End part of a trip I made to the holy South Indian pilgrimage town of Tiruvannamalai in the state of Tamil Nadu where I stayed at the Athithi Ashram which is run by devotees of the great twentieth century spiritual master Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. Once my time at the ashram was done it was just a question of taking a taxi ride back to the city of Bengaluru in the state of Karnataka.
So the interstate swing back from 19/2 went something like this. First of all I knew that was it, my week in Tiruvannamalai at the Athithi Ashram was over and now there was to be no lookin’ back. I had done all that I could do and really in all honesty it had gone better than I could have ever expected – the meditation, the talks with Swami Hamsananda, the mesmeric shrine times at the end of the day in the dual temples of Ramanasramam, staying fit, staying healthy, no bad stomachs or stuff like that – which had meant that I was happy, more than happy as a matter of fact. Turned out to be a bit of a rush after my parting talk with Swami as my taxi was already waiting outside the ashram gates and I still had a bit of this and that to do with regards to packing my case and clearing up which meant I would have to get my skates on. Before going back up to my room I told my driver who was sitting in the car on the other side of the gates that I would be about 10 minutes or so and bounded back up the stairs to my room in order to get myself together.
The ride from Tiruvannamalai to Bangalore turned out to be a bit of a fast one as once we got to the town of Krishnagiri we joined the main highway which more or less runs the length of the country, with more than one or two pinch points in between, and where signs to Varanasi indicate it is over 1700 km away in a direction which was pretty much due north. So it was speedy, a Grand Prix shakedown on a four lane highway where weaving in and out of the traffic in front of you whilst travelling at high velocity was very much the order of the day. It was one of those rides where I sat in the car with the back windows wide open instead of in a nicely chilled a/c bubble, and the reason for this was that my driver had a stinkin’ cold which I most definitely wouldn’t have minded not picking up in any way whatsoever. In fact, although I’m somewhat ashamed to admit it, paranoid thoughts that he might have Coronavirus passed through my mind, making me wonder if it was worth asking him if he’d driven any or many people from the Chinese part of the world recently. Glad to say I managed to resist the temptation, mainly because I knew that with his very limited English and my non-existent Tamil, it would have been too damn complicated for me to break on through and get him to understand what the fuck I was talking about. So anyway, we rocked on through the Tamil countryside with the warm air blasting through the open windows of the car from any direction you might care to choose, no problem with that really, sure the air was warm but it wasn’t hot and within that lies a very big difference.
Memories of a trip I made to the holy South Indian pilgrimage town of Tiruvannamalai in the state of Tamil Nadu where I stayed at the Athithi Ashram which is run by devotees of the great twentieth century spiritual master Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. The resident teacher of Athithi Ashram is Swami Hamsananda, with whom it is possible to sit and meditate with each morning as well as engage in conversation about the life of Bhagavan, the practice of meditation, and the spiritual paths of bhakti (devotion) and Jnana (self-enquiry) in the form of asking the question – Who Am I?
When I arrived at the Athithi Ashram after my taxi ride from Chennai I opened the gates, took off my shoes and put them on the shoe stand as no footwear was allowed to be worn in the ashram grounds. Then I went to the small ashram office on the left hand side within the ashram compound and which had a couple of desks and computers in it as well as some chairs for people to sit on. A gentle mannered man dressed in white cotton clothes checked me in after I’d filled out all the necessary forms, given him my passport details and taken a photograph of myself with my mobile phone which I then emailed to him on the spot. The room I was given was in the block above the office and I guess that block must have had nine or ten rooms which were spread over three floors. Mine was on the top floor where there were three other rooms, all of which seemed to be occupied. Stepping inside my room for the first time I saw it had a single bed with a very firm mattress and a pillow with a thin sheet on top of it, so I guess it was just as well the weather was hot and that I would not be needing a blanket. There was a table and chair in the corner of the room next to the window and some shelves built into the wall upon which I could put my clothes once I’d unpacked my case and stashed it under my bed. On the wall opposite to the side of the room my bed was on there was a framed and mounted colour portrait of Ramana Maharshi and also one of the holy hill Mount Arunachala. There was a door at the end of my bed which opened up into a bathroom where there was a toilet and shower along with a small basin and mirror. The window in my room had shutters rather than glass with a wire mesh tightly strung across it so as to keep the mosquitoes out, although with my room being on the top floor hopefully their presence would be minimal. I opened the shutters for some airflow and soon realised the street outside was quite noisy with plenty of sounds rising up from it, primarily sounds of auto rickshaws and honking motorbikes. Later on I was to discover the block my room was in overlooked the entrance to a much larger ashram close by, the ashram of Yogi Ramsuratkumar, which attracted large numbers of people each day from early morning onwards.
