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

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