Archive for January, 2007

Visit to Haifa

January 26, 2007

Visit to Haifa from Jan 13 to Jan 16 was dominated by several themes.  We arrived in Haifa on Saturday afternoon.  Once we got into the hotel, Dan Gardens Haifa, we walked down to the gate at the top of the terrace.  We could not get in as we had not registered yet.

When we went down to the Shrine of the Bab, we were directed to go to Pilgrim Reception Center.  On our way, we meet our friend Jonathan Graves from Portland.  After registering, we went by sherut to Bhaji and visited the Shrine of Baha’u’llah and later the mansion of Bhaji.  This was a spcial treat as the mansion of Bhaji was only opwn that evening.  We also had the opportunity to visit briefly with the only remaining Hand of the Cause, Mr. Varqa.

The next day, I was brave enough to climb down the steps from the top of the upper terrace to the Shrine of the Bab.  There are about 850 steps, and because of my bad knees, I had to walk backwards as I got fown on the stairs.  It was worth it even though this took almost 90 minutes.  We did take a lot of breaks.

I am happy to report that while visiting the Shrines, we can ask for a chair and sit down on the chair to meditate and pray.  This was a very important one for me as sitting on the floor was am impossible task.  I’d have had a very difficult time to get up.  We offered prayers for our cluster, prayers for those recently departed such as our precious daighter Patti, Sharon Cameron and Russel King, the husband of my long time friend Molly King of Southern California.  We also offred prayers for the success of teaching in our cluster.

To our surprise, Mehran and Kim of Bend were also staying at the same hotel as us visiting their daughter who works at the world center.  It was wonderful to get to know them, and we ended up having breakfast together for the next few days.  They also had come back following a brief visit to India.

We heard a presentation from the member of the Universal House of Justice Farzam Arbab.  I have some notes on his presentation and if you want my notes, contact me and I will share them with you.

The next day we ventured out to Akko and Bhaji again.  We had some adventures in Akko, and finally found the prison and were able to offer prayers there.  Later we went to Bhaji again to the most sacred threshold.

The last day of our stay started off with a tour of the buildings of the International Teaching Center, Universal House of Justice, and the Center for the Study of Sacred Texts.  Later we heard from a member of the International Teaching Center.

When we arrived to register at the pilgrim reception center, there was a note that we had a message.  I went to pick up the message, and it was a note from the secretary to UHJ member Peter Khan who wanted to meet us during our stay.  We got an appointment and went to see him in his office at the offices of the Universal House of Justice building.  We were escorted to his office and we had a wonderful chat for 30 minutes.  It was a real honor for both Jeannie and me to visit the office of a member of the House of Justice.  I will pull together my notes from that visit and share it if anyone wishes it. 

 We left Haifa late afternoon on Jan 16 and stayed overnight in Haifa.

We are now back home recovering and this concludes our blogging on our travels.

Megha Shyam

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Final Comments on some special nieces and nephews

January 9, 2007

I will offer these final comments from India and we can share more when we get back.

My niece Shobhana (54 and ha the energy of 16 yar old) is the CEO of a non profit group called DISHA.  She and her husband operate from their home several projects.  In one she worls with 500 slum children in Delhi ( age 4-15), and 100 villages in a state called Bihar.  In this state she works with families of 100 villages on AIDS, collecting and harvesting eain water for use for daaaaaaaily lives in a region that is often arid.  She will be urilizing stories from Junior youth animator training program.

A nephew of mine works with 70-100 children evry Sunday by offering them basic value education.  I met some of them and I have some pictures and their faces tell it all.  He also works with many villagers on a special life insurance program to help yje poor backed by the Government of India.

Another nephew who works at Intel in Bangalore teaches high school students in Saturdays for 5 houes.

Another one is involbed in developing a home for older folksl one works in organic faeming in a remote village.

There is also a talented niece who is an artist and does designs for companies.  She is now working on materials for display in 2008.

Thet are all very precious genms in my family.  It has been hard to say good bye to all of the,

Final Days in India

January 9, 2007

As we say godbye, I encountered several old classmates.  Hopefully we can plan a 50 year reunion in 2010.

