Highlights of this blog include: Mother Teresa's Calcutta Convent, Kali's Calcutta Temple and the Taj Mahal. These pictures are in no particular order as this accurately reflects the chaos that ensued during my three weeks. India is wild and full of beautiful chaos. To order the pictures in a linear fashion would do no justice to India's essence. [Note: If you'd like to skip the commentary, do so at this point.]
So how did this come about??
India manifested during the year I'd like to call my "MeTernity." I didn't see a traditional ma-ternity leave in my future (if at all) and so I prayed for and was granted my me-ternity. It began in September with Dubai, UAE (indulgence and fun) and ended in December with Malaga, Spain (self-love). The middle was Calcutta, India (spiritual realignment). The total trip experience was seven non-consecutive weeks.
On October 29, 2016, I departed Washington, D.C. for Calcutta, India for a three week Ghosh yoga therapeutics training. On the flight, I met an older gentleman of Indian heritage who insisted I was not Black American (side thought: "huh?"), but I was different (inset shoulder shrug as I still don't know what that means). In his insistence that I was so different, he said "You belong to India. India has always been waiting for you." It was an interesting encounter I will never forget.
I hope you enjoy the pics.
(Below) I arrived in Calcutta on the first day of Kalighat. This is the annual celebration of Mother Kali, the goddess of death, destruction and transformation. Think of her as the astrological constellation of Scorpio and its ruling planet Pluto. Lucky for me, Scorpio is my rising sign. I arrived during a joyous time and left during joy. However, the middle experience (the days if you will) Kali killed everything within and around me. It was intense. Kali nor Scorpio were playing games. Thank goodness I took this picture of Ganesh, the remover of obstacles. I didn't know I'd need his energy so much during the trip.
(Below) I was dropped off literally down a big hill and almost 20-30 minute walk from Kali's temple, the largest in Calcutta, where it sits on the Ganges River. Kali basically said, "Wanna see me? Walk it... all of it." I've since been told by Kali devotees that those who worshiped her in a former life, she makes a return pilgrimage unreasonable in some form. I don't know if I was a former devotee. All I know is the walk was ridiculous; as was accessing the immediate temple area, too.
(Below) Prayer tree at Kali temple.
(Below) Kali on the first night of Dewali. The interesting part is all throughout the City, black and deep blue body parts were randomly laying around. It was funny and prophetic at the same time.
(Below) Saint Teresa's tomb. Imagine this, the convent of Mother Teresa was literally on the other side of Calcutta from Kali's temple. In the same week I visited both religious sanctuaries.
One night I came across a mother dog nursing her six pups in the middle of the sidewalk. She looked directly in to my eyes and I felt her ask, "Do you see me?" I did see her - a mother too skinny to feed her children, but giving all of herself to do so. Even if it meant her life. I was moved by the moment and she looked at me with sadness and fear of any mother wondering how or if she and her children will survive. I regret not getting that picture. When I saw the dogs (below pic) sleeping, I took the picture. A home, for these pets, is anywhere they could find peace and in this peace is survival. Those who were homeless had the same energy as well. They accepted life's difficulties with dignity and grace.
The beautiful calm before the storm of "no more rupee teacher training."
THE STORM: The fire of Kali's intensity blew up when India's PM suddenly removed all existing rupee notes from the market to combat counterfeiting (flames and destruction anyone?). This coincided on the day of the 2016 U.S. election. Imagine a group of mostly Americans woke up to a new, controversial President and NO MONEY. Additionally, NO foreign nationals could use their embassy offices to exchange old currency for new. This resulted in two weeks of looking for ATMs or banks that would take my old rupees AND American dollar. If I had any issues with my root chakra (the chakra of foundations and survival), that foolishness was blatantly mirrored in my face. But as hard as it was, it's a journey I'd repeat. It was a beautiful and arduous healer's journey.
More of the storm...people would wait up to 15 hours on a single day to be told "no more money." Many waited three months before there was relief with the availability of money. Even in this chaos, there was order. People initiated lists and created their own 'order' to ensure access to ATMs and banks was fair.
(Below) I know this is weird but every third world country I've been to has awesome traffic. Its chaotic yet orderly all at the same time. Of course, India is no different.
Peace in the Storm - The Taj Mahal (Below)
(Below) India Gate in New Delhi. This is when I understood the comment "you belong to India." It all came together right here.
(Below) Lotus Temple
The trip would not have been complete without seeing a cow. But, not just any cow, it was a white cow. My final day, two trainees and myself were walking back to our housing and out walks three white cows out of nowhere. We all stopped and looked at each other in sheer disbelief. The cow is revered in India as it is the sustainer of all life in every form. Seeing these white cows and the ceremonial red marking on their forehead we knew it wasn't an accident they crossed our path. When we told our host about the experience she laughed and said, "that was not a mistake." Of course, I got up close and personal to one that allowed me to take a photo (below).
The serenity within (below). This picture was taken at the Self Realization Fellowship ashram of Paramahansa Yogananda. The ashram sits along the Hooghlay River in W. Bengal, Calcutta and as teachers within the Ghosh lineage (Bishnu was the brother to Yogananda) we had to go there. Like everything else in India, it was mad chaos to get there and even leaving we almost got in to a major accident. Yet when you enter the ashram it is nothing but serenity. As a group we all understood that sometimes we have to go through a lot of chaos to find our peace. Literally when we were at peace of never getting ANY money, suddenly we had TONS of it.
I am thankful for my time in India as it was a critical component in my year of "MeTernity" which for me meant the return to "me." As a sun/moon in Gemini I am in constant struggle with the storm and peace within; yet, I really enjoy the duality of them. No one states that better than the world famous Gemini Lenny Kravitz, "I am a Gemini and I embrace my duality...I almost revel in it." I do, I most certainly do and India definitely tested it. Cheers! ;-)