Monday, May 18, 2009

Magic in the Dark

Yesterday, a thunderstorm struck the Sunday Feast. To escape the torrents of rain, everyone huddled under the main tent or streamed into the templeroom for powerful and beautiful bhajans. 

And then, the electricity cut out! The soft gray light from outside filtered in and lit the forms of Radhe Shyam. They were wearing green and dark blue – I seemed to be witnessing Radhe Shyam emerging from a forest, alive and mysterious.

Then my godsister Jackie invited me to help her put away the day outfit, which is quite a feat in Alachua on Sundays. In delight, I agreed and followed her into the pujari room. I settled into the service that I used to do once a week for nearly two years. I folded blue and green silk and placed jewelry in drawers. Sweet memories seeped under the door of my mind like scrolls of incense.

Later in the night, even the generator cut out – everything went pitch black. We couldn’t even see each other’s faces. So what else could we do? We dashed to the templeroom to dance! Lit by dim emergency lights, the group of us women danced in whirls to the rhythm of the kirtan. 

The kirtan came to a crescendo and the curtains for Radhe Shyam swung open. The altar was lit by candles, which captured the forms of the Deities in pools of bronze light.

And when I joined Jackie again in the pujari room, we continued our service by candlelight.

At the end of the night, I felt drenched in the scents of champaka and jasmine and silk. A garland encircled my wrist, a plate of mahaprasad was in my hand, and I was immersed in the images of Radhe Shyam.

Finally, the electricity came on again, and I laughed to think how typical this is of India but so shocking for America. 

When Jackie and I stepped off the temple verandah to go home, we paused to gaze up at the glimmering stars. Humility and peace washed over me. 

This is magic. This is home

The gray twilight, the lamps, emergency lights, candles, the starlight… they had all illuminated something last night, some magic in the dark.  

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Where Time Stands Still

23 Nov 2008

On this cool, beautiful morning, I sit on the grass on the top of the hill that overlooks Vrindavan. The temple of Radha Madan Mohan rises above me in all of its glory, glowing in the rising sun. The sounds of birds fill the air, and the breeze brushes past me in waves, up here where time stands still.

Saturday, May 9, 2009



of ocean glass
of rose satin and stars

I will stroll upon the water 
and lose myself
in the temple
of Your beauty

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Varsana Rockstar

There's this girl in Chowpatty by the name of Rupa Manjari who has been born and raised a devotee of Krishna. She's devoted to her guru, Radhanath Swami, and she's addicted to Varsana, bhajans, and kirtans. She plays dholak and mridanga (two-sided drums), violin, and sings in classical Hindustani style. I call her the Varsana Rockstar.

One hot Mumbai afternoon, we were taking the taxi from her house to the temple for the Sunday Feast. She was drumming her fingers against the dashboard, gazing out the window. Suddenly she twisted in her seat and mused to me, "You know, if I was given one benediction, I would pray that any surface I touched could sound and be played like a dholak."

She grinned then, and I couldn't help but grin back and laugh. Rockstar through and through.

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