27 Dec 2011

Om Ma Om Ma Om Ma

So, I made it through the ocean after a quick stop to get my connecting flight in Cairo and then waiting for another connecting flight in Mumbai for Indore.  I got to Indore's ashram and immediately saw Captain playing tabla in Ma's temple. Ah.... I cannot describe the joy and all mixed emotions when I walked in. So many memories and so many changes.  I was quite nervous before I arrived and I still am actually. I never really go to the same place twice because experience has taught me that when you go to the same place again you somehow get disappointed. But I could not avoid coming here again for such a silly reason. I HAD to come and there are various reasons why.

So here I am. I spent the first couple of days in Indore running errands and registering my visa and passport with the local police. I got to see Baba, beautiful.
The third day though, after another night of no sleep because of the excitement and jet-lag, I got up itching to go to Omkareshwar and see the children again. I was restless, I had to go and see them.  I was all packed and ready to go by bus when I got a phone call from Swamiji saying that he would go after a couple of hours by car with Sharat and Omkari, a lovely German lady who is here for a couple of weeks. So I waited and it seemed like the longest wait ever (but it wasn't, it was just my mind playing tricks and feeling the urge to hug the kids again).
So we finally went and I told him not to tell the children, I wanted to surprise them.

As the car got into Omkareshwar I started feeling so excited and emotional. It's something that I only experienced when I used to live in London and would be on my way back to Italy to see my little brother. I would cry just by thinking of him.  As I went up the stairs from the river I saw a bunch of children coming our way to greet us so I stayed a bit behind and waited.....  then the first one that looked towards my direction was Gopal, my sweet Gopal. His smile was worth all the gold in the world. We hugged like there was no tomorrow. We were too happy.

It was funny how as every kid realised I had arrived they would say out loud 'Bharti??' 'Bharti??' 'Jai Maaaaa Bharti!'.  Ah my sweeties, I missed them so much.

It was great also seeing Tam, Narayani and meet her fiance', Chandra, Margot and Gerald. All guests that were here last year for Xmas too.  Oh and Hasmukh, loveliest grin. It was like an instant continuation to last year... as if no time had passed.
Needless to say I spent the following days playing with the kids and pruning tulsi plants. I also had a very good Parikrama walk around the island with superb guide Hasmukh, Chandra, Narayani and Matt. We visited Radika (?), a very inspiring lady from Germany who is in charge of an ashram here in Omkareshwar. Oh and we also took a day trip to see Narmada Shankar, the Austrian Guru where the lovely wedding took place last year.

I am now on my way to Tiruvannamalai, all the way south in Tamil Nadu, towards the end of India, where I will stay until the end of February probably.  I am still jet lagged and am having the infamous Indian toilet problem, but it's not severe, it's just a reminder of where I am. : )


11 Dec 2011

-8 days to magic India again! : )

I have decided I will head back to India again and once again a myriad of 'coincidences' occurred since I made the decision---which lead me to think that I have made the right decision!

I applied for my VISA about a month ago here in Rome but there was a small glitch and the embassy couldn't reach me for a few weeks to let me know that they needed an extra document from India.  I was getting quite worried, as I had called them a couple of times but they had either not answered the phone or said that someone would call me back.  Then last Sunday I finally went to the Kali Mandir in Rome  http://www.kalimandir.it/   which was pointed out to me by a new friend I made here (who also happens to be amongst the myriad of my indian coincidences), and when I told the people I met there that the embassy hadn't contacted me yet, they advised me to just go there and sort the matter out, as it seems that the embassy here in Rome is quite particular and unorganised.
And so I found out myself too!!!  I woke up the next day and called them once again. They finally put me through to a man, who was so angry with me and started shouting as soon as he got on the phone. He said he had been trying to contact me for the last 3 weeks but I had given them an incorrect number and so they had not been able to tell me that the invitation letter I had given them was not sufficient. They needed another paper from the ashram in India and they needed it quick! I tried to explain that I had given the man at the counter 3 phone numbers where to reach me but he insisted I had not, so I said ok just tell me what you'd like me to do.
He gave me an appointment for two days after at 10am and said I should bring this important document to show that the ashram where I volunteer is an official one.  I knew this would be a difficult task as two days to get such a paper faxed or emailed back was quite rushed, but nevertheless I did go on the Wednesday at 9.30am.
I met up with another amazing new friend at the embassy (an Italian Baba who I met that Sunday at the mandir in Rome) Manoar Nath, who also wanted to apply for his visa (more on him a bit later).  I was called up for my meeting at 10 something, but unfortunately the fax had not arrived and so I had to wait a couple of hours for it to get to the embassy by email. I made a few phone calls to the Swamis in my ashram and at around 12.30 I got it through. I was about to leave and give up as I had to be at work at 2pm but the email came through and the Nepalese man at the embassy happily said 'now we can grant visa peacefully! You want 6 months, 1 year....we grant it'.  He then sent me downstairs once more (I went up and down from 10am til 12.30) to pay for my visa.  Unfortunately when I went downstairs they told me that I would only be able to pay from 2pm as the counter was now closed.
When I came back at 2pm, after a lovely walk with Manoar Nath, there were about 70 people queueing before me!!!
I was optimistic at first and waited.... I then realised I was too positive and called the school where I teach here to cancel my classes for the day.  And rightly so! I got out of there at 5.35 pm.  They granted me an X VISA for 6 months, which means that I won't need to get out of India to renew it if I want to stay longer. I can apply from there.  I could have gone to pick it up the next day but I was on my way to a great week-end in the north of Italy to see another lovely new friend who I met at the Vipassana retreat, so I am now going to pick it up either tomorrow or on Thursday.

