|Day 8: Murshidabad - Mayapur
Crazy Is As Crazy Does
I took the liberty of skipping a couple of on-board presentations this morning to work on trip journals. Sure it would have been great to lounge on the sun deck and just soak up the view. Or maybe hang out with Vince and John from California or Bob and Walter from Texas to continue getting to know them. But no. As an unprofessional travel journalist, this is my job, and the fans come first. I did tear myself away from writing, however, for lunch and again in the early afternoon for a cooking class. I figured the fans can wait; it won’t kill ‘em.
Executive Chef Prantik had prepared two recipes to fool us into thinking cooking Indian food was easy. The lentil soup was actually pretty doable and tasted delicious, but the samosas, also delicious, were clearly way more trouble than I would ever take on. Once I heard that Costco sells frozen samosas that you bake in the oven, I realized that making the dough, rolling it out in thin layers, stuffing little dough pockets with a potato and pea mixture and then deep frying them, was not going to happen for me in this lifetime.
Eileen took a stunning turn as volunteer chef assistant for the lentil soup preparation. She stirred, she tasted, and she offered suggestions to the chef of when to put ingredients in. He seemed to want to do things his own way, and while Eileen thought the end product was big success, she also thought the chef just might have a few control issues.
Our one big shore excursion today was to Mayapur, the Hare Krishna Mothership, if you will. I always wondered what happened to all those orange sheets after the airports kicked them out. Now I know. The Krishna Consciousness Movement, also know as ISKCON, placed their world headquarters at the birthplace of their founder who was considered to be the reincarnation of Lord Krishna. They are currently building a 700,000 square foot temple to open in 2020 that will rival the size of the Vatican with a tall domed planetarium. According to our guide, Julie, the plan is to “trick” people into coming to see the incredible planetarium and then convert them to Hare Krishna while visiting.
Where do I begin about Julie? American born in Ohio, converted to Krishna in college, and now at the age of 70, she has 8 children with her Indian husband and gives tours as part of her community work. I first got a whiff of crazy when she kept telling us how lucky we were just to be there as she’d break into spontaneous belly laughs. In between euphoric giggles, she tried to convince us that the waters of the Ganges River is scientifically proven to be completely pure. Call me cynical, but unless public bathing and clothes washing is part of a high tech water filtration strategy, I’ll pass on filling up my water bottle in the Ganges. She really lost credibility when she told our tour group that cow dung is completely safe for home use and is quite delicious when used in cooking. I knew at that point that she was bat shit crazy, and I made a mental note to not have dinner at Julie’s house if invited.
Julie went on and on about how Hare Krishna is really just yoga with singing and dancing. The word “cult” never came up in her tour but seeing hundreds of people loudly chanting “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare” and then throwing themselves prostrate on the floor to “devote themselves completely” did plant the seed in my head. The temple had several rooms with life size dioramas of ornately costumed gods standing on huge stages. The freakiest part was when Julie led us in a long line to be blessed by one of the priests. He basically just placed a golden bowl turned upside down an upside down on our heads and mumbled something as we walked by. I almost asked him if we could use a clean bowl for my head, but I didn’t want to hold up the line.
As you might guess, our trip to Mayapur was THE topic of conversation back at the boat. Several people thought Julie was crazy for sure and some thought she was high on drugs. Even Sumit weighed in on the drug theory and said they were all high. While Cindy certainly was not ready to join up, she was all for letting people follow their own bliss if it worked for them. I was more in the crazy school of thought and decided to not trade in my wardrobe for orange sheets, even though it is my favorite color.