I can hardly believe that I’ve been on the road in India for two weeks. This place is huge and my travels have included thousands of miles of bumpy roads. From Delhi to Lumbini, Nepal, down to Bodhgaya, back to a more cosmopolitan Delhi and ultimately to Dharamshala.
Grass huts and cell phones. Extreme poverty and extreme wealth. Demonstrated diversity everywhere you look. Prudishness and a lack of privacy. Televisions in every hut and roads that require SUVs. Wide eyed westerners seeking salvation and angry young Islamic men resenting them. Vast spiritual riches and deep dark material deficits. Monkeys and eagles and parakeets. Every imaginable space occupied by a small merchant. A temple on every street corner.
The place defies my desire to classify and categorize it.
At 6’4”, I positively tower over everyone I meet. I catch young children staring at the white pony tailed giant. I am told that people walk by me then turn around to look and to be sure that they really saw the unusual man.
I have never been further away from my work than I am now. This must be what people mean by “vacation”. I never really took very many of them. I can feel the change in perspective growing inside of me. I have little idea what it is or what ot will mean.
Simply being here is harder than I ever would have guessed. I planned to write regularly. Instead, I took 16 hour bus rides through bandit country on bumpy roads. One night, the bus got stuck in a medieval city whose streets were to narrow to turn. Another day, we took land rovers to a holy site because the bridge was broken and we had to drive across the river bed.
I drank tea in a café that had so many flies that I had to brush them away to sit the cup down. The patrons gawked openly. I am as strange to the place as it is to me.
The next afternoon, I was in a very cosmopolitan city drinking a double espresso, passing shop windows of Rolexes.
Meanwhile, the western financial system seems to be melting down. Out of my normal information rich environment, it is very hard to tell what is happening. I went nearly a week without any digital capacity. Today, there’s just enough bandwidth to file this report.
I was wondering what your experience would be like. I expected you to experience surprise. I did not expect it to be so graphically imparted: "Vast spiritual riches and deep dark material deficits."
John, thank you for taking the time to express your first and second impressions so wonderfully. You must be on sensory overload. Keep it uP as you can, your rich descriptions are delicious and I can't wait for more! I was actually born in Trinidad, 1/2 Indian, 1/2 African predominantly. I left at age seven but I do remember much of what you are describing being very similar on the island. When I returned with my 6'2", large causian (pink I call him as he is Swedish and German - so fair he is actually pink not white!) husband a few years ago, I felt very much the outsider as you describe and remember all the pointing and staring as well. Surreal isn't it? Also the dicotomy of the rich and the poor - stunningly painful. I hope you bathe yourself in the culture using all of your senses! Can't wait to hear more! Wish you were coming around to Frisco, TX again for an impromtu roadshow! Cheers!