 07)
  13. Tools and Turnips: Twin Indias and Two Thanksgivings (21 Oct 07)
  14. Swords and Salvation: the Spiritual Synthesis of Sikhism (22 Oct 07)
  15. Neither Palace nor Poverty: the Middle Way of Buddhism (23 Oct 07)
  16. Untouchable: Defiling the Racism of Caste (28 Oct 07)
  17. Shampooing Jesus: India’s New Businessmen-Gurus (2 Nov 07)
  18. Juggernauts, Monkeys and Maharajahs: Colours of Mysore (3 Nov 07)
  19. Sati and IT: Social Stats and the Bangalore Boom (4 Nov 07)
  20. Wrangling Rickshaws and Wrecking Roads (5 Nov 07)
  21. Hawkers, Bookworms and Chai: Notes on Bangalore (6 Nov 07)
  22. Saris, Jack-O’-Lanterns and Marmite (9 Nov 07)
  23. Fire and Vultures: the Cosmic Battle of Zoroastrianism (10 Nov 07)
  24. Queuing for Krishna and Avatar Blues (11 Nov 07)
  25. Demanding Laws and Poetic Traffic: Chaos and Quiet in Bangalore (12 Nov 07)
  26. Pork and Pollution: by Rail to Hyderabad (13 Nov 07)
  27. Ruined Grandeur: Golconda Fort and Garden Tombs (17 Nov 07)
  28. Bangles and Beggars: the Charminar Bazaar (19 Nov 07)
  29. Slums and Sweat: by Rail to Chennai (20 Nov 07)
  30. Fortified Faith and Theosophical Potpourri (24 Nov 07)
  31. Slums and Cinemas: Billy Graham meets Doubting Thomas (25 Nov 07)
  32. Cooling Beaches, Sickening Sparks and Unexpected Gifts (27 Nov 07)
  33. Railway Bazaars and Marketing Marigolds (1 Dec 07)
  34. Mud and Silicon: Growing up in Bangalore (2 Dec 07)
  35. Royal Birthdays and Sporty Buddhas: Serenity in Bangkok (7 Dec 07)
  36. Re-entry Reflections and Christmas Grace (31 Dec 07)

Detailed Contents

  1. Blasting to Bangalore and Prelude to India (Wed 19 Sep 2007) - Saris and spices, monkeys and maharajahs, gurus and curries and cricket – here they all come!  In one month I will board a Thai Airways flight for the psychedelic fairy-tale land of India.  A 13-hour flight on Saturday 6 October, overnight in Bangkok, then four hours further to Bangalore where I’ll touch down in the … Continue reading Blasting to Bangalore and Prelude to India
  2. Countdown Crescendo: Mixed Messages and Medication (Thu 4 Oct 2007) - Veterans of India have assured me they didn’t get robbed or sick.  They swear by garlic oil capsules, ayurvedic herbs or western antibiotic prophylaxis for the stomach, and vitamin B against insect bites.  Others recalled Indian stomach bugs. My friend Grant plans to run a sweepstake on how often I get sick; another indicated he’d … Continue reading Countdown Crescendo: Mixed Messages and Medication
  3. Bangkok Butterflies and a Bangalore Nocturne (Sun 7 Oct 2007) - Auckland International Airport, Saturday 6 October. A few stomach butterflies already airborne. As in past flights alone, I was comforted by the words of my namesake three millennia ago, “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, … Continue reading Bangkok Butterflies and a Bangalore Nocturne
  4. Day One: Chapattis, Chips and Polychrome Chaos (Mon 8 Oct 2007) - Fighting for curry and setting up shop, my first taste of combat and sensory shock.  My first day on the ground brings fear and fascination, exhaustion and new shirt and colour and spice. I’ll be in this room for the month so I dusted shelves, spread clothes on one and stood books on another. I … Continue reading Day One: Chapattis, Chips and Polychrome Chaos
  5. Driving for God: Taxis and Theology (Thu 11 Oct 2007) - Religious radiators and godly trucks, sweeping up karma and stifled by dust ­– motoring madness and verdant oases on my first few rides through town. After many attempts, I reached my contact at the South Asian Institute of Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACS), who confirmed their phone company was problematic.  On Tuesday the ECC office ordered … Continue reading Driving for God: Taxis and Theology
