What I saw on my way to the Wine shop

Tonight is Saturday. . being a well trained Westerner I decided perhaps tonight was the night to enjoy some wine. Those of you who know me well .. also know I appreciate a good red. That’s not so easy to get here in India and requires some intrepid adventuring to arrive at the wine shop.

Quite why it is named the ‘wine shop’ I am unsure.. but that comes a little later in this tale.

It is past sunset .. and the last light is fading as I leave my room in the ‘Scholar House” in the BVB Engineering Campus.. a sprawling campus.. of many buildings and hundreds of students.. the Deshpande Foundation where our office is located forms part of this campus.

As I traverse the way to the main gate I am surprised tonight as there are heaps of labourers scattered all over the place in the fading light cleaning up the gardens, cutting, scraping, digging and even sitting on the roadside painstakingly clearing the weeds from the paved road.
Perhaps a special occasion is on the way.. there are lots of them.. so it will be no surprise. But this seems to be a concerted effort to get the place tidied up in one fell swoop.

I reach the main gate – and here the cacophany really begins.. cars, buses, motorbikes, pushbikes pedestrians .. and down the road a herd of cows. I cross… there is a speed hump just up the main road.. for those in the know it means the vehicles have to slow down so there is time to cross even if it appears they are bearing down on you at a great rate. That’s half way across.. and next is to make it to the other side.. I manage.. I am relatively safe for the moment.. ah here are the cows.. a bit of wide berth is required.. you never quite know when they will toss their head.. if you are in the way – its not advised.

Its been raining today so the road has lots of puddles and its muddy. Another set of obstacles to discern and avoid and of course the cow dung cleverly disguised as small piles of mud.

Now I have reached the back road. .. and here are all the many evening food stalls.. selling anything from chicken biryani to bhel puri to dosas and goodness knows what else. They are doing a roaring trade as the evening traffic passes.

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I have a destination in mind.. there is a small shop on the way that sells things I like.. such as curd (yogurt) in a plastic bag. .. not my favourite way of buying it but its easily available like that.. and a particularly good toothpaste made by a great Ayurvedic company called Patanjali. Even the toothpaste has the name of a saintly enlightened Being on the box. How can you go wrong?

I buy some incense (agarbatti) that turns out to be not to my taste.. – some cracker biscuits – they are found to be quite good and the curd which sits creating a wet spot in my shopping bag. They know me now in that shop… I like to go places I am known.. it helps the stress of being stared at all the way everywhere.

And on up the road – soon to reach the ‘wine shop’. Now here is a challenge. Wine shops are most certainy not frequented by ladies in India. So it is really running the gauntlet to enter. .. I head to the most unoccupied spot on the counter.. and the man tells me: “Yes red wine – other side.” Luckily I am a foreigner and despite the crowd of now staring men, I get served straight away.

After all its not every day an older foreign lady enters the sacrosanct wine shop on her own at night!! The man produces first a bottle of white wine.. “No I want red” I say.. then comes a bottle of port.. “mmm not right sorry.. it looks like that but that is not wine.”

“Oh” he says and out come two small bottles of very dodgy looking pink stuff… “Oh dear .. that’s it?”
“Yes” he says. OK I give up .. “I shall have a small bottle of vodka please.”

and I pay and scurry out.

Made it.. and along the way there is a juice shop. I am heading for a fresh orange.. “Pack please to take away”.. when a motor bike pulls up beside me with two quite okay looking men on it.. “Madam do you need help?” the front guy says.. “No thank you I am OK” I say.. “Oh Madam you are safe.. Hubli is a safe place but if you ever need anything you can call me”.. “Oh thank you” I reply and I begin to walk away.. “Oh madam don’t you want to take my phone number?”…. “No thank you-  I am perfectly fine.. good night.”

and on to the orange juice shop.


The adventures of an evening in Hubli are a little different from a stroll to the corner store in Perth. I hope this small tale inspires you to venture into other lands.. the rewards are often unusual and can shift your point of view in just a moment.

Acupuncture Anyone?

Dr Varma’s Pain and Rehabilitation Acupuncture Clinic

For some time I have had a problem with my left knee…

Having previously had good results with acupuncture for pain – with a  good person in Lonavala near Shikshangram where I volunteered regularly for some years I searched here in Hubli.

