Some Favorite Pictures From India

Bananas.  I ate so many bananas!  They are the perfect snack food, like a granola bar or energy bar.  Bananas are filled with nutrients, cheap, safe to eat, and everywhere!

The top picture is of the things we needed for our simple temple wedding blessing.  It was a no-fuss ceremony.  It was nice to feel included and I’m very thankful to have had the ceremony.  We were blessed by many members of Satya’s family.  This made our fourth wedding ceremony and now we are done!

The other picture is one of the first pictures we took in India-out the window of our Bangalore hotel room.  We were looking onto a very busy street corner early in the morning.  People would stop at the temple to pray on their way to work or to school.

The solar water heater on the roof of Satya’s home.  The U.S. has a lot to learn from India in regards to energy efficiency.  Usually, this worked very well (sometimes too well!).

A view from the roof again.  This is the Tata Indica that seems to be very popular in India.  Very nice car, loaned from family friends.  We would load up to 6-8 people into this sometimes.  I liked zooming around, listening to booming Bollywood music on the cd player, and being crowded amongst family.

Monkey at Jog Falls.  Kids+Snacks=Being followed around by monkeys.  They are cute at a distance.  One of them snatched a bag of snacks from the 5 year old which was a little unsettling.  The monkey then proceeded to put the plastic bag over its head and empty all the snacks onto the ground.

Monkeys are also a fact of life in town.  Satya’s mom has had monkeys walk into the house and steal bags of peanuts from the kitchen.  Also, sometimes at night the monkeys will sleep in the trees which means they will pee in the yard in the morning.  Monkeys are also known to steal purses.

In India, nature is an integral part of life.  Every ceremony involves local plants.  Animals are respected.  The moon is important because it keeps the time of the Hindu festival calendar-every festival seems to either be on a full moon date or a new moon date.  Here in the U.S. the moon is completely ignored.

I saved the best for last…Nandi at the temple at Banavasi.  Nandi is the bull who is Shiva’s faithful companion.  Wherever there is Shiva in a temple, there will usually be Nandi looking in the direction of Shiva.  This particular Nandi is special because he is looking at both his parents, one eye towards Shiva and one towards Parvati.  Satya’s cousin told me this is to remind people that both parents are to be respected equally.  I love that message.

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“Born to Run” Review

Love to run?  Often bothered by running injuries? Wonder how people can possible run distances of 50 or 100 miles over inhospitable terrain? This week I am reading “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World has Never See” by Christopher McDougall.  The basic premise of the book is that most of what we think we know about running is wrong.  Sometimes less is more.  Are fancy, expensive shoes with custom orthotics the best for your feet?  According to the author and many in the book, the answer is no. 

 

The book does not have much to say about India.  The closest excerpt I’ve found thus far is

 Maybe the ancient Hindus were better crystal-ball-gazers than Hollywood when they predicted the world would end not with a bang, but with a big old yawn.  Shiva the Destroyer would snuff us out by doing…nothing.  Lazing out.  Withdrawing his hot-blooded force from our bodies.  Letting us become slugs.  (pg. 99)

 

Is that really how Hindus believe the world will end?  I don’t know.  I know Satya does believe that this time we live in is the “Kali Yug”, a time of more evil than good, but we don’t sit around waiting for the world to end around us.

 

I was also disappointed when the author was asking a training coach about how he can learn to run injury-free.  He asked about yoga.  The coach said something like “The runners I know that do yoga get injured.”  What do you think?  Unfortunately, the author skimmed over this observation and didn’t give reasons why the coach said that. 

 

The book also includes some more little bits of philosophy such as,” When you run on the earth and run with the earth, you can run forever.” (pg. 114) And,” You can’t hate the Beast (exhaustion, fatigue, pain) and expect to beat it; the only way to truly conquer something, as every great philosopher and geneticist will tell you, is to love it.”  (pg. 125)

The book ends with an account of a 50 mile race between some of the best ultra runners in North America and the Tarahumara Indians.  The Tarahumara call themselves the Running People and can run many miles on narrow, steep paths among desert canyons.  I will not say who won the race, but McDougall’s account is exciting and hard to put down.

 

I loved the eccentric, larger than life characters such as Barefoot Ted and Caballo.  I enjoyed learning about the Talahumara Indians of Mexico and some of their traditions (don’t just walk up to their door.  You have to sit a few meters off and look away and then wait for them to invite you inside.   If they don’t, then you leave quietly.)  The bits of science were intriguing too.  I never heard before that people were meant to run, and that running gave us an edge over the Neanderthals.  Another scientist believes that running and hunting gave human brains the push it needed to cross over from purely survival thinking into logic, humor, deduction, etc.  He lived with the Bushmen of the Kalahari and actually did run down an antelope with a group of hunters and actually did hunt by imagining the actions of animals.

