MY EXPERIENCES IN INDIA-1985 # 9
This Banyan tree (Kabir Vat) has now grown so huge that it occupies several acres, and no one now knows which was the original tree that grew from the branch watered by the washing of Satguru Kabir’s feet. Many people visit the place for all-day picnics, for relaxation, and for visiting the ashram and paying homage to the holy place.
There was a famous guru here who believed in Lord Rama and he had many disciples. After meeting Satguru Kabir he concluded that Satguru Kabir did indeed possess divine knowledge and accepted him as his guru. But because he was a devotee of Ram, and had many disciples, Satguru Kabir agreed for him to retain the word Ram. So his following is now called Ram Kabir. There are now several thousand Ram Kabir followers in different parts of the world, with a large number in the United States.
After our visit to Vadodara, Jagdish Saheb and I left on February l3th, by bus for an eight-hour trip to Jamnagar. We had completed a large loop leaving Jamnagar by train initially, travelling to Kharsia, Varanasi, Vadodara and back to Jamnagar. At the Jamnagar Ashram preparations were going on for the upcoming bhandhara (feast) on March 30th. It would last seven days and approximately five thousand visitors were expected everyday. Ladies were gathering everyday to clean and sift bags of grain that were to be used for the meals. Workmen were drillling a new tube well and polishing the temple floor, and other artists were carving out the life story of Satguru Kabir, and painting it in bright colours on the inner temple wall. I stayed at the ashram up to the 18th. During this time I wrote an introduction and a glossary to the book of prayers titled the Path of Spiritual Realization. At the Ashram I met devotees from England and Zambia who were visiting at the same time. Mahant Ramswaroop Saheb presented me with a shawl. A shawl is commonly used by many people in India to keep off the chill. For many people it actually forms part of their regular clothing. The shawl is also draped on the shoulders of visitors and dignitaries in appreciation or welcome.
On February 18th, I left Jamnagar for Delhi, and Jagdish Saheb accompanied me to the Jamnagar airport. After spending a month together it was somewhat sad to part company at this point. However, my itinerary had to take me to Delhi to attend a conference titled “World Congress on Law and Medicine.” I was met at the Delhi airport by Pandit G. C. Shastri of Vancouver who was visiting India. His nephew was also with him. I spent a few days with Panditji and his sister and family, and I felt quite at home. The following day Panditji and his wife Shaaji, and I went to do some shopping in old Delhi. The shopping area was called Chandni Chowk. This is the busiest shopping area in Delhi. There were no department stores or shopping malls as we know them in North America. All the shops were small, and are speciality shops, and you have to go to different shops for the different articles you wish to purchase. There were many jewellery shops all glistening with 22 carat golden jewellery of various types, and consisting of exquisite craftsmanship. The streets in this area were very narrow and motor vehicles could hardly travel on them. There were people everywhere. It was interesting to see the merchants sitting in their respective stores on the floor often cross-legged, and appearing very comfortable. It is customary for the merchants to offer you tea while you do your shopping, which I think is a very nice gesture, and a good welcome to the customer. It is especially interesting to shop for saris as the floor is covered with a white cloth with padding underneath, and the customer sits on this cloth, or a bench, and the merchant would display the saris by rolling them out onto this white cloth while the customer examines each one. These saris are often piled up one on top of another up to ten or twenty, while the customers decide about which ones to purchase.
We visited another shopping center which was called Palika Bazaar, and it was totally underground. Above it was a domed park with grass and small trees and shrubs. One could never guess that there was a shopping center underneath it. There were many stores branching off in different directions from a central hub. All types of merchandise could be purchased here from their respective specialty stores.
A third popular shopping area is called Connaught Place. This consisted of two circular concentric streets in the center of Delhi. Shops were lined along these streets and here again there were stores and restaurants. The goods were of high quality and of reasonable price.
Shopping in India can be quite interesting because you can bargain with the merchants for the price of practically anything. Often, in the end, he will accept the price you offer, if he sees that you will not otherwise buy the goods. However, carrying this practice too far might not be good or fair for the merchant’s business.
Delhi is the capital city of India and it has a population of approximately five million in 1985. Its streets are generally crowded and very noisy. Honking of horns is a constant reminder of the chaotic traffic situation. Cars, trucks, motorised rickshaws, peddle rickshaws, bullock carts, push carts, bicycles, motor scooters and pedestrians all jostle with each other to get ahead, not adhering to any traffic rules as we do in North America. Traffic is criss-crossing in all directions all the time and, for visitors from North America, it all looks quite chaotic, but surprisingly there are not too many accidents. All the drivers are fairly polite and do not get angry as they do in North America if they are cut off or over taken, or otherwise detained in the traffic. On the whole, it was a very interesting experience to be in Delhi.
To be continued