Masha's living the good life as a guest in the home of the friend she met in the ashram in Bangalore, while I've been languishing in a grubby hotel room near Egmore Station. Grr!

Today I get invited along to their day trip to Kanchipuram. Yay! Chauffered in an air-conditioned car with Masha, Havisha her friend and her grandma. More important than the luxury was meeting up with friends again! I didn't really realize how crappy travelling alone was till I had friends along for the journey. I guess I'm not really an island after all.

Lost without a Guidebook!

Marina Beach, Chennai

It was my crazy idea the night before Masha left to stay with her friends in Chennai, that I hand over my well thumbed guide book to her. She came to India totally unprepared and lost, with only a deep trust in existence to guide her experiences and travel. I came to India having pored through tons of internet pages and travel guides, clutching my Rough Guide to India for dear life!

It was her enviable connection to the Divine source that led her to a serious of beautiful and remarkable coincidences and events that constitute her spiritual journey so far. It was my incessant reading that led me to mine. But our experiences were not without their pitfalls.

I guess it was natural of us to want to exchange a little of our energies, a little bit more prudence and planning on her part, a bit more spontaneity and trust in the divine on mine. So I came up with the idea of handing over my guide book to her. it would be mutually beneficial!

Can I survive without a guidebook? Most certainly it makes locating good and cheap accommodation hard. I arrived in Chennai in the middle of the night having had to wait for the bus to plow through the molasses of the Chennai traffic jam, managed to get a room and a decent night's sleep. I think I will buy a new guide book =P. But far from returning to my old ways, am definitely going to hold on a little to the spirit of surrender and let go a little to the spirit of control.

Bye bye Masha, may we get to travel again if existence permits!

My Naadi Jothida Reading

The life and death of every person destined to seek his destiny by finding his naadi leaf was written ages ago by Rishis on palm leaves (naadi leaves). Find your leaf and find a wealth of information about your past, present and future lives! Naadi Jothida has had me enthralled since prior to my India trip, and finding my Naadi leaf in India is definitely a must do on my list.

However weeding through the mass of astrologers to find the authentic ones had proven to be quite a challenge.

In the Tiruvanammalai ashram we were given a referral for a Naadi astrologer living near the north gate of the temple!

We submitted our thumb impressions for the readings but Masha has since cancelled her reading - she had to leave for chennai to meet with friends and they had delayed the retrieval of the leaves.

So it was just me that morning at the astrologer's place. From my thumb impression he had narrowed the search down to 2 stacks of leaves. We had to painstaking go through each leaf, him reading the writings and asking me questions pertaining to my life, and me confirming or denying.

One and a half stacks of leaves later and something magical happens. He reads off a leaf that fits my life to a T. Details like my name, parents' names, my birth date, time of birth, my current pre-occupations, martial status.. all questions turned up yes. It was as if he was reading some eerily accurate record of my life so far.

To be fair, however, there was some hokey pokery involved with coming up with my name and parents' names. Through the plethora of questions I had to ask in the previous 'rejected' leaves he had on many occasions resorted to guessing the names letter by letter.. sometimes he would even go "is the next letter of the name T? Is it U? V? W??" Like some tedious hangman game. However there are many other details that he could not have known, like how my dad married twice, for example, and that I was the son of his second wife.

Having found my leaf, he then goes through the process of transcribing all the details into a colorful notebook. I go out for lunch with the translater and return to listen to him describe to me my life from the present to the age of 70.

Apparently though I do not think much about marriage at present, I will still be getting married, to a person that I have already met in the present! This will happen in November where my life will similarly pick up in terms of prosperity and happiness. My life after that seems too incredibly good to be true, very minor incidents occuring, amid long periods of fulfillment. And I will have 2 children - a son and a daughter!

I will also get a blessing from my guru at age 34 and 37, though I don't really know what 'blessing' refers to..

After age 37 my endeavors really take off with great success.. strangely, this is during and after 2012.. the time of great change talked about by conspiracy theorists the world over.