This show is from 2002 when I went down the road in my home town to see Bob Dylan play another show at the now long defunct London Docklands Arena on May 12th when he was touring the UK on another leg of his Never Ending Tour. It was around nine months after his Love & Theft album which was released on September 11th 2001, and the show features a number of songs from it which I was hearing him perform live for the very first time.
At a certain point in proceedings that familiar smell of Nagchampa incense began to fill our nostrils as it rolled over the front rows of the crowd, having now been lit in the buckets at the back of the stage by the huge guy with the beard and the pony tail. There was a palpable rising of the energy levels of the crowd as the majority of people began to sense the time was soon about to descend upon us again when show time began. I stood there staring straight ahead at the huge black curtain behind the stage with the Bob Dylan Eye of Integrity stamped into the middle of it. I hadn’t seen it properly the night before due to fact that our seats had been to the side. The Eye of Integrity was Bob’s unofficial logo, or at least had been for the last few years and there were various pieces of merchandise you could buy with it on such tempting items as t-shirts, hoodies, baseball caps, key rings, coffee mugs and stuff like that.
This show is from 2002 when I went down the road in my home town to see Bob Dylan play a show at the now long defunct London Docklands Arena on May 11th when he was touring the UK on another leg of his Never Ending Tour. It was around nine months after his Love & Theft album which was released on September 11th 2001, and the show features a number of songs from it which I was hearing him perform live for the very first time.
It was now about 7.45, by my calculations show time would be 8pm without too much of a wait beyond that. The incense was already lit, Nagchampa incense I thought, if this was so it meant the incense came from India, the Sai Baba organisation no less, but it was at best an educated guess, probably a wrong one as Bob had never to my knowledge shown much of an interest in the whole Indian mystical guru scene. It was rolling over the first few rows of people on the floor in fragrant clouds with that oh so familiar sweet, heady smell. All part of the ritual for darshan, an audience with the master no less, all of which could apply as far as I was concerned when it came to me and Bob. This was always one of my favourite times. Waiting for the magic to begin, taking in through my nostrils that incense perfume, watching the rows of the arena fill up with people, looking down at the front where the diehard Dylan fans stood around in clusters excitedly talking with one another, heads held high in expectation, no doubt speculating on which selection of songs they were going to hear that night.
An account of our last few days in Freemantle & Perth before travelling across the Nullarbor Plain to Freemantle on the Indian – Pacific. This was part of a trip undertaken with my father in order to eventually meet up with our relatives in Adelaide, before that however we had a week of adventures in Western Australia where we got to know places such as Freemantle, Perth and Albany.
