The Plane to Nowhere and Sufism

I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out how to frame my day and share it with you – but after several lousy starts I’ve concluded that some stories just need to be told and not worked.

Before we went to the beach, I had heard about a man who gave ordinary people rides on a Boeing simulator that he bought and parked in the middle of a large village. With the help of a friend who had met the gentleman, we made reservations to board the plane yesterday.  I told the kids and my housekeeper, nanny and driver (why do I always feel defensive when I write about my help?)  that we were going on an adventure together.   I also invited the driver to bring his 3-year-old son.

For a nominal fee, we collected our boarding passes, climbed the stairs and entered the plane.  Onboard, we ate snacks and a light lunch, learned how to wear a life jacket and what to do in the case of an emergency, toured the cockpit and cargo hold, and exited via the emergency slide!

The owner, Mr. Gupta,  finances the simulator by renting it out for “air hostess” training, but the raison d’etre of the project is to give ordinary citizens who may never have an opportunity to fly the experience of entering an airplane and simulating a flight.

Of course, my worldly kids were bored with the seat-based activities and lecture but the cockpit and slide were a huge hit:

This row seats my helper fairies and little Deepu, the driver’s son:

I love this shot of my nanny, Bhina and her Sari flying down the slide:

George demonstrating how to inflate the life vest.

Afterwards, we went to my driver’s house for a “thank you” tea.  For those of you familiar with my blog since August, here’s a picture of Jagmohan’s 5-month old son, Tanuj.    I attended his naming ceremony in early September.  (Pics on old site:  http://www-standupcomedy.blogspot.com)

Last night, we met friends for an early dinner at an Australian restaurant where the hamburgers are short of divine but as close to good as we are going to get here in India.  Desire feeds off absence and I have never craved beef the way I do now!

After dinner we went to the tomb of Nizamuddin, a Sufi poet and saint.  Sufism is a mystical form of Islam.  Some Sufi muslims use music and dance as a form of prayer and avenue to connect with God.  In the most profound state of prayer, Sufis enter a trance  or mystical ecstasy – and they  “whirl” in dance – thus known as whirling dervishes.   Sufis also have shrines to honor their saints and holy advisors. This form of Isam is very popular in India because it seems more accessible and in some ways, similar to the idolatry practiced by Hindus and some Christians.

Here is Nizzamudin’s tomb.  He lived during the 13th century.  Only men are permitted to enter and throw rose petals on the tomb.  Women gather and pray outside:

I stuck the lense of my camera into the screen separating the women from the tomb and shot this:

We sat outside the tomb to listen to musicians and prayers:

I have a friend who lives in the neighborhood and I intend to go back during the day to see the charitable schools and feeding centers run by the Sufi community.  We passed through a labyrinth of alleys and stalls to find the tomb and had to leave our shoes along the way before entering the shrine area.  Here’s a typical stall selling roses for the tombs.  The flowers were delightfully fragrant:

And while we are on topic – look at all of these roses!  It’s Delhi’s International Rose Garden.  I went this week and almost whirled in ecstasy myself!

And this friends, is a very happy Theo:

Have a great week!  My kids return to school on Monday and I have lots of new goodies on my plate this next semester, all of which you will get to enjoy with me…


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