  6. Meeting Minnesotans and Ecumenical Encounters (Fri 12 Oct 2007) - Strange species break out of the box: millipedes, mynahs and Minnesotans; snakes and sparrows; roses and reeds.  I’m touched by an Arab traveller and a Nobel poet, and taunted by a false friend. When I taught English at school holiday camps in South Korea there was a teachers’ orientation week when the campus was quiet, … Continue reading Meeting Minnesotans and Ecumenical Encounters
  7. Paths to God, Gandhi and Yogic Yearnings (Sun 14 Oct 2007) - Knotting the body to untie the soul.  A Christian and Gandhi on four paths of yoga that lead to the great goal. The routine of the course has now begun.  For early risers, the day starts at 6:30am with yoga, which I’ve never done before.  Inhaling through alternate nostrils, or scores of staccato exhalations in … Continue reading Paths to God, Gandhi and Yogic Yearnings
  8. Spiritual Sponge: Styles and Stages of Hinduism (Mon 15 Oct 2007) - The most flavours of faith, the most meanings on the menu, the biggest smorgasbord of divinity in the cosmic kitchen – a platter of entrees to India’s top religion. Today a speaker introduced Hinduism.  Technically, she said, there is no such religion.  The term was coined by foreigners to describe those who dwelled beyond the … Continue reading Spiritual Sponge: Styles and Stages of Hinduism
  9. Painting Guru Jesus Blue: Indian Christian Art (Tue 16 Oct 2007) - Experiments in cross-communication: Jesus drums in yoga postures and Mary wears a sari; the cross becomes a lotus blossom and Christ is the colour of sky. Indian Christianity has often remained a foreign import, like a stunted bonsai unable to grow beyond its western container.  Today we met a theologian-artist who’s determined to change this.  … Continue reading Painting Guru Jesus Blue: Indian Christian Art
  10. Mangos and Elephants: Bailing out Karma with Jainism (Wed 17 Oct 2007) - Sticky karma and sinking dinghies, straining out gnats and debating elephants; finding victory through three aims of Jainism. Two days after learning how amorphous Hinduism is (see here), we discovered a more defined offshoot faith that most of us had hardly heard of.  Dr Priyadarshana Jain, a lecturer in the Department of Jainology at the … Continue reading Mangos and Elephants: Bailing out Karma with Jainism
  11. From Sanctum to Summit: Circling Shiva’s Holy Hill (Fri 19 Oct 2007) - Racing bullocks and raiding temples with the god of Himalayan meditation and paradoxical percussion, the dancer of life and death, cemeteries and sex. Yesterday we rose at 4am to beat the traffic jams for a three-day excursion south-east to the state of Tamil Nadu (see photos here).  A surprisingly well sealed highway, lanes separated by … Continue reading From Sanctum to Summit: Circling Shiva’s Holy Hill
  12. Lutheran Looms and Pilgrimage to Pondicherry (Sat 20 Oct 2007) - Spinning wheels and Lutheran meditation; tsunami fishing, idolatrous infection and the Life of Pi in la France. In colonial times, Danish and German missions were active in this area of southern India (see yesterday’s post for our first adventures here and photos here).  We were hosted in Tiruvannamalai by the Arcot Lutheran church, whose motto … Continue reading Lutheran Looms and Pilgrimage to Pondicherry
  13. Tools and Turnips: Twin Indias and Two Thanksgivings (Sun 21 Oct 2007) - Indian contrasts on the street: electronics and idols, Adidas and excrement, harvest and hunger, gratitude and guilt. This weekend was the Ayudha Pooja festival, when Hindus worship their work tools and give thanks to their means of livelihood.  As in most festivals here, florists make a killing.  Shop fronts, market stalls, buses, trucks, tractors and … Continue reading Tools and Turnips: Twin Indias and Two Thanksgivings
