Last night, while walking back to my room after night meditation, I became completely consumed by the sky. I couldn't make it to my room, my steps slowed gradually to a stand still, then I just stood there and gawked for about a half hour. You think that after seven months here I would become immune to the immense beauty in these parts, but not true. The new moon and power outage sucked away any possible light, leaving a cluttered fabric of stars, I would like to think all of the stars, sick of trying to shine over an overlit earth, all decided to move to this space of utter darkness to reward those in the rurals that can truly enjoy their splendor. And enjoy, I did.
My renewed beauty stupor probably has something to do with the influx of friends visiting. With every friend that comes, I get a new fresh set of eyes to reevaluate my surroundings, the extraordinary that became too ordinary when your day is spent doing ordinary things (the mountains lose their luster when I am handwashing my t shirts). My most recent visitor, Luther (or Slam Sahib 'Sir Slam' as we call him on the basketball court), probably had his hand in this star incident. He played papa with me one night and taught me all about the constellations. Actually, he taught me a lot of things, but constellations was about the only subject that didn't punch me in the face intellectually. He is a pretty smart kid, studying Sanskrit at Berkeley, so other conversations were about obscure 8th century Buddhist sects that he discovered while reading about them in original sanskrit literature, nerd. Luckily, he really isn't too bookish or really that anti social/nerdy/or just flat out strange as others in the Sanskrit field, thank god. Pretty interesting that luther fella, it was great to have him here.
Slam was here to experience Shivratri, an important Hindu holiday that I know nothing about. All I do know is that people fast all day, so I decided to join in on the self inflicted starvation for Shiva with the rest. My family is not really of the Lent persuasion, so I have never performed a fast before. And I must admit that it wasn't too hard for me, I really didn't feel too hungry. Perhaps it was because I remained busy all day. Luther and I decided to try to find an ancient Shiva temple located a couple miles below the ashram. But in the market, we got intercepted by a couple of my favorite children in the school, Heena and Shubam, who begged us to come to their house. I had been to their house previously and really loved the visit. They live in a very traditional stone house with slate roof, with a front yard of three water buffalo (quite possibly the chubbiest animal in the world and thus my favorite) and terraced fields, at this point of the year, filled with the small yellow flowers of the mustard crop. As an added benefit, they have this precious little 5 year old sister, Diya, who looks like a monkey and I love to play with. So we spent a couple hours playing cricket and drinking chai. We also ran into some more kids from the school, my other favorite family, the Balodis, at the village's small Shiva temple, where we played with more kids. After that we went to their house for more play and more chai, Preethi painted a mountain on my hand with henna, that looked more like a zen painting of shunya.
Unfortunately, no ancient temple found, but we did get climbed on by a lot of kiddus and receive quite a bit of chai and fruit in prasad, which one can eat while they are fasting and probably kept me from fainting. But I think my favorite experiences have been interacting with the children in their families out in the village. I live a pretty sheltered life in the ashram, and rarely get away from my room/school/dining room/meditation room routine, so it is always great to see how the children live outside of the school environment.