Just returned from a quick, overnight visit to Fireflies, the “ashram without a guru” just outside of Bangalore, a retreat set up about four years ago by Siddhartha and Sudha. Dinesh wanted to introduce Fireflies (and Siddhartha and Sudha) to Jason Stewart and Swadhe Somoo, and I wanted to revist to see what changes had taken place since I was there two years ago.

We arrived in time to have dinner with Aravind and Omjji, instructors and guides for the Ramapo College Semester in India students who have just completed a month of their program. The ten Culture, Peace and Developement semester students had finished eating, and were milling about waiting for coffee and tea. Siddhartha and Sudha arrived a bit later, both recently returned (Sudha just that morning) from Porto Alegre, Brazil, and the World Social Forum.

Omjji, a social worker from Kerala, took no time in coralling Jason, Dinesh, the students, and others staying at Fireflies in a session of singing and dancing, leading off with Malyalam folk songs and circle dances. Caroline, who is here for a six-month project working with Tamilian sculptors to create large granite sculptures for the meditation site, contributed Scottish and Kannada songs, while some of the students brought in hip-hop and rap, as well as songs from favorite cartoons (The Flintstones). Jason had everyone wiggling their hands on top of their heads (ears), and behind their butts (tails), and hopping around making Swedish frog (quack) and pig (nuf) sounds.

The next morning, I had a chance to walk around the place before and after breakfast. The roof of the two-story library is still the most peaceful place for me. Set up among the trees, shaded by a red tile roof, and open to the breezes, it is a wonderful place to sit and contemplate life. The lake below the open air amphitheatre, anchored by an enormous banyan tree, has some water now, having been saved by Fireflies from fill and development. Much of the grounds have been planted with organic gardens and fruit trees, and the property has been enlarged with additional land and a newly built health center. There is also a new building that looks like it will house some milk cows.

The chikoo (sapota) are not yet ripe, and the mango trees are just blossoming, but the coconut trees are heavy with fruit, and we had papaya for breakfast.


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