Having been in Sringeri for about two weeks now, I have realized a few things. First of all, I’m not actually in Sringeri. Sringeri is the town nearby, about two or three kilometers from where I’m staying: in the guesthouse of the Rajiv Gandhi Campus of Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan (a.k.a. National Sanskrit University) in a village called Menase (pronounced MAY-na-say) just outside the town of Sringeri, in Karnataka, India. It’s like living in “Chicago” – we say that we live in Chicago, even though we’re from the suburbs. Although in my particular situation, I would say the distance is more like that from Hogwarts to Hogsmeade – I’m in a remote location, surrounded by fields, on a college campus, outside of a town that is accessible by foot where everyone goes once in a while to hang out. (As an aside, this place is EXACTLY like Hogwarts... I will write about that later.) It’s still far enough where one must make a special effort to go there though, even though it’s possible to go every day (there are people who live in the city itself and come to college every day from there – by foot, of course).
Menase is beautiful. I will be guilty of mentioning this several times, forgive me in advance. It is located in a valley (although not completely at the bottom, it’s sort of in mid-hill), therefore surrounded on all sides by hills, which make for excellent scenery as the backdrop for my studies (which have started, and which I will write about later).
It is presently the monsoon season, and in Sringeri this means a lot. My actual trip to Sringeri was delayed because of the rains in the first place, owing to the fact that there was nonstop rain for four or five days just before I was supposed to come (on the 15th of July). I was unclear on what that meant, however, before I actually came here. I realized that just saying “rain” does not quite capture the essence of the monsoon. It is being unable to see because of how thick the sheets of rain are, being unable to walk because you cannot see the ground due to the depth of the water, it is the uselessness of an umbrella in the face of the power of the God of the Hydrosphere. It is the swelling of the river Tunga to the point where the water level is higher than the bridge that crosses it. My umbrella is already broken; I guess American umbrellas are not made for this kind of rain. I should be (have to be) getting a new one shortly, or I will be permanently soaked!
One cannot leave one’s residence without an umbrella, even if it’s not presently raining, because one second it could be sunny and nice out, and the next it could be pouring. Sometimes, it is sunny and rainy at the same time – this confuses me but also makes me very happy. The sun and rain work together in brilliant ways, especially when everything around you is green. It makes the greens greener, and there are so many shades of green that one cannot know the beauty of this sight until one has seen it for oneself. And every shade becomes more accented with the rain.
One thing about Sringeri is quite fascinating. Despite the constant downpour, work goes on. People put on a hood-like thing; it is like draping a sweatshirt behind you, wearing only the hood. This particular accessory is made of plastic or some woven material, and covers the head, shoulders, back, and waist. It resembles a [huge] plastic grocery bag, cut in half vertically, turned upside down, and draped over the body. People can be seen wearing these things and doing their work, which could be anything – fieldwork (sowing seeds or planting crops), electric work, construction, automotive, transportation, even just random walking. They are so used to the rain that it doesn’t affect them at all! This intrigues me. For the most part, when it is raining, people are more hesitant to step outside, more reluctant to do their work. I can attest to this; although I like playing in the rain, my mind does not stay focused on my work when it is raining (it is a totally different story in Sringeri, the rain makes me extra focused). Over here, rain or no rain, people are constantly doing what they need to do.
My classes are moving slowly so far, so I will write more about those as they pick up.