For anyone reading that wants the contact of this astrologer:

Sri Agathiar Mahasiva Vakiya Nadi Jothida Nilayam
11A Vada Othavadai Street
(Near Swathi Lodge, North Temple Gate)
Tiruvannamalai 606601

Tel: 04175-320069

This person's practice is part of a larger organisation from Vatheeswaran Koil. The rates are 1000 rupees per kandem (a chapter pertaining to a specific area to be looked into) and 150 for the translator.

Am currently waiting for rest of the kandems I requested to be sent to me by email and a copy sent by normal mail to my home. Will write again when that happens. Am also trying to post the video I recorded..

A Full Day at Tiruvannamalai


In the morning we climbed Arunachala Hill in search of the cave that Sri Ramana Maharishi used for meditation. We did not make it to the upper cave but found the lower one. Getting there was half the fun!

The Temple Tour Gang

In the afternoon we reach the site for the new temple and ashram of Paramahamsa Nithyananda's.. and bump into Satya and Usha from the Bidadi ashram courses! It was part of a long string of fortuitous coincidences and circumstances that made our day a very eventful one.

In addition to a very warm welcome at the ashram and the best ashram food I have ever tasted in India, we had joined yet another small group of Nithyananda devoteees for a very special guided tour of Arunachala temple. Strange thing was, it was arranged by Swamiji and we don't quite know how it was that 3 separate groups of devotees can meet without planning in Tiruvannamalai and have such a tour arranged as if in advance! We were treated like VIPs and came out of the experience with extreme gratitude.

We spend the day meeting various people, sites and samadhis of people and places that influenced Swamiji's life before he attained his enlightenment.


We get to meet Swamiji's brother!


Am bored in Bangalore 8(. Yesterday night I headed over to the famous shopping and drinking district at MG Road. It's more like a few streets and its shoulder to shoulder crowd all night.

Have been loitering around a huge mall today. Am definitely in a doldrums here. Tomorrow I will head straight for the ashram. I'll be a week early but I'm sure I'll appreciate ashram living more than this.

There won't be any internet at the ashram that I know of so no blogging for the next 2 weeks most probably. Cya on the other side.

Srirangapatnam Island, Mysore Streets


A very uninspiring day in Srirangapatnam, a small island on the river Sangam, the site of the old fort of Monarch Haider Ali and the Tipur Sultan, his son. Tipur is best known for his resistance against the colonial British and his penchant for tiger stripes. What remains on the island is the tomb of his family, his final resting place, the ruins of his palace (out of bounds), a museum I did not care to enter, promising more of the same collections of guns, furniture and royal portraiture, a mosque, a temple, the old jail and a trip to the river.

An adamant auto-rickshaw driver asks for 250 to take me to all the attractions, we settle on 150, but I must probably have overpaid still.

When I get back I stroll through the streets of Mysore, visiting the Devaraja market, Asoka Street and Gandhi Square, among others. The rough guide states: "Mysore is a great city simply to stroll around.", and takes a romantic view of the city emphasising its charm and faded grandeur. I feel I must have got off at the wrong stop. What I saw was the clogged arteries of a rotting city, auto-rickshaws literally mowing people over just to get through, hawkers selling their wares amidst very chaotic activity. I buy some Mysore pak from the well recommended Guru Sweet Stall and a bunch of bananas which turn out to be leathery in texture when eaten.

My sense of apathy has grown since I entered Mysore. I wonder why my enthusiasm opted to wait outside this city. I am actually looking forward to moving on to Bangalore, which I will do first thing tomorrow.

Cloudy Day 8(.. and Scammed at Chamundi Hill

Interior Columns

Cloudy all day today, with only a drizzle while I was in the Keshava Vishnu Temple in Somnathpur.

At the Chamundi Hill Temple I stand outside watching the queues wondering whether to take Darshan. A man approaches me with a helpful disposition. I take him to be an attendant or a helpful person, guiding me to the special darshan queue and the shoe racks to stowaway my shoes. Although I already know where the queues are (they are in plain sight) I thank him.

Once I get my special ticket he stuffs a handful of flowers and a cheap looking statuette into my hands. He tells me its for the offering and ushers me into the temple. "Make sure you don't pay them anything" he says.

