Welcome to Vrindavan

After yesterday’s adventurous three-hour car ride from Delhi, we have finally arrived in Vrindavan.

The journey here was overwhelming. Fighting the Delhi traffic, morning smog, people, horns, rubble, trucks, and animals was more difficult than I had anticipated.

The A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada Gate at the entrance to Vrindavan

Vrindavan is far more peaceful than Delhi. In fact, you feel as if you’re approaching North Carolina’s beaches when you enter the city–vibrant greenery lines the street path and bright advertisements offer elite condos and retirement spots for devotees. Vrindavan, like Delhi, is still impoverished–but perhaps more colorfully so.

Things are simple in Vrindavan. Women sit in small fields (in the middle of the “city”) eagerly pressing together cow manure patties by hand for fuel. Their hard work is visible only by the fingertip impressions left in the patties as they dry in the afternoon sun.

The animals are simple, too. There is a time-tested system of monkeys loitering on high walls and rooftops–eying their next pair of glasses to hold hostage for food. Not far behind theses sneaky ones are guards yelling and shooting pebbles from slingshots. The street dogs and sacred cows stand in the road unassumingly–enjoying the show of man v. monkey.

A guard at MVT ashram armed with a slingshot to deter aggressive Vrindavan monkeys.

The people are a bit more complex. I ventured out on my first crowded Indian street by foot yesterday at noon. A few minutes in, I became quickly overwhelmed and we had to turn back.  I had made eye contact with a hunched-over widow beggar who reached out to me with her stubs for hands. My eyes filled with tears–and my thoughtful husband realized it was too much, too soon.

There have been more moments like that one here in Vrindavan, where you can encounter Indian life so closely. More on those later.

Nota bene: As I’m typing this, the men outside the Internet cafe are teasing a tribe of 20 rooftop monkeys with green apples and sticks. The man v. monkey game seems to never get old.

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