Bangalore arrives in a furious flurry – a bustling city, surprising even ordinarily, but truly vast in scope and scale after the Panauti footpaths. Miles flash by on the highway: shops-shrine-shacks-sprawl-signs-shops, start, stop, start-stop, start-stop, sudden speed and splashes of colour and movement paint the car windows, and I feel I’ve lived a thousand other lifetimes in strange places before reaching the destination.
The hotel, in contrast to the vibrant roadside, and the busy central streets, is polished and calm. There are potted plants and polished paneling and I want to hide, or else run back to Panauti. The marble here, the shining surface, reflects inconcrete concern to my mind. Finally I realise why I feel uncomfortable: the establishment is distinctly British in character, and reminds me that perhaps a hundred years ago, my ancestors might have been here, ordering people around and certainly not deigning to thank anyone for services rendered.
So, with my comfortable self-image sank right down, it was time to call Satya and arrange a meeting, if I could muster the courage to do so.
It was easier to see Ujjwol because it was the most stress-free meeting possible: no time to dread or worry, simply turned around to see him there. But I had spoken with Satya many times and found her to be an intelligent, formidable lady; shorter than me in stature, she nonetheless stands several heads taller by virtue of knowledge. I feel terribly nervous when meeting people, especially when using the phone to do it, because my high scared voice sounds very small over phone lines.
Nonetheless – despite getting a call from an apparently nerve-wracked four-year-old – my friend arrived, and her presence was like a calm tree that you lean against on a hot, tiring day. She has made food and invites me “home”; I am pleased to sit in her open, light kitchen and taste the first real meal I’ve touched in days. I eat sparingly, not protesting its flavour but, on the contrary, resisting its temptation, unsure whether I’m completely well yet.
That evening we journey to Malleswaram district, which is like her, all kind shade and purposeful activity. She speaks to a shop attendant on my behalf, and I purchase two sarees in India for the first time, both lovely khadi cotton and without the ornamentation usually found on the dress sarees available in Western shops.
Then we go to temple: also my first one in India, or ever, actually.
My stomach turns over itself until entering the bright doors, and then I again forget to be nervous. The stone beneath my feet is cool and grey and seems to radiate peace upward. The temple is open and beautiful and rests in a space somewhere between verdant nature and human art.
My friend speaks to the priest, in mellifluous syllables that lack a single harsh sound, and with her soft directions to me, I receive archana here. For those blissful moments, the agitated internal rattling, which seems to comprise my very heartbeat, slows and quiets. It isn’t a dramatic, orchestra-hit sort of change, but a subtle upwelling of wonder.
This is Śiva, and there is nothing that I have to do. I don’t have to speak or move or do anything except exist here. Just be. Lovely.
I don’t remember much after that. One thing I do recall, is that tomorrow we shall go meet her Veda guru; the nervous rattling resumes, and I down a few stomach pills before falling into an uneasy sleep. I’ve heard the Vedas’ singing, and soon I’ll meet another one of the singers.
© Arjunī and ridiculously reverent. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Arjunī and ridiculously reverent with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.