I arrived in Chennai on 23 November to find India in the midst of the chaos of demonetisation. Prime Minister Modi announced on national news at 8pm on the 8th November that, with immediate effect, all notes above the value of 200 Rupees (around 2 Euros) were to be withdrawn from circulation – the drastic action decided upon by the country’s bold leader in pursuit of his personal commitment to wipe out widespread corruption and the proliferation of ‘black money’.
500 and 1,000 rupee notes could be replaced with new 2,000’s – provided one could establish a legitimate source of the old notes, and, had the time to join the queues that were soon encircling every bank up and down the length and breadth of this populous country. Arriving two weeks into the melee, the lengthy queues had reduced somewhat, I had to spend a mere two hours to make a withdrawal, just up to the new weekly maximum of 24,000 Rupees.
The majority of people I discussed the situation with were positive about the move, though not the inconvenience. Seems like most of my crew were not amongst those many thousands caught out with, now, vast amounts of useless paper notes hidden in their mattresses or wherever else they may have been hoarding their stashes.
Nevertheless, I was happy to be back in India, my home from 2008-2013, there principally to attend the marriage of good friends. Like most things Indian, a marriage tends to be an elaborate and incredible affair. A ‘destination wedding’ (new term I learned), Shantanu and Divya’s union was to be made solemn in rural Jharkhand at the Rikhhiapeeth ashram, the place I have written about in ‘Shakti Manifest’. The ceremony, or the main event, there were many, was to be an integral part of the ‘Sat Chandi Mahayajna and Sita Kalyanam’
“This annual five-day worship is the legacy of Paramahansa Satyananda to uplift humanity and bring peace, prosperity and happiness into people’s lives. This ancient tantric worship of Devi is performed by renowned pandits from Varanasi and showers blessings here in Rikhiapeeth and transforms the lives of all those fortunate to attend.”
It was a beautiful event, the couple appearing as if true embodiments of the mystical Sita and Rama whose union this colourful event is intended to celebrate. The two hundred invited guests and the thousand or so other visitors to the ashram were deeply moved by the occasion. It was heartening for everyone in attendance to see also the traditional ‘prasad’ of clothes and other vital items gifted to thousands of local villagers – the generosity of the Satyanda ashram is legendary in the locale.
This just one snapshot of a month-long visit. I went up and down the country visiting temples, catching up with old friends, being fed on delicious and (overly) bountiful home cooked food and just generally marvelling at it all.
A highlight for me, a simple coconut water picked up at the roadside, delivered straight from the tree – heaven in a shell.
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