The much hyped Hyderabad conversions have proved a damp squib. The ceremony I attended today where the organisers had claimed 100,000 would convert attracted perhaps one percent of that number. The day started badly when the stage supporting the assembled VIPs (including me!) collapsed beneath us - none hurt.
As it became clear that the numbers would be low and that the event would start several hours late patience started to fray, and the Taiwanese nuns and monks who had flown over with the Ven Hsing Yun were mumrmuring about the organnisation and being there on flase pretences. Hsing Yun is a major figure in Taiwan and TV crews followed his every step - but the event hardly lived up to his stature.
The siumple, moving diksa ceremony went off smoothly, and a series of speeches started. Just as I came to the microphone to make my own the organisers announced that their time was up, and the police had told them they needed to reopen the road.
It is so hard to tell the reality of what is happening here from the rhetoric and the posturing. Various theories are circulating about the small size of the sucess, but a key issue seems to be that the organisers focused on getting high-profile guests to attend rather than mobilising ordinary people from the vilages.
Meanwhile some international media coverage is starting. See the Times online at: http://business.timesonline.co.uk/section/0,,8214,00.html and the Guardian at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/india/story/0,,1922410,00.html