Trip to India - Kerala Jan. 2019
Love of travel is a great eye-opening experience. We landed in Cochin into
a large modern airport. One stop over in Doha and the airport was so modern and most employees from India, Africa and Philippines. They had contracts of 3 years and were provided housing and a job and ruled by a king on Doha. We saw women dressed in modern clothing and a few elite folks like Arabian ways of the black gown with headscarf and face cover with the man wearing the white Arabian headscarf and gown. Many said that the preferred this place over not having enough money for their family's at home.
From Cochin we went to a place by the backwaters in Alleppy or Allappuzha where the rivers boats and houseboats went by from morning til 5/6 p.m. It was the law that boat dock so the fisherman could fish. Fish was in abundance and we stayed at a lake house resort. The bathrooms were the awakening by seeing the drain a few feet away from the toilet and bucket and pitcher for washing. There was a switch to turn on to heat the hot water a few minutes and you washed up and then used the shower drain and the bucket to fill with warm water and washed off the soap and shampoo. I always wondered why in the Indian hardware stores here why the had the sprayer attachment also connected by the toilet. It was enlightening to understand that the sprayer was preferred then toilet paper. In some modern place toilet paper was there in small rolls but the sprayer preferred. I am not trying to be gross but it saves the planet. It is good to know in India there are Hindus, Christians and Muslims living peacefully where we were. That the left hand is never used for eating as that is the toilet hand and the right is preferred.
There were Ayurvedic herbal healing spas of healing systems over 2,000 years old here and there and we took advantage of the oil massages. Ayurveda has different skin applications including ghee (clarified butter) to heal eyes and nose or detox the body. They have different oils to heat up the body, cool down or nourish the skin. Dry scrubs to remove dead skin and for sensitive skin or acne. People were also treated with joint pain, steam and sauna and 3rd eye calming called Shirodhara where heat milk and oil with herbs drips over the forehead that is warmed. The doctor is trained to read your pulse over 2,000 ways to you health even for organ readings and looks at the map of your tongue just like the Chinese medicine. I had low blood pressure and needed rest after the long 19 hour plane ride and prescribed herbs to detox for skin issues and dietary recommendations. They help you see what you ingest that cause health issues and then what to ingest to heal.
After the houseboat overnighter; we went to the Amritapuri Ashram. The hugging saint. It was our blessing to know when we arrived the Amma was ready to give darshan ...blessings and hugs. She led a white flower of global peace meditation and then we lined up assigned a number to this vast compound you could live fully without stress and meditation and yoga and other classes along with treatments, stores and cafes. Although the community times for meals were free...afterwhile you can do the cafe and community washing of your own metal dishes after each meal. We were given sheets and mattress and pillow on floor as a couple. Single people arrived to share with 2 or 3 people in dorms without mattress or pillows but sheets on floor. Very basic with bathroom shower and toilet with sink. The had elevators and temples for women and men and couples. Anyway, when you lined up the people would direct you along the way and ask your language. I said English and she hugs you and whispers into your ear mostly in your language...She didn't with me. I smiled at her as I cam near and she looked at me. She hugged me and she whispered something in the local language called "Malayalam" - Nadar. I looked it up and was a local caste system perhaps where she grew up. I guess and it was a meaning a landowner or tree climber...haha. I love trees.
I must say the first hour I felt a cult and people from over 21 countries where there wearing variations of white out of respect. I saw alot of unhappy and distraught withdrawn people just like the ones who walk around Healium in the neighborhood. It was if they were lost searching for themselves and they weren't present. I wanted to honestly leave the first few hours when Amma changed the location of the white flower meditation of peace; people ran to her new location...We had assigned numbers to see her as it was her decision to see new arrivals that day. They crowded around her and people adored her like a Goddess. There were items sold and chocolate bars with her picture. Stickers of her on the elevators inside and on each floor. I really wanted to leave that night and my husband says let's wait and see what this place teaches us. I kept my mind open but cautious as I saw gates around the compound opened. A woman said years ago they didn't put gates around and there were no security guards around her for darshan. Ashram life is supposed to be simple and basic and heard there were posh ones elsewhere. I was just studying people in classes and taking notes. I met alot of healers and shamans and had great talks with them. Alot of people benefitted from the visit and not knocking them. It was a business that was grown and people were in charge of a lot of things Amma wasn't. She was the spiritual mother and guru.
