Why you might not want to Visit India.

I understand why you might not want to visit India …. It is a most confronting experience; the contrast is so evident between the rich and the poor who have literally nothing …. with little of no opportunity to improve their lives … India over time makes you question everything you thought was human, equitable and caring and truly makes you wonder about how this can be … but for me it also stripped away my own past and the connection to all that was there – all these learning experiences .. become integrated and distant from your present moment .. they make you more present and understanding, because we have to be, continual awareness of your surroundings is critical … the effect was that it felt like the past was being pushed further and further away from the present … so for that I am thankful – now those past difficult times are absent from my mind … any hurt no longer exists – it is but a past memory without emotive attachment.

There are no social programs to catch the poor … human life seems to have little value … strangely it was a surprise for me to remember after I arrived in India that it truly is a third world country, I guess I had little concept of what that actually meant …. It reminded me of another country when I was a child of about 10 when Dad moved us to the Solomon Islands … (the nature of roads, buildings and infrastructure) but the Polynesian peoples are a much more open and sharing culture, or at least they were then …. The reasons why India is a third world country were everywhere around us …. Workmen trying to cut thick rebar (reinforcing iron) with a chisel and a small sledge hammer rather than a grinder or saw – taking forever – bamboo scafolding reaching high on construction sites … wages are low and safety procedures seem lax … for instance power cables running along what passes for a footpath at waist height – unterminated power cables open on the street ,,,, no way was I going to find out if they were live, by touching them …Beggars … the real ones … (those who aren’t working for someone else in an enterprise) some will accost you as you come out of shops, restaurants and tut-tuts …. Then on the human side you have the lone mother with her baby … this visage breaks your heart … you can feel it … a beautiful child just starting out in life … and it hits you like a brick that this child, whose mother loves more than life itself most likely has little chance of living a long life …. You just give what you can – they will accept what you give them, as little as 10 rupees (about USD$0.15)… for that much will buy a meal in the street stalls … The medical system is poor, some say abysmal…. I have been told that people can collapse in the street and people will walk over them … but won’t help them. When I was ill I went to the local private hospital … where I was treated by a Western Educated specialist Doctor – blood was taken … the other tests — all appeared online via a private link later the same day. The whole experience, the visit to Doctor, Tests and pharmaceuticals cost less than USD$25.00.

So Yes I understand totally why you don’t want to go to India as a tourist …. I know I would not go again unless I went with someone … someone to have my back – I had thought that if I went again, I would go to Goa … the former Portuguese colony on the West coast, south on Mumbai …. Much more familiar and accepting to western eyes and values … I am told.

Many of these observations are from the aspect of a remote observer – a tourist if you will … but when you live in one place as a base for months … the Indian people reveal their caring side, and their humanity … it’s just different from mine … they are a different culture, hence have a different perspective on life. I still receive emails from people I met there …. They like us are living day to day and trying to live and make sense of the present moment .. unlike us … the biggest aspect of their culture is that lack of caring for others, relevant education and hence opportunity …. It seems for many to be their ambition is to have a full time job in the totally bloated Bureaucracy – But perhaps that will change over time … I hope for the sake of the 160 million “Untouchables” that something does … for they are condemned by their birth in the most part, to a life we could not even conceive of.

As I said on one of my blogs … if you go to India …. (1) Only drink bottled water … never drink tap water (2) Before you drink the bottled water, make sure that the cap seal is in place as some sellers will refill water bottles with tap water – don’t drink this, for you will get ill. (3) Take toilet paper with you everywhere … true!

E.M. Forster said “When you go to India, you come face to face with yourself” – I couldn’t agree more!

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India – a happenstance, an inspiration

I have had many challenges in my time in India, culturally, emotionally, physically and health wise, they have dramatically changed me, to in my view, prepare me for what is to come.

More than anything they have changed how I look at large groups of people, the herd of humanity so to speak, it enabled me to change, to assume nothing, to project nothing, when we can do this we can push through the surface and to see them for who they are as individuals. People in India are little different to us, except in that they are a product of their culture, their community, their environment and beliefs, and this can manifest in many ways, one maybe an emotional repression, but remember they all want what we want at the end of the day … their life like ours is a reflection of the personality, for most of humanity this is the ego mind which creates our life individually and on a wider view, collectively for all of us.