  14. Swords and Salvation: the Spiritual Synthesis of Sikhism (Mon 22 Oct 2007) - A brotherhood of brush and bangle and blade, a Hindu-Muslim mix; yak hair and turbans, gurus and martyrs, lions and saints. This morning a bearded and turbaned professor of technology, Harijinder Singh Bhatia, came to introduce the Sikh way of life.  Guru Nanak (1469-1538) was born to Hindu parents in a Muslim area, now in … Continue reading Swords and Salvation: the Spiritual Synthesis of Sikhism
  15. Neither Palace nor Poverty: the Middle Way of Buddhism (Tue 23 Oct 2007) - A six-tusked prophecy and an arrow-pierced swan, chariot shocks and bodhi trees; helping oneself in moderation to pillows and nirvana. Continuing the series of introductions to India’s religions (see past posts about our classes on Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism), today we visited a Buddhist temple.  Although the Buddha lived in North India around 563-483 BC and … Continue reading Neither Palace nor Poverty: the Middle Way of Buddhism
  16. Untouchable: Defiling the Racism of Caste (Sun 28 Oct 2007) - Of Hinduism and activism, hatred and hope.  Cobblers, cleaners and night soil sweepers meet Jesus, Gandhi and the flush. Today we drove two hours north-west of Bangalore to the rural town of Tumkur (past the National Silkworm Seed Association, Central Silk Technological Research Institute and silk testing lab) to visit the Rural Education for Development … Continue reading Untouchable: Defiling the Racism of Caste
  17. Shampooing Jesus: India’s New Businessmen-Gurus (Fri 2 Nov 2007) - Healthy breathing and Hindu rebranding with Ravi Shankar and Sai Baba. For many young Indians traditional Hinduism seems out of touch.  How do rambling Sanskrit prayers in dirty dark temples relate to iPhones and Wall Street?  I did see an electrical drum-beating bell-ringing apparatus in one old temple, so some priests are embracing technology, or … Continue reading Shampooing Jesus: India’s New Businessmen-Gurus
  18. Juggernauts, Monkeys and Maharajahs: Colours of Mysore (Sat 3 Nov 2007) - A mélange of cultures and technologies, brutal worship and courteous apes, vibrant markets and kingly dining. Today we rose at 4:30 am for a 22-hour day trip to Mysore, the region’s historical capital 140 km south-west of Bangalore (see photos).  As we consumed cartons of Appy apple juice, the panorama unfolded outside the bus.  Mosque … Continue reading Juggernauts, Monkeys and Maharajahs: Colours of Mysore
  19. Sati and IT: Social Stats and the Bangalore Boom (Sun 4 Nov 2007) - Mobile phones and infant mortality, American call centres and drought-dead farmers, software outsourcing and burning wives: ironies of India’s growth. Several classes of the course introduced socioeconomic issues.  In 1991 the Indian economy nearly collapsed when the Gulf War drove oil prices up.  This forced rapid liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation, which led to dramatic growth.  … Continue reading Sati and IT: Social Stats and the Bangalore Boom
  20. Wrangling Rickshaws and Wrecking Roads (Mon 5 Nov 2007) - Navigating queues and confusion, repelling autorickshaw assaults, enduring electrical irregularities, and glimpsing coherence in the chaos. After my shocked retreat from the Indian streets on my first day (see here) I now have a sense of proud accomplishment at navigating the suburb of Whitefield all on my own (see photos), for example to use the … Continue reading Wrangling Rickshaws and Wrecking Roads
