Monthly Archives: July 2008

Click Your Heels Three Times

This morning I woke up with a jolt, expecting to hit my head on the nearby ceiling of my bunk. Instead I heard my mum’s voice. ‘You’re in England Jani, you’re home.’ Then it all came flooding back.

Yesterday morning my body was in Berkeley, California and sixteen hours later, it was back home in England. It’s bewildering to say the least. After San Francisco Rathayatra on the weekend, I have left the bus tour to make a whirlwind trip back to Europe to attend the Kulimela festival in Radhadesh. It’s like being in a kind of strange limbo, as well as making the world seem like the size of a pea. In exactly eight days, my body will be back on American soil – I’m going back on the tour! I was supposed to be ending it at this point but after a lot of hemming and hawing (on my part), Manu and Jaya Radhe (our beloved organisers) have convinced me to finish the remaining time, as we perform in Seattle, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Regina, Minneapolis and Gainesville, Florida.

Until then, it’s more bag packing and re-packing; more meeting with old friends and more mind numbing hours spent in air conditioned metal containers of various shapes and sizes. This is the life eh?

Nothing like my Mum’s welcome home strawberry pie to cure the old jet lag…

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Who wants to monkey chain?!

This was the cry reverberating through the halls of Toronto temple, both last night and all day today. Monkey chaining is the bus tour method of choice for transporting mass goods to their rightful destinations. We’ve been shifing boxes, lugging propane tanks, chopping bucketfuls of ginger, coriander, tomatoes and potatoes, rolling puris – all in the humid heat that is blanketing the city right now. The tiredness is visible on most people’s faces but everyone keeps going. It’s amazing to see. One of the main organisers was telling me at 1am last night, that she and the other members of the festival team have been coming to the temple every single day, often working until 3 or 4am, then going home and sleeping a few hours before coming back for the next day. It’s so inspiring, especially as it seems to me that we could be quite capable of doing something like this at Bhaktivedanta Manor. Of course, many do – there’s a huge number of volunteers who regularly help for festivals – but this is more unique – having the youth running the show.

Last night we also had a small memorial for Lila, who passed away in Vrindavan earlier this year. It would’ve been her eighteenth birthday yesterday. Two of the girls on the tour knew her very well and made a slideshow of pictures of her and of the deities in Vrindavan whom she loved. We lit candles and offered them to a picture of Krishna, saying a prayer and setting them afloat in a tray of water. I thought of Vrindavan, remembering the lamps floating on the surface of Radha Kund on Bahulastami night, and of beautiful Radha Ramanji as his picture appeared on the screen. Soft kirtan continued til late, while the monkey chaining (yes, again) started up outside. It was moving for everyone, whether they knew her or not. Most devotee youth seem to feel connected through common experience, whether or not they have personally met. I’m glad. It’s comforting to know that I am part of a bigger family that love Krishna and want to work towards serving him.

Tonight is the traditional pre-Rathayatra harinam down part of Yonge street. I’m not sure how I’ll manage to join in. I can barely keep my eyelids open right now. Better go. I don’t see any of my fellow bus touries around which is a sure sign that I’m supposed to be somewhere.

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Internet Access on the Bus Tour! Yay!

Wow, luxury blogging time. I`ve been sitting here for a while, wondering what to write. I`m having a surreal morning, alone in my auntie`s house, while the rest of the bus tour heads to Niagara Falls for the day. Last night I got on the subway after our performance, still wearing my dance makeup, red designs on my hands and feet, lugging a violin and chanting my rounds – I got a quite a few stares to say the least. And now I`m getting some rare internet time – yay! I almost feel contaminated actually. Life`s different without the distracting world of emails and social networking, and I must say, it`s different for the better. The internet`s ability to distract is unbelievable. Last night, I was exhausted, but rather than just go to bed, I ended up staying up until almost 2am on the computer – just because I could. Ah, what to do.

Time has flown and I’ll be taking to the skies once more in eleven days, as soon as we reach San Francisco. We’re in Toronto right now, after travelling through a ‘quieter’ stretch of Canada: Halifax, Prince Edward Island, Montreal and Ottawa. Last night we had a promotional performance in the centre of Toronto at a real prime location –  the huge square at Yonge and Dundas. The Toronto youth here have done an amazing job in organising the festival; arranging for some quite high profile sponsors such as the massive yoga brand Lulu Lemon, as well as effective advertising.

