The mountain top had its own microclimate – it was foggy, fresh and breezy, which was a blessing since we were sweating buckets. I remembered reading that the mountain is an extinct volcano and being told by Piers that the mountain is Shiva. The fog served to add to the mystical atmosphere. There was a Saddhu standing near the entrance of the Virupaksha cave, and we asked him if we could go inside. He nodded and we entered. The cave was not so much a cave as a kutir carved from the rock face with a bamboo and plastic tarp roof to provide shelter from the elements. We were greeted with the sight of another older, dreadlocked Saddhu sitting quietly and looking fixedly at us. He acknowledged us as we entered with a bow of his head and raised his hands to his heart. His eyes were clear and his gaze was intense. We were told previously that a yogi had been living in the cave for the past thirteen years. The younger Saddhu, who introduced himself as Jothi and a devotee of Babaji, offered us some chai in half coconut husks. We foolishly hadn’t brought any water with us, so the liquid was most welcome. Babaji looked at me and motioned for me to sit in front of him. As I did so he smeared my forehead with ash, held his hand gently on my head and noiselessly mouthed some words. He did the same for Nix. There was a strong, peaceful energy in the kutir so I sat down on a rock ledge, closed my eyes and entered a meditative state. Nix did the same. Nobody spoke. It felt amazing. I could have stayed there forever. We could no longer hear the frenzied noise from the waking town that had been steadily increasing in volume as it drifted up to us during the hike – there was only silence. After some time Babaji softly said “Shiva”. Even with eyes closed it was obvious he was attracting our attention, so we slowly lifted our eyelids. Jothi explained that it would soon be getting “full hot” and they thought it best if we make our way down the mountain before that happened. I said that I would prefer not to go back down into the pandemonium at all. He smiled and said we could come and spend the night with them whenever we liked. We replied that we would love to – what an amazing opportunity, and one neither Nix nor I would pass up in a million years. To be in the presence of anyone as grounded, balanced and peaceful is most definitely a blessing that we rarely get at home. We offered a small donation (which wasn’t asked for) and left.
By the time we reached the bottom we were cream crackered, and decided to treat ourselves to breakfast at the German Bakery close to the Ramana Ashram. Walking along the main road triggered sensory overload in me – the heat, the dust, the manic swerving and hooting of the buses, scooters, rickshaws and cars, meandering cows, goats, and supplications from the steady stream of beggars were in stark relief to what we had just experienced. As I put one foot in front of another I thought that we need to work steadfastly on generating peace within ourselves at all times - we can’t rely on our surroundings to provide this for us. The world consists almost entirely of commotion, especially in India. I do not want the chaos any longer – it feels like there is nothing for me there. I don’t see the point of the frantic chasing and need for more, more, more.... I don’t think I have wanted it for a long time (perhaps ever), but I have tried my best to want it, fit in with it and do what everyone else does. When I was 19 years old I did not see the point of drinking alcohol, despite giving my best effort to do so, so I put it behind me and have never looked back since. We will complete the full moon parikramar in 3 days time (the number 3 again – spooky ;)), then make plans to head back up the mountain for a night with the Saddhus. Both Nix and I feel that now is the time to let go of music and photography and widen our horizons to do something else that will sustain us. The arts world is hugely ego based and is notoriously difficult to survive in, so vaat point in chasing? If I think it through to its logical conclusion, I wouldn’t want the results anyway – playing gigs around the world with 20 year olds who are in full party mode does not appeal to me in the slightest, nor does getting chummy with supercilious promoters/booking agents to secure the gigs in the first instance. Moreover, the music I’ve been working on purely to improve my chances of getting radio play/recognition is much harder/heavier than I have ever been inclined to write before and feels empty. To continue running after this would feel like taking steps backwards.... I have no idea what the future holds, but it feels as though it is time to embrace change.
On a more random note – Indians love advertising via the medium of rickshaw mounted loudspeakers. The rickshaws drive slowly around residential areas blasting out slogans and music. It’s completely mental. We had one pass by our place yesterday and I had to plug my ears with my fingers. To make sure they reach everyone last one of their target audience, they thoughtfully mount both front and rear facing speakers, so even when they pass by there is no escape from the din. It reminds me of the SAS motto “He who dares wins”, except in India’s case it would be “He who is loudest vins”.