 

So will you see me running miles upon miles barefoot?  Perhaps not, but this book did give some interesting and convincing arguments to rethink some common running beliefs I’ve had since high school such as “Always stretch before a run,” “Get running shoes with lots of support and replace them often”.  It also supported Satya’s belief that it is possible to live a healthy, strong life as a vegetarian and gave some reasons why he has seen so many bunions here in the U.S. and many fewer in India. 

 

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book and will recommend it to my sisters who love to run and to my aunt in Iowa who loves going barefoot.

For a link to a Time interview with McDougall click here.

Celebrating Shivaratri

Today, Monday is Shivaratri. Satya and I went to the temple Saturday to commemorate the festival and it was very crowded! I’d never seen it so crowded before. On the way back and forth I peppered Satya with questions about the festival. Here is what I discovered:

Why:

He said that Shivaratri commemorates a man named Kanappa (literally Mr. Eyes). Kanappa was hunting one night and sitting in a tree. On the ground below unbeknownst to him was a linga, Shiva’s sacred symbol. All night Kanappa was dropping leaves on the ground and many fell on the linga. Shiva was so happy about this that he appeared before Kanappa. Kanappa shrugged off the meeting initially and just continued on with his life. As he told the story to others, they told him, “You met Shiva! You are so lucky!”. Kanappa then wanted to see Shiva again so he performed many devotions to Shiva and even decided to sacrifice his eyes to Shiva if only he could see Shiva again. He poked out one eye and was preparing to poke out the next when Shiva appeared again to him. Shiva told him not to poke out his eye and even restored the other eye to Kanappa. Thereafter, Kanappa became a loyal follower of Shiva.

Satya says that this story demonstrates how easily pleased Shiva is and how generous he is. Satya and his family emphasize that Shiva is a simple, generous god. Before I met Satya all I knew was that Shiva was the destroyer-that was it, only that one dimensional view. Satya also says that Shiva even has worshippers among the demons, something I can’t quite understand yet. From my observations so far, Eastern thinking does seem to hold more complexity/shades of grey than Western.

At the temple:

We arrived 10 minutes before the temple was supposed to close for the night, but everything was still happening. In one area, the priests had placed a linga on the back of the Nandi and were leading it around. The priests were also doing the usual ceremony with the fire, blessing hat, and blessed liquid (forget what the liquid is). I still have to improve my sipping abilities-I can’t drink the liquid from my hand gracefully yet as it still goes onto the floor and on my wrist and chin. Little girls wore their most colorful outfits as did some of the women. Satya was a little confused with one group because they were chanting “Narayana Narayana” near Shiva. This confused him because that is one of the names of Vishnu, not Shiva. I guess we will have to ask his parents about that one. Satya also made sure to ring the bell near Shiva area. This was a little difficult because there were so many people there and a lot of people wanted to do the same. A lot of parents would also hold their toddlers in their arms so that the toddlers could ring the bell too. I tried to stay close to Satya, but there were so many people that sometimes we got separated as we made our circuit to the altars of various deities. This time, I did not get the peaceful, holy feeling at the temple but I think that is because we rushed to get there, had to deal with the crowds, and after all that only stayed for 20 minutes.

Last year we went to a small, North Indian temple for this festival. It was a lot different there. There, people poured milk over the linga and then in the main room people were chanting. Satya had no idea what they were chanting, but Saturday at the South Indian one he didn’t know either exactly all that was happening. Last year on Shivaratri was the first time I’d ever been to a Hindu temple and the first time we’d gone together.

Celebrating at home:

Satya called his parents and sister and told them we were going to the temple for the festival. His sister mentioned he was supposed to fast for the day. He sort of followed this because after our usual breakfast of oatmeal we didn’t eat a full meal until the evening. We also made sure we took showers right before we left because being clean is so important for Hindu celebrations. Satya mentioned wanting to bathe the idols we have in the house, but we didn’t get to that this time. In India, his parents had some family members over at their house. All in all, Shivaratri seems to be a smaller, quieter festival compared to some of the other festivals although Wikipedia mentions people staying awake all night in prayer, listening to musicians and watching dancers.

Conclusion:

There is a lot about Hinduism/Lingayatism I do not understand yet. I still feel awkward going to the temple, but that is ok. There is a lot that Satya doesn’t know as well. We do what we can. We both think it is important to worship together and to support each other’s festivals and traditions.