Darshan in the temple is pretty much the same as the darshans I've had in the other temples that are well trafficked by pilgrims. The queues shove you along to the inner sanctum where people push themselves to the officiating priest in front of the deity who performs some rites. Try as I might I cannot fathom or decipher the ritual involved. Then I get pushed to the exit and everything is over in a few minutes, with plenty of places where donations are required.

Except this time Mr Helpful attendant is at the shoe racks waiting for me. "You pay me 100 rupees" he says. For the handful of flowers and the cheap statuette which neither the temple priest nor I wanted. And a handful of directions which were not needed at all.

There is no official looking person or policeman around to assist. I am resigned to the knowledge that I've been had and manage to bargain the extortion money down to 50 rupees.

The incident plays itself over and over in my mind. Its a thing of mine to be caught up with events like this. I can spend days in a daze just with recurring thoughts that cloud up my mind. 50 rupees is barely 2 Singapore dollars, but it was the idea that it was taken from me from under my very nose and without my full consent. And the fact that I've been extremely careful with dealing with strangers since setting foot in India, yes even when I am being friendly and open with them. To have slipped up like this.. it leaves me turning the incident over and over feeling progressively more angry at myself not knowing what went wrong.

Paramahamsa Nithyananda calls this "inner chattering". His discourse on You Tube on the subject was one of the first I've heard, that gave me what he calls a "click" of comprehension that saw me listening to more and more of his videos and finally leading me to joining the introductory courses from the Singapore branch.

To destroy the ego and to control the mind from chattering incessantly, ultimately to experience firsthand the truth behind this maya, and to be freed.. I find myself looking forward more and more to the courses ahead of me in his main ashram in June and July. Ashram living is still something I have yet to experience. Perhaps it will benefit me more than temple darshans. Most certainly the idea of visiting more of these "fast food darshan" type mass temples isn't for me. I still appreciate the older, quieter temples and ruins, however, and the energy of the crowds of devotees in the newer ones.


Sunset over Mysore

The Dynasty Restaurant's Roof dining section in the Palace Plaza Hotel at Sri Harsha Rd, Mysore has an awesome view of the sunset near the clock tower! Really good food too and great service. The roof only opens at 7pm though.

Logging onto the net with yet another computer terminal and I find that the person who had used it to upload photos to flickr most recently was Claude Renault! I take whatever precious online time to gape in awe at his wonderful images and his eye for beautiful moments.

The Maharaja's Palace in Mysore was definitely worth a looksee but perhaps from outside only. I am growing weary of portrait after portraits of rich and powerful people and the furniture and paraphernalia they accumulated. In all frankness they look just like the man on the street but surrounded with pomp and grandeur. I guess thats why pomp, grandeur and etiquette is so important, its the only real differenciating factor.

The Jayachamarajendra Gallery has its art works lighted with fluroescent lighting, which is a pain, especially when the glare from the carefully placed tubes obsures the faces of the paintings they tried to illuminate.

The word on the street is definitely on the gas price hike. The government chose to handle rising oil prices by finally conceding to a rise in petrol prices by 10%, to alleviate the losses incurred so far by Indian oil companies who have all the while been forced to sell petrol at a loss, and the agitation is arising from why they didn't opt to instead lower the tax levied on said oil companies which would lead to the same outcome, sans the burden on the consumer.

It was an amusing incident today at lunch when two auto-rickshaw drivers tried painstaking to explain to me that the world is undergoing rising oil prices. They said it as if they had only heard about it the day before.

Indragiri and Chandragiri Hill

I catch a cold after waking early to climb Indragiri Hill to catch the sunrise. The water in the morning could have been close to freezing point. The cold follows me through the day as I climb Indragiri, then Chandragiri before lunch.

Unfortunately the sun rose an hour before I reached the top of the hill. I'll have to try again tomorrow morning before I leave for Mysore. The colossal image of Gomateshwara, tallest free standing statue in India, is simply stunning in the morning hours, and there are few devotees visiting, all of which seem happy to take their darshan in silence then move to quiet corners for meditation. I do the same, this is the first temple I have visited peaceful enough for such an endeavor.


