Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My Melbourne Diary - An Excerpt


Today I had lunch at the Hare Krishna restaurant here in downtown Melbourne, Australia. It’s just two blocks down the street from my hotel. I couldn’t help but notice the sign: “Vegetarian. All you can eat!” Now that kind of sign is guaranteed to catch my eye.

As I walked up the stairs that led to the restaurant, I was greeted by the aroma of incense. Soft chants of “Radhe Radhe Krishna” wafted down. Inside, there were pictures of Krishna all around. The lovely ISKCON ones. I later found out that the lunch they serve is actually Prasad that’s offered to the deity at the Hare Krishna temple in Melbourne in the mornings. Prasad is always delicious. It has that extra something to it that makes it so much tastier than regular food.

I remember by maternal grandmother – Nani. At home, she used to offer a little portion of lunch to the deity every day. She called it bhog. Lunch would only be served after bhog was offered, and then all of us would be given a little bit of the bhog to eat. Believe me, that one morsel of bhog tasted yummier than all of lunch. Even though they were both the same food, technically at least!

“Eating up the World.” A pamphlet with that heading stares out at me on the restaurant table. It’s about the impact of meat eating on the world’s environment. The ISKCON (Hare Krishna) group is spreading the message about how meat-eating is causing an enormous burden to the world’s natural resources. It reiterates what I had read first when I was only thirteen. I’m happy to see that the message is very much out there, and gaining momentum. I quote from the pamphlet:
“The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations recently released a report called Livestock’s Long Shadow. This report states that animal industries are one of the ‘most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.’”

I was horrified to learn a couple of days ago that some people eat Kangaroo meat in this country, even though the natural habitat for the Kangaroo has greatly shrunk and they’re finding it hard to survive the drought over the last few years. How can we justify so much violence for the sake of tasty food? A question that has bothered me for many years now.

After lunch, I decided to go the St Kilda beach, which is about 15 minutes away by tram. It’s not really “beach” season or anything, but there’s something about the sea that always seems to draw me to it. It heals me, comforts me, and reminds me of Me! The sheer expanse and enormity of it reminds me of my own inner Self. That I’m so much more than I fool myself into believing I am. The sea lifts the veil, even though for a few minutes. The irony is that while the sea speaks to me and comforts me, I’m scared of her at the same time. I have a dreaded fear of water that makes me want to keep some distance. And water in the dark... oh that’s something I cannot deal with. I cannot look at a water body in the dark, like after sunset. Perhaps it’s a past birth experience I went through. I don’t know. Or is it that at some level, I’m scared to face my own Self?

Today my heart hurts. And watching the sea at St. Kilda is like a balm that soothes me. I even saw a Seagull hover above me and that brought me joy. I have this thing with Seagulls – I love them. I have always adored those creatures since my school days in Dubai when I would gladly give away my day’s tiffin to feed them.

I’m standing on the beach looking out towards Port Phillip Bay that opens into the Tasman Sea. I’m facing the south east corner of the world, far far away from Home India. Like a flood of memories, I am reminded of what it was like standing on the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago, marveling at the varying hues of blue painted across the lake’s surface. I remember standing at the edge of a cliff in the Pacific Palisades in San Diego California, looking towards the Pacific Ocean as its waves crashed onto the rocks way below me. I remember standing on the desert shores of the Arabian Gulf in Dubai. Each of those times, I faced a different direction; I embraced the winds from a different sea. But each time, when I looked out there, I saw… Me.