This experience came as I hobbled across the road yesterday in Dehradun. A young man, without legs … sitting on a kind of board with wheels came up to me … it truly breaks your heart, but a big smile on his face changes the impact, changes everything – it hit me as it always does, that it is truly in our attitudes where we create our lives.

In the West we may have some expectations of life, he had none, there is no safety net for him here, no social programs … but he was smiling .. a lesson and inspiration for all of us.

It reinforced in me a way to live .. from humble gratitude, staying present, accept, flow and help who you can, how you can, when you can.

When you go to India, you come face to face with yourself

I couldn’t agree more with this quote from E.M.Forster

My personal experience in India involved both my physical and spiritual bodies ….. you may remember that I was sick for over 5 weeks, now as I look back on this, I see it as a renewal, and an incredible experience, it affected not only my physical body but my spiritual self including my access to and conversations with my soul, I am not the same person I was …. what I am in transition to, I have no idea, but I obviously will.

In hindsight, together with the feelings that came when I first arrived (total self confrontation, I was way outside my comfort zone), I feel the experience has shaped me and changed me for this moment onwards, a process that stripped away the person I was, the past, relationships, ambitions, perspectives, expectations – I felt I was like a block of moist clay that once I was over the sickness itself, I was shaped anew, as my soul said, “to prepare you for what is to come”.

Change is the only constant, and how we relate to it shapes our lives – I leave India in about a month, to travel to the Mediterranean – firstly, to Cyprus, actually to Paphos on the coast of the far west of the island country I am looking forward to this, to learn more about the history of the country, the archaeology. the culture, the values and beliefs, but most of all meeting and engaging with people.

Where I go from there, I have no idea, I will play it by ear and accept and flow with what life brings,

I chose to learn Spanish, truly I am not sure why, but I know I would like to explore Spain, to start with Barcelona, as well and I have an invitation from a friend to go to Madrid, time is limited because as it is part of the Eurozone, and hence as an Australian, I have only 3 months per visit to the whole of the Eurozone.

Part of this constant change is sometimes accelerated, one cannot expect anything here in India, and assumptions are dangerous, for a start, electricity is totally unreliable, every day there is at least one power failure, mind you I suppose that is something you can rely on, whether the reason is the lack of capacity, poor distribution, faults, or conscious load shedding is unknown. The balance is covered in previous blog posts.

The landscape in India is beautiful, here in Dehradun, we are in the foothills of the Himalayas, however there are large quantities of discarded packaging from our consumerism is in most places, basically rubbish. I have also observed that in the Dehradun there are no rubbish bins, perhaps that may be part of the reason for this large amount of mainly plastic (packaging) and household refuse.

I am thinking of returning to India next year, there is so much more to learn and experience.

Where and what I eat … Dehradun India

Where and what I eat … Dehradun India

I am staying at Osho Hotel, during my learning experience whilst in Dehradun – it is probably a 3 star Hotel, but like everything its not the surface that is important, its the people, the experiences and the relationships that we build.

What to eat … here at least are the do’s and don’ts for me ….

Much of your diet will be a personal preference … although I do like spicy and mild curries normally, due to my recent tummy upset here I have scaled that back dramatically – the staff at Capisco have been very helpful in looking after me, during this time.

I normally eat at two local restaurants, the one at the Osho Hotel where I am staying, which is called the Capisco – the Capisco offers a varied menu, Indian with some Chinese meals … meats are Chicken and Mutton (Goat) and the service is friendly – the Kalsang is across the road – the Kalsang , consists of two floors, a coffee shop downstairs, (Yes, cappuccinos) with great milk shakes and simple eats on the ground floor and the restaurant upstairs, which offers Tibetan, Indian, Chinese and Asia food .. at both places the food is great and the prices are reasonable … no wine or alcohol is available at either restaurant … both normally have Wi-fi.

Remember there is no beef available in India … going into a McDonalds here is somewhat confusing.

Here is the Photo of the exterior of the Capisco, the Osho Hotel Restaurant and the Kalsang … directly across the road.

