Friday, June 18, 2004

Meal Conversations in Pune and Bangkok

Meal Conversations in Pune and Bangkok

The last time I had a good conversation about Indian religions was with my ex-colleague from India, Shailendra, many years back in Pune. Pune is a quaint city located in West India, surrounded by beautiful hills and boasts of a pleasant climate. Even though I only stayed there for a night, I remember being captivated by the quiet charm of the place.

With any of my other friends, our conversation would have revolved around the the 3 'W's: work, women and wine. But That night over dinner with Shailendra we talked animatedly about famous religious personalities from India like Vivekananda, Yogananda and Sri Aurobindo.

The next day Shailendra--knowing that I'm a great admirer of Gandhi--wanted to show me the historical Aga Khan Palace where the Mahatma was put under house imprisonment by the Britishs, but unfortunately it was closed for renovations. I had only one day and couldn't sample some of the other sights in Pune. But I was grateful to have had the opportunity to step foot into the cultural center of the Maharashtra state.

Pune is also famous among neo-hippies as the location for the Osho Meditation Resort. Osho is of course the late Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, the disgraced sex guru who had and still has a huge following in the West. As a matter of fact, I do know at least two Indonesian friends of mine who are captivated by his teachings.

I suddenly recall Pune because I happened to have lunch here today in Bangkok with a new acquaintance, Jeff--a towering six-footer black American guy. He reminds me of Michael Clarke Duncan's character in the The Green Mile. Like the prisoner-cum-faith-healer character in the movie, Jeff is also a bit of a mystical person.

He told me how Yogananda's book, Autobiography of a Yogi influenced him a lot when he first read it as a sixteen-year-old teenager. I too am a great fan of the book and have read it at least twice and even listened to an audio version of it. Over lunch, our conversation ranged from Madame Blavatsky to Chinese acupuncture.

It was a welcome change indeed from the usual banter among male expatriates here about the charms of Thai women. And it gave me the perfect subject to blog on another Friday night alone in Bangkok...

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