Saturday, January 07, 2006

Designs in dirt

My stalwart friend Kaushik arrived last night on the 9pm train from Madras. Trouble was, the 9pm train didn't arrive till 2AM. Seems the Madras-Vijayawada line was flooded, and every single train (five of them) coming southward had to be allowed to pass first, before the northbound train could go. They didn't let one southbound train go, or two, and then the northbound one; they made all the southbound trains go first with the result that 100s of Kalachakra-bound pilgrims arrived in a strange town at 2AM. Fortunately, the state transport bus was still there waiting for us. I had gone into Vijayawada to meet Kaushik (it's been 2 years since I've seen him) so we finally arrived back in Amaravati at 3.30AM.

Earlier in the day, I rented a room from a Telugu Brahmin family, the Suryanarayanas, right down the block from the Dalai Lama's temple. It is lovely; the ladies come out before dawn to draw tradiional kollam designs with chalk in front of their doorways. At the same time the monks in the Temple are working round the clock to construct the Kalachakra Mandala, which will take about 7 days. On January 16th we will all be allowed to view and "enter" it, then the monks will destroy it and disperse the sacred sands into the Krishna River.

In more bizarre ritual news: Every evening at 6pm promptly, the "fogger man" comes round with a giant machine, sort of a reverse lawn-blower, puffing fumes of DDT into the air (I mean great, white visible gale-clouds of DDT). This is to get rid of the mosquitos, a distinctly unBuddhistic activity. What no one seems to have told the municipal authorities is that it will get rid of the humans as well (or worse, cause birth defects). Yesterday the man actually disrupted a press conferece at Media Centre by coming directly into the building itself. Foreign press correspondents covered their faces and ran for the exits.

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