As mentioned above, I finally paid a visit to the Kali Mandir in Rome, which is a sweet slice of India in the middle of an area in Rome where you would expect everything BUT a Kali Mandir. What a great discovering and what a great afternoon I spent there, where I connected with some special people straight away. The mandir was erected by a very sweet Italian Yogi, who has spent many years living in India and now lives here with Mataji, a lovely Italian woman who is also very much into India and its spirituality.
I also met Manoar Nath, an Italian Baba, who happens to be an old disciple of Cesare Baba, the Italian renunciate I wrote about when I went to Hampi and who I stayed with when I was there.  And there's more.... when Manoar Nath is in India, which is most of the year, he happens to live only a couple of hours away from where I stay in Omkareshwar! As he happens to go to India in the next few weeks too we have already decided that we will definitely meet up there and visit some places together. Oh and do you remember that I met Folco Terzani in Hampi with Cesare Baba, about whom he was about to publish a book? The book is now out and it's called A piedi nudi per terra (With bare feet on the ground). They showed me a copy at the mandir in Rome and they also told me that Cesare Baba spent 4 months here in the mandir in Rome after I saw in India.
I was amazed at how it is all connected and how suddenly I keep on bumping into all these people who are so linked to India. I am now even more excited about the trip and can't wait to see all the new and old friends there.

My flight is scheduled on the 19th of December and I can't wait to land again and smell India once more.

Om Namah Shivaya

13 Sep 2011

Life goes too fast

It's been a long time and although I've been wanting to write I just couldn't. Many things happened since I got back to Europe and it's been like a roller coaster of emotions, moments of joy, of sadness, of disappointments, of doubts, of contentment. Very mixed emotions all together mixed with a sort of existential crisis but followed by the calmness and sweetness of the last couple of days that finally enable me to see things from a fresh perspective.
Everything is falling into place smoothly here in Rome and I still can't believe that it's all happening. If all is confirmed I should be starting to work in early October (more details will follow when it's all set).
In the meantime, I am missing India, its magic, its people, its noise pollution, it's chaos (it's not so different here in Italy after all and sometimes I really wonder which of the two belongs to the 3rd world!), I miss the smell, the smiles, the simplicity that is nowehere to be found here but mostly I miss my greatest connection to it, who's now miles away but close to my heart like never before.
Below are some pics for a small revival.....

20 May 2011

Back in Italy

I was supposed to fly back to London on the 11th and then to Rome on the 17th BUT British Airways delayed our flight due to a 'technical fault' (turns out there was a leak in the fuel tank since the previous week and they KNEW about it!).

They kept us on the plane for about 2 hours without having the decency of making an announcement or giving us a glass of water. The air conditioning was not working either so imagine the heat as Mumbai was already on 40c!

They finally bothered to let us know that there was a problem and that we had to leave the plane while the issue would get rectified. Not so.... we were kept standing in a miserable airport corridor, again with no update or instruction on what to do. People started getting agitated and started asking what the problem was.

They then shifted us to an area where we could all sit (bear in mind that there were loads of elderly people trying to fly to New York and lots of families with babies). At that point the whole BA crew left and we only realised a few hours later when we started enquiring where everyone had gone and if we could have at least a glass of water. After such request, they (someone who suddenly showed up again) gave us a glass of water and a coleslaw sandwhich and a mini pack of crisps!

