Finally got my visa extension yesterday after three days of pretty much running around, or sometimes hurrying up and waiting. From what I hear, many people in the ashram, including Swami Veda, were also working pretty hard to get things done--emailing this, that and the other to present a case to the Home Ministry. Of course, the real danger is that in another year we will have to go through this rigamarole again.
Wandering through Pahar Ganj I felt almost at home, especially as I watched from the rooftop restaurant in the Krishna Hotel, where I had been indulging in a plate of momos, a kind of Tibetan dim sum and the vegetable soup I ate with Madhavananda the night I came. Seeing the lights spreading in every direction with almost nothing but pedestrians, the atmosphere is decidedly festive and familial. If it weren't for my nose feeling like a cocaine addict's leftovers from the bad air, I thought, this place could actually grow on me.
Pahar Ganj is crowded with tourists from all over the world. Each place attracts its own tourists, and those who come to India have, I would not doubt, a higher percentage of dreadlocks than the world average, though there are a lot of plain longhairs, and the British guys seem to prefer the shaved-head look. There are a lot of aging hippies from all parts of the world. Last night I was emailing next to a Russian of about 60 with what looked like a shaggy white clown wig.
The modes of ignorance and passion are strong here, so it fills me with this sense of respect that I sometimes get for simple survival. Even I saw a young guy, about twenty, with a dirty red t-shirt, crappy jeans and flip-flops, and I thought, Gee, he has slicked his hair--he is making a heroic effort to fight off total entropy, which sometimes seems so inevitable in this part of the world.
I moved from my hotel to the Chaitanya Gaudiya Math a couple of days ago. Why stay in some mundane place when you can have the association of devotees? If they kick me out, that will be my karma phala, but so far that hasn't happened. Even though I have already committed a couple of aparadhas. The first day we went to the cremation grounds since a major grihastha bhakta from the neighborhood who had helped build the math had left his body. About 350 people were in the procession to the Crematorium on Rani Jhansi Marg. But I wandered back slowly, stopping to check out a wrestling ground and an Udasina Ashram. My stuff was in the office and I had the key, so I arrived with a grumbling crowd of devotees hanging around the Math office.
Fate's payback was that with all the running around I did yesterday, I lost the key to my room somewhere. Tirtha Maharaj is here and was speaking, so it was impossible to do anything about it really, so I just listened to his lecture on the Bhagavata and the Vaishnavas whose tithi it was yesterday. I could not really bathe properly until this morning.
Lots of kirtan here. Lots of little kids from the neighborhood making a ruckus in arati in the hope of getting sweet prasad from Tirtha Maharaj when he gives darshan afterward. Lots of Hindi-speaking grihastha devotees from the local area wearing GM tilak. I bow down to the Gaudiya Math and their service in spreading Mahaprabhu's name around the world.
So I head back to Rishikesh tomorrow, and normal service will resume then.