January and February 2010

My first act of the New Year (after ushering out the Old by saluting the midnight lunar eclipse that punctuated my arrival in India) was to accompany two of Mrs. Punshi’s nephews to Bombay’s electric crematorium at Chandanwadi to collect one-third of her immolated remains, which will accompany me to Benares for immersion in the Ganga. A few days later, after a hectic trip to Pune, a departure for Colombo that was derailed at the Chennai airport by India’s asinine new visa restrictions imposed on Americans and Brits in the wake of revelations that David Headley, an American citizen with a Pakistani father, had employed a long-term, multiple entry tourist visa to help plan the Bombay terror attacks of last year. Giving up my plan to visit Sri Lanka on the spot, I flew instead to Coimbatore, where I made it a point to watch 3 Idiots (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3_Idiots), which I enjoyed immensely. I then spent a fortnight at Vaidyagráma, which has grown splendidly since Dr. Scott Blossom and I visited it in early 2009 (http://www.punarnava-ayurveda.com/). Dr. Claudia Welch, her husband Dr. Jim Ventresca, two of their nieces & a friend reached Vaidyagráma later in the month, and between meetings and treatments we found time to visit the impressively hefty Dhyana Linga at ISHA (http://www.ishafoundation.org/).

Claudia and Jim et al also rendezvoused with me in Benaras, as also Ram & Parvati Alexander, Adam Grotsky & Olga Marino, and the usual cast of Kashi characters. Though Shri Ramu Pandit (with whom Roshniji & I normally stay when in Benaras) had suffered a stroke in December, he was much recovered by February; may he continue to improve! This visit to Siva’s city was no less frenetic than usual, but we were still able to feed the kids at Asha Deep Vidyashram (http://asha-deep.com/default.aspx), visit Vindhyachala, and take in a concert that featured a virtuoso performance by ace Hindustani vocalist Kishori Amonkar. Kishoriji may be enjoying her eightieth year of life, but she continues to sing masterfully, as confident and enthusiastic as ever. A truly inspirational performance.

Mahasivaratri was rainy, but the next day clear, fortuitously, as we were performing shraddha (ritual veneration of the dead), I for Rory O’Sullivan (felled at age 25 by a brain tumor), Bob Ratliff (my sister’s “second father”), and of course Mrs. Punshi, a portion of whose ashes had entered the Ganga on the previous afternoon. Last year Mrs. Punshi was with us in Benaras in the flesh, doing shraddha for her husband; this year, she joined us in powdered form, and remained behind after I departed for Uttar Kashi, then Delhi, then Bombay. On Feb 24, I headed to Perth …