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Published: July 29th 2010
Well know I've been to all the touristy areas around town. Two days ago my new friend Sunil took me to all the spots- the cave where the Buddha meditated or six years (!), his uncle's house, and some old banyan trees.
We also went to an intelligence-insulting school. You want to know a surefire way to spot a scam in India? They take you to the small school, show you around to some kids, sit you down, and then hit you up for cash without offering you tea or water.
. I've been to the mud huts of tribal villagers who have shown more proper hospitality. This has happened to me twice in the last two days- a sign of the relative lack of tourists in the area.
Tuesday afternoon I met up with a local businessman who took me on a (free) afternoon tour of the area. We saw a huge stupta which has only recently been unearthed. It is more than a thousand years old. It took me four minutes to walk around the circumference of the current ruins, and I aint a slow walker. At one time, it must have been much larger than
the current Mahabodhi temple. A good example of the impermanence of all physical forms as taught by Lord Buddha and all divine messengers. It was built to commemorate Sujata, a peasant girl who brought milk rice to the Buddha while he was starving himself. This showed Buddha the wisdom of the Middle Path.
We also saw a Shiva temple with attached Buddhist shrine. This complex is newer, and also celebrates Sujata.
As the sun set, my new friend talked about how in Bodhaya, "temples grow like mushrooms." It is a good place to do business. I advised him to learn Chinese, and said maybe I'll come back in five years to bring (newly-rich, don't-know-how-cheap-India-is) Chinese tour groups.
Then we visited the man's lotus plantation. He had a chat with some of the local workers (peasants). I was able to keep up a Bengali conversation with a woman for about four minutes before I needed to switch to English. She was really testing me! Her brother lives and works in Kolkata.
I got a little paranoid for just a moment. There are Maoists about. My friend, for all his charm, kindness, and humour, is something of a
The tree grows from Within.
Yesterday I decided to walk back to the old ruins and Shiva temple. With a lungi and rumal
(headscarf) I didin't get too much attention. When people spoke English, I would respond in Bengali. I had a chat with some tribal (or possibly Dalit) pig herder women. Very nice. I also spent some time chatting in Bengali with a middle-aged man by the Shiva temple. Very shanti shanti nice. Two young women saw me and said Namaste Rumal
. Meera naam Rumal hai? Accha.
On the way back to town, I walked through a dry river bed. A group of three men and I interacted a bit, and then they said (about me) ah, Japani
, to which I responded Japani nae!
. I heard some whispers of "Bangladesh?"
Lots of tired, hungry-looking men around. First day of Ramadan yesterday. There is a simultaneous Hindu fast for Shiva as well.
The folks here swear a bit too much.
Check out Solar Cyber Park in a small "cave" on the main drag near the temple. Gopal, the man who works there, is very funny and helpful, and a
truly decent human being. Maybe he'll give me a discount for praising him on my blog?
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