I got up a little late on Saturday morning and took the 12:15 train to Kayankulam to get to Amma's. It was about a twenty minute ride. From there I took a rickshaw for about a half an hour, to a traditional ferry (a dugout canoe). A short ferry ride later, I arrived at the ashram. It's a collection of pink buildings on a narrow stretch of land between a river and the Indian Ocean. After checking in, I went up to my room to get settled in. I was sharing what couldn't have been more than an 8 ft. by 8 ft. box with three other women. There were no beds, only foam pads covered in vinyl. With four of us in there, there was hardley any room to walk. My sheets smelled horribly musty. It was all rather unpleasant, except for the view. I was on the tenth floor (well, Indian 10th floor, American 11th floor), and I could see for miles across Kerala to the east and the Indian Ocean to the west. It was beautiful. After having a very simple lunch, I got in line for darshan. It took me about an hour and a half to make my way up the line to Amma where I recieved the customary hug. I don't care whether or not Amma really is the incarnation of all the Hindu goddesses; any person who can hug others for nine hours straight and still manage a genuine smile and a few words of kind conversation after nine hours much be a saint. I had read about getting a mantra (a short Sanskrit phrase to chant during meditation to focus one's thoughts and connect one with the divine) from Amma, and so I asked her if she would give me one. She said yes, and to come back at the end of darshan. So at eight o'clock that night I found myself with a handful of other foreigners waiting for the end of darshan so that we could recieve our mantras. I was particularly excited because the literature the ashram had provided on mantras said that mine would be tailor made for me. After getting another hug from Amma during which she whispered my mantra in my ear, I joined the other foreigners for a lecture on how to use one's mantra. Soon, however, we discovered that even though we'd asked for mantras on completely different subjects, we'd all recieved the same one. I felt rather jipped. The whole ashram had an air of commercialism about it. On top of that it was very cult-y. I didn't really like it too much and I fled as early as I possibly could on Sunday morning (which was pretty early since they start blasting devotional songs on the loudspeakers at 6 a.m.). The ashramites believe that Amma controls every aspect of their lives. They change their names to the ones she chooses for them, and they ask her about every meaningful decision they make. There are pictures of Amma everywhere. The Indians are kept separate from the Westerners, which really bothered me. Anyways, I'm back at VKV now, and all is well (and I'm now really appreciating my rock-hard bed, as it's much better than my thin foam pad at the ashram). I had my last classes today. It's hard to believe I'm leaving tomorrow. I feel as though I could stay for months. In a weird way it makes me really excited for college, because I've proved to myself that if I'm occupied doing interesting things that I enjoy, I don't get devestatingly homesick the way I did at boarding school. I can be happy even if I'm spending long amounts of time away from home. Also, the living situtation at VKV is very much like it will be at college, except at college it will be more luxurious, and I have begun to think of my room at VKV as home. I never quite got to that point at Milton, so I'm hoping that I will start to feel that my dorm room at Penn is like home, and I won't get so homesick. I have really mixed feelings about leaving. On the one hand I'm excited to go home and see my parents and my family and my friends, and I'm excited about college, and Peter Island, and all the things that I have to look forward to. On the other hand, I'm really not looking forward to leaving. I've become completely comfortable here, and I'm learning so much and having so many wonderful experiences. But I have to go home, so I should just be excited, and not think about all that I will be missing about India.
p.s. I went to see the astrologer, and I was pretty pleased with my horoscope. For the next six years I will have lots of success in all I attempt, although the year beginning in August 2006 will be a hard one. Then for six years after that, I will have many obstacles. But starting in 2017, for ten years I will have much success in my career and will become famous for my acheivements. I will also settle down and get married. I will have a break in my schooling at some point, but will complete it with great success. I am very business oriented, and will have success in my business ventures. Also, I will be particularly famous if I choose a profession in yoga or the martial arts or fine arts. So, all in all, the astrologer said I will be very successful, and will be famous for my success. Not bad.
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