Just a note before I proceed. I just learned an extremely frustrating lesson in the world of blog writing on the notepad of an iPad. I’ve needed to do so because I don’t often have Wifi, otherwise I would write directly into my email which auto-saves every few minutes. Instead, I have needed to write on the iPad and have been planning to copy and paste in emails to my web designer. At the point in time that I am currently RE-writing today’s entry, I have 26 blog entries saved that I need to forward on or at least forward a chunk to my designer and then learn how to update the future ones onto my website myself. Ah, the nuances of high tech and travel in a third world country. The two truly do not go hand in hand. One must definitely learn patience if you want to get anything accomplished online, this I already know quite well. I also just learned if you are going to update a previously written entry, you better not accidentally highlight the entire page and then hit the space button. NO Bueno! Dang it.
Oh well. What can you do but take a deep breath, enjoy the cool night, background of Aarti music and bell clanging, relish the amazing spinach & cheese ravioli dish you just ate as good as any homemade Italian restaurant in the States, await your apple pie and ice cream (yes, I’m going decadent tonite — I mean, ya gotta order it if it’s a Lonely Planet recommendation, right?) — and write the entire entry again!
So… where as I? Right, I had just arrived in Lucknow and found my quiet spacious guesthouse with Wifi and inexpensive homemade meals. When I’ve told a few people that I went to Lucknow, I’ve been asked why. In truth, it is a super congested polluted city with nowhere near the amount of other tourist attractions and spiritual treasures as many other parts of India. However, it just goes to show that if you know people your experience of somewhere can be quite lovely as mine was the three days I was there. This was truly in thanks to my dear friend Tashi (who I know from the States and had traveled to the Himalayas with when I first arrived in India). His kind connections to dear friends of his were so appreciated, in particular one lovely older gentleman Tashi has know for over 25 years, a native to Lucknow named Manoj.
Manoj made my stay super lovely. Each day he picked me up on his scooter and showed me some things that make Lucknow special to him, including the yummy street food called chaat and high-end delicious sweets Lucknow is known for. He took me to his home a couple times and made me chai, as well as showed me some of the unique antiques he had as part of his family’s business. I was also fortunate to be there during the one weekend of the month when there is a free music/dance performance. It was about 2.5 hours on Friday night in a large theatre and fairly well attended. Even the mayor showed up at the beginning for some type of honoring. The first part of the performance was amazing with a really professional troupe of kathak (classical Indian dancers) who performed to four live classical musicians. The second half was a musical about Hanuman performed by a really large group of dancers to recorded music. To be honest, I got a wee bit bored without being able to understand anything but it was still enjoyable and appreciated.
The highlight of my time in Lucknow was visiting the Satsang Bhavan of Tashi’s guru, Papaji (H.S.W. Poonja). Tashi had sat at his feet for seven years when he lived in India and transcribed his teachings which can be found compiled and edited in an amazing book titled ‘I Am That’. Papaji’s teachings are on the concept of advaita which in a limited definition can be described as the understanding of non-duality, that all things are connected and that we are simply consciousness. I hope to be staying in Papaji’s teacher Ramana Maharshi’s ashram next year in southern India. I have only read these teachings in the past but now had the opportunity to watch a couple hours worth of videos with Papaji leading satsang. Being able to do so in the physical space and energy of where he taught thousands in the past was a true gift. It is a beautiful space where we enjoyed lunch on the roof and I got to meet another of the friends Tashi hoped I would connect with. Once again, I am deeply grateful for the connection of friends and how special my brief time in Lucknow was because of it. I was now ready and excited for the next leg of my journey in the holy city and oldest inhabited place on the planet, Varanasi.