Category Archives: Bus Tour Memories

Kishori Yatra – Easter 2009: Day Five – Saying Goodbye

By the last day of our trip, I was exhausted! I never realised how much energy it took to lead a trip like this, and I was really grateful that I wasn’t doing it alone!

We spent the morning cleaning up the house we’d been staying in. Between all the girls, we managed to finish on time, and rushed to the temple to have one last kirtan with Pancatattva and the Swansea devotees.

We were due to reach Swindon by lunchtime, where we’d visit the home of Justin and Lisa – two wonderful devotees. Lisa runs a beading business, leading parties and workshops, as well as selling her own creations that often incorporate Tulasi wood.

After a delicious lunch, the girls went wild over the table full of beads. Hands reached, passing trays over heads – creativity was buzzing!

A few hours later, loaded with new earrings, bracelets and necklaces, we left Swindon for the final leg of the journey, back to good old Hertfordshire. Along the way Nadiya and I taught the girls some songs…

Home at last!


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Kishori Yatra – Easter 2009: Day Three – Twelve Miles to the Castle!

Our third day began again with a morning program. After gurupuja, and a kirtan, we read through some verses from the Bhagavad Gita, and discussed what thoughts we had about them.

Over the two days that had already passed, some tension and disagreements had already started arising between the girls, so we talked a lot about why as devotees of Krishna, we offer all respect to every living entity. It was interesting to discuss what our own ideas of respect were, and how we could consider what to do for others, to ensure they feel respected. We learnt the ‘vanca kalpa’ prayers and made sure to say them to eachother every day.

Later in the morning, we moved to the temple for a kirtan workshop. After Nadiya gave a brief talk about what kirtan is, and why we do it, we split into two groups. I had the karatal (small cymbals) group, and Nadiya took the mridanga drum group. We spent some time practicing different beats, and then switched over, before coming together to learn some kirtan dance steps! Sometimes it’s hard to join in with people dancing in kirtan if you’ve never tried the steps before.

In the afternoon we drove to Cardiff, taking advantage of the unexpected glorious sunshine to go for a bike ride. We hired bikes from Pedal Power, and cycled down the beautiful River Taff.

After a few minor accidents near the start, we  we got going, passing through tunnels of trees and admiring the flowers that grew in abundance along the riverbank. Our destination was Castell Coch, a mock Bavarian castle set amidst the trees above the tiny village of Tongwynlais.

After a winding journey that took over an hour, and a killer last five minutes up an intensely steep incline, we made it to the castle drawbridge!

Unfortunately, we hadn’t arrived as soon as we would’ve liked – we only had a short time to make it back to the cycle hire place before it closed. We whizzed around then interior, then jumped on our bikes and pedalled hard, making it back just in time!

After so much exertion, it was wonderful to come back to a grand feast at the temple. As with every day, the temple devotees cooked especially and opened the restaurant after hours just for us.

We ended the day with some much needed TLC!

You can see all the photos at and the videos at

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Kishori Yatra – Easter 2009: Day Two – Swansea Adventures

We awoke to streaming sunshine on our first Welsh morning. We were staying in a house owned by ISKCON Swansea, normally used as a brahmachari ashram, but kindly vacated for us by Sukhi prabhu, the lone brahmachari who lives there at the moment. Whilst the girls were still asleep, I tiptoed round the house, trying to set up a little temple room. I’d brought deity pictures, and in the kitchen cupboard I found a silver altar. Under the stairs were some old saris which I draped over a cabinet – perfect!

We had planned to have a morning program at the temple every day, but being some distance from the temple meant it would be too difficult to get 13 girls showered, ready and in our van by 6.45 am each morning.

Gradually the girls woke up and got showered, trying out our ‘shower buddy’ system for the first time (wake up the person after you, get in the shower, and the next person makes sure you get out quick by knocking on the door). It was alright for a first try, and eventually everyone was downstairs for our first morning program.

Together we chanted the guru-puja prayers to Srila Prabhupada, making sure to first read through the translation, so that everyone understood what we were singing and why. It’s not only amongst the youth that people don’t understand the Bengali and Sanskrit bhajans we sing. Many devotees that learn them by listening, never really read the words written down, and often don’t find the time to learn the translation. It’s a sure way to space out while you’re singing – without any meaning, it’s just moving your mouth to music. By the way – I’m as guilty as anyone.

After breakfast we gathered again for a japa workshop. I was inspired to do this after attending some japa workshops myself, and collated all the things I thought the girls would find most stimulating for our shortened version. It was slightly nerve racking to be giving guidance on an activity which I vividly remember considering boring, but I was really impressed with how the girls concentrated. Though not all were especially interested in chanting regularly, they all tried hard during the session, and many said they found it surprisingly enjoyable. One of the most fun parts was the distracting mind role play!

