"I believe that if one man gains spiritually the whole world gains with him." -Mahatma Gandhi

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Classes and Tours

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare

This is the mantra visitors to the ISKCON Temple Complex are supposed to chant and devotees are supposed to repeat these lines 108 times a day.  Hare means praise and a mantra basically makes you focus on one thing instead of letting your head race around like most of ours do on a daily basis.  I think of it as a stepping-stone to meditation, but this is my own interpretation on what I know about a mantra.

            After our first day of classes, a city tour of Bangalore, and bonding sessions with the group, I am beginning to settle into my Indian lifestyle.  They eased us into summer classes by starting on a Friday.  We wouldn’t want to overexert ourselves and go to class two days in a role or anything.  I am only taking classes with other USAC students so there were three of us yesterday in the International Strategic Management class, taught by an Idaho University teacher.  Later we had a cooking class where we learned to cook a traditional Southern Indian meal.  Unfortunately I don’t remember the names of the things we made so I will get back to you on that.  Most of the time that you go out for a traditional Indian meal you will first get some type of bread (chapatti) and three or four different “gravies,” which are what most of us consider curries.  Brown curry is onion based, yellow is from various spices and poppy seeds, white is coconut or something else, green is spinach based, and red is tomato based.  This can vary and the things that go in each of them differ depending on the region, family tradition, and what is on hand.  I might be confusing some of those, but I think I have it right. You then eat the same gravies with rice.  All with your right hand of course!

            Today we got a tour of Bangalore, which included visiting some temples, one of the train stations, going to a traditional lunch served on a banana leaf, a lake in the middle of the city, a traditional market, and other various things as we drove through a miniature bus.  The first temple we went to is called the Sri Guru Singh Sabha, which is a Sikh temple that provides a very loving community for visitors.  Sikhs do not accept the caste system, which still has a significant influence in many parts of India and underlies many day-to-day things that foreigners might not notice unless they ask.  The temple gives food to anyone who comes because “it is our divine right to ask for a meal,” according to a man who showed us around the temple.  Although it is a relatively new temple and isn’t ornate or beautify, I felt a strong sense of community just being in the building.  Sikhs also where a turban or other form of head cover, which many Americans find intimidating and creepy.  However, hearing this man talk and feeling his commitment to equality and love really made me appreciate his outer appearance.  We also went to a much more extravagant, but also nearer temple, which was a Hindu temple. 

            The market, named Russel Market after a British officer, for me, represents India.  It is a very large market and the farmers come to the city the night before so they will be ready by 3 or 4 am when people start to come to bid on mass quantities or fruits, vegetables, meat, and flowers.  After the bidders are finished, the market opens for other to wonder through the small streets, alleys, and buildings to make their purchases.  It is extremely colorful, fragrant (wonderful in the flower and fruit section, but a little more pungent in the meat and fish section).  There were also puppies, kittens, rats, and bunnies for sale.  Our van/mini bus was trapped for a while trying to get through the thick weekend traffic in the small streets.  We were going against the traffic, but everyone was so helpful trying to move out of the way and conduct our driver through.  I think the best way to describe India is harmonious chaos.  They may not pay attention to the lines in the street that Americans follow and there is no such thing as a line at a food stand, but there is a beautiful flow nonetheless.  People aren’t afraid of getting to close to one another walking by on the street and this translates to their driving.  This throws us more closed off Americans off at first since we are used to apologizing every time we accidently bump into a stranger, but I think there is a terrific amount of trust that goes along with the physical closeness.  Friends of the same sex hold hands, link arms, and put their arms around each other, male or female.  Pedestrians step out into the traffic and rickshaws jump in front of buses so nonchalantly, which I think shows that high level of trust.  This is a wonderful place to be and I am learning so much already.


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