Skip to main content

chilling with the Muslims in Delhi

I'm a student of religions.
I actually don't know how it happened, while, at the same time, it is quite clear how and why.
my mother is a Catholic, and the first few years of my life, I was surrounded by non-religious people. the cut was deep, between my home-environment, and what went on outside of my house.
I despised her religion and religious thinking; still- when it was time for me to study- it was such a natural choice. it fascinates me deeply, spirituality, religions, faith, God- and especially its expression in the world, as it is coloured and spiced by local flavour.
one of my best friends, during my teens, was a thai Muslim. her family spoke much about Islam and its beautiful and good sides- quite the opposite from that which we later have been fed through media and common fear-based ideas. I absorbed their teachings and I found Islam to be one of the most beautiful, and yet simple, teachings.
but I never felt as if I could enter Islam, when I was travelling. there were always restrictions around the mosque; I was not allowed in. Muslim society did not seem to like me, a single, Western woman.
except in India.
during my studies, I focused on religions and philisophies of India. they were far away enough from the religion of my mother; so in a way I opposed her (like a good teenager should!) but still, it was the same thing.
and I found myself in Delhi for several weeks, first in 2006, and later in 2010. both times I was magically drawn inside the mosques. they called me inside- I was thinking, ooops, I'm not allowed to be here- but actually, no one said anything about my presence. they allowed me to hang out, observe, take pictures.
religion in India is like nothing else, and it expresses itself like nowhere else in the world.
there is so much of everything that it is almost impossible for opposing sides to fight. ok yes, there is a conflict between Hindus and Muslims- I know- but in daily life, it seems as if all religions are actually living in peace, side by side. they all accept each other.
I loved hanging out at the mosques. I went there for the morning light and for the sunset light. I went there during prayer and in the afternoon for relaxing from the busy, dusty streets.
people were curious, open, and at the same time, kept their distance while doing their prayers. this, to me, was a break from the norm in India- particularly Delhi- where I was almost never left alone, able to just observe. but here, I was allowed to just be, breathe, have space, and stare as much as I wanted without provoking unwanted attention.
I felt so welcome here, like I was part of a bigger religion- LIFE.
the beauty of the Grand Mosque in old Delhi is absolutely breathtaking. I have the feeling I am in mysterious sagas where sultans and kings have walked and prayed.
this little girl really caught my eye. I went up to her and asked her father if I could take her picture. he was very proudly nodding, and tried to push her towards the camera. she was very shy but still, she looked straight into the camera.
as the sun goes down behind the minarets, the sky is coloured by magic purple, which adds to the feeling of that a thousand and a night-fairy tale- feel. many people gather at this time for the sunset-prayer, and as the muhaddin starts to brawl through the broken speakers, people take their position for prayer.
everyone who has visited India knows about the feeling that everything is just one big mess. one big nothing, one big everything. one big soup, one big swamp. it is hard to distinuguish and separate too dramatically here, as it all flows together, like a huge river.
religions are the same in India- they all express themselves differently, but first and foremost, we all feel how, in their essence, they are all one.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Linda meets a "real" sadhu on the banks of the Ganges

So it's early morning, before sunrise, in Varanasi. i'm staying at the Yogi lodge in goudalia, the old, smelly, labyrinth of Varanasi old city. my travel companion, Katja, is sleeping sweetly on her thin, stained mattress, bundled up with a trillion dusty blankets.
i'm hunting for a real Aghori baba.
I did my dissertation at uni about the Pashupatas- the really nasty, crazy renunciates, who follow Shiva. they eat dead flesh, they live at the burial grounds, they smear their bodies with ashes from the funeral pyre. they drink water from a human skull, and they behave in different funny, weird ways, to be like Shiva. they scare people and they give respect.
apparently, these sadhus only exist today in Nepal, in the Pasupatinath.
but, I had read and heard, that another, related tribe of sadhus, called "Aghoris", still could be found in Varanasi, close to the burning ghat, where human bodies were burning day and night.

So I was walking, early that morning, toward…

the "fake" aghori baba turns out to be "real"

ok. I wrote this blog a few years ago. the moment was one of December 2008- so a while back.
I was up early, sunrise, just me and the monkeys and the pilgrims and the babas and the chai-wallas...and i guess yeah, it's normal to be up at sunrise in Varanasi, despite the fog, despite the cold- or maybe precisely BECAUSE of these things. No point staying in bed. The monkeys wake us up anyway and it's goddamn freezing, so let's get a warm, energizing chai, and let's pray that we get out of this suffering called life- where it's cold, foggy, and the annoying monkeys steal our bananas.



So I was on the lookout for this type of dude. I had written my dissertation at uni (SOAS, amazing SOAS!) about these kind of babas, admittedly not existent anymore in India, but in Nepal, in the Pashupatinath, yes. I had been told by my Hinduism professor that yes, some of them did still exist in Benares, eating dead flesh, and doing their weird laughing. I love it! How weird and creepy…

getting drunk on absinthe in Bar Marsella

Absinthe
Also called the Green Fairy, from the French- La Fee Verte. Others called it the Green Goddess or the Green Muse.
But the Green Fairy isn't just another name for absinthe; it is a methaphor for artistic transformation and enlightenment. It opens up the mind to a freer state, a place where exploration of poetical pathways and new inspirational ideas can grow wildly. To the Parisian bohemians of late the 1800's, the Green Fairy was a guide into their artistic world, where new, groundbreaking art was created. Absinthe was to the artists of the time what smoking weed was for the hippies in the 60's; their "revolutionairy guide" and what they believed was the substance that "opened their minds".
Artists, poets and writers reached for a glass of the Green Fairy for inspiration to their creative works and during "the green hour", in the late afternoon, many glasses were consumed in Parisian bars and cafes- but not just that, apparently, s…

I finally went on that life-changing trip

I first came to Puglia in 2008, I think it must have been early October. I'd had an awesome time in Tuscany and Rome and Calabria and was arriving there by train, filled to the max with beautiful experiences and electric connections, not really expecting much else than just a half-boring yoga teacher training that I had signed up for, not really knowing what else to do with my life after finishing my degree in Indian Philosophy at SOAS, University of London. 

As the train cut through Basilicata and into Puglia, the amount of olive trees that swooshed past started to be shocking. After a while, I realised that it just wasn't going to end. Endless amount of them, large, proud, thick. Planted in perfect rows, with no sigh of the end, or the horizon. 

My eyes widened as I started to think I was hallucinating. Was I going insane?
It went on for hours. Endless olive trees. I felt as if there was a movie on repeat outside of the train window. 

As the train finally stopped in Bari, I wait…