Friday, February 25, 2005

Livin' on a Prayer

India is miles away from the west in so many ways, but in spirituality it's off the map entirely. My first morning in Bombay I woke up, jet-lagged, to a Muslim call to prayer at 4am. Actually it was three calls to prayer, broadcast at top volume almost simultaneously around this rather posh apartment building where I was staying, over three sets of loudspeakers from surrounding mosques.

All Hindus do puja (pray) at least twice daily. They burn incense and ring bells to wake up the gods, represented by small statues in mini alters tucked away in the most unlikely places (cupboards, bookshelves, laundry rooms): the locals' popular choices among the 33 million-strong amalgam of Hindu deities seem to be Ganesh, the cute, plump god with an elephant's head, the monkey god Hanuman, and any incarnation of the plucky blue-skinned Krishna. They also chant mantras to photos or paintings of local gurus and martyrs. The Sun City Guest House family has taped up headshots of a beatific older women in the dining area and by the steering wheel in their old white Ambassador. I thought at first it was somebody's grandma, but when I asked Pushapender Rathore he informed me in his usual booming lecture voice that she is a sati. This women, from a village 30 km away, starved herself for 30 years after her husband died, to show her boundless devotion to his memory. Then when this apparently did not work she burned herself to death. The Rathores have made pilgrimages to this village to worship her.

Our Hindi teacher, Dayal, spends most of his days with his guru. Dayal is a well-educated man (he specialized in theology, philosophy and economics, which he normally lectures on at a university nearby). He's told us that we must come see his guru--who by the way is a married women with kids--sometime soon, that he feels happy always like a small child near his mother with her.

The other day he read our palms. He marked up the lines on our right palms in red ink at significant points where big life events will occur. The lines, mounds and cracks on this hand are supposed to be where your accumulated karma from past lives shows up. These dictates your fate.

And what did he see on mine? I have a profitable future in academics, possibly teaching, and will tap into my spiritual side late in life: write a lot of poetry. Alright, that's cool. But he also said I'll be truly fulfilled when I have kids, 3-4, starting at 27. Uh-huh.

He advised me to wear a diamond on my right ring finger for protection and strength, which exactly what the quack star chart lady had suggested.

Jessica was advised to wear moon stone. Telling her to travel east, he stopped, saying "oh, I shouldn't tell you this..." She yelped, "do I die?" He said, "no, but you will murder someone." Dayal continued, "don't worry, it could be self-defense, when your enemies come for you..."

We're going to get some bling on, quick.


Blogger Udayan said...

Intersting to see that you are so much interested about India.

Well have you visited modern developed cities apart from rural India?

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