And I found Dr Varma – today was my first appointment.

The morning started in a rush me worried that I wouldn’t be on time but with the help of Umesh –  the mainstay of the SRDS office where I am helping out, I made it in time at 10.40.

Yes well, shouldn’t have fussed or rushed as the wait stretched into an hour. Time to watch the old fashioned video on the wall about the benefits of acupuncture – and the before and after miracles effected in this very clinic.

I occupied my time reading the various certificates on the wall – including two from Medicina Alternativa – an organisation highly respected in the field of acupuncture.

Dr Varma arrived – a small stout gentleman of indeterminate but age. The wait continues with a passing parade of folks in varying degrees of pain and a couple of severely disabled children.

And finally it was my turn for an extremely thorough interview with the nurse who carefully wrote everything on an old fashioned PC.

I was already impressed.

Then a little more wait, and now I was invited up stairs to the treatment rooms.. not to have treatment but to meet the venerable Dr Varma and to have a view of those having acupuncture. Presumably so that I was not afraid of the process. He happily declared that he knew Dr Alok Palresha – my doctor from Lonavala .. and inserted one needle in my arm .. as a test to show me what would happen.

“No”: he said – unlike Dr Paresha – “he did not use electrical stimulation” – his belief is that less is more and he liked to do minimal intervention. That suits me just fine as this too strikes a chord in me.

Back downstairs – a little more wait – some more for the ‘before and after miracle results viewing’ and now it is my turn with the Physical Doctor – Dr Anand Varma.. the one who will examine me and check my strength, bp, bendability and so on.

When he had finished, he declared:
“You have osteo-arthritis in your knee. It is age related” – no surprises there..  “We would like you to have an xray to confirm this and to see what damage is there – and then” – and here came the surprise!
“come for 15 days consecutively – you will have acupuncture each day – and possibly you will need some followup again at a later date – because we don’t only want to have you feel better but we have a total clearing of the problem” – in other words he was expecting a complete remission!!

Me.. I am happy with some pain relief.. but these folks are telling me that I will be all better.
I am even more impressed.

And if belief and faith have anything to do with it .. they have restored my faith in the possibility of mending even some of those bits that are falling apart from simply being used too much.

Watch this space.. I shall report back in a few weeks as to the results. And frankly if I am even 50% better – though my expectation is higher than that.. I shall be ecstatic.

And at a price of about $5 a session –  and according to the before and after – facial paralysis, infant spina bifida, back and leg pain, parkinsons symptoms – frozen shoulder (x 2 complete cures seen) I may well have discovered something very special.

“Hey let the medical tourism to Hubli commence.. Arthritis anyone?”

I’ll be more than happy to help organise your journey, your accomodation – delicious food and your daily visits to the miracle acupuncture man of Hubli.

The Gift of Loneliness

She comes home and before she has the key in the lock the tears are holding hard against the back of her eyes.

The lock turns, she throws her bags on the spare bed.. the empty bed beside hers.. yet another reminder of her aloneness. And next throws herself on her bed, face down, crying into the pillow.  Knowing also the futility of the tears that they will simply flow until they stop and nothing will change from this.

Aloneness, mutating into loneliness – what is the difference?  Aloneness has a strength and a power – it can be in itself a place of creation, of centredness, even of elegance.  But when it degenerates and falls away into a state of loneliness everything begins to unravel at the seams.  Powerlessness arises, a feeling of being at the mercy of the state of incapacity – but as the tears flow, and the cries for help arise, a sneaking sensation also comes in.

Alone.. are you really?  Are you honestly believing that you are alone?

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Are you ready even to shift the blame onto your friend for not being in touch today.. are you ready to cut him off – by not being available for the next few hours – the thoughts did cross the mind.  If you shift the blame to another you can really dig deep into your misery.

Ha! Caught out .. No you can’t .. this is not the time to wallow in the pit.. cry you may for a little .. but then throw the cold water on your face… know you are here from choice -and  know you are not alone.

