On day three we arrived in Vrindavan, the birth place of Hare Krishna, a spiritual center with 4000 temples. The town is like most things in India, a study in contrasts. From the ancient temples dating back to the 1500s with intricate carvings, falling into disrepair, to a new monstrous one being built by one man at a cost of about $300million, who according to a local fancies himself to be a god. The road approaching the town is beautifully paved and huge condo towers are sprouting in the fields, whereas the pilgrimage route around the town, is like a bumpy road in the desert, apparently the result of someone having forgotten that sewers are to be built before the road is constructed, hence all the digging and bedlam.
During our first morning, we meet Rasa, a professional musician, a warm, charismatic, Polish man with a calm presence, who lives in Shanghai, and was off to a music lesson but we agree to meet for dinner in the hotel, where he owns a unit, having intentions of perhaps living there on a full time basis. While touring the town with our bikes, I become more aware of a nagging tooth ache, which has progressed over the last few days, which I reluctantly decide will need attention.
At the information office of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness ISKCON, a very friendly person, while short on tourist info is most willing to help with finding an endodontist in Agra, some 80 kms away. The prospect of going back to Delhi, and having to retrace our route and spend a few days there, just did not appeal. Within seconds he proudly shows me the results of his search, and I am copying the particulars when I notice that the address is somewhere in California. On my mentioning this he says “Google is not God” to which my instinctive retort is that “God is not Google”.
At Vrindivan, as in many spiritual centres of the world, the search for meaning goes on, and the struggle is best manifested in the two solitudes: God and Google.
Late over dinner with Rasa, after an exchange of travel experiences, our talk returns to the meaning of life and his being a devotee of Hare Krishna, we share opinions about the emptiness of the western way of life with all the material possessions, versus the contentment of many India, with so little. He is impressed by our mode of travel and our preference partly out of necessity, to not consume anything but food and accommodations.
He offers me his dentist in Delhi, a driver wallah who could drive us to Delhi and back in one day at a reasonable cost, but I politely declined, having myself found on the internet, a dentist who seemed highly qualified, who does general dentistry and also a specialist in the technically complex process of implants. Thanks Google!
The ride of about 80kms to Agra was noteworthy as my pedal stokes kept pace with the pulsations in my tooth, but my mind was more occupied by the prospect of having a root canal treatment in a strange setting since I my own selected purveyor of dental services in Toronto for the last 45 years. But after three appointments with Dr Ajay Singh, I think my tooth is now well and we were able to enjoy the sublime experience of the Taj Mahal at sunrise. To try to describe the experience is to repeat the trite as this is truly one of the marvels of the world and one that more than lives up to its reputation. Beyond the majesty of the lofty structure, the intricate details in white marble is the knowledge that it was built in 1631 as a tomb by Shah Jahan after his wife Mumtaz Mahal died while giving birth to their 14th child. Can there be a greater devotion to another? The sequel to this saga, and surprisingly it has not been made into a Hollywood blockbuster, is that the son of Jahan imprisoned the father, for either squandering the people’s money or squandering his inheritance.
Walking back to our Hotel Maya, a lovely guest house filled with colourful Magen Davids, one for each of the six chakras and our resplendent with white marble floors, walls, marble end tables to match, I am thankful for all that we have and reminded that our most immediate need, after a number of cool days and nights, when nothing would dry,the temperature warmed up, and our laundry is safe and dry, having strung all of our clothes through the sleeves on the line. Welcome to monkey proofing your laundry in Agra.
Namaste + Hare Krishna