Summing Up Allahabad

Trip Start Sep 20, 2010
Trip End Apr 14, 2011

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Where I stayed
Kriya Yoga Research Institute

Flag of India  , Uttar Pradesh,
Saturday, February 26, 2011

Feb. 26/11

Summary comments as I leave via overnight train: from Allahabad to Delhi, a journey of some 8 hours in a sleeper car.  I've "entrained" overnight twice before and found it full of adventure, anticipation, and long.  Not like some of my fellow travellers however, who have done 30 hour stints!  I plan to be in Delhi for a few days, then meet up with some colleagues from my home town and go on a tour of the north.  I will try to send some more impressions periodically, but since I will be on the move, and wi-fi connections are difficult to get to in the time available, my communications via this travelpod will become more chancy.  

So now when I look out from my balcony, I see most of the tents are gone.  The Indians along with the army are quite efficient.  I have yet to figure out where they store all this stuff.  However, the Mela has been over for about a week now, and all one sees are the steel plated roads and the infrastructure of steel hydro-poles and water pipes.  It was a great and varied festival.  

The food here is quite fresh, as you can see from the picture of a local market.  However, multinationals are making their inroads.  MacDonalds!!! On Civil Line ( a main street, of Allahabad, about a 20 min. auto-rickshaw ride (7 rupees about 15 cents into the more urbanized area).I believe it is more symbolic at this point, as most people still are vegetarian and eat at home or on the run using the local stands that sell everything from guavas (a local tasty fruit), through piles of peas, cups of chai (tea with milk and sugar) & even popcorn!  For heating the food they sometimes use propane, but more often "dried cow dung".  

So there is a real market in selling cow offal.  I have seen women scooping up the paddies and carrying them off and then shaping them into form that allow them to produce lots of heat with the assistance of homemade small clay ovens that concentrate the heat on the utensils placed above.  This is a very plentiful biofuel, since roaming cattle make their deposits everywhere.  In this way, I believe old is new, for recently I read that some municipalities in N. America are hoping to process cattle manure to produce biogas which in turn would cut down on the energy needed to run sewage plants.  I am struck how India is an example of back to the future.  

On the other hand I am shocked by the ubiquitous nature of plastic.  It appears in the form of shopping bags and packaging, and plastic water bottles.  The latter I refuse to buy except if I forget my steripen.  No recycling here.  However, far from blaming the Indian people, I realize that like the MacDonald's example above it represents an incursion from the west.  It's just that here they don't treat their waste with the slogan "out of sight, out of mind" --- the way we do --- I refer to our enormous land fill sites which just now are beginning to re-sort and recycle on mass scale, and to the way we deal with human waste by enormous and expensive infrastructures using clean water.  I believe that as they build up their society and begin to learn how to deal with the plastic, they will be able to tap into their creativity and age-old respect for the divine presence in all things, (even the grass, waste, and garbage) and with their enormous labour base, clean up streams and environment.  

A final word about water and dust.  Certainly, during the dry season, dust is everywhere.  My body had quite a time adjusting to this.  It was like being in the granary of the family farm in my youth during the old-fashioned threshing bees, when I my nose would run constantly even if I tied a handkerchief across my mouth and nose.  How do they deal with it?  

In the morning they do two things: sweep the entrance ways to their dwellings (that means even up to the street).  It's debatable as to its efficacy, I know.  But secondly, they take morning baths by the pumps outside.  It appears to be a cross between a sponge bath and a "hosing down".They do it modestly but without apology, and I am refreshed in my views of the appreciation of the Hindu view of all things being full of the presence of the divine energy; most especially the human body.  As they say: Pranaam, namaste.  Truth, peace, compassion, and love; while either putting their hands in the classic prayer position and putting a hand over one's heart as they greet the dust, and water and light of a new day. 

P.S. I missed a beautiful picture this morning. (Like the fish that got away)  While I was doing a long distance call outside a building, on my iphone over Skype, a little girl about 1 1/2 years old with big brown eyes looked up into mine and babbled on in Hindi.  She then suddenly reached down and touched my feet the way they reverence and respect elders here.  (Hand to forehead, bend over, and touch shoes or feet with that hand.)  From the hands and mouths of babes!  Very moving & humbling.  Quite a summary gesture as I say good-bye to Allahabad and the Mela experience.  

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sacolargo on

all else will seem calm and ordinary after the Mela - as you inserted yourself within the multitude and learned to forsake learning to benefit from the experience. Safe travels, keep safe and looking forward to the next post.

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