India Ventures, (Part 2)
Here we are, back at it.
The two sisters and I came up out of the train station, somewhere in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). I had been staying in an area where many of the hostels were located. All the maimed beggars, wobbly cloth and cardboard homes, hands out, palms up, ragged, big-eyed, smiling ‘Namaste’ children were hard to get used to, but we humans do get used to things.
Look at the leaders we choose. Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s new leader, commits to turning the rain forest into palm oil and cattle feed. Can you imagine your grandkids having to breathe cow gas, every day? Our incompetent, Pied Piper leader has half of us following him anywhere his troubled mind dictates.
It’s January 3rd. New Year celebrations have passed. I was in the supermarket this afternoon, and would never know just two days ago the liquor was flowing and folks were celebrating ‘another’ new year. From a ‘Big Picture’ perspective please let me know what there was to celebrate this past year, and the ones before. Are we more in synch with our plant and animal friends? I read they are quickly leaving the planet, never to be seen again.
Seems to me, celebration is wonder-filled when we commune with ALL our relations. Is it a surprise that folks with cash are building rocket ships to get off this planet ASAP? I don’t want to be rude, but I got a feeling the first rocket ship loads won’t be accommodating a lot of darker hued or poorer folks. What do you think? Honestly!
What I think is ‘wherever I am, here I am. If I am an asshole in Moscow, I will be an asshole in Po-dunk Wherever, even if that is on the dark side of the moon. All I am saying is, “let’s commune lovingly with our current neighbors, so when we do get to the dark side, we won’t automatically murder, enslave and dominate every ethnicity and species different from our own”.
So we (I forgot the sisters names) stepped out of the station and the swarms of ragged poor were everywhere. Brings up the memory of a cab driving incident in New York City. I have had many. I had picked up four young black men downtown (as I drove a taxi on and off for years) and took them to a section of the South Bronx. It looked like bombed-out Dresden (Check out the photos). There was only rubble and burned out shells of buildings. There was not one inhabitable structure in any direction. The fellows got out. One of them tossed a jacket through the passenger side window and said, “We are going to get your money, so I am leaving my jacket as collateral”. I heaved the jacket back through the window and headed downtown. What is the similarity? Both scenes of undisguised poverty have imprinted indelible impressions in me. Maybe what is worse than physical deprivation, is living poverty. That happens when life components (inner and outer) are not in synch.
Across the road was a very high (white I think) concrete wall. It stretched left and right, as far as I could see. Up against it were throngs of poor people. In the wall, there were two massive wooden doors. One of the sisters pushed a buzzer. A human sized door in one of the larger one, opened. A tall, handsome Indian man stood in the entryway, dressed like a British Queen’s Palace guard, but in hot weather garb, and wearing a turban. A sister handed him an enveloped note and named an English Lady they were friends with. He stepped aside and we entered the Calcutta Tollygunge Club. I learned it was/is one of the most prestigious clubs in the world and spreads over 100 enclosed acres. Can you picture it? On one side of the door, close-up life and death. On the other, undisguised opulence.
Rich and poor, separated by a wooden door.
There weren’t many members in attendance at the time. We rode horses, swam in the pool, drank at the bar and had an exquisite lunch before leaving. It was my 2nd most memorable birthday party. The first one took place in Bremerton, WA, for my 60th. In case you were wondering, the sisters had asked me to bring swim trunks.
In Hindu India I never feared that someone was going to gut me for my money or possessions. Some female travelers I crossed paths with had negative experiences with Indian males. I just chuckled when remembering Adele (a Kiwi) telling me she punched every man that groped her, in the face. She then laughed and said, “I may have hit the wrong man on occasion”. Some of the locals were adept at stealthily stealing stuff, like when my Birkenstocks quietly walked off one afternoon. But hey, what’s life without a few barefoot challenges? A bit boring, I’d say. Hmmm . . . let’s see how I deal with the challenge of Kaia’s approaching departure. She is moving slower, has incontinence, and is limping more. Not sure if her whimpers are from pain or aging. A little voice just reminded me to ‘Be Hear Now’.
Actually I landed in Calcutta at the end of my India travels, that first time. Next stop was Thailand. That leaves out all of my East coast travels. The Taj Mahal is where I fell asleep inside and befriended a bicycle rickshaw man. I had fun helping him make extra money in Agra. He would drive me to a carpet shop. I’d jump out, examine the carpets, pick one out that my wife might like, and say we’d be back to purchase in 3 days. The seller gave the rickshaw driver a few rupee, and we’d head to the next carpet seller.
People in Jaipur(in the state of Rajasthan) wear the most magnificent color combinations. Pushkar was/is the city of temples. There was even a bat temple where thousands of bats flew out of the belfry at sundown and returned before daylight. It was also where the wheel of a camel cart ran over my big toe. Another injury I never fully recovered from.
I even skipped over Dharamsala where I lived in a cave and befriended other cave dwelling travelers. In the mornings we’d walk down the hill to hear the Dalai Lama give discourses.There was a German interpreter that translated the talks into barely decipherable English. On bright and sunny mornings we’d go to our favorite little restaurant in McLeod Ganj. One morning two yellowy, jaundiced travelers were eating there. I packed up and left that afternoon. Having traveler conversations in Nepal and India about the state of one’s poop, was not uncommon.
Another thought! Picture a large and ancient wall hung tapestry. It is moth-eaten and thread bare. We no longer have the original materials to replace the worn and missing fabric, so we use newly manufactured cloth and threads. That’s how it is when filling in the blank holes of long past recollections. We create what is missing with new material. That is what I have done here.
Tomorrow morning I am off to the VA Medical Center. Must catch the 6:20 Bainbridge Island to Seattle ferry, to get there on time. It’s Thursday, January 3rd at 11:46 PM and the rain faucet is wide open.
I must now support Kaia down the outside ramp so she will hopefully pee and not start whining at 4 in the morning. This way we can both sleep through the night until 5:00 AM. Good night all.