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India Calling

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These manhole covers are everywhere, one more thing that reminds me of India here in New York city.

Yesterday a friend wrote to me on her journey to Badrinath, and I closed my eyes and pictured her there beside the rushing waters of the Ganga. I told her how the Hudson often reminds me of this sacred river – especially in the morning, and the ‘violet hour’ that quieting dusk where the lights start to appear on the water. Sometimes, like this morning, flocks of birds screech loudly from the rooftops, and the blasting horns of the produce trucks sound like conch shells being blown. Like in India, there is an almost constant symphony of construction going on, and beggars fill the streets and subways.

Here too exists the simultaneous intensity of materialism and spirituality. Walking downtown is a total sensory overload. It’s nearly impossible not to absorb the thousands of words, colours, slogans, songs and smells that reach out and grab at every step. But from this maelstrom there seems to grow a deep desire for some greater meaning. Along with Los Angeles, New York is probably one of the most yoga mad cities in the Western world. Kirtan and bhakti are buzzwords, and even if understanding is a little shallow, the desire to understand is usually genuine. Last Sunday I played violin for a workshop with Krishna Das. To my surprise, 450 people packed the room. Most of them chanted and meditated with the kind of gusto normally reserved for a football game. The more remarkable thing was that many of them didn’t fit the image that is usually assigned to ‘yogis’ or hippies. If I stood behind them at Starbucks, I’d never guess that they could chant the Hanuman Chalisa from start to finish.

As India speeds towards Western culture – the average Mumbai mall is a surreal dive into American street fashion, New Yorkers look for a change. The Wall Street protests are ongoing, and 700 were arrested the other day for blocking the Brooklyn Bridge. I visited last week to join in with the Meditation Mob, a group that meet up to sit and meditate there every few days. Tomorrow they will set up a temple space at Liberty Plaza, where the village of protesters is growing by the day.


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