The Toyota Kluger which we’d hired from Hertz in Freemantle was still available for us to use for more one day after our return from Albany because it was not due back until the Tuesday morning. Before the trip down to Albany I had thought of going off again for another long ride on the Monday but now I knew that would be asking for trouble. To get to any place of any size, such as Bunbury which was further down the coast, would take at least 2-3 hours and then once I’d hung round there for a couple of hours I would have to drive back again. I had thought originally of even trying to get down as far as Margaret River but that would have been impossible, or at least exceedingly stupid to the point of being dumb. Basically it was too damn easy in Western Australia to bite off more than you could chew when it came to how far you thought you could go whilst behind the wheel of a vehicle. Even someone like me had now got to the stage of the game where I knew that although I could do it if I wanted to, it would have been incredibly tiring, possibly dangerous and really rather pointless. I would have had hardly any time at my place of destination before having to turn around and drive all the way back again. So instead of all that I listened to the advice of the friendly concierge girl at The Esplanade who recommended I take the Kluger north of Perth along coast, to the Hilary Boat Harbour which was no more that 20 km up the road from Freemantle. Along the way it would be possible to for me stop and view some of the beaches within Perth city limits, to get out of the Kluger at wherever I happened to pull up and take a few walks by the ocean. Sounded pretty good to me!
An account of a night in Albany, Western Australia where we stayed at the Dog Rocks Motel, followed by returning to Freemantle the next day back up the Albany Highway. This was part of a trip undertaken with my father in order to eventually meet up with our relatives in Adelaide, before that however we had a week of adventures in Western Australia where we got to know places such as Freemantle, Perth and Albany.
Our first port of call on our mission to find somewhere decent to eat in Albany was the place which I had thought was our best bet from my earlier reconnaissance, an Italian restaurant in which it was possible to order a drink rather than bring it in a bag. This choice soon turned out to be a bit of a disaster however, as when we went in and asked for a table the woman at the door with the menus wanted to know if we had made a booking. Dad immediately, and unfortunately with some degree of disbelieving exasperation, said that she must surely be joking as the place looked pretty empty. Turned out it was a big mistake for him to have said that to her, a very big mistake, as the woman soon made it clear to us that a reservation was most certainly needed if we wanted a table, even though the place was barely half full. It appeared that if we did not have a reservation there was going to be no chance of us getting a meal there, all of which seemed pretty absurd, but there we are, that was how it was. Dad’s outburst had rubbed the waitress up the wrong way and it was clear she was now going to make things as difficult as possible for us. She said if we sat down to eat our meal there and then, she could accommodate us, but we would have to be out within an hour. In other words she was cutting us an impossible deal as there was no way we would have been able to comfortably enjoy some pre-food drinks and then have our standard three courses in such a short space of time.
An account of heading driving down the Albany Highway from Freemantle to Albany to spend a night at the Dog Rocks Motel. This was part of a trip undertaken with my father in order to eventually meet up with our relatives in Adelaide, before that however we had a week of adventures in Western Australia where we got to know places such as Freemantle, Perth and Albany.
Saturday morning saw me up nice and early ready to pick up the car after breakfast for the big drive down to Albany, me and dad! One of the deals we had made for our trip out to Australia was that I was the one in charge of the travel and booking arrangements along with all of the paperwork which went with it. Therefore after breakfast I jumped into a waiting taxi parked in front of our hotel, The Esplanade in Freemantle, with a folder under my arm containing our Hertz booking and my driving license which I would have to show in order to collect the car. I had already called the Hertz office the day before to see if where they were located was in walking distance of the hotel, but they had told me it wasn’t and that I would have to take a taxi. Actually the ride down to Albany had been my idea and as far covering the costs – car hire, gas and a night for two of us in the Dog Rocks Motel in Albany – that was on me as well. Guess it was my way of saying thanks to dad for footing the bill for everything else with regard to our coming out to Australia. My driver out to the Hertz was an Ethiopian who had been in Australia for the last 20 years or so, in fact he was an Australian as his accent most certainly proved, clearly his days of waiting for the rain in Addis Ababa whilst catching pieces of an archaic yet profound brand of Christianity were far behind him. He told me as he drove that it was possible to have a very good life in Australia, that he loved his job and he loved the weather. For some reason he was able to tell this to me in such a way that it was difficult for me not to feel that he was one lucky bastard. He certainly cut a very different impression than the Indian who’d took us in from the airport a couple of days before, who in the final analysis had been a real bundle of misery pining for the land of Bharat. Well, the Hertz place was certainly too far to walk to as my taxi ride lasted quite a while, the drive made me realize how spread out things could be in Australia, that having your own form of transport was vital if you wanted to live there in anything close to practical comfort.
