What can I say? I think I am falling in love! Yes, it is noisy. Yes, it is crowded. Yes, there is poverty. But it is spectacularly beautiful. You can smell the fragrant flowering trees in the breeze. They are a remarkably handsome population. They dress beautifully. They are gracious and kind. They are amazing entrepreneurs.
Maybe it is Bengalore that is causing me to swoon. From our arrival (at 1:30 a.m.!) at their new, lovely international airport, to our walk to the cars in the soft night air, to our spectacular greeting at the hotel (ITC Windsor), we are having a rich experience. I was greeted with a gorgeous bouquet of flowers and when I asked for a vase in which to keep them, the charming man asked whether I would give him permission to take them away, and put them in an arrangement. Which they did. Below is the photo.
Our first day was supposed to be more touristy, and we had lined up a visit to an ashram about 45 minutes from our hotel. Just before leaving, we were advised that the spiritual leader, Sri Sri Ravishankar, was present and would be available for a private audience. What a treat! It is a lovely location, and there were thousands of people milling about, waiting for the open-air session with the guru. He was very charming, and spoke to us about his leadership model, which is really about facilitating others. At the same time, he acknowledged that he had been driven from a very young age by a vision of a world without violence and without stress, and he has dedicated his life to that vision. And he now has a presence in many countries, and a separate foundation dedicated to world peace. We started with a meditation session, which was all about stilling the loud voices and listening to oneself. I could sense the scepticism of my colleagues, and was trying hard to suspend my own tendency to judgement. The guru's followers seemed a very happy group of people, dedicated to their cause. They are doing a lot of good work with the rural poor in India, and with prisoners and at-risk youth in many countries. They have no religious affiliation...they are promoting an approach to meditation with the goal of a more harmonious world. Who knows?
We also met a beautiful elephant named Indrani, who let me pat her trunk.
And the food here in Bengalore! Oh my. Even trying to stick to vegetarian food here, I can feel my waist expanding.
So looking forward to the rest of our meetings. What a great start!