Category Archives: travel

Embarrassed, shy? Get over it and smile.

I wake early on Saturday morning – its relatively quiet yet.. kids doing sport yelling deep in the background – birds – the occasional rickshaw sputtering. The sound of the mop and bucket cleaning the tiles downstairs. The metallic clatter of the dishes being cleaned has not yet begun – she comes a little later these days.

I have resumed my morning meditation but I am far from quiet.  My head wanders all over the place on inconsequential meanders.  Right now in this first couple of days back in India  I am feeling self-conscious – here safe in my room but at anytime I emerge, I am again shy, a little nervous. Aware of my ‘foreignness’ and my strange status as an older foreign female wandering around on my own.

Women tend to move in packs.  Not always true but in the male dominated ‘hotels’ (restaurants) there may be only one or two women with their husbands- or perhaps a table of 4-5 women together. At the hotel where I come to eat my evening meal,  no-one is alone like me. No-one foreign – just me. ‘ Is it okay?’ I ask myself constantly – always eyes are on me.

I am embarrassed – I don’t know what is available in the hotel – there is no menu – just what I see around me.  The man opposite me is finishing his ‘thali’.  I don’t want that.  There is pau baji – white soft bread rolls slightly sweet with a tomato based spicy sauce – also not tonight – but perhaps they serve dosa – so I ask for that.  ‘Masala dosa?’ the waiter says.. yes – that’s it.. relief….I have ordered.

The man opposite orders something – it comes – a sort of frothy lemon drink.  It seems cold with ice.. he appears hesitant but then begins to drink.  I catch his eye and ask: ‘Nice?’ he nods.  End of communication.  He leaves it half finished on the table and gets up to leave.  No recognition or nod to acknowledge his going.

My dosa comes just as I am trying to sneak a pic of the male dominated room.. my pic is blurred and full of waiter’s stomach.

But the dosa is great!!  I would like a lassi – but not many hotels serve these in this area. I don’t see them being given.  Only chai and it is too late for that. I am not ready for a sleepless chai fuelled evening.  So I let the thought of it go and signal for the bill.

That is easy in any language. 32 rupees – about 60 cents. It was a delicious dosa.  I wash my eating hand with the cup of water into the dish in front of me as is perfectly acceptable here.  I fish for my money, pay and move out to the street with some relief.

Next a little shopping.  Breakfast pre-purchased tonight – curd (yoghurt) and banana – easy.  The street is busy, cars, rickshaws, motor bikes – walking on the side with the traffic coming behind me – the Indian way – I reach a tiny hole in the wall shop.  There are 4- 5 people standing outside at the narrow counter.  And the lady inside recognises me – there is welcome in her eyes – we smile together and I ask for curd – doh pakit – 26 rupees and panch banana. Oh, mistake – I wanted 4 and I asked for 5! but I get them and pay and we are both happy.

I will go there again for the friendly face.

Why am I so nervous when really in the face of all these daily small challenges, the most important thing I need to remember is that I am the stranger.  It is up to me to find my smile, to jump over my shyness, my embarrassment at who I am, my awkwardness with my language barrier.

Smile Shazar – practice every day, every moment to catch the eye of the person next to you and smile for who are they but another one of you.

Emotions – the roller-coaster of life

Emotions are the roller-coasters of life.  How would my life be if  I can detach from my emotional body?   Would that be freedom?  Would that be flat, like a desert plain with no ripples, no valleys, no heights?

Who would I be if I left my emotional self on the shelf for a week, or a day or a lifetime?

I think about this and then I see how grateful I am for my emotions as without them my joy of yesterday would not have been.  But when I am feeling as I do this evening, how to discover that gratitude for my emotion?  This feeling that is palpable inside me – of emptiness – tinged with a hollowness.

I watch myself hurry to try to fill it or push it away – scrolling through Facebook.  Stop – here is ‘addiction’.  Considering a trip to the ‘wine shop’ – again – stop here is ‘addiction’.  For what is ‘addiction’ but the filling of emptiness with something.  That something called distraction.

Oh, let me go into this feeling or perhaps through it – truly searching out what it is.  So I may better see who I am beneath my daily exterior being.

Look, Shazar.  Who are you when you are alone?  Who are you when you feel lonely?  When the landscape ahead of you feels strange and not your own.  When this land you are in is just out of reach of touch.  Look, Shazar – look inside who is this, who is teetering on this gap?

I chose the gap.  There is the cosmic humour.

I chose to put myself here, to remove myself from the familiar, the family, the lover, the friends, – my choice.  Why?

To experience just this – to push myself to the edge so I can discover myself – the layers within.

