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Video: At the Temple with Ratna & Friends

Earlier in this trip (I’m writing to you from Mumbai, the fourth of six cities in this India tour), when we were in Chennai, one of our hosts, Ratna Mukherjee of the U.S. Consulate, woke us relatively early so we could visit the famous Kapaleeshwarar Temple.  Outside there is a vestibule where everyone takes off their shoes before entering; seeing me and Bob Webb, my stage manager, come in, an attendant helpfully pulled out two plastic chairs for us.  (Bob, an accomplished Bhutto dancer, is quite adroit and didn’t need one; I, on the other hand — or foot — was grateful.)  It had just rained — and so, for the one time in our visit to this southern Indian city, the temperature was not swelteringly hot (you can see in the video that it was still overcast).  The damp soil of the temple grounds cheered the soles of my feet.  The mood among the temple-goers was deeply reverential.  The effect of the numerous colorful depictions of gods — many of them stacked up in a dazzling, narrowing column at the temple gates — was to lift the spirits even of this secular Westerner to a rare level of joy (tempered only by a constant yearning for my loved ones from home to be sharing this experience with me).  A group of adorable children darted around playfully as the adults prayed.  The message of this place, as I felt it: and, not or!