  21. Hawkers, Bookworms and Chai: Notes on Bangalore (Tue 6 Nov 2007) - Snake-selling hawkers and evasive manoeuvres, cheap books and street pirates, interfaith tea and Muslim markets and capturing labyrinthine details. I’ve now been into central Bangalore several times (see my photos).  The city around Mahatma Gandhi or MG Road has more intact footpaths than suburban Whitefield though in places still resembles a construction site, as does … Continue reading Hawkers, Bookworms and Chai: Notes on Bangalore
  22. Saris, Jack-O’-Lanterns and Marmite (Fri 9 Nov 2007) - Blasted barking and poignant chants, trick-or-treat at breakfast and bickies for exams, divine dancers and farewell fireworks – a motley Kiwi-American-Indian exchange. To cite last year’s St Olaf report, the one-month course on India has indeed been a blast, packed with trips and lectures and laughs, though of course there have been some lows. For … Continue reading Saris, Jack-O’-Lanterns and Marmite
  23. Fire and Vultures: the Cosmic Battle of Zoroastrianism (Sat 10 Nov 2007) - I find a Parsee Temple with a winged Shah and immortal flame.  I learn of forbidden shrines and dying faith; sweetened milk, a razor-sharp bridge, and scavenging Towers of Silence. As I surveyed my map of the city, I spied an icon – two blocks from my guesthouse – like a squashed tower or lighthouse … Continue reading Fire and Vultures: the Cosmic Battle of Zoroastrianism
  24. Queuing for Krishna and Avatar Blues (Sun 11 Nov 2007) - First-class Krishna, dreaming Vishnu, and a zoo of incarnations: revamping Noah, avenging Macbeth, and the warrior on a white horse. After attending church and visiting Bangalore palace, I took a rickshaw to the Sri Radha Krishna temple of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), the full name of the Hari Krishna movement.  Wearily sitting … Continue reading Queuing for Krishna and Avatar Blues
  25. Demanding Laws and Poetic Traffic: Chaos and Quiet in Bangalore (Mon 12 Nov 2007) - Rickshaw economics, charity Toastmasters and rhyming police; prohibitions in Cubbon Park and techno headaches in malls, the Windsors in India and flagging down Gandhi. Leaving the Ecumenical Christian Centre where I’d stayed the last month, on Friday I headed to central Bangalore.  When my auto-rickshaw stopped at a traffic light, a scruffy girl somersaulted past, … Continue reading Demanding Laws and Poetic Traffic: Chaos and Quiet in Bangalore
  26. Pork and Pollution: by Rail to Hyderabad (Tue 13 Nov 2007) - My first train and an old friend, culinary minutiae and mistakes, beards and burkas and bombs; packing in the transport with congestion of roads and nose. Last night I took the overnight Rajdhani Express 11 hours north to Hyderabad.  It was my first Indian train and the process was pleasingly efficient.  I booked online (although … Continue reading Pork and Pollution: by Rail to Hyderabad
  27. Ruined Grandeur: Golconda Fort and Garden Tombs (Sat 17 Nov 2007) - I storm ruined battlements, fight off guides, and mourn lost monarchs as a nightingale sings of old glories. This morning I invaded the 16th-century Golconda Fort where flocks once grazed outside Hyderabad – Golconda means “Shepherd Hill”.  Layer upon layer of rock ascends the slope, square blocks of masonry on granite boulders.  Gates are studded … Continue reading Ruined Grandeur: Golconda Fort and Garden Tombs
  28. Bangles and Beggars: the Charminar Bazaar (Mon 19 Nov 2007) - Pastel Buddha, Sikh pudding and Jain disappointment; a gallery of marvels and a market of gems: cricket and Mecca, glowing fruit and perfumed wrists and begging without hands. On Thursday I moved to the Hotel Rajmata in central Hyderabad for my remaining four nights in town.  About NZ$20 per day for a large twin room … Continue reading Bangles and Beggars: the Charminar Bazaar