An account of heading into King’s Park from Freemantle and more roaming around Perth on a trip undertaken with my father in order to eventually meet up with our relatives in Adelaide, before that however we had a week of adventures in Western Australia where we got to know places such as Freemantle, Perth and Albany.
The next morning I woke in the early hours and because I was not that sleepyso I sat in the chair in my hotel room and did some meditation. As a Buddhist there was no question I would not try to meditate each day whilst out in Australia if I got the chance. Besides the practice of sitting quietly and observing my breath, I had other commitments to keep, such as reciting various daily prayers and mantras from initiations and empowerments I had received over the years. This time I struck lucky and soon entered a blissful state which lasted for about an hour, with mind stilled and very relaxed. This was probably because I knew that since I was now on holiday for the next couple of weeks, if I wanted to meditate at 5 in the morning I could do so without too much problem. After all if I felt tired later in the day I could always rest, just lay back on my big double bed and close my eyes. There was flexibility with regard to my schedule, no worries about having to go to work or anything like that, no deadlines to keep. Thoughts passed through my mind during the meditation which were difficult to explain, but in essence they boiled down to awakening me to a new spiritual landscape now that I was in Australia. In a nutshell it felt open, spacious and sparse, far different to the psychic intensity of London, where shadows and shades from the constant hum of the big city at times crowded in on one to quite a considerable degree.
An account of heading into Perth from Freemantle on a trip undertaken with my father in order to eventually meet up with our relatives in Adelaide, before that however we had a week of adventures in Western Australia where we got to know places such as Freemantle, Perth and Albany.
Woke up early the next morning and stayed awake for the best part of a couple of hours, just went with the territory I guess; new kid in town, country, continent. Lay there in the dark with a constant stream of thoughts running through my mind, it was not that uncommon for that to happen to me if truth be told, but I eventually fell back to sleep at some point and then was woken up by Dad knocking on my bedroom door. It was already 8.30 and – son of a gun – I had overslept and that was something which didn’t happen often! We had agreed the night before to make our way down to breakfast at 8.30 the following morning but there I was still prone horizontal when he started rapping. I poked my head out of my room, profusely apologised and jumped into the shower so as to fully wake up and get myself together. In less than 15 minutes I was ready, nevertheless it was a bit of a shock to have been caught out on my first morning in Australia, as when it came to being punctual I was usually right on the button, but not this time, no sir, not by a long shot!
An account of my first day in Australia on a trip undertaken with my father in order to eventually meet up with our relatives in Adelaide, before that however we had a week of adventures in Western Australia where we got to know places such as Freemantle, Perth and Albany.
Flying over Australia for the first time in my life felt like I was truly arriving at the far end of the world. That feeling of reaching somewhere special had maybe begun an hour or so before we actually reached the coast. It was when the sky turned a shade of blue I had never seen before that I stared out the window and kept thinking that in the distance lay the beginnings of Australia, even though at this point it was still only sea and sky. In actual fact it was just an illusion created by the far off sea and sky merging together, both bathed in an amazing blue which I thought indicated terra firma, a sight so beautiful it kept me on the edge of my seat as I just couldn’t stop looking at it. Eventually the land mass did appear and with crystal clarity I saw thousands of feet beneath our plane, Planet Earth in reddish orange, looking huge, awesome and impenetrable as to its mysteries. As we flew down the coast of Western Australia on our way to the city of Perth, the colour of this flat immensity below was dominated by those various shades of red and orange and even though I was a mile up in the sky above, there was an overwhelming sense of emptiness to what I saw beneath me. A desolate beauty on which it became easy for me to project wonderful thoughts, as if my mind was painting on a blank canvas.