Friday, March 9, 2018


MEMORIES 9th Installment
(Scroll down for earlier installments, or type MEMORIES in the search box.)

©Edward R. Close 2018 

Our visit to India was, for us, far more than just a vacation. We were on a spiritual pilgrimage. I had been a member of Self-Realization Fellowship, practicing Kriya Yoga since 1960, and Jacqui and I were married in an Indian Fire Ceremony at SRF Lake shrine in Pacific Palisades California by an SRF monk. Our primary point of pilgrimage in India was the burial site of Sri Yukteshwar Giri, author of “The Holy Science” and the guru of SRF Founder Paramahansa Yogananda. Swami Sri Yukteshwarji’s burial site is in an ashram in the city of Puri, on the Bay of Bengal.

In Delhi, we spent some time at the Vedanta Ramakrishna Mission, where we were able to meditate in the temple, a rare privilege for westerners. At one point, I opened my eyes and the stature of Ramakrishna appeared to be alive, turning to look at me, nodding and smiling. I blinked, and the smiling saint became the statue again. Daydream? Imagination? It seemed very real!

From New Delhi we flew to Bhubaneshwar, arriving there in the late afternoon. We enjoyed visiting the many ancient temples there. We also attended an all-night-long spiritual celebration with devotees of the Hindu Saint Bhaduri Mahasaya, also known as the Levitating Saint. I participated with sadhus (Hindu aesthetics) in circumambulating the ritual fire while Jacqui and Joshua sat and watched. After the ceremony, we visited with the Rani and her son, the ruling Brahman family of the area.

Bhaduri Mahasaya

In Bhubaneshwar, we hired a car and driver and traveled to Puri by way of Konark. In Puri, we stayed in an Indian hotel near the beach, and paid our respects to Sri Yukteshwar by meditating in front of the Mandir for several hours.

Konark Sun Temple, Orissa State

Sri Yukteshwar Mandir, Puri

Back in Yanbu, I found my transfered to the Engineering Department to be a great improvement. Instead of environmental planner, I was now environmental engineer in charge of over-seeing all environmental subcontracts, I Also continued to try to find ways to solve the many environmental problems that the Company had created. Daily confrontations with an incompetent supervisor were, thankfully, a thing of the past. Instead of being housed in sweltering boxcars, the Engineering Department occupied an actual building, part of the permanent buildings of Madinat Yanbu Al-Sinayah.

The Chief Engineer, a large, imposing man of Greek descent from New Jersey, was a competent manager. He commanded my respect, even if I did not agree with some of his policies. On the first day, he sat me down and said:

“I’m told that you are a trouble maker.” He peered at me over half glasses with dark rims. “I don’t want any trouble in this department. Understand?”

“I don’t want any trouble either, Sir” I replied. “All I want, is to do my job.”

“And I’ll decide what your job is.” He said pointedly.

Apparently, my former supervisor had filled his ear. In spite of this, we developed a reasonably amicable working relationship. That is, it was amicable until the day he asked me to investigate a possible archaeological site in an area designated as a sub-contractor lay-down zone near the northeastern corner of the Industrial City property.

“Eddie,” (No one had called me Eddie since I was a kid back in Missouri.) “the sub-contractor has reported finding some bones or something out there. I want you to go out there and investigate. I want you to write me up a report so that we can go ahead and rough-grade that area.”

When I arrived at the site, the subcontractor showed me what he had found. He had bulldozed a three-foot deep, twenty-foot wide cut in the bank of a ravine in order to gain access to his designated lay-down area (a staging area for construction materials like pipes, caissons, and concrete blocks, prior to their use building the industrial city). Rib cage bones were hanging out of the side of the cut.
“Do you think they’re human bones?” He asked. He looked worried.

It didn’t take me long to find a human skull, a stray mandible (jaw bone), a femur, and assorted other human bones. The bones were bleached white, but so well preserved, that I thought at first that they must be recent burials. But as I explored the area beyond the ravine, I found rectangular groupings of stone and coral rock, marking the locations of former buildings, littered with pot shards. As I looked farther, I found a few stone implements among the potshards, indicating to me that the site might be very old. This was to be rough-graded to be used as a lay-down area!

There were dozens of building sites, and a hand-dug well near the edge of the ravine. I sounded it to find that it was about twenty feet deep. It was dry, either filled in by blowing sand, or perhaps it no longer intersected the groundwater table. Across another dry wash was an extensive cemetery, rows of mounds of black rock and sand. I estimated at least thirty or forty graves.

I was not able to write the report that the Company management wanted. So, I was on their not-so-cool employee list again. I didn’t trust them not to destroy my report and precede to rough-grade the site. The bones and traces of the village site could be buried quickly with the efficient earth-moving equipment they had on hand. Concerned that this might happen, I went to a senior British engineer I knew to be one of the organizers of the local Historical Society. He advised me to call the Ministry of Antiquities in Jeddah, which I did. They sent a team of two men out to Yanbu to appraise the site.
The men from the Ministry told me that the site was pre-Mohammedan, and probably an important stop on the ancient Spice Trail (Frankincense Trail) that ran from Southern Arabia (now Yemen and Oman) to the Nabatean site called Petra, in Northern Arabia (present-day Jordan). The village was to be protected as a historical site. The lay-down area had to be relocated.

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