Karma and Dharma in South India
Even though I had three months to plan my trip in South India, I did not draw up a timetable at all. I knew I wanted to see the Ajanta and Ellora Caves, to meet Amma for the first time on her 60th birthday, to visit Raja Raja’s Big Temple and to understand the ashram culture a bit more. I watched many videos and read travel guide books to prepare for the visit. However, nothing could prepare me for the warmth and kindness that I experienced in South India in those four weeks.
From my last visit to North India, I have learned to discard all of my western concept of planning and purposefully getting organized. Most Indians believe in karma and dharma. They have faith that if things are meant to take place, they will happen no matter what. I will give you an example.
I was in Chennai one Sunday morning. I wanted to attend Sunday morning mass. I asked a young woman at the Chennai Egmore station which general direction should I be heading to go to the Basilica of Santhome. Well, before I knew it, a team of people worked out the route that I should be taking. There was always at least one person accompanying me along the way until I reached the Basilica. Worshipping is a big part of Indian life and my wish to attend the Sunday mass, being a righteous act, became their mandate to make it happen.
India is a place that you either love or hate.
As with any journey, there are always ups and downs. I must admit, I had been lucky for the most part. Another example that came to mind was getting to Amma’s ashram. The tuk-tuk driver took me to 4 hotels in Kayankulam and they were all fully occupied. I then asked him to take me to the ashram directly. He left me and my two bags on the other side of the lagoon. Because I couldn’t swim, I hesitated to go on an old boat to cross the lagoon.
Well, a family walked by and helped me load and unload my bags. After I got to the other side, I was able to get dorm accommodation on the day before Amma‘s birthday on Sept 27th. According to the residents of the ashram, there were close to 900,000 people attending the birthday celebration. There were people sleeping on the ground uncovered everywhere at night during the three-day celebration.
India is a place that you either love or hate. I tend to overlook the minor annoyances and love India and its people. It had been ten years since I first visited North India. I am happy to see that the quality of life has improved a great deal over the past decade. Most Indian tourists that I met were well-educated and make a decent living. Even though they complained about a corrupt government, I believe that all that could be changed with the next generation of intelligent and honest Indian politicians.