So so lomg from India.  I will blog from Haifa,

Grand Party

January 9, 2007

We finally came back to Bangalore on Dec 30th after nearly 45 days on the road and staying mostly in hotels.

We went to mysister’s house where preparations were on the way for her birthday party on Jan7.  We relazed a few days watching India and South Africal play a 5 day test match that India lost.

The party was arranged by my sister’s children.  Six of her children were present, two of them are in the US at this time.   The party was very well organized.

Jeannie wore a sari for this occassion.

In the morning around 7:30 my sister and all her children recited 1000 names of Vishnu in sanskri.  Afterwards theu read Chapter 2 and 12 of the Bhagavad Gita – a long tradition in my family that my father established.  In fact as they were reciting Chapter 12, a lot of the verses came back to me as I used to do it in the 50’s on important occassions such as Krishna’s birthday, Gaesha’s (the elephant faced God) birthday, Ramas’ birthday, special days such as birthday or anniversary of grandparents etc.

After about 90 minutes of this we all went to breakfast prepared by caterers in a house across the street.  They had erected a tent in the drive way and in a vacant land across the home where we would all have lunch later.  Friends and relatives started arriving around 10 AM, and we had set up many chairs in the shade in the driveway to sitdown, relax and visit with each other.  My sister’s children made sure everyone of them said hello to every guest and made tem all welcome.  Some children (19, 12) provided classical music and drums.  Some of the guests were long lost cousins and their children  There are more in town and we did not know how to reach them.  It is some what difficult to reach my sister’s home as it is at the very north end of the city, and many live at the evry south end of the city, a distance 30-49 kms.

By 1 PM we had nearly 80 guests and we started serving lunch.

As is the custom here, the family members always ate last.  Lunch was served in 3 batches.  At every barch many of my nephews and nieces were active hosts, inquiring with each guset eating, made sure they were comfortably seated, respected, etc.  It was a real nice touch.  I was playing this role when my sister;s family sat down for lunch.

Every guest went away with a gift ( a coconut, betel leaves, a bag with sweet and salty preparation by the caterer and a candle.) The candle was hade specially by mentally retarded folks in another part pf Bangalore. 

We spemt all afternoon visiting with relatives and friends and mot of them lefr by 5 OM.  That is when the real party started – family members and some friens started enjoying many hours karaoke.  We finally went to bed around 10 PM after a long day. 

My sister received many calls that days including 4 from the US.  Iy was a great day for a wonderful woman who raised 6 boys and 2 girls under extraoridinary conditions (poverty, children aving all kins of problems in which she personally intevened.)

All her children just adore her and they all know how difficlut it was for her.  They are all doing very well.

That was the party we came back to Bangalore for.

Madurai

January 9, 2007

From Pondicherry we arrived in Madurai by caer over a very bad set of roads.  This is the worst road I have seen in India.  The driver was not much help either.

Madurai (means Sweet city)is famous for its temple for Lord Shiva and his wife Parvati.  The temple is the second biggest in India occupying 15 acres in the center of the city.  It has gates from each direction and lies on a land 972 ft x 879 ft.  It has the unique presence of 33 billion (yes billion) images and stautes of gods, goddesses, figures and images.

The temple was busy with pilgrims particularly from the state of Kerala and there is a big harvest festival coming up on Jan 14 which we will miss of course.  This is celebrate in the southern states in style.

They tuen over 2 crops a year.

They were having 30,000 piligrims a day and the place was very crowded. 

Chennai (Madras) and neighboring areas

January 6, 2007

We arrived in Chennai (Madras for the old folks)we with very little agenda.  The main goal here was to meet my niece Shobhana’s daughters Ruchira 27) and her sister Anupama (23).  They came for breakfast on Saturday Dec 23rd and we had really a wonderful visit.

The older girl is the Assistant Editor for a daily newpaper called Deccan Chronicle.  She was quite busy because of the Christmas season.  (This town has about 10% christian population and was one of ths eary footholds of the East India company as they made their way north.)

The hotel was set to celebrate Christmas in style.  We ate dinner on Christmas eve, and the dinner was very well prepared and we had to wait to get dinner as they were taking pictures of the arrangements probaby for their catalog.