Capsico – Dehradun
Kalsang Restaurant and Cafe (Downstairs)

and the internal layouts

Capsico Internal Layout
Kalsang Cafe

Of course there are other places to eat, from the street food, to what one might call dives (quite good food – where the locals eat) to The President Hotel, but for me, I have come here to be way out of my comfort zone, to experience all aspects of India and life at ground level and not be in a cocoon of western “civilisation” … remember, Gandhi was asked when he arrived in London once “What do you think of civilisation” he responded .. “I think it would be a good idea!”

India – Water, Hygiene and other things

Its not until you get here that it hits you …. everything at once.

Continuous awareness is absolutely necessary, the other day I was walking on a footpath, a car joined me, scrapping my thigh with his mirror, all to get ahead in the traffic … without a backward look they sped off, another occasion, the car I was traveling in was hit because the car behind was travelling too close … the driver again sped off … It is the same with absolutely every action out in the world in India …. be aware of where you are and most of all don’t assume … don’t assume that people will drive on the legal left side of the road, they will in fact drive on any side of the road to get where they want to be …. one wonders if they have a license, perhaps they do, have they even done driver education (defensive driving … no … careless driving Yes) have they sat for the license probably not …

Health … clean your hands at every opportunity …. never drink unfiltered water … but drink a lot of it and often) be careful about fruit in stalls … at least wash it thoroughly, rub the skin with salt then wash again. We are taking a bit of pot luck with the farmer … many of the bad agri-chemicals are legal here and I have been told that many small farmers follow the policy if that much is enough then more must be better.

I am just recovering ( hopefully) after 2 weeks feeling very poorly, it got so bad I went to a local Private hospital (Max Health in Dehradun) it was a good experience, new, clean building and almost everyone spoke English … I was seen by a specialist (US Trained) in Gastro, had blood and other tests performed by their in house pathology (available on line that same day for me to view) .. and I had my prescription filled – the total cost for all of this was 1,500 Rupees … about A$28 (USD$23 approx) and the prescription and treatments seems to be working. Don’t take a chance.

I am still and will always be on the outside looking in, although I have meet a few wonderful people.

As usual we look at the past to determine the future – the West is by and large already in the abyss, following a path set by Globalism and the flawed and failed Regan Financial Policies in the 80’s … in the West there is little true thought except by Pikety, Joseph Stiglitz and others as to the direction and destination the world is taking, it seems to wander along putting our bush fires here and there, the trouble with this policy things don’t change … India’s headlong rush into their version of Capitalism will fail and in my view that’s a good thing, for the India Government severe controls, over burdening unaccountable, micromanaging bureaucracy which defines the word patience and incompetence along with Sovereign instability which for now are an issue. I cannot comment on Politicians.

Many laws exist to protect the consumer – are they enforced, maybe, are they circumvented .. often … for not only is corruption here, it is rampant and an accepted normal part of the culture.

There are spiritually aware and just good people everywhere, as of yet I am not aware as yet of any revelations concerning Indian culture other than its primary focus of the external world and a seeming hurry to get out of it, their external focus is on achievement and all the illusions in the world, in many ways no different to the West perhaps 50-70 years ago or even today, except here there is no pretence in caring for your fellow man, all are seen as irrelevant to their life, unless they can be of use – mind you are we any different?

Maybe my perspective will change over time.

Any thoughts are welcome, if there is something I haven’t covered yet, let me know and I will add it to the list.

One last thing …. always and I mean always take toilet paper with you every where you go … it’s often not provided. Enjoy the journey.

Arrival in India and the first week ..

The journey to India was without pain … Cathay Pacific switched me from their indirect service to Air India direct service … I had not traveled Air India previously … it turned out to be an Good experience … the crew were conscious and engaged … the 13 hour direct service was long and the seat was hard and cramped … but after all I was traveling economy.

After the pre-amble I arrived in New Delhi… exhausted … had a run in with scammers as I walked out of the Airport, it took me a little while to understand what was happening – be wary they appear credible and “so nice” and accomodating but their only priority is to part you from as much of your money as possible.

In any case, I ended up where I wanted to go without further drama and arrived in Dehradun early morning, April 7th, 2016.

One thing, I remembered this quote “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun” … I found it was from Noel Coward …. it doesn’t have to be midday, from about 10 am onwards its a good way to melt … always take a hat and a water bottle … not tap water … bottled water.

I will catch you up with other photos, and happenings and my initial observations of India, the culture and my engagement as soon as I fully understand them.