this year i am going to miss the Tulsi harvest celebration in Azamgarh, India. my gorgeous sister in-love Jo is getting married in Bali, so there i will be. i officially changed the term ‘in-law’ and replaced it with the much more appropriate ‘in-love’ as in brother in-love, mother in-love etc, for love is much more binding for me than law.
back to Azamgarh, it sounds like a place from Tolkien’s Middle Earth but in fact it is a small city of 2.5 million in Utra Prudish, India. Every year in november we gather there to celebrate the Tulsi harvest. more than a decade ago my friends Bharat and Bhavani Mitra have started an amazing project of transforming family farms back to their organic origins; freeing the farmers from their dependency on fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides and the loans to buy these chemicals form the big corporations. the transformation is not short of a miracle; the birds returned to the villages and the smile to the farmers’ face. want to see the smiles for yourself check this company out.
i recall last year on my way back from the harvest celebration i stopped for a few hours in the holy city of Benares aka Varanasi. i love seating on the ghats of the Ganga, sipping chai from a clay cup and watching the river flow and the human river flow to it. i had to catch a flight so i left midst a masterpiece sunset, nature’s art never stops amazing. i stopped a taxi and asked to be taken to the airport – madness sheer madness on the roads. i finally realized why in India they worship so many gods and deities – they are all needed! the taxi driver a rock of calm a midst a storm, as it turned out, he’s a Shiva devotee. he washes in the Ganga every morning, he tells me, early before sunrise and then he meditates in the temple by the river. only then he will eat chapati with some dhal. (the staple flat bread and lentils). beside driving a taxi he volunteers two hours a day in a hospital.
in awe of him i keep silent, reflecting on my life. on the dashboard i notice a statue of Shiva The Destroyer seating on a lion skin and a snake coiled around his neck. my driver is happy to tell me the symbolism locked in it and thus he explains:
1. Shiva wares a snake around his neck for his compassion so vast and all inclusive, extended to all even to the most hated, feared and unwanted animal on earth.
2. Shiva wares a snake as a neckless for Shiva needs nothing material to adorn himself.
3. Shiva lives with nothing; having no possessions means no attachments, he is free now and always. having nothing means dying with a smile with no worries, no remorse and no desires.
4. Shiva seats on a lion skin for chastity is the way, like the lion that mates only once in a lifetime.
i am not sure why but on this last point he dwells in my eyes and bobbing with a classic Indian head shake he says; giving in to the senses and bodily desires make the body and spirit very very weak.
when i leave the taxi wiser; i pay my fee and leave some tip…
don’t procrastinate —- cross-pollinate