Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Mt Abu II

My first night in Mount Abu was a suprising one - so quiet, and I slept like a log (well, until 7am when a local restaurant turned on & cranked up the music). I woke up at one stage & didn't know where I was it was so quiet. Thinking it would help orient me to the place, I did a bus tour of Mt Abu. The tour was OK, except that it was all conducted in Hindi - like the old comedy sketch, where the guide says to me in English "Mt Shrikar, 5231 feet in height" and then speaks in Hindi to the rest of the passengers for 10 minutes, presumably about the same thing. The Dilwara temples, with their incredible & delicately carved marble were especially impressive, and the view from the top of the mountain was also striking.

I was hanging out to eat some meat - having been in the predominantly vegetarian state of Gujurat for a fair time - so went to one of the more expensive places in town - Mayur Restaurant, at Hotel Hillock. I, along with a bus load of German tourists & a number of presumably well-off Indians, ate heartily, for, in my case, the relatively large sum of Rp 432. I devoured dal shorba (soup), sweet lassi, coca-cola, murgh hara masala, naan, rice, gulab jamun with ice-cream, and still felt OK the next day. Amusing to note on the way back to my hotel that two hotels here are named Hotel Hiltone & Hotel Sheratone respectively.

I haven't read as much this trip as I thought I might, but two books that really stand out are Enduring Love by Ian McEwan (he is an excellent writer, with some wonderful insights & skill in how he writes about them) and the Wasp Factory by Iain Banks - a very perverse & enthralling book. The reliable Reginald Hill writes the Dalziel & Pascoe books, which are always a good read - they're crime novels, but intelligent ones. I've not seen any bookshops in India yet, but am perhaps not looking in the right places. I did think I'd use my laptop, on which I've numerous 'e-books' but it's a bit cumbersome to use in bed especially because it heats up quite dramatically after about 30 minutes & I don't want to use it in public, for fear of the crowds it would draw & the possibility of it being pinched. The bike is enough to have to manage.

Today I caught up with my old school chum Charlie, who's been involved with a group called Brahma Kumaris for over 30 years. The organisation teaches the Raja Yoga meditation technique and runs other courses & workshops. Mount Abu is their world headquarters; they claim over 6000 centres in 84 countries. Nevertheless, I expected it to comprise a few old buildings with some handouts for people interestd in what they do. In fact, the magnitude of the organisation & its facilities here are staggering. They have a "Universal Peace Hall" in Mount Abu that seats 3,000 people, while the hall in Abu Road ("Diamond Hall"), used for conferences, etc., seats 20,000 people! Gyan Sarover, where Charlie is staying, is a huge educational & residential complex. They also have a "Global Hospital & Research Centre" here, and a regular shuttle bus service runs between the 3 centres & Mount Abu township. There are folk everywhere, dressed in white, who are here to study at their 'Spiritual University'. Charlie introduced me to one of the BK people, Jenna, a delightful woman, who gave me a run down on their approach. Interesting, but the BK way is not quite my cup of tea.

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