Hindu holy mountain #2: Arunachala

In the late 1890s – the story goes – an ordinary boy in southern India heard an uncle mention the name of this holy mountain. Arunchala! Just this, just the name, started pulling him to it. The mountain is meant to be, literally, an incarnation of the deity Shiva. Then, a while later, for no […]

Rant on the failure of news media

Last night I watched Charlie Brooker’s news recap of the year. As I watched, the humour leavened things and left me entertained. But in my sleep, my mind has realised it had made me pretty angry. So a brief change in tone for this blog – a rant! Charlie – both you personally, and you […]

Notes on a meditation

I went on a 10 day silent Vipassana meditation course in the Goenka school, at Bodhgaya in Bihar province in north India.  It was a complex event – my emotions and thoughts about it have often changed dramatically in a day. This blog post is more in note form than a cohesive, final account. 1. Silence For […]

Hindu holy mountain #1: Pavagadh

He took my hand. “Follow me. Move fast. Don’t stop.” I’d spent the early morning looking round the tranquil mosques of ancient Champaner at the bottom of the holy hill. (This is a good guide to them, plus I left a comment on buses which might be useful. It’s in Gujarat, west India, a little north […]

First, do no harm

A two year old draft blog post I just found, which is too good not to publish. Age leavens its earnest attempts to be ahead of trend. New computer technology used to be my relaxation, my hope. As the world has changed, that comfort has gone. We grew up in a digital village. Now we’re […]

In praise of temple elephants

They all seem to be called Lakshmi.  The first one I met at the Virupaksha Temple in Hampi.  You pay a small coin for a blessing, which he takes with his trunk and passes on to his minder. Then he touches your bowed head like this woman in Pondicherry.  That one was at the Sri […]

Scouring pad

I wrote this post two weeks ago before going on a meditation retreat. It felt too negative at the time; it isn’t in that it reflects my mood then. India is like a scouring pad. The dirt the dust. Litter cast uncaringly – except in Pondicherry, as if to show it is deliberate everywhere else. […]

Houses like trees

Zenrainman’s house is like a tree. Grown out of the earth of its own basement on the edge of Bangalore, pressed into bricks.  Nurtured entirely by water and light from its own roof.  It breeds, symbiotically, large primates to maintain it.  Treating their sewage.  To water a rooftop rice paddy ready to grow enough to […]

Changing money 

Oh India!  There’s always another surprise, toughening your way through the day.  This week Modi, the Hindu nationalist PM, announced to the nation that the two largest bank notes were now worthless pieces of paper. This clamp down on black markets and electoral bribes has a complex set of rules which let you trade in the old notes in […]

Communal pets

India is unusual in having two shared public “pets”. Dogs are the ones that I’ve seen before in other countries, prowling every street and temple. These puppies with their sore-furred mum are in Pushkar. Unusually, people feed them. The other day while waiting for a safari at a tiger reserve, I saw a woman feed […]