This section serves random thoughts, highs and lows of homo sapiens sapiens civilization, some ill-formulated ideas, twilights of time and space and holy visions. Bon appetit!

17-DEC-2012 @ Rishikesh
Thali is vegetarian dish served on metal plate with few departments, which typically includes plain rice, some vegetables, dhal – cooked lentils with curry or other spicy sauce, chapatti/roti – Indian flat bread, and something else, which could be potatoes mixed with something, pasta or milk-rice, or anything else.
This is the food which we had each day for lunch and dinner in the ashram. Although it looks like something boring, actually they cooked it with great variance and (almost) everyday it tasted like a difference dish, and it was always fantastic.

Incredible Indiaaaaaa! Many people know this short slogan of Indian national tourist agency or ministry or whatever, which is featured in TV commercials advertising India as travel destination. You can see there beautiful colorful palaces, parading elephants, women in saris and Indian jewelry, epic landscapes, Taj Mahal and other fairytale stuff.

Yes, it’s all here, but first of all, of course there is always heavy “photo-shopping” done in those commercials, so once you get to those spots, you will discover that you share the place with 1 000 000 other visitors and everything is somehow less sparkling, and more importantly, these spots are lost in the ocean of real India. This is the third world defined. Severe poverty everywhere, people sleeping on the streets or under “roofs” made of piece of trash-bag-style-plastic (when I was in India for the first time 3,5 years ago I told my friends back at home that in India you are not homeless as long as you have a blanket to sleep on), dirt, dirt and more dirt – public waste management is practically non-existent and the only waste processing facilities are the omnipresent wandering cows. So why the hell did I go to India? you might ask, and many people did ask.

Two reasons (which are actually just one):

1. India brings you back to reality of life itself. While sitting on 30th floor of some bank trying to implement a new IT system, or while producing a new TV commercial for crap no one really needs, or while analyzing the laws and contracts to nail down that new cooperation between large corporations, we might think that we deal with the most serious stuff, invention and innovation, the big business which moves the world. I tell you one thing: we deal there mostly with artificial self-inflating balloons filled with void. By this, I’m not saying that that work does not make sense and it should not be done (I have done it for 8 years and chances are high that one day I will do it again). It is (mostly, not always) useful work and must be done to keep the wheels of our civilization turning, but hey everybody in those sterile offices, let’s stop pretending that it’s THE thing, the meaning of life. It’s not. We are human beings. The meaning of life – whatever it may be, I have no clue – must lie in searching our happiness, peace, love, interaction with another, in creative process of our minds and hands. Creative underlined. Come to India for at least a week, witness the life and death happening on the streets and you will understand what I mean, when I say that India brings you back to reality of the life itself. It’s not always beautiful here – go to Bora Bora for that – but it’s so incredibly different from the West (Incredible Indiaaaaa!) that you are simply forced to look at the life from very different point of view. For now, I’ve had enough of corporate bullshit that is pumping that void of someone’s career goals into those balloons, and I definitely had enough of trading cold comfort for change and exchanging my heroes for ghosts and walk on part in a war for lead role in a cage - as Pink Floyd said it all. I don’t have any answers to what I should do in my life, but I know that I would not find them where I was (and I’m not talking only about work of course).

2. Almost four years ago when I visited Varanasi – holiest Hindu city – and saw one public cremation at the banks of Ganges after another, while small children were playing in the ashes and cows were eating funeral flowers – it had a very strong impact on me. Because besides being the dirtiest country I have ever seen, India is almost the most spiritual one. Sadhus (homeless begging holy men/monks) everywhere, objects of worship at every step, in each room, army of holy cows jamming the traffic, sounds of chanting. I came to India because I believe, that it’s the best place on this planet to restart your mind, to confront the western mind-load you have accumulated with the basic forces and truths of life. I’m atheist and I’m not here to become Hindu, but the spirituality of this place is overwhelming. It’s not a coincidence that this whole Odyssey begins with some time in the ashram (Hindu refuge), to get introduction to yoga and meditation and to do all the stuff that I purposefully avoided for all my life (vegetarian food, waking up extremely early, discipline, focused mind, silence, separation from the external world and focusing on my true self).

In 2009 when I visited Varanasi for short 3 days (while I was on a business trip in India!) I wrote this to my diary. It might explain my thought about India and the decision to come here.

Varanasi, 22.3.2009
Thick smoke carrying smell of burnt meat was rising through the air,
wind and smoke were playing with young boy’s kite,
few steps away the cows were eating what remained of flowery funeral garlands,
and were closely passing the fire
which was bursting out more and more ash under their feet
at the boundary of the temple,
maliciously blackened by the ages of fires and smokes
that have ceaselessly burnt dead bodies,
still wet from that last purifying bath in mother Ganga,
blanketed by white cloth,
under silent supervision of the family, the souls were irreclaimably carried to nirvana,
to return no more into the painful cycle of lives and deaths,
and the eternal Shiva’s flame was prepared to ignite another and another bundle of straw,
by which the eldest sons were flaring up the fire which brings moksha,
and the air was filled with memories,
life and death of nameless people,
in this theater of death,
observed by the cows, in sacred calm, not perceiving the magic rituals,
just like the children too young to be able to talk,
but old enough to be joyfully playing at the feet of the temple
black as burn out embers,
and the dogs were scavenging for scraps,
and men were throwing wood destined for holy duty of death,
and other men were urinating at the ashes of thousands of liberated ones,
and water was carrying away that urine, straw, ashes, excrements of cows and everything else,
into Ganga,
flowing clean, immaculate and holy through the ages,
creating life which collided with death,
and no one was crying,
only the wood was cracking and the playing kids were laughing,
and roving illuminators of the rituals of death were asking for money,
and everything was converging into single moment,
which contained the whole universe,
space and time,
and it was clear that everything had happened already,
all lives were lived,
all sins forgiven,
all legends written and tales forgotten,
all wars won,
all kinfolks crushed to ground,
and the time was flowing into itself,
into that moment of eternity,
and I suddenly knew, that this was all, this was everything,
and there was nothing more,
and that the path we call life is just a gust of the wind in the eternity,
in which the Shiva’s fire will always blaze,
Ganga will always flow,
and Varanasi will always shine in the haze of its mysteries.

   Appetizer: American hotdog in Bratislava

   1st course: Vegetarian thali in India

   2nd course: Rice and curry in Sri Lanka

   3rd course: Lassi, chai and beedes in India

     MARCEL STRBAK | www.strbak.com | www.facebook.com/marcel.strbak