I feel that I’m by far one of the most fortunate people on this planet. I’m entirely not sure which planet that might be, because I feel as if I’m on a different planet than where I’ve been living, but never-the-less. I sit on a train bound for Amritsar, on my way to Dalhousie and Dharamsala for about 11 days, looking out at the Indian countryside, green, thatched huts. Earlier leaving Delhi, I saw lots of garbage, pigs, people squatting, but now farmland and a breath of fresh air.
During the past week I was feeling quite anxious and it was very difficult, but after a talk with my son and a friend, things started falling into place again. (I’m seeing mounds of cow dung, water buffalo, a few buildings, some still being constructed, others that will just sit and become ghosts) I co-facilitated a workshop for VSO India staff with my mate Mary from the UK. It was quite fun and we even put in a basketball exercise. It’s so incredibly enjoyable to be as creative as possible, so much more fun than the usual. (We’re stopping at a station and people are walking all over the tracks, waiting to get onto their train. An Indian man sat down next to me, he had just travelled to Iran for business. Oh the people you will meet and the things that you will see).
I was in Bhopal and Ujaan recently to do my first co-facilitated workshop. Went with my mates Allan and Margaret from the UK. We stayed in a place called the SOS Village which are actually set up around the world. The concept is that abandoned/orphaned children with disability are brought to the Village to live in a family environment. There are groupings of houses with six children and a “mother” and “auntie” living in the homes with the children. Of course, I found a b-ball court and played a bit of b-ball with a number of the boys, as the girls have a separate play area. Given the mix of disability though I ended up doing great circle games, holding hands, with the boys. There was lots of laughing. One boy was in a wheelchair and he participated in everything which was so good for my heart.
I made my first cultural faux-paux at the Village, by putting on my bathing suit and walking through some sprinklers shirtless. (I’m seeing these brick huts and a number of brick making factories). I was told by one of the administrators that the females were quite uncomfortable. I apologized profusely to this administrator and the director and they said don’t worry about it. I need to remember to be a bit more cautious when I’m out in the “countryside”.
Ujaan was magical as we stayed at an ashram, where abandoned people are brought. Upon arriving at Ujaan we went to hospital to visit a client who was pregnant. Apparently she also had a mental disorder. This was at about 7 PM and by 11 AM the next morning the client was back at the Ashram with a baby girl. She wasn’t allowed to stay at the hospital because of her apparent mental condition. The ashram was really in a very rural environment and we ate on a rooftop, a scrumptious meal and slept outside. Absolutely the magic of India at its very best. The next morning we toured the facility and one could see the happiness from having a place to live but also the sadness of living with a mental disorder.
How does one actually put into words the magic that is all around us? We try but there is also something unworldly, at least through my filters, in it all. Something well beyond words, when one’s world is totally turned upside down and what one thought was the “way” of doing things is absolutely not. (I’m also watching the Lakers-Nuggets score on MSN.com, 76-76 after three quarters).
Delhi is a place where one can ride an incredibly modern metro, but when one comes out at the New Delhi stop to go to the train, one sees a mass of people crouched, sitting on the ground, sleeping at the station, not necessarily modern trains. It makes me pause and wonder how did this all get built? Is it really possible given the construction methods? (The metro of course) A house is being built across the street from me and it is just so surprising to see it go up. There is a work crew consisting of both men and women in saris and it is just remarkable, but it is, in fact going up.
I love the fact though that I can see, smell and feel all of this. I don’t really like the heat and the dust, but I share this with so many others. (I’m seeing these large mounds of straw with large mounds of dung next to them and people are actually using tractors, women in saris picking something, the thatched huts where the workers most likely live).
I’m doing my very best to connect with others, trying to start a Men’s Group, and yes there are commonalities, we’re all human, but we are also so very different. The diversity that I’m finding is in some ways similar to what I’ve experienced with others in the US, but here I am the foreigner, a lot of the time not understanding what is being said to me, especially by the young girls who live downstairs from me. They know my name now, call me Mike, but then I don’t necessarily know what they are saying, although they do make themselves clear about what they want to eat out of my refrigerator.
I feel that India is really just whetting my appetite for seeing more of the world, but not just seeing, truly experiencing. I think that India will open up so many more opportunities for me. In a way it’s too bad that I didn’t start this when I was younger, but I was doing other things that seemed very important. I have no regrets about what I’ve done in my past, although I know that I’ve hurt others, which was never my intention. But now I have this entirely new world opening up. (Lakers won and I’m seeing fields and fields of sunflowers-the unexpected).
What will this new world bring? So hard to say and know, but everyday seems to create a new opportunity, a new way of seeing things , of just being. (The sunflowers are just spectacular). Nothing is done by rote, it’s all about creativity, shedding the past and making the future, but truly being right in the moment.
India, sweet India.