More letters from India 2
by Premananda

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January 3, 1974

Dear Mom and Dad,

Well, here I am, after a week of travel and travail, in Calcutta! All is well with the body, although I experienced a kind of total exhaustion and shock during my two days in Delhi. I don’t know what it was. I think coming direct by plane was just too much utter change too fast. The mind couldn’t absorb it, and being alone didn’t help, but perseverance and endurance have won the day, and I now feel very happy and healthy.

I am soon to call Mr. Jiten Kundu, a friend of Athena’s, and see about going to see her Baba. I arrived last night by the wrong train at the wrong station too late to call him, so I put up in "The Paragon" hotel. The usual bare room and bed in a section of Calcutta frequented by Western young people. The train ride was kind of fun. I was especially glad when we started coming into Bengal and the climate turned tropical with lush jungle foliage on all sides and an increasing amount of bright, rich green everywhere.

Delhi had been experiencing its worst cold spell in 30 years, and it was uncomfortable—on top of the fact that I hate that city almost as much as New York. I got a tetanus shot there just to be safe, since I had cut myself, and am now gargling with this mouthwash for a bad canker sore. Strange how these little common things seem worse over here since you just never know what kind of exotic germs are around. No bowel trouble yet, and I’m even getting to like the hot food. Prices have gone up considerably, and there is a bit more unrest among the people since this inflation, which is worldwide I guess, just can’t be borne here. A lot of talk about politics, crisis upon crisis, and apparently a growing communist movement.

The poverty, no matter how much I thought I was prepared to see it, is incredible. One just forgets what it is like "in the flesh." It cannot be imagined. It sets one to thinking very deeply about things. As Bucky Fuller says, "There is enough for everyone—so what’s wrong?" Something is terribly wrong somewhere, and I guess it is the universal self-centeredness of human beings everywhere. No one looks at the whole globe.

I will be going to Dakshineswar soon to see the places where Ramakrishna lived and the famous ashram called Belur Math where his ashes lie. In the case of such a highly developed being such as he, there is generally an intense atmosphere of uplifting and peaceful vibrations in such places where they lived and mediated, and these can be experienced by a sensitive and open mind. It is unusual for Westerners to be open and/or knowledgeable enough to feel it, but not impossible by any means. Perhaps I will send you something about Ramakrishna so you can know a little about the man whose influence has pulled me halfway around the world.

I will be trying to learn some Bengali while I am here, at least a number of Bengali songs. It is supposed to be one of the easier Indian languages and some of India’s greatest devotional songs are composed in Bengali. The Bengali people are generally considered among the most emotional and artistic of Indians, the most "warm-hearted" and friendly.

I’ve crossed Mother Ganges twice on the train, once at Benares and once at Dakshineswar (OM the Vivekananda bridge—Vivekananda was Ramakrishna’s prime disciple and the one responsible for first bringing the ancient teachings of Vedanta to the West. Well, say hello to all for me, and I shall write again soon. Stay well and happy and don’t let the energy crisis get you down.