Thursday, September 6, 2012

Final Days in Haridwar

At the end of the conference, the University awarded five honorary doctorates. One of them went to Jonas Trinkunas, and Vytautas accepted on his behalf. Vytautas told me on 3/6 that he had skyped Inija and found out that the operation to stop the gangrene in Jonas’ feet was successful, but he lost some toes and has hypertension.

3/8 Holi (pronounced “holy”) Full Moon
We had decided to stay an extra day in Haridwar to recover since our only expense was food. It was full moon and a Hindu holiday called “Holi.” We walked over to campus with the intention of going online in the computer room, but everything was closed for Holi. We stopped back at the Guest House for coffee and to see if anyone else were around, and the Latvians were all on their way to visit ashrams. Two of the gurus who had attended the conference had invited them. The Lithuanians were welcome also, and invited us to go along. Rachael declined, thinking a trip to the foothills of the Himalayas might prove too stressful, while I was delighted to tag along. We waited and waited for the bus to show up, and when it finally did, 20 Latvians (including their composer), and the three of us representing Lithuania, climbed aboard with their kankles (seven-stringed instrument played like a dulcimer) in traditional dress with several Indian guides and friends for a raucous and uproarious ride above Rishikesh. The Latvians sing and dance at the drop of a hat – The Latvian worldview is ethics, esthetics, and music – and this trip was no exception. The dividing line in the middle of the almost two-lane road is merely a suggestion, and once again I was happy to be with a group so I didn’t have to watch how close we came to annihilation every five minutes. It was very odd, though, watching the abysmal poverty, squalor, and hardship as we drove along, and wondering why all of them didn’t just kill themselves. I don’t think I’d want to live under those conditions. One of the saddest sights I saw was Indian women going out at dawn to gather dung and form it into patties to use as fuel. And, of course, women are not allowed to drive although they may cling to their husbands with babes-in-arms on the back of a motorcycle. We passed a billboard with an ad for gasoline showing a man holding a gas pump handle like an AK 47.
Indian Traffic
 No wonder so many see meditation and other disciplines as ways to rise above/blot out their surroundings. I did learn from the second guru that one is not supposed to kill oneself as that would be killing god. What an interesting mythology!
At each ashram we were graciously received, and the Latvians performed beautiful compositions on their kankles. At the second ashram (which was another hour or so higher up in the mountains), we leapt off the bus, and ran to the river before speaking/singing to the assembled masses. The guru gave us all prayer rugs/shawls, and thanked me for being a “managing trustee” of Romuva, and spoke about Christian oppression, and promised not send any missionaries to the Baltics as long as we kept up our good works. We were invited to stay for dinner and were seated in chairs and waited on by men while the others went through cafeteria-style lines (these lines included some American friends of mine Andras Corben and Patrick McCollum).

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