The girls thought of lots of good suggestions to improve japa, and many made resolutions to chant one or more rounds every day.

In the afternoon we had lunch on the beach – struggling to keep our hair out of our sandwiches!

Afterwards we went to the LC – Swansea’s biggest leisure centre, for a few hours of splashing in the flumes and wave pool, and rock climbing.

After an evening feast at Govinda’s, we again ended our evening with kirtan. On this evening, we learnt the meaning of the Gaura Arati song. The girls had lots of fun getting to play instruments too, as often at the our home temple,  more experienced players have somewhat of a monopoly on the instruments. They also tried leading kirtan – something that we really wanted them to gain the confidence to do.

Finally, exhausted (at least, my mum, Nadiya and I were!), we made our way home for the night. We had some games before bed time, and then read Krishna book together until it was time to go to sleep…well, that’s what they were supposed to be doing…

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It’s Cool To Be A Krishna Girl

So Hare Krishna girls don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t sleep around, don’t take drugs – some don’t even eat chocolate! What could they possibly do with all the spare time that’s left?

Watch my dear friends, Kalindi (mridanga drum), Rasika (karatal cymbals), Anapayini and Kumari (dancing sisters) in their rhythmic showdown. This is a little taster of the kind of performances we do on the Krishna Culture Festival tour.


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For The Noise of a Fly

Listening to each other chant on the third day of our bus tour japa retreat.

The other day I was telling my Dad about something that happened to me whilst taking part in the mini japa retreat on the bus tour. The retreat lasted for three days, of which the second was a ‘personal bhajan day’ where we took a vow of silence and tried to chant either 64 or 32 rounds. It was about midday and I was struggling to maintain my enthusiasm for the challenges of the day. I’d already broken my flow by unexpectedly having to do kitchen service for three hours (which I normally relish – but in this case, I was hoping I’d be spared), and now I sat out on the verandah of the temple, as the hot sun reached mid point in the sky. I closed my eyes, trying to focus on listening to myself chant, as we’d discussed in our morning workshops.

Suddenly, a huge fly whizzed past my head and landed straight in the middle of a big spider web in front of me. It buzzed frantically, so loud it almost sounded like a scream, as the spider emerged and swiftly began to move in for the kill. Without thinking, I jumped up and thrust my hand into the web. Its home destroyed, the spider made a dash for the safety of the nearby pillar and the fly fell to the wooden balcony. It still buzzed, more weakly now – its body was half wrapped in web and one of its wings was damaged. I tried to carefully unpick its legs from the sticky strands with my free hand (my other was still pointlessly in my japa bag) but it was a futile attempt. They were permanently damaged and the fly was on its way out too. I felt so stupid standing there over it. I had intended to help, but in disrupting the natural course of events, I had not improved the situation whatsoever. Rather, I’d just led it to its eventual outcome in a different way. I’d also disrupted my own concentration on chanting, again breaking my fragile momentum and meditation.

I sat down again, finding it difficult to take my eyes off the fly, lying legs up, still and silent. I felt very confused about what had happened, wondering what would’ve been the right course of action. Was it more valuable to put compassion into practice and try to help another living being? Or, as I suspected, was it more valuable to continue chanting – the prime way that all living beings will improve their condition of life, eternally? Of course, a fly might be considered very insignificant, but when I thought of the situation as a metaphor for something bigger, it seemed much more important a consideration.

It’s so easy to become distracted from spiritual practices. Even at an internal level, my mind is composing to-do lists and planning my week everytime I try to concentrate, what to speak of external distractions, which are ever present.

I finished telling my dad the story and he remarked that it reminded him of a quote by the Jacobean poet and preacher, John Donne. He said ‘I throw myself down in my chamber, and I call in, and invite God, and his Angels thither, and when they are there, I neglect God and his Angels, for the noise of a fly, for the rattling of a coach, for the whining of a door.’

At least I know I’m not the only one.

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Photos! Finally!

At long last, I managed to upload my summer photos to my Flickr account. Click the image below to go have a looksie. They’re mostly all from the bus tour and then there’s some from Burning Man.

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10,000 feet high – San Francisco to London – July 28th 2008

I say hello to my new face in the mirror.
Tilak tan,
everything just a little sharper.
It makes me happy.
Most definitely.
Still, what can I say?
Crushing vanity is not a single lifetime mission,
unlike this journey,
with a definite
measured mile beginning,
and a plastic cup,
crumpled paper,
used headphones
Up here I am somewhere in-between worlds;
who I want to be,
one hand in my beadbag,
and who I sometimes unexpectedly am,
listening to Estelle and watching back-to-back movies,
getting lost in the romance of being up here,
so far removed from reality.
It’s all so foggy,
my Govinda,
the only knotted guide rope to hold onto.

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