To cut it short.... BA crew (if they deserved such a title as they all seemed incompetent barbie dolls to me) showed up again and shifted us to a hotel nearby where they expected us to share rooms with total strangers and where we were expected to pay 5 star hotel rates to make a phone call (which according to European law is our right in such situation) and use internet. Also, they informed us that they would only cover for the hotel and breakfast and dinner. Nothing else! Still NO UPDATE ON WHEN WE WOULD FLY AGAIN OR IF WE WOULD HAVE THE POSSIBILITY OF TAKING ANY OTHER FLIGHT.

We were kept in this hotel for 50 hours.... without any update and insisting we should pay for any drinks (they were trying to charge me for a watermelon juice, we are not even talking about a glass of wine) except for water.

They finally flew us to London on the 13th of May at 1pm (with 40 minute notice!). They assured us we were elegible to compensation for at least our return flight and they instructed us to follow a link on their website once back to Europe. But guess what? They dated our boarding pass the 11th of May instead of the actual 13th AND they are now refusing to refund anything because they claim that the flight was not cancelled but only delayed. Outrageous. I am now in the middle of a legal dispute in which I will claim full compensation for the time I had to waste in such hotel and the fact that British Airways refused even the basic right of providing communication means to let our families know that we had been delayed.

Needless to say I will never ever fly BA again in my life and needless to say the company is really degenerating and has become as stingy and petty as Ryanair, but at least you wouldn't really expect much service from Ryanair.

Anyway, I will now be in London on the 24th of May and will stay until 3rd of June. My UK number is always the same so feel free to give me a call.

Love to all

18 Apr 2011

Coming back to London and Rome

11th of May.... I will arrive at Heathrow. I was trying to extend my VISA but my one year visa states that I have to leave after 6 months and then I can come back after 2 months so I decided to happily come back to Europe and enjoy the Italian and British summer.... can't wait to see you all.


11 Maggio, tornero' a Londra. Il mio visto di un anno prevede che dopo i 180 giorni consecutivi in India si deve uscire e si puo' rientrare solo dopo due mesi...e quindi torno felicemente in Europa per godermi l'estate italiana e inglese (se arrivera'). Non vedo l'ora di rivedervi tutti.

con affetto

13 Apr 2011

How I ended up in Omkareshwar

I have been asked many times in the last few months how I found out about Omkareshwar and the Ashram where I ended up staying for 4 months and since I just got an email from the person through whom I discovered this fantastic place, I thought I would tell you the story.

Some of you might recall that I was ready to move to Istanbul, Turkey to go teach there. For some reason though a little voice was telling me inside that it wasn't the right choice.... so I remember one morning waking up in my flat in London and deciding suddenly I should spend the next year in India instead. I decided right there that I should go volunteer and practise Kirtan like I had been wanting to for the last 3 years.
I started looking for places where I could volunteer as a teacher in India through the internet but with no luck as all these big organisations seem to charge lots of money to volunteers and you never know what it'll be like anyway. Then I suddenly decided to send a message to Narayani, an amazing Kirtan singer whose concerts I had seen in London various times (some of you might recall that I went to a kirtan concert on Valentine's day in 2010) and whose CD I was playing all the time in my flat.
I asked her if she knew a place in India where I could do meditation, kirtan AND volunteer as a teacher.... and she happened to know just the perfect place where you can do all of these. I had never received so much grace before and it just felt right since her reply. There I was in Omkareshwar a few weeks later.... and what a journey!
I am dedicating this post to Narayani, whose web page you can check following the link www.onebodyonesound.com  and whose second album has just come out and I am attaching below her invitation to celebrate it. Please do go and check it out if you have the chance as you will not regret it. She is great and her concerts have a great and relaxing atmosphere. Thank you again Narayani for giving me the chance to spend the last few months in one of the most magical places ever! I will keep all the sweet memories as my most precious treasure.

Kirtan, Voicework, Yoga 
Nav bar

Dear Valentina,  

I am really excited to annouce that Maatri Sharanam, my new album is now available for sale and download from my website.

Visit www.onebodyonesound.com to listen to samples or to buy the album.

I will be launching the album on Saturday 16th April in London, full details are below. Do come along and enjoy a wonderful evening with myself, Lucy Crisfield and Tom Simenauer, the muscians who helped me create this album!

If you have preordered the album you will receive it this week. If you do not receive it please do contact me. 