The Festival of India crew had set up a number of their smaller tents earlier in the day, and the site was pretty full, with many onlookers gathering around the stage area as we performed for several hours. The highlight was the final kirtan, led by the incredible Acyuta Gopi from New York. We chanted and danced, pouring out our love for the holy name as the audience responded more and more enthusiastically. These moments are what the tour is about – it`s a simple extension of a hand, or a few words, that can mean so much to someone who has never had any contact with Krishna Consciousness.

So we`re all gearing up for the big festival this weekend, as we pull Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra down Yonge Street and across the water to Centre Island. In many ways, every festival feels like deja vu on the bus tour. This is the third year that I`m attending these festivals and in some respects, nothing changes. Familiar faces, familiar places – the dance steps remain the same. Yet that only makes me realise more the uniqueness of Krishna consciousness. Somehow it really is ever fresh. In the Mukunda Mala Stotra, King Kulasekhara compares Lord Krishna to a deep lake. From the surface, we can appreciate the lake`s beauty, yet its depths remain fathomless. There is always further to dive, and it is all that will quench our thirst.

I feel ashamed sometimes to see the devotees in every temple we visit, working so hard to please Krishna, while I travel around in a fancy bus, getting to experience the fun side of everything. There is a real austerity in being able to remain in one place and execute your duty – travelling so much makes me all the more aware of it. Still, I have to trust that Krishna leads me in the right directions,and if nothing else, all of these realisations make the travelling worthwhile.

I`ve begun to see Krishna in a fuller sense I think. Not just limited to one temple, or a certain group of people. Not limited to certain days of the year or certain folds of cloth. Krishna is everywhere, always, and so are opportunities to serve him. We just need the eyes to see it. It`s so easy to do service that really serves ourselves. I can`t count the number of times I`ve volunteered to do something because I know I`ll get to be with my friends, or I know that my service will be noticed and publicly appreciated. I think there`s a glory seeker in everyone. On the bus tour we often remember Radhanath Maharaj`s analogy of salt. It is the vital ingredient in any preparation, yet used properly, it`s never noticed. However, without it, everything would be tasteless. To be a true servant is to serve regardless of people acknowledging you or not. Wow, listen to me. Talk about not practicing what you preach!

Anyway, the sun is shining, its another Canadian day outside and I`m still typing away. Perhaps I`ll write again in a few thousand miles.

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Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside…

I am writing from the place I least expected to find a minute to blog whilst travelling here in North America – St Andrews, New Brunswick. It’s a little Canadian town on the Atlantic coast, and we’ve stopped here for the day to take a little break from our hectic performance schedule and do some whale watching. Tomorrow we have a performance at the Neptune Theatre in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The tour has been a whirlwind so far. Since I haven’t blogged about it at all so far, (internet access is one of the few things our high tech bus does not yet have) it’s pretty hard to give any kind of summary or even pick out some moments to highlight. How do you boil the activities of three weeks into a few sentences, when those three weeks have been spent in numerous states, from Pennsylvania to Illinois, on farms and in cities, travelling by night and performing by day. Not to mention the 24 hour kirtan in New Vrindavan before the tour started – a one blog experience in itself. I suppose I shall have to be resigned to the fact that sometimes memories are enough. Not everything has to be written, not everything needs to be shared. I can try to be happy with my hastily jotted bullet points and scraps of receipts and tickets in my old notebook – it’s probably more interesting for me to read anyway.

Perhaps the one thing I feel I can share so far, a common thread that has united the diverse experiences and continues to amaze me, is the increasing visibility of Krishna’s hand in my life. I have a desire, and he fulfils it. As simple as that. What’s more, when the desire has some element of service, it is fulfilled in more ways than I could ever anticipate. Through being here, I have been able to be engaged in service of every kind, whether it’s being a part of the on stage kirtan at Rathayatra festivals (DC stands out so far as one of the best) to cooking with wonderful devotees in the kitchens of the Gita Nagari farm, to helping to empty the girls bus Porta-Potty at a gas station at midnight – probably the least relished experience!

I better go, the sun is setting and I’ve been sitting here for quite a while, helping to write the programme notes for our performance (long overdue). Tomorrow is another day, another province (we are in Canada now). Hopefully I’ll be able to write again soon, maybe I’ll even have something more interesting to say next time…

P.S. I have to shout out to all the friends I’ve recently met whilst here, most of whom I’ve known through the internet for a while, but never met face to face: Kadamba, Devadeva, Nitai, Mandali, VBD, Aditi, Gauravani (GN) – it was wonderful to meet finally!

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