Gomateshwara attained Moksha by standing in a forest stark naked, so motionless that vines grew on him, snakes and ants coil and burrowed at his feet.


The aspiration of attaining Moksha was in my mind all morning.

After lunch I try resting but my nose kept on dripping after I woke.

In the evening after several failed attempts to get connected to the Internet (first a power outage, then a connection failure) I re-climb Indragiri Hill, all 750 stone cut steps, to see the sunset. I guess you can tell I really like that hill alot.

I pick my way gingerly over a less trodden path to Channanna Basti set away from the main crowd going to and from the colossus to view the sunset.

While waiting a priest arrives to give last prayers to the idol enshrined. He chants in just the right frequency to make the small chamber resound with his voice. The vibrations turn me into an empty vessel. It is not so much an emptiness but a potential to resonate.

I try to keep this openness as the sun creeps towards the horizon in its own time. I am thwarted by small fears and panic attacks of the shoe rack counter closing and not getting my slippers back, as people start leaving the premises in the distance.


Despite my best, and worst, efforts, the sun does not change its time or place. This is what I took with me down the hill that evening.

Belur, Halebid, Sravanabelagona


Did I mention the weather here is nice?

I've travelled from Belur to Halebid to Sravanabelagona via Channarayapatna by bus, all without breaking a sweat thanks to the mild climate! In the mornings and evenings it is akin to being in air conditioned comfort. In the afternoon it is just slightly on the warm side but with plenty of sunlight. Friendly conversation on the bus reveals Bangalore and its environs to be this nice weather wise all year around.

And the bus conductors have a great grasp of English and are helpful enough to make bus hopping a breeze. There are female conductors, the first I have seen since setting foot in India, and they give snazzy computerized printouts for tickets that clearly state your destination and fare. Wow!

The buildings have immaculate plastered finishes with bright coats of fresh paint, from urban shophouses to rural farmsteads. Absent is the dull patina of scruffiness, the smells of sewage, rot and feet, the darkened interiors and the dry dusty landscape I had thought was a characteristic of India while travelling through Andra Pradesh. In its place are satellite dishes on pitched roofs of terracotta tile and the smell of freshly cut grass.

Ceiling Detail, Interior

The temples I have visited, the Chennakeshava Temple in Belur, Hoysaleshvara Temple, Jain Bastis and Kedareshvara Temple in Halebid, are superbly maintained with manicured lawns and parks, all without admission charges save for the small tip for the shoe rack guy.


I am thinking it is due in part to the affluence of the Bangalore Boom of the 80's that has spilled over to the rest of the state. However, two weeks in India does not an expert make! So I just settle myself to enjoy the experience.

However frequent power outages are also the norm here. And the people arn't as friendly and approachable. A greater proportion of passers-by avert their eyes when I make eye contact. And a small number seem almost hostile to my presence. It also seems the norm here for children to demand pens and Singapore currency.

In Karnataka

autostitch_temple gopura

My train ride to Bangalore was peaceful and hospitable thanks to Madhu from Hyderabad!

Moving from Andra Pradesh to Karnataka was quite a transition! The weather is markedly cooler here, much to my relief!

I have two and a half weeks before my life bliss courses commence at the ashram in Bidadi near Bangalore. I decide to spend the time exploring Mysore, Halebid, Belur and Sravanabelagola.

The cool weather makes travelling such a pleasure, I switch buses with ease, moving from Bangalore to Hassan, then to Belur.

Its a peaceful enough town and I have a huge hotel room, so I'll be basing myself here for now.

Hitting the Museums

I relented while waiting for my train to Bangalore and hit the State Museum, Science Center and the Museum of Modern Art.

One thing sad I've noticed is the lack of lighting of exhibits in general, in the museums I've been to so far in Andra Pradesh, with the exception of the Museum of Modern Art, shrouding everything with dull and gloom, and hiding rich details and nuances.

I am wondering if its a consequence of poor maintenance resulting in faulty/ non-existent lighting, or a cost saving measure.

I am also in awe that one of the most important exhibitions in the Science Center - the Dwarka archeological section, has maps and directions all scrawled by hand with felt tip markers! Surely such an exhibit deserves a little more?