Monthly Archives: May 2008

Dear Dhanvantari

I’m having some Ayurvedic treatment right now – taking four different medicines six times a day. Number one tastes like sweet pond water with a slight bouquet of rotting ginger. Number two tastes like eau-de-roadside ditch, with some steamed cabbage for good measure. Number three tastes like a volcanic mixture of sulphur, hing and month old compost heap, and the piece de resistance, the explosive number four, which I enjoy nightly, gives me the experience of drinking tongue-shrivelling toxic waste, not just once, but over and over again.

Ah well, I’m sure you understand I exaggerate. And of course, I am grateful to have the opportunity to be treated in this way – at least I will be when I start feeling some results.

For now I meditate on Lord Krishna, who says ‘aham ausadam‘, ‘I am the healing herb’ (BG 9.16), hold my breath, and swallow.

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Mmmm… Maha Makosh!

Blandly photographed, yet no less amazingly delicious.

My dad returned today from Simhacalam, the ISKCON farm in Germany whose presiding deities are Prahlad- Narasimha. He was there for Narasimha Caturdasi, which we celebrated on Sunday. As well as stories of the opulent ceremonies over the week he was there, (including numerous early morning abhisheks, using every substance imaginable, both pourable and squishable – whole bananas anyone?), he brought back a tub full of the most incredible Narasimha maha. Most were various kinds of sweets, some made of milk, like melt in your mouth sandesh and something that looked like a baby cheesecake, and others made of such varied ingredients as cocoa butter and hazelnuts, carrots, vermicelli, marzipan, fresh fruit and crunchy pastry. But the crowning glory of them all, were the six palm sized slices of makosh. Just biting into the pastry, filled with a blackish paste made of ground poppy seeds, immediately triggered a flood of memories. When I was younger, every few years, a devotee would visit Hungary and would bring back some makosh, sharing it out to the gurukula kids in the playground, or amongst the temple devotees. It was a sweet treat, delicious but so foreign in taste. The taste of those poppy seeds is almost indescribable, a little vanilla, a little soft and nutty. One bite and I am dressed in my gurukula uniform, closing my eyes and imagining a place so far away, asking my dad why ‘the devotees there chant Hare Krishna in English if they speak Hungarian’. One bite and my inner Eastern European, so invisible in my appearance, throws back its head and shouts ‘L’chaim!’.

I’d love to learn how to make it. Egg free recipes anyone?

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Transcendental Treats

We have been pretty spoilt the past week, getting to hear both wonderful classes and kirtans from Radhanath Swami, Indradyumna Swami, Jayapataka Swami and Gaur Gopal prabhu. Just this morning, I was at the final class of a series about the ‘Demons of Vrindavana’, in which Gaur Gopal prabhu narrated the story of the killing of Putana, elaborating on the lessons we can learn from this pastime. It was entertaining but also amazingly insightful and I’m really hoping that someone recorded it, so I can share the link here. There is a good chance it will be put on the Bhaktivedanta Manor audio resources website so watch this space…

I’ve been getting more and more inspired from hearing Bhagavatam classes recently. I remember about five years ago, as they brought out the whiteboard with the verse on, and set out the vyasasana, that was my cue to go and sit on the stairs and hang out with my friends. But somehow, something changed. Indradyumna swami’s class the other night touched on this point – the importance of hearing philosophy to deepen our understanding of Krishna consciousness. He was giving the class as part of our Friday night ‘youth bhajans’ we have every week here, and said how happy he was that the youth were coming together to chant. But he stressed that without the understanding that underpins the chanting of the holy name, the kirtan can end up being just about a good mrdanga beat or a social event. I know it’s something I think about a lot – I feel so inspired by fellow gurukulis and other ISKCON youth, but I really hope that we can make sure to learn these lessons early, and not disregard the advice of those who have this greater understanding. You can watch a video of the class here, and the kirtan afterwards here. If you want to watch some of the other things that have been happening, here’s some other links, including the three- swami evening class on ‘How to Build Community, Care For Devotees and Preach to Others’.

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Last Day Of University Symphony (Key of A major)

Ah! The smell! The SMELL!
Today the air
bursts with promise,
and wet grass
and music!
Tomorrow may be cloudy
but today it doesn’t matter
See the clusters of leaves!
the Robinson Crusoe jungle,
both oak and lime
Sprays of bluebells
explode down the roadsides
Tonight may be cloudy,
but it doesn’t matter
for there’s:
apple blossom
cherry blossom
plum blossom
all blossom!
Even the fields transformed
rolling lemon yellow
There’s a spring
and a pop
and a clickety hop
in the air
Just stick your head in the hedgerow
and breathe in the green.

Coursework to hand in = 0
Visiting swamis simultaneously present = 3
Months until new term begins = 4
Temperature today = 75 F

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Summer is a cumin seed!

Happy May 1st! I woke up this morning to my Dad singing the ‘Oss song (click the link to hear a live recording from the festival and read the lyrics to the song). Pretty much every May 1st of my life has started in the same way. The only difference is that when I was younger, we used to actually put on a recording of it and dance around. I think one time we even tied ribbons to the tree outside and made a maypole out of it. Ah the joys of thinly veiled Pagan ritual! So anyway, today I was about to blog about the Padstow Obby Oss festival, until I remembered that I blogged about it exactly one year ago.

But since I’m on the topic of spring and summer and dancing around in an English fashion, I thought I’d share another little piece of England that never ceases to crop up at this time of year. The manuscript below is from Reading Abbey, around the thirteenth century, and is for a song called ‘Summer is icumen in.’ I used to play it in a duet with my friend Nadiya, her on flute and me on violin.

The song is traditionally sung in a six part round and is a celebration of the new season. Here’s the original lyrics, in the Wessex Dialect of Middle English:

Sumer Is Icumen In

Svmer is icumen in
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweþ sed and bloweþ med
and springþ þe wde nu.
Sing cuccu!

Awe bleteþ after lomb,
lhouþ after calue cu,
Bulluc sterteþ, bucke uerteþ.
Murie sing cuccu!
Cuccu, cuccu,
Wel singes þu cuccu.
ne swik þu nauer nu!

Sing cuccu nu, Sing cuccu!
Sing cuccu, Sing cuccu nu!

It’s kind of easier to understand if you read the translation:

Summer has come in,
Loudly sing, Cuckoo!
The seed grows and the meadow blooms
And the wood springs anew,
Sing, Cuckoo!
The ewe bleats after the lamb,
The cow lows after the calf.
The bullock stirs, the buck-goat turns,
Merrily sing, Cuckoo!
Cuckoo, cuckoo, well you sing, cuckoo;
Don’t you ever stop now,
Sing cuckoo now. Sing, Cuckoo.
Sing Cuckoo. Sing cuckoo now!

Here you can watch a video of the song being performed by (how bizarre is this) an Indian madrigal group in Bangalore!

And here’s an older recording – perhaps from the 1950s (?) by an English choir…

Soooo – if you feel like having a jolly May day and learning it, here’s a site that will teach you all the parts one by one – you just need find at least two equally bored friends…

And just because I’m avoiding the essay I need to be writing right now, here’s some more cuckoo related music I love: the first is from Saint Saens Carnival of the Animals, and the second is a song called ‘Koyal’ by Nitin Sawhney. Koyal, or koel is the name of the Indian cuckoo.

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