Saturday, July 29, 2006

two discoveries in hyderabad: lost and finds

In the city of Hyderabad – or Hydro as Sangeeta calls it – I make two discoveries of note. It is in this state of Andhra Pradesh that His Holiness the Dalai Lama recently conferred the Kalachakra initiation at Amaravati, a major Buddhist site whose importance seems to have peaked some 2,000 years ago. In my attempts to learn more about the history of Buddhism in Andhra, I learn that the state is full of old monasteries, cave complexes and stupa sites, in various stages of archaeological excavation. Several such sites are in the vicinity of Visakhapatnam, and I plan to visit them soon.

The other major discovery I make in Hyderabad is pretty far from this first. In many ways. Though I went to Hyderabad full of plans to use the time to deepen my study of Sanskrit grammar, when I actually arrived I rapidly discovered that I urgently needed some rest. I did do some Sanskrit, mainly to keep Sangeeta company while she did hers, but mostly …how to put it? I rested. On Sangeeta’s couch. In front of Sangeeta’s TV. It turns out that Sangeeta had the entire first season of Lost, a show I had never seen. Within the eight days I was in Hyderabad, Sangeeta and I watched the entire first season together. It never occurred to me that I missed American television. In fact, I had lived in a house without television for most of the last seven eight years or so. Yet the show’s basic premise struck me as eerily familiar – that one is dropped into society with people one does not know, in an environment operating on principles that continually challenge one’s assumptions and which one must continually re-assess … well, that is not too bad a model of the experience of trying to figure out how to manage life and get research done here. But watching Lost, someone actually gives you the back-story. And somehow, there is great comfort in the hope that we viewers actually will come to understand the principles of the reality operating on the island --a hope I cannot always afford to indulge in my own life. In the meantime, from the scene where they first realize Sun speaks English, Hurley has given me new language for responding appreciatively and with poise to the surprises life here can throw: “Didn’t see that coming.”

So maybe it was not just about getting some needed downtime, or pining for American culture. But in any case, we are already plotting ways to get a copy of the second season… and friends, I know you are all a full season ahead, but please do not spoil any of the surprises to come. Especially if things do not become more clear!

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