The next morning we took off by a cab to Kancheevaram an old city with wonderful temples and is well known in India for silk and bronze work.  It is a really small town (~ 50,000 people).  The main temple had been closed for the day due to the death of the priest.  We were able to go around the temple.  This town is a major pilgrim canter and often called Varaani of the south.  It has many many temples (nearly 200 of them built over 25 centuries.  It is also known for its unsual silk and bronze,  The main temple was built in honor of Shiva and Vishnu.  There are also reminders of Jainism and Buddhism until 4 AD when Hindusim took over and now dominates the landscape.

Closeby is another old temple now somewhat in ruins built for Lord Vishnu.  This tenple was built in 1500’s when the kingdoms here were very strong and scultopture had royal patronage.  This temple had some of the classic works we saw earlier in our trip in Karnataka.

After a quicklunch, we went to a seaside place called Mahabalipura.  This town was used as a laboratory for artists who later worked on the temples described in the previous paragraphs.  This area is pretty unique indeed.  It was hit by the tsunami in 2004, but very little damage was done to the area.  Kanchi is on par as a hoy city with Benares (where Ganges flows north), Ayodhya (where Lord Rama was born), Mathura (where Krihna was born), Dwarak (where Krishna was taken to the area to spend his childhood years). Ujjain, Haradwar (where Ganges descends from the Himalaya’s and water is very pure ).  Kancheevaram has a special type of silk that was orginally used to dress up Devadasis (women who danced in temples), today women all over India long for silk from Kanch providing employment for nearly 25,000 people.

The major feature of Mahabalipuram is tha sculpture on large boulders that tell stories from ancient times.  On a giant rock, we saw a huge rouck almost round just standing.  The round eock called Krishna’s butter ball is nearly 30 feet in diameter.  Over the years people have tried to move it without any success.  Even the tusami (ocean is only 1000 feet away would not budge it.  The English tried with horse, other as well but no budging of this rock.  By the seashore there are carvings that were the laboratory for work at Kanchi.  Life size elephants have carved of single stone and looks very real indeed.

We went back Chennai and stayed next day and relaxed and drove to Pondicherry.

Pondicherry

January 6, 2007

We arrived in Pondicherry from Chennai on Christmas day.  It was a 3 hyour drive and we passed through a lot of areas hit by tsunami as we drove along the seashore of the Bay of Bengal.

Pondicherry was a French colony from 1799 until 1955, except for a brief period around 1812 when the British had control for a few years.  This area as where the English and the French fought as the last phase of the US colonial war.  After the British won in the US, they continued to fight the French (who had been on the side of the Americans).  Infact many of the generals who fought on the British side were later sent to India to continue fighting the Fremch.  Some of you may remember General Corwallis from your history.

This is a small area 160 sq. miles run by the federal government from Delhi.  They say Pondicherry is a lazy town with only 4 things to do

Drink (Low tazes – so a lot of people from neighboring states show up for that)
Go to Arabino Ashram
Walk on the beach
Shop

We did three of the four above and I will leave it to your imagination which three.

The Ashram was stated by Arabindo Ghosh.  Born in 1872, he was educated at Cambridge University in Engand, came back tried to become a civil servant by taking an exam; he failed and became staunch nationalist.  He was involved in political agitation in the early part of 20th sentury and was imprisoned.  They let him go baecause of lack of evidenceeeee.  They he wandered into Pondicherry on a spiritual mission, and receive enligtenment in 1926.  He stated this Ashram and was soon joined by another seeker of spirituality who also settled in te Ashra.  She is called “The Mother”.  The Ashram is a very peaceful place where both are buried.  Their goal is to develop the entire human race in to a self sufficient instutution through knowledge.  They have a experimental town earby calle Auroville.  We did not get a chance to visit.

Obviously we saw a lot of French tourists as well as settlers in the region.  Along the beach ais a monument for the soldiers surrounding a beautiful scultpture of Mahatma Gandhi.  We did ventur out and shopped in the city.

The area is warm with a nice breeze.  Typical temperature was 85 deg F.

We left for Madurai after anotrher of rest and relazation.