And to discover that I am never alone, to unfold the immensity and depth of who I really am.  Out beyond the small self.  Out beyond the limits of the mind.  There lies no thing – there lies the all and everything.

Emotion comes, emotion goes
the waves of the ocean ebb and flow.
Bliss, loneliness, fear, passion.
What of these waves in me
But signposts to the infinite
the land of my being
the truth of my soul
revealing the sands
where I am we.

Footnote on a lighter vein: A special friend of mine suggested that these feelings of deep aloneness that can be distressing are related to our ‘herd’ mentality.  We need the mob of some sort around us!  mmm I can relate to that.. “get out there on the street girl”.. there are plenty of folks here in India togive me the feeling of being in a ‘herd’!!

Contributing to the Community

I saw a doco about a man who paints on walls.. he painted in Vanuatu and there he contributed to the community. He painted a wall in a very obscure place – far from the tourist walks. He paints big walls in big cities, but this small contribution warmed his heart and here he understood the value of small.

I know a lady her name is Barb – she lives in South Freo.. she is the Queen of her street and she contributes to her community. She welcomes all the newcomers and corrects the spelling on the street signs. She makes a difference.

Sometimes we think we have to do great things – but in fact it is the ‘small things’ that add up to all the community faces joined together in a kaleidoscope of connection.
The street gardens, the soup kitchens, the one who simply refuses the plastic bag and so awakens the check out person to the possibility of a sustainable land. Making a difference.

People say to me.. ‘Oh you are so amazing.. you give up so much to go to India to do your work there.’ And me.. I shrug my shoulders and I am grateful that I am recognised for what I do.. for if I was not .. I would be not telling the truth.. but I know that what I do is no more than what you also do in your own way as you walk in beauty in this world.

For this is what the game is.. what the aim is ..
what the purpose is..
simply to walk in beauty as we do our daily life.

So India.. what is that about for me?
How can I tell you the joys it brings, the difficulty it is to be there sometimes, the special moments – the smile of the old lady where I buy my evening banana – the stares of those who wonder what on earth this old lady is doing in their land.

I often ask myself:  “What am I doing here?”
And the answer is that here is my heart. A split heart I have. One heart – part of it… is embedded deep in my family and my lover and my friends in Fremantle Australia.. but the other part .. somehow an older part – is in India.

I board the plane – leaving from Perth – stop over usually in Kuala Lumpur.. not there yet.. but when the next flight comes – and we are heading to Bangalore – at least half of the passengers are Indian.. and suddenly I am feeling almost home. Home to this place where I don’t even speak the language.. home to this place where I need to change my dress entirely to fit – home to this place – this place of simplicity and complexity and a culture far from my own.

Touch down.. I am back – the smells wash over me, the sound, the chaos, and the knowing that I am home. I haggle with the taxi driver, and I get ripped off anyway because that is par for the course on your first night in India. Ah the over night hotel… fortunately I know this one and it is reasonably clean.. I sleep – I wake to Indian breakfast – spicy dosa and milky tea. And the journey begins.

I will spend the day with my friend in Bangalore -she will feed me delicious food, thinking as she does I must be half starved after being away from proper Indian food for so long.. and tonight board the overnight bus to Hubli.. my place of choice. A dusty and noisy three tier town as they call it.. meaning simply .. ‘not too developed!’ Here are the ‘boys’ I work with .. a very male oriented office.. the NGO .. not for profit – working with farmers .. helping them harvest rainwater to ensure they can remain on their land for another season provided there is some monsoonal rains this year.

It is uncertain times – those who talk of global warming being a myth do not live in rural India. There is no question of it here. Where changing weather patterns are bringing disaster to families – to whole villages left without any water to drink in the long hot dry season. Creating a migration equivalent to those of war torn lands.. a migration to the city in search of elusive jobs.

But that is another story – and yes it is the story I follow with my work – but the day to day of my life in Hubli is that of connection with the young men who are dedicated to this work. The work of the water.

We joke, we laugh, we chatter and we drink chai and in between we write budgets and discuss heatedly how things should or could be done. I try to step back out of my bossy western ways and listen and fit my thoughts together with those of the Indian way.

Sometimes it works, sometimes I help, sometimes the western way tempered with some patience – adds some value and sometimes I have to step right back and re- look at the way I am .. at my impatience and sense of ego! For sometimes that is really what it is.. “I am the one who is working here.. I am the one who can focus and get things done.. you lot simply mess around and don’t really know what you are doing .. and read the paper and talk endlessly on the phone.. but I am the one who is working” … ha ha ha ha…

Yes Shazar .. and they are the ones who started all this.. who know because they are the ones who lived in the village .. who understand what it is to have no water.. who know how it is to be unable to send their children to school for lack of the money for a notebook and pencil. They are the ones who understand the value of community ..
not you..

