I must say, when the power goes out at night in a place like Sringeri, it leaves room for some of the most beautiful sights. Tonight, the moon is full, the clouds are gone, and the power is out.
Usually, the sky is full of stars. And I mean full of stars… There is hardly a spot where you cannot see a star; that is how many there are. I have never seen so many stars in my life except at a planetarium. It’s always a beautiful sky, no doubt – the sunset is amazing to look at from campus (the sun sets over the mountaintops that lie southwest of Sringeri), the clouds always come in beautiful formations, and the night always holds a certain magic as it begins. Every time I look up at the stars, I just get caught up in the sky and many times I have to stop to stare and wonder at the beauty that this place holds. It’s been about 7 months since I came here, and I am still as in awe of Sringeri’s nighttime sky as I was when I saw it for the first time. The power doesn’t always go out though, and the amount of stars you can see is inversely proportional to the amount of extraneous light coming from homes and street lamps (there is not much to begin with), but when the power does go out the sky is even more beautiful.
Tonight, to add to this beautiful scene, it is a full moon [edit: well, OK, a day before the full moon, but still pretty full]. The reason I was so inspired to write tonight is because there is so much light coming from the moon that it looks like day outside. I’m not exaggerating; the light from the moon is enough to illuminate the whole place on its own! There is literally no need for lamps, torches, lanterns, or flashlights. The combination of power outage, no clouds, and full moon is so intense in this place that one can survive completely on moonlight if need be. Of course, that’s exactly what we’re doing, as we have no choice sometimes.
Since the moon is so bright, one can hardly see any stars. This makes tonight even more awesome because when one looks at the moon, there is nothing around it – it’s total darkness except for the moon. It’s like I’ve been transported to some parallel world where their sun is in the form of what we call the moon. It’s so brilliant! And beautiful. I can understand now why so many poets have compared the face of their lover to the moon, or compared the presence/touch of their lover to the moonlight. It’s soothing in a way, just to stare at the moon and feel its rays smiling down on you. The moon holds so much value in poetry from a few hundred years ago, and I think it has to do with the fact that there were no artificial lights in cities at that time – they got clear views of the sky and the moon at night (except when there were clouds… but that makes the presence of the moon all the more rare and fantastic!).
My point is that I was amazed to walk outside and find that not only was the power out, but I could see everything perfectly without a flashlight. What an adventure! Imagine living in a time when they got to see this kind of thing every night…
Another interesting thing I enjoy about Sringeri is that the people here are very fond of using candles. Suppose the power goes out – everyone lights up a candle and they work by candlelight. I always connected candlelight with fairy tales and olden times, but the people here use candles all the time. For example, yesterday evening I was sitting in a class of about 50 people around 7:00 PM and the power went out. It was very dark, so all of a sudden one of the assistant teachers brought out 6 or 7 candles, lit them, and put them on various desks in the room.
Their method of placing candles is also brilliant. (It’s amazing how people do the little things differently around the world. I swear, some of the things that I get to witness and analyze here are beyond my imagination… and yet it is all totally matter-of-fact for the people here!) They light the candle and hold it for a few seconds in their hand while some wax melts on top, then they tilt the candle over the spot where they want to place it and let two or three drops of the liquid wax fall on that spot. As soon as the drops fall, before the liquid wax congeals, they place the candle on it. Within a second, the wax congeals fully and acts as an adhesive so that the candle sticks to the surface on which it was placed. This way, there is no need for a candleholder! I thought this was absolutely brilliant, but having come from a place where we don’t use candles anyway (or if we do, we use candleholders), I may have simply been ignorant about the method of placing a candle. Either way, I was fascinated by this process and thought it was very clever.
Overall, the nighttime experience in Sringeri is a very unique one, and I’m grateful that I get to be a part of it for this year. I have learned so much just by being in an environment where the people are so close to nature and can do things in both modern and old-fashioned ways. By being in this place and learning from the people here, I feel that I could live in almost any environment and survive well. No more taking the amenities in my life for granted, and no more dependence on technology for survival. There is much more to be discovered, I am sure, but I’m definitely happy to share bits and pieces of what I have gained so far with those of you who read this!