Tuesday, March 30, 2010

US 2010

Wheeew! the first phase of my 65 days tour of US is just finished. I feel I have been away from home for months but it has been only 27 days. Mexico was great! Antonio Prieto really worked hard to make everything happen. What a fantastic coincidence that he, introduced to me by Sangeeta, happens to be in the same university as my nephew Dinesh Rao and his wife Diana Perez! amazing. Antonio organised a talk on Gandhi for students of MA trans discipline and a talk on performing and education and then asked me to talk to his class on drama. wonderful experience. Then there was the big surprise that the biggest chain of book stores in Mexico is called Gandhi and the smaller store in Xalapa is called Gandhi's spinning wheel! I went to the bookstore and gave a demo of the spinning wheel that I have brought from India.
Then the pyramids Diana's mother drive Dinu and me to the pyramids near Mexico city. Awesome! check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teotihuacan
Then to Atlanta to meet Hema Ramanathan dear dear friend from PSS School, Madras with whom I share a rare affection and friendship and sisterhood. lovely. she takes me to Martin Luther King memorial site and we have a great bonding time.
From there to Greenville in North Carolina to speak in ECU. I had met Alice Arnold just once in Taiwan in the World Creativity summit. Alice worked really hard to put this visit together. A reception and talk on Gandhi at her local Unitarian church for the community, a reception and talk at the International House of ECU, a talk at the women's studies group and two classes of intro to Asia and Hinduism. Prof Derek Meher and Prof. John Tucker were amazing! they let me take their class and answer questions. Imagine meeting an undergraduate class reading the text of Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad and rigveda! amazing!
then on to Yogaville a magical world created in Buckingham county of Virginia by Swami Sachitadanda. It is located on top of a hill near James river and there is spectacular sunrise and sunset. The lotus silent prayer hall is for silent meditation and is dedicated to all religions. the experience is out of the world. just too beautiful. The samadhi of the swami has a life like statue and it looks like he really is living. A huge Nataraja is set on the high point on the hill and he turns twice a day. the Nataraja, the samadhi and the lotus prayer all aligned in one line from the top of the hill to the lake below. beautiful.
Padmarani Rasiah whom I knew 30 years ago rehearsing at the Dhananjayans grew up in the Ashram. She is now married to a most wonderful Mexican man and remains an ardent devotee of the swamiji. They drove to me from Richmond airport to yogaville. a beautiful room awaited me and then to the prayer hall for the satsang with bhajans being sung in American accent. then a video of the swami talking on who are you? and then my talk on Gandhi. I was a little unnerved in the beginning but later on gained confidence. Showed Gandhi films and my spinning wheel and was able to refer to Swami's talk in my talk. Great response from all the kind people there.
Next day rev. Saraswathi drove me around to give me a tour of the 1000 acre ashram. Great feeling. Was asked to do the arathi in the morning puja and show it to people. lunch and then quick change to sari and two hour drive to richmond. we went straight to the Hindu centre where students of padma and their parents were waiting. my talk was on Nataraja and the constellation Orion and the traditional performing arts. A demo of the spinning wheel. great response again. potluck dinner.
next day Srija came and drove me to her daughter's school. She told me stories about the ancestry of her people in Kerala and in short pump school, I showed the khadi film and a demo of spinning wheel. They gave me a gift coupon for Barnes and Noble store and a water bottle. went to the shop opposite and did a little shopping. Aparna then took me to her son's Montessori school where I did a little story telling and showed the spinning wheel. really sweet. she then took her son and me to an Imax theatre at the science museum to see the film on Arabia. the only people in the theatre were the three of us! great!
Next morning to the airport to go to Wooster. Lovely day as I am driven to Wooster city from the airport. relaxing in Shila Garg's house waiting for her to come home. She came and took me out to dinner at the Wooster inn with Shirley. lovely. next day to the college a mudra and dance of rituals class for the dance department and then a public lecture on Gandhi. Dinner with Rakhal Purkayastha who has come from Meghalaya on a Fulbright fellowship. great dosas made by shila. nice husband of hers kept urging us to eat more.
next day there was snow on the ground everywhere! a tour of the college, lunch with Jill and Rakhal, his class, meeting with Prof.Isvar Harris, a Gandhi scholar from India, then the lecture on diversity by the president of the college and my nephew Tejas coming from Ann arbour Michigan to take me home. A great three hour drive through corn fields etc. relaxing. then home.
total relaxing time with Tejas and his wife Sarah and children Sanjay and Uma. Visiting the farmer's market, lunch at India restaurant Shalimar and visiting their Bhargav and his wife Rasika who have brought a new baby home.
Back now in New jersey after an eventful flight through Philadelphia. relaxing time for me today and to catch up with laundry etc. see pictures at