People are soft spoken and family businesses for generations are run together and proudly so. My husband asked what is the dream of a taxi driver who took us on outing to Palaruvi Falls, Deer Sanctuary, Dams and for sugar cane drinks and he showed us family content. That he had no dreams but was going to school and would work with family or a job. He lived with his family which was customary and enjoyed not being pressured to be an individualism which confuses our youth and family unit. They believed in family first just like the Jewish families and uniting. There was no ill will towards not working with family as we here pressure individualism but contrast with unity. I have noticed that many youth come to our center wanting the family feel/tribe I guess they call it and a sense of belonging. We have lost our way in some cases what is unity and family always capitalism and devaluing our roots and connection to our culture. There are good and uninspiring things in life by your own perspective. They were solid the youth about family and community. The temples had speakers of the praises of the Gods Shiva, Ganesh, etc. They had red dots or clay or both on the 3rd eye to show they were dedicated to their faith. Not imposing and encouraged when entering temple to not show knees, tight clothing and no shoulders or breasts and wearing white.
There was poverty and richness. Lushness of nature and aridness. So many contrasts. They don't have many garbage cans and when you eat; the servers disposes of the trash. Trash is in some places piled up and where to put it. If you don't have a system to help them put trash away with recepticles can pile up some places. Stray dogs are there and look healthier in some places but no on yells at them unless they approach you dining but they usually are not aggressive. We traveled by taxi to a island lake resort and 5 minute ferry to cross. That was interesting and they had a system. The place was surrounded by canals and here and there nets raised up and lowered to catch shrimp or fish in the canals as needed. Food vendors everywhere and snack shops. We took a sunrise lake tour similar to Lake Lanier in Georgia and the man used a stick like a gondola to maneuver from canal to lake to river and back again. The sunrises and sets are glowing red orange. The dinner cooked from the local fresh food from the canals and lakes were delicious. Then we left by tuk tuk to the train station and one hour and they were clean but crowded and went to Varkala beach to a seashore resort. It was breathtaking as the cliffs overhang the beach below and many vendors and shops, live music and cafes. Many yoga places again and multi menus of any food you like. Again Ayurvedic places everywhere. We enjoyed the fresh juices and many Tibetans, Himalayans, Kashmir and Indian folks working there. We took advantage of the spa treatments and the bars are at special places only.
Men wear western or Indian kurtas and long wrap around skirts called "lenga" or "dota" and women modern or saris. So colorful that I bought a couple and will learn to wrap one properly. After a few days at the beach by the way the water is energetic waves not slow from the Indian Ocean. Clean beaches where people meditate and do yoga everywhere. How inspiring for our culture here in the USA.
When we left Varkala for a modern a/c ride traincar with a wonderful family next to us for 4 hours; we came to Fort Cochin where ancient dancers of 500 years or more called Katakali which similar to Japanese opera. My love didn't care for it but we went to a church where statues of Mother Teresa with Mother Mary and Jesus and local Bishops are there of 550 years. The children go to school in uniforms and very well behaved. Then we stayed at an inn over 300 years old with ancient ornate locks. The wood is red or orange red on the furniture and trees. We walked a few blocks away from the seashore where the fisherman have a system done since 700 years old and showed us. There are clothing, gift and food vendors as well that are there daily along with restaurants that take the fish you pick from the food vendor to cook with their permission for your meal. Some Christian restaurants also had Israeli foods that I never heard of and Dutch, local food, Kerala and Portuguese as it is a port where many people traveled and brought new cultures. It was nice to see shop with wands and crystals as well as ancient statues that I never heard of even for yoga. That coral is rare and only a small amount of coral jewelry allotted. There were Jewish sections weaved with Hindu and Islamic sections all proud to serve the community and tell us their generations of families that ran their businesses. It was truly an awakening to the capitalism, separatism and different value system of family and community.
After our stay; we took a taxi to the airport and met many folks that said Oman was better people then Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia people do not understand conservation of the value of honoring the work contracts as some shared their stories. Oman was a nicer place to work if you needed to work away from your family to support them for 1 to 3 years. We do not understand how the 3rd world countries sacrifice for family as much as they do. I am not trying to put down one race but a majority of people had worked in Oman and Saudi Arabia all emphasized this. It was eye opening and some places women and men are separate if in a water area where women fully dressed in the waterfalls and special swimsuit is worn in the Ashram at the pool but they women have the dressing rooms and showers and take a change of clothes and the kids go with the women. That was quite interesting as we had to adjust not being together in an environment where you might see too much skin. The falls were beautiful and we enjoyed the bhajans, ragas heard in early mornings and inspired us to purchase a shruti box and looking for lessons and my husband a metal tongue drum. It would be a trip to cherish plus another metal singing bowl from Ladak next to Tibet. So peacefully subtle the sound.
Well, if you ever need to explore India; stay longer than 2 weeks and explore other areas. However, there was a strike one day near the backwaters and then is resolved public transportation. However, there is unrest in New Delhi and Mumbai so be careful. One shop owner said that there are 1.5 B people homeless and starving in India and complained of the government. We all have our problems and it is up to us to unite to resolve them. Prayers for all our leaders to work from focused compassion and resolved in unity and peaceful quality life for all. Well, that's enough for now. Much love and gratitude sharing with you. My meditations will be inspired by these experiences.