Your friends, your unseen circle who are there always with you come a little closer .. now you feel them.. now they are with you.. let the tears flow – but also when it is time let them dry up and breathe again .. deeply into the belly .. letting go of the flip out for now and coming back into your self where you are once again on your path wherever that may lead you.

The emotional swings and roller coasters that come when I let go and allow myself to follow the heart, to follow the path that leads me onward into the unknown can be rocky.

But fortunately all passes and when I allow the feelings to come and wash over me and allow the tears to flow – I also must find that place of allowing them to pass so that the  peace may come, for come it must after the storm.

That peace is the gift of loneliness.  And the key that turns the lock the art of letting go.

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The Gift of Fear

It is said “Feel the fear and do it anyway!”

How many times in my life have I had to do that?

It never stops – it doesn’t change, confidence is not a birthright, or something you put on and leave on – it is to be stepped into each time a challenge arises.

The gut butterflies, the unknown possibilities of failure are always there – This morning I want to go to the ISKON temple – but my nervousness is holding me back. The thought of getting on the bus here in Hubli India – and all that entails.

“Will I have the right money on the bus, can I understand the ticket guy when he asks me something? Will I miss the stop? When I get there will there be somewhere for me to sit comfortably?  Will I remember the name of the college stop when I get the bus back?”

I could laugh so loud at myself for these incredibly ridiculous fears that loom so large, but they almost bring tears to my eyes.

How many times in my life, as long as it has already been, have I stopped myself from doing something I set out to do because the butterflies turned into vultures in my stomach?

And how many times have I leapt past the beating of their wings and found the exultation of action?  Such small things sometimes with such profound results.

We may consider that great acts of courage are what builds our character – but what of the small acts – no less significant?  The daily step upon the path which takes us out of our comfort zone and past even the minute but looming mountain in our way – these too build and strengthen us on a daily basis.

Do they become less, do the challenges reduce in size, does the experience of moving beyond change the landscape?  I don’t think so.

But the spirit inside of me knows – “I can do it.”

Once I climbed a rope ladder up the side of a ship in Antarctica.  If I could do that when everything in my being was screaming at me that it was impossible – then today I can step beyond this fear of boarding the local bus in India and being able to arrive safely at my destination.

the bus

So today I tell myself again – feel the fear but do it anyway – the butterflies are my friend – there simply to remind me to tread lightly – to be aware, to know I am in a strange land and it is no time to be on ‘automatic’.

That’s the gift of the fear – it is the gift of staying awake – being present – being in the here and now.  Whether it is climbing a rock face, or boarding a bus to an unknown destination – or bringing your most cherished project to the boss for approval, its all the same thing.

The key is ‘presence’ – being present – given by the gift of fear.


Where People Smile from Their Hearts

Landing in India late in the evening – as usual the Passport Control guys were a bit grumpy and authoratative.. but that’s their job.  I didn’t have the exact address of where I was going so that caused a little “humphy-ness”.. but once that was over – all else was easy.

Yes I got ripped off.. or should I say I allowed myself to be ripped off by the taxi tout outside the airport.. and probably paid at least $10 more than I should have for the ride to the hotel.  The driver had an ancient car, had no fuel and we had to queue at the gas station  and he got lost.. ha!  so what.. we drove a little.. and saw the sights .. not that they were so attractive in the industrial messiness of the airport area.. but finally we found the bright lights of the Orange Suites Airport Transit Stay buried in the back tracks and he dropped me off.

I paid him less the toll fees – that had remained unmentioned .. “Oh madam I am a poor man” he said with a smile…. “yes” I said .. “I know .. but I will be a poor woman if I pay you all you ask!!” and off he went laughing.

And into the hotel.. 5 ‘boys’ waiting for the luggage..

The one who escorts me up in the lift wearing a bright blue T shirt that just makes him look like an Adonis .. I compliment him on the colour and his face lights up like a gem..

Oh the place of the easy smiles that come with the heart.. this is India.. I do so love this land of crazy intensity – noise, dirt smells, garbage and people that grab your heart and expand it to encompass the world.

And my hotel.. oh lucky me.. I scored a good one.. its a one star trying hard and succeeding to be a 3 star.. a hairdryer no less!!  and clean .. AC and a fan.. hot water.. what more can a girl want for only $24!

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