  29. Slums and Sweat: by Rail to Chennai (Tue 20 Nov 2007) - Surreal surfing and sewer streams, scurrilous drivers and solicitous chefs, brutal laundry and bemused language; coping with cold waves and Internet cafes and taking the TARDIS back in time. At Hyderabad station Tom and Jerry frolicked on TV screens while men in lungi-wraparounds shifted stacks of parcels on their heads.  I bought an India Today … Continue reading Slums and Sweat: by Rail to Chennai
  30. Fortified Faith and Theosophical Potpourri (Sat 24 Nov 2007) - Combating poverty and Christ-like pigs, bussing through history and defending St George; dangerously blending icons at the Theosophical Society and desperately seeking books at Madras University. The last days I’ve spent mornings at Hindustan Bible Institute classes, and a justice seminar of Chennai Transformation Network where leaders from groups like World Vision and Habitat for … Continue reading Fortified Faith and Theosophical Potpourri
  31. Slums and Cinemas: Billy Graham meets Doubting Thomas (Sun 25 Nov 2007) - The meaning of names and preaching in a slum; beating up worship bands at the flicks; praying at the doubting apostle’s tomb – I check out three churches in Chennai. Few of us in the West think our names have significance.  Bill or Burt or Bob, it’s pretty much the same.  In many cultures, however, … Continue reading Slums and Cinemas: Billy Graham meets Doubting Thomas
  32. Cooling Beaches, Sickening Sparks and Unexpected Gifts (Tue 27 Nov 2007) - Chilling at the beach and charging for the hole, sparks in the dark and a gift of Christmas song. While waiting for the train back to Bangalore I flicked through my mental album of Chennai memories (see a few photos here).  Women’s faces coloured yellow with turmeric, apparently both auspicious and medically beneficial.  Other women … Continue reading Cooling Beaches, Sickening Sparks and Unexpected Gifts
  33. Railway Bazaars and Marketing Marigolds (Sat 1 Dec 2007) - An emporium on rails and gullible crafts; ominous veges and arty pomegranates; cubes of pineapple and cones of peanuts, pyramids of colour and garlands of carnations. My stomach recovered for Tuesday’s Chennai-Bangalore Brindaven Express.  When the British commissioner made this trip in 1862, the railway only went part way so he completed the journey, his … Continue reading Railway Bazaars and Marketing Marigolds
  34. Mud and Silicon: Growing up in Bangalore (Sun 2 Dec 2007) - Boiled beans, brave hares and anti-British rockets; pensioners, prangs and Frogger; camera curiosity and wobbling ambiguity, lakeside laughter and David’s departure. The city of Bangalore has come a long way.  Around 1100 A.D. a king was lost while hunting and sheltered at an old lady’s cottage.  He named a new settlement, so the story goes, … Continue reading Mud and Silicon: Growing up in Bangalore
  35. Royal Birthdays and Sporty Buddhas: Serenity in Bangkok (Fri 7 Dec 2007) - Clogged lungs and quiet streets, 7-Elevens and temples, saffron monks and lemon kings, sweet and salty feet. I had a smooth flight from Bangalore to Bangkok on Sunday night, but with little sleep.  Beside me a large Indian gentleman forced me into the aisle and a small girl behind whacked my seat should I dare … Continue reading Royal Birthdays and Sporty Buddhas: Serenity in Bangkok
  36. Re-entry Reflections and Christmas Grace (Mon 31 Dec 2007) - Questions on return and listing what I missed, monochrome adjustments and memories; Christchurch collapsing, mountain meditations, and living the feast of grace. After an 11-hour flight from Bangkok, I stepped off the plane in Auckland on Saturday afternoon, 8 December.  I had 20-30 new books (depending on how you classify books versus booklets) in my … Continue reading Re-entry Reflections and Christmas Grace
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Sketches of Travel in the East