You who come from the land of more is better – the land where often people will walk past you on the street with their noses down – not a glance for the ‘stranger’. And so once again I step back into my ‘box’ breathe – and thank the forces who have brought me to this land again – for I have been here many lives – but this life it is the time to learn again what is humility – what is gratitude, what is giving, what is true generosity, for this is what India has to share with me.

And finally to understand the value of the small things that are scattered throughout the day stitching this life together to make a difference.

 

The Way It Is

I’m not going to say ‘only in India’.. but sometimes that phrase does feel appropriate and today.. well – I had interesting experiences at the carpentry shop!

We are in a big town called Nizamabad – staying at a lodge right in the middle of the market area.  The Deshpande Foundation conference is happening day after tomorrow .. and we have come for that.  I am happy – we have found a lodge which is not only cheap but also clean.  Joy.

So today after lunch downstairs – which got invaded by 12 Indian Ladies having a ‘kitty party’ and making an incredible racket while playing some sort of bingo type numbers game – we headed off through the street markets.  We were on our way to  supervise the building of a wooden model of the bore well recharge process.

The carpenter shop was a small structure filled up with bits of wood, and rough sawdusty chunks of shavings.  Out the front partially on the street lay the beginning of our ‘model’.

I asked Sikandar – ‘Do you have a drawing’ – he looked at me and grinned and said “Yes” but I immediatley knew the drawing was in his head!  He said pointing to the young man who was busy chiselling out a chunk from a board – “I transferred it to his head”.   And so he had.. and the model continued to grow.

I was given a chair and perched there between the shop and the fairly potent drain – played on my phone and watched proceedings.  The ubiquitous chai came – delivered by a small man who when I smiled and thanked him, broke open into a beautiful reply smile.

I caught that one in my head.. not on my camera!

But now its getting too hot.. the sun is sinking and the rays are full into the shop now – so .. the head guy picks up two of the hand made chairs – carts them across the road to a space – plonks them down and invites me and Sikandar to sit there.. across the street in the shade.

The perfect spot to view proceedings.  We sit there watching the passing parade who by the way are also watching us.  The weird foreign lady and her companion – sitting as though in their living room by the side of the busy road.

And the model grew and a couple of hours later it was declared complete and  a success.  Drawings or no drawings – it turned out the way it was planned.  Sikandar and I headed off to find me a new pair of sandals… another story.. for another day.

 

Been Wandering

I’ve been around and back again – doing my annual wander with my Soul Journey friends – this year the journey was called Ancient Masters – Modern Prosperity and we went to Italy and Greece.

But first we did an incredible cooking class in a Tuscan Villa – what a gift that was and especially for me as I had the opportunity to revisit my ability with Italian – talking to the chef! That was fun and very surprising for me that I recalled as much as I did.  But the brain is strange as once I got into the groove of it suddenly I could understand so much more.. and when I first entered the kitchen in the morning – there was nothing there! Go figure how do our brains really work?

img_0490-smallAfter those days we met with the rest of the group and started the adventure – Rome – Vatican – Pompeii – Amalfi Coast – but it wasn’t until we reached Athens and visited the Poseiden Temple perched high up on the cliffs that I really entered the Soul of the Journey.

poseiden-templeBeing in Greece we were immensely fortunate to have a guide who had a real understanding of the difficulty that the people there are facing in this time.  She clearly enunciated a saga of attack on their economy and their way of life – orchestrated by those in power who would create a One World Order and chip away at our rights and lives.  It distressed me greatly to hear the depth to which this has gone in Greece – and to see as she was telling her story – that this was a plan that encompassed all of us, not just the Greek people but also those of us living in the so-called Lucky Country of Australia.

But I have to say that as the journey progressed and we were shown the glories of the past of Greece that it seems to me that this spirit that the Greek people have shown so many times in the past can rise again. Seeing their triumphs and their glorious acheivements only serves to show the resilience of our Spirit and the possiblity that we have to be strong in the face of any and all adversity.

So I would call on us all to open our eyes, and look truthfully at what is happening in our own lands, make the stand for freedom in all respects, and be very aware of the insidious means of control that is being perpetrated on us all.   Turn off your tv, cancel the daily newspaper, don’t get sucked in to the fear mongers and the nay sayers.  Let’s live our lives and take a lesson from the wondrous spirit of the ancient culture of Greece and hold the hands of their famous and all powerful Gods as we walk into our future with our heads held high.

 I stand for freedom and for being a Citizen of this incredible Planet Earth – and for building our community at a local level so we may have friends to support our vision.  Will you stand with me?