Best wishes

07976 016 103

Kirtan Concert   
The Life Centre, Islington 

celebrating the launch of my album
 Maatri Sharanam  

Maatri Sharanam

Saturday April 16th  

joined by Lucy Crisfield & Tom Simenauer 

The Life Centre, Islington 
1 Britannia Row, London N1 8QH.  
Tel: 020 7704 0919       

Maatri Sharanam is Narayani's second album  featuring some of her most popular chants, including Sita Ram and Bolo Bolo Submilla Bolo. A combination of meditative and ecstatic chants inspired by traditional Kirtan, that have taken on a western twist authentic to Narayani's style and her own journey integrating the depth of  Eastern philosophy with a Western life!

Come and celebtrate with Narayani in this evening of meditative and ecstatic chants,  led by Narayani's deeply resonant voice. Sanskrit mantras are set to beautiful, yet simple, melodies. Kirtan (often called Bhajans) is an ancient and effective yogic practice of singing together to open the heart and connect to the self. The chants are easy to pick up and give a wonderful opportunity to discover the power of your own voice.

7 Apr 2011

4 Apr 2011

Recent travels

I'm in travel mode at the moment and starting to get nervous about having to leave India in a month. : ( Don't know what the reverse culture shock will be like. The positive thing is that it will be summer in Europe so at least I will not have to face the winter.
I'm in Delhi right now and my father is here. He will be here for a couple of weeks and we are heading towards north around the Himalayas. We're going to Agra the day after tomorrow to see the famous Taj Mahal, can't wait!
Below are some pics of the recent places I visited. One of them is Khajuraho, popular for it Kama Sutra carvings on amazing to say the least temples. Enjoy!

sunset in sanchi

sanchi stupa

the main buddhist stupa

Add caption

detail of one of the gates

stairway from the stupa down to the entrance

The lady in white

view of Khajuraho's temples


beautiful Orchha

6am sunrise at Orchha seen from the top of a rock

The brain tree or Lover's corner as called by the locals

Shooting of the australian movie Singularity

Add caption

kama sutra

more kama sutra

and again....

this is well known

warning:do not replicate this at work

same as above

26 Mar 2011

Celebrating Holi Festival

We celebrated Holi just a couple of days before I left Omkareshwar. It was a nice way to spend the day with the kids and say goodbye before I see them again next year hopefully. The celebrations started the day before, the 20th of March. We all gathered on the banks of the river in the morning and cleaned as far as we could go to. All kids were there, the school principal, Gurusharan and most foreigners in the ashram. The task was to pick up all plastic and paper from the the ground to then use to burn it in the night.
Baba was in Omkar too, which was even more special for everyone. The atmosphere built up during the day and I got a sweet unexpected visit from lovely Kanchan from Indore (she is the girl who initiated me into Indian clothes and to whom I was teaching yoga in Indore). She came with her mum and siter in law. It was really nice to see her and we spent the afternoon in town, where we bumped into Tripti and Joyti (two more girls I met when I was in indore). So all in all it was a good goodbye as I got to see most people.
Then at night we all gathered on the banks of the river again and a huge fire was set along with nice kirtan and songs in Hebrew played by Shay. The fire was amazing and even more with the full moon at the back, which happened to be the biggest full moon in 25 years. : )
The next morning we started at 9am by covering up all walls and room doors on my side of the ashram. They told me Holi is very wild and full of colours so they had to make sure the walls would be protected.... I wasn't sure what to expect but I saw very soon. Baba came out and after a few nice songs sung by Gurusharan we started the Holi celebrations...and oh wow! Big pots of naturally coloured water were available, from which we could fill up big water rifles and then spray on each other. There were also powder colours and water balloons, which the kids absolutely loved. It was so much fun. The whole floor was covered in water in the end and everyone was on the floor trying to swim in it. Everyone covered in colours from head to toe and completely soaked in coloured water. What a cool festival!!!
Very nice food followed of course.... yummi!!! I ate too much as usual so by the time we started walking to the other ashrams to celebrate my tummy was in pain again. Too full but too good to resist.
the celebrations ended in going for a nice swim all together into the river and having more water fights of course! Sooooooooo nice. Again, just simple but true celebrations. I love it and will miss it all when back in Europe I am sure. I just love the simplicity and spontaneity and of course being surrounded by nature helps a lot as I don't really see this happening on the Thames or any other city river. Below are some pictures, enjoy.

Follow this link to learn more about Holi

There was an error in this gadget