Living and Learning in Amritapuri- Dec 15-18, 2014

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December 15

After having so much emotion for the last two days, I was exhausted on the 15th. By the afternoon, I felt really ragged. Amma was at the beach meditating with the ashram residents. My general practice is to go late so I arrive just before a question and answer period begins; I’m as avoidant of meditation as ever!

Sreejit was in the kitchen cooking, so I decided to take some papaya to him before I went to the beach. On my way there, a crow dumped on my head. Some people say that is a blessing, I think it was more likely a consequence for my choice to skip the meditation.

Later in the day, I dropped my computer mouse and it broke. I wasn’t able to fix it, but Akshay did. Was it a sign that I should be spending less time on the computer? Maybe, but I don’t think so.  I think it was mostly a sign of exhaustion. If I am meant to be learning something from these events, I know it will become clear later.

Speaking of the papaya, the fruit here is incredible. I remember the first time I saw a papaya in Mumbai. At the time I thought the papayas we have in the U.S. must look so sick to people who grew up here. I added the lock to the picture below so you would get a sense of the size of this papaya. (The main part of the lock is about two inches long.) It was so big I was very glad I could share it with Chai, Akshay and Sreejit!

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I was introduced to the green fruit below last year. It is called a custard apple or cherimoya.  To me the fruit tastes like a cross between an apple and a very ripe pear. Inside each of the segments is a very large seed. I like the optical illusion of the seed picture. I can “see” it as if the seeds are in a small tin, or as if the tin is flipped over and the seeds are on the bottom. In actuality the seeds are inside the tin.

December 17

Every day in Amritapuri is not full of bliss for me. This was a tough day. I was asked to sew a backdrop for the play. It seems like it should be easy to sew five saris together, cut them to ten feet in length, and make a four inch casing at the top.

Easy…. not. Sewing or measuring something that big is a challenge in and of itself, but add an ancient sewing machine that won’t work right. I thought something was off with the bobbin, but I couldn’t fix it. And the thread in the needle broke every 4 to 9 inches for the first three hours. Making it all worse, the hole in the needle was so small I had trouble seeing it. No more machines were available, so I had to make do with what I had. By the end I could sew a foot or two at a time, sometimes.

The pieces held together even though the seams didn’t look very nice. It looked fine from the front so I knew it would work. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do, especially in India where resources are more limited.  I did ask Jani to work on the machine.  When she tried it the machine worked fine, of course!  I sat down to sew again and once again the thread broke.  When Jani tried it again, she also had problems, so at least she knew I wasn’t crazy!

Another challenge was that I was sewing under the the tin green roof that is on the top of the temple. There are no elevators, even getting there was exhausting for me. It is a nice goal to be equanimous in every situation, but I most certainly wasn’t equanimous in this one; I was really upset. When I finished the backdrop, I took it to Chaitanya.  She will take it to the artists who will paint a background scene on it.

I will be making a black backdrop and another white one. I have black and white thread from the U.S. with me so I’m hoping that will help with my sewing problems. I pray that the next two will be easier to sew the first one.

December 18

It is much hotter this year. This is winter, but it is still in the 80’s. I’m having trouble with my feet swelling. That is usually an issue for me on the plane coming here but it has never happened during my visit before. The swelling is uncomfortable and a little scary.

Two days last week, there were big thunder and lightning storms but no rain. Then there was the huge rain that I mentioned in a different post. None of that is “normal” for this time of year.

At breakfast, a friend told me the women in Amma’s women empowerment groups are going to have a three day craft sale in the engineering college starting today. They had one two years ago and I missed it. I am determined to go this year. I think I will go on Friday even though it will cut into my sewing time.

Photo Credit: www.amritapuri.org
Amrita University Plumbing Graduates

Several years ago, the women empowerment program graduated their first class of women plumbers. I was on the stage when they came for Amma’s darshan (blessing/hug) after their graduation. I was very touched by the scene and by the plumbing program itself. Now when we need a plumber at the ashram, one of those women usually comes. (Read more about the Amma’s empowerment training programs at: https://www.amrita.edu/research/project/empowerment-women-india-through-innovative-vocational-education-and-training-vet.   You can also read more about all of Embracing the World’s programs, divided into basic needs, emergencies, environment, research and news categories at: http://www.embracingtheworld.org.)

The day I was waiting for Amma to arrive back in the ashram from the programs in the Vatican, I talked with an Indian women standing beside me on a balcony. I discovered she worked at Amrita University in the student exchange program. The program has both incoming and outgoing students.  The part I asked to hear about was the incoming; bringing international students to India to study. If I understood her correctly, the students can even go to various villages to study topics they are interested in. https://www.amrita.edu/international/incoming-students

I also asked her if there is a way for adults to come to India to help in Amma’s humanitarian programs.  She told me that opportunity is available through Amrita Serve  As I read more about this program, I realized it is the one that Scotti, a devotee from Portland has worked with on and off for two years. http://e.amritapuri.org/blogs/tag/uttarakhand/ He works at Uttarakhand, a village that was ravaged by a flood. (The news stories in the link start with the most recent.)  The pictures above are from Uttarakhand.

This day has been so different from the day before.  As I mentioned, that day I had been so upset about the problems with my sewing machine.  Today, I went with Chaitanya to the area where the stage is being built to measure the backdrops that are still needed.  Afterwards, I went back to the green roof area to sew. When I thread the machine, my hands did it automatically.  I noticed that I had thread the machine slightly different than I had the day before.  I started to sew, and the machine worked perfectly!  All of the problems I had had the day before stemmed from that one error.  To me it was obvious I was “supposed” to experience the frustration that day.

When I was at the stage in the morning, I discovered I didn’t have only two more backdrops to make, I had five more and they are gigantic. By the end of the day, I had finished one half of a 7 1/2 foot by 32 foot backdrop.  I don’t see how I can possibly make so many before Monday evening, which is when they are due, but all things are possible, especially here.  I will work one minute, one hour, and one day, at a time.  If I need help I will ask for it.

During dinner, I decided to watch a bit of a play practice.  The group was singing a song that seemed totally unfamiliar to me.  All of a sudden, I realized the words were unfamiliar because I had never finished moving the words of the play to PowerPoint slides; I still had two thirds of it left to do.  It was clear how I would be spending the rest of my evening!  I rushed to the room and began the work.

My room is close to the auditorium where Amma was giving darshan and the Swamis were singing.  I could hear the music as I worked, but not clearly.  The people talking in the courtyard below and the fan in my room masks the music quite a bit.  One song started that I kept trying to figure out.  It seemed familiar but I couldn’t really hear it and I was curious.

I went to the balcony at the end of the hall and discovered it was Manyukal Mutum, my favorite Swami Ayyappa song.  I stood there and listened.  The night was dark.  There were sparkling stars, lights from the many buildings, sights and sounds of India all around.  I was in heaven.

 *****

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