Monday, 9 February 2009

Letter From Llyn Evans

Dear Friends in Perranuthnoe

Congratulations on what sounds like a Red-Letter Day for the Church Room. Mike and Meg have sent me interesting accounts of that day of planning, with high praise for Katie and Annie. Mike sent me pictures too, and I must say it brought happy tears to my eyes to see the dear faces of old friends in a much-loved place, doing such a worthwhile job. The best of luck with your application – it deserves every success. It is this spirit and enthusiasm, as well as the expertise, that is the heartthrob of the village. Your ideas sound so exciting: I’d be throwing my all into the play readings, the poetry and the music! AND the computer technology – I could do with that here.
My word, you are having a winter to remember – and to think I’m missing it…. If there’s still any whiteness left, please throw a snowball for me at Boat Cove.

Here under the eye of the Himalayas, I look at the mountains as I breakfast outside of a morning and feel blessed by a different beauty. ‘Winter’ officially ended on 22 January, but it still feels cold at night and in the early morning. There is usually morning fog too, and in the quiet of the breakfast table one of my delights is to watch the feathery skeletons of trees appear as the fog becomes veil-thin and then the lemon globe of the sun shines through. I always hope to see the green parrots emerge from their holes in the trees, no doubt to say ‘What’s for breakfast?’ in Hindi. One day I’d like to answer them in their mother tongue: ‘A banana and porridge, with toast and tea.’ Sometimes there is a spicy rice dish, which is Very Good For You, but which I wimpishly avoid in favour of cornflakes. Toast and cornflakes are a considerate gesture for Western guests.

In some ways life here away from the cities has the charms of another age: slow pace; plenty of time to talk and take an interest in everyone you meet; people skilled in one craft, so that you buy something handmade that has long been mass-produced in England; people making a living in simple ways. The other day I heard someone chanting down the road long before I saw him: it sounded like a temple version of our rag-and-bone man. When he came into sight he was a man on a push-bike, wearing a suit of armour-coloured padlocks. If you wanted a lock that day he would unclip one from his chest. Another time, when we needed to have a library key cut for me, a Sikh came on his motorbike with a bag of fine tools, and he cut it by hand outside the library door. Such craftsmanship! It was a pleasure to watch: it took him 20 minutes; it was as if he saw the shape of the key in the block of metal, and chipped away what was not needed, like Michelangelo.

The street outside the ashram is called ‘the village’; everyone knows everyone else – rather like Perranuthnoe really, except that there are lots of little shops in small dark buildings. They may look like sheds, but what would we give in Perranuthnoe to have their facilities to hand! They sell sweets and biscuits and soap and notebooks, pens and aspirins, rice and flour, coconut and cough mixture. (Come to think of it, Village Crafts covers most of these, and of course more.) Sitting outside, a carpenter makes furniture, a tailor will mend your clothes, there is a water-pump and a stall where a boy presses sugar-cane for its sweet juice by turning an iron version of the wheel, a cross between a trouser-press and a spaghetti-maker.

And yet in other ways India has leapt into the 21st century. Look at the way I am able to use a little magic box on my lap here, knowing that this letter will reach you tonight. Snail-mail stamps may not have glue on them, though snails do, but the Internet makes contact with the world possible, so that it seems that I am the only person here who uses stamps. Even my students say ‘Nobody writes letters these days.’ I think that’s a pity, and I would love to receive letters from you.

The ashram–college here is run very efficiently – but it would grind to a halt without mobile phones. I am the odd one out again without one. Swami Veda, the Head, not so active these days, is able to keep his finger on the pulse of the ashram by Blackberry. All this technology in a place that draws its inspiration from antiquity. The yogis contemplated the heavens and the stars and human nature and the divine from their caves high in the mountains. They knew the interaction of mind and body, they taught control of the mind, they told us we are waves in the ocean - but not the ocean.

I am well blessed in living here with people who are carrying on that priceless heritage. I was quite ignorant before I came, so that I learn something new and mind-stirring every day.

January 26th was Republic Day. At 8 a.m. Flag Ceremonies were held over throughout India. When I think of the whole of India celebrating something together, I have to remind myself that this means 1.15 billion people!

Everybody in the ashram assembled outside, all the students in white, except for the orange-robed swamis among them. Swami Veda, the Swami of Swamis, was brought to us in a wheelchair, and it was touching to see one of the children rushing up to him with a hug and an orange hat. The flag was at the top of the pole, bunched up like a little bag. When Swami Veda gave a slight tug, the flag-bag unfurled, releasing a shower of rose-petals on him. He is a historian, and gave us a brief history of the events leading to Independence in 1947, the role of Mahatma Gandhi, and the launching of the Constitution on January 26th 1950.

My photos with this letter have had their captions removed by the Computer Trickster, but I’m hoping you will see some of the Flag Ceremony, and the rose petals that I had seen collected the day before (without knowing why), and some mountain scenes when we followed the course of the river Ganga to where it begins to be Ganga at the confluence of two rivers, a dramatic healing place, one of the most powerful in the land. People were jumping into the water, and there was a cave for ladies to change their saris for dry ones. Because of the contrast in the two rivers: one boisterous and turbulent, the other still and serene, I could have stayed there all day.

It will soon be time for a walk by the Ganga here in full moonlight. Swami Veda gives a global Full Moon Meditation every month, at 4 different times so that 4 time-zones are covered. Ours was in his presence at 7 this morning.

You’ll soon be enjoying the incomparable wonder of all your Spring flowers. I’ll be remembering them and you.

Love and blessings to you all, Llyn.

Submitted by Llyn Evans - India

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