Travel Log – “Notes from India of the Divine Mysteries”
It is 2015, I have been in India since, October 7th, starting off in Mumbai shooting film for a few days with Director Amin Dawdy, then north to Ajmer and Pushkar, where we began our second round of filming for this spiritual and mystical documentary about the Sufi Mystic, Hazrat Inayat Khan. From Ajmer, we took our second overnight train ride to Agra. Though seeing the Taj Mahal was beautiful in its design and splendor, it wasn’t until the next morning when we left at 5 am to go to Fatehpur Sikri and the palace of Akbar, that I felt the essence of the land speaking through this sacred site. God speaks through the eyes of its people, in between the thoughts there is a space; this space I call the mind of God, and that could be found here at this temple of red stone. From Agra, we took a day train to Gwalior to visit the tomb site of Tansen, a prominent Indian classical music composer, musician and vocalist, known for a large number of compositions, and also an instrumentalist who popularized and improved the plucked rabab (of Central Asian origin). He was among the Navaratnas (nine jewels) at the court of the Mughal Emperor Jalal ud-din Akbar. Akbar gave him the title Mian, an honorific, meaning learned man. Each step we kept walking was a sound current of an unfolding story being written through light, as we filmed invisible possibilities of knowing truth. Nothing was seen, but felt as Amin and I ventured out on this journey, asking questions from the inside, and seeing what unfolded in front our eyes, and our lenses to capture. It was a mystical process, still unfolding each step of the way. From Gwalior, and the heat of Northern India, we took an overnight train to the City of Varanasi. I had been in Varanasi 2 years ago, during Maha Kumbha Mela. But Varanarsi changes with the rising sun each day, and Mother Ganga has a language of her own. So nothing repeats itself, but the glory of life unfolding each day. We started filming at 5 am as the sun rises over the crest of her majestic glory (Mother Ganga), lending to cinematographic images that only a God, a energy supreme to my own intentions could ever create. Filming in Varanasi is and will always be one of my favorite places in the world. It is the apex of all spiritual pathways, Hindu’s, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Sufi’s, etc.………it’s in the land, and the silent mist rising over the Mother Ganga in the morning that faith is spoken with no words, but felt in prayer.
From Varanasi, we fought our way out of the city during the biggest celebration of the Goddess Durga, called Navratri, to get to our train station in order to take an overnight train to Kolkata. We sat in the train station over 3 hours waiting for our train held in a serpentine cloth of grace, keeping us steady towards the next leg of our journey. We had left the city of Varanasi, filled with wonder and………..with more chapters to be written. Bengali has spice, flavor, and mystery. It is a city where many poets, writers, artists and yogis have come from, and brought their knowledge to the West. This city worships the Goddess Kali. It can be found in the history of the people whom go to the depths of understanding God, and how to create art with God at the center of the work. The next morning we went out to film, and were met with thousands, if not millions of people coming to the streets to celebrate the Goddess Durga. This wall of people did not stop us, but gave us verve, and energy to stay afoot and find the essence of truth, and the un-truths that can steer us away from our own sense of life, and loving life no matter what. What might have been lost with materialism, throughout our world, lives in sunder, protected effortlessly with out our human intention by by essence of its own power. It’s a big pot of people in these cities of India, and still the echoes of spirit play a tune that only the blind man can see, because it is infinite space beyond the vision of our human eye.
As a filmmaker, its not about what we shoot, but about the color, the light, the movement of energy that makes a shot, speaking from the voice of God. It is sound. It is a story that unfolds upon one breathe and a blink of an eye, or shutter of a camera, the story paints its own wings, and thus we fly…….to enter into a space where the heart lives. And this is the path of a Sufi. A heart with wings…… Kolkata offered this and more, for the street life is a cacophony of bright colors, and weathered stone-buildings. People live on the streets, nothing is hidden, life is raw. The Voice of God is the only salvation of hope, and faith……….Life feeds life……no matter what. Everything must be offered to something higher…….even in the painted dirt, flowers spring color of this truth….. From Kolkata, we flew to Hyderabad. It is a modern city mirrored by an ancient past of Mughal aristocracy. Yesterday we drove through the old city to visit the Royal Banquet Falaknuma Palace. Majestic and royal are the only words that paint the truest image of what it represents. The contrast from the rest of our trip is palpable. For the last 15 days, we have walked the steps of a mystic, of a seeker, in the mud, the dirt, in between the cries of the poor. These people are the earth, though blinded as the modern day mystic might not realize, the poor have their own richness, and that is close to the earth….humble, and simple, with very little desire………