Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mumbai...Integrating the Experince

I arrived back in Mumbai on the night of 2 March. Arriving at the airport, a phone call from my friend notified me he was not coming to the airport to meet me as expected.
I was disappointed, but not bent out of shape or terrified as I would have been had this happened 4 months ago.
So I collected my bags and decided to check out a pre-paid taxi.
300 rupees later, I clutched my receipt and navigated the queue out front without a lot of difficulty. It took what felt like forever to get out of the airport car park but at last we were whipping through the Mumbai night.

What struck me most as we rolled at a decent speed through the city was did not seem as strange or crazy or frightening as it all had when I landed at the airport the first time, arriving from the USA in late October 2009.
In fact, it seemed pretty average. I can't believe I just wrote that!
I kept track of location by reading bank branch signs... Had my friend called to ask, I wanted to say, in my twisted humor, "I'm at the corner of Amitab Baichan and Shah Rukh Khan" (two Bollywood megastars whose faces are EVERYWHERE on billboards as well as tv and film). HAHAHA
Shops and temples sailed by...
Then I saw the Breach Candy bank branch and knew we were getting close. As we veered off to the right, I suddenly actually recognized the neighborhood.
I was able to give the taxi driver exact directions from there...although it was more gesturing as my Hindi and his English were pretty much equal at...virtually none.

India India India.

Hard to explain the mindset I've been in ever since getting back. The apartment here is posh, in India terms. I took the longest hot shower I'd had since I could remember. I slept with a sheet under a ceiling fan instead of two blankets and a space heater. I ate Domino's pizza and drank white wine and laughed over how much I've changed.
I do not feel threatened by the curious stares, anymore. In fact, there don't even seem to BE any curious stares. Maybe I have just learned to look past them?
Today we went to the grocery...the same grocery which seemed dangerous and complicated during my first week here. It was...routine. Absolutely normal.
I have said it before and I will say it again.
My life will never be the same.

I have cried, but not a lot. Mainly when I get an email or a facebook chat or a phone call from someone in Mcleod. I miss them more than anything but I am somehow applying the lessons of acceptance and letting go that I learned there.
Life is good. Everything is as it should be.

I am focusing on life NOW. On working on projects both online and off which will help get me back to my heart's home in the Himalayas quickly.
My goal is to be back and teaching English conversation to the Tibetan refugees again before October...hopefully by late August.

Please check out the links below to see what I am working on:
Tibet in Exile
Tibetan Buddhist Prayer Wheels
Support for Tibet

As all my work in McleodGanj is self-funded and completely voluntary, I appreciate anyone who would like to make a donation to contact me for my PayPal information!


  1. Dear cryptic fragments, why not help the poor Indians when you are in India? you wanna help tibetans then go to Tibet. makes sense.. ya? we Indians are taking care of them enough without even bothering how much irritation we are causing the Chinese. They are all well fed, well clothed, enjoy many benefits and all the sympathetic attentions showered on them internationally. Do you know why the Chinese abhor the Tibetan lifestyle? It's because they DO NOT WORK. Most of them join monasteries and all what they do in life is spin prayer wheels, endlessly rolling prayer beads, sensless monastic debates and useless studies.Are they doing any good to the rest of the society? Have ever seen a monk contributing in anyway to any of the humanity causes? Have you ever come by a poor emaciated Budhist monk? With all due respect to Budhism (FYI: Budhism was born in India)what use is it to a nation when half the population lumbers around like well fed yaks in saffron, learning English, debating and their mindless chants? Do you know how bitter the poor Indians of Mcleodganj feel when they see the happy content Tibetan refugees enjoying life? The refugee Tibetan eats good food, drinks most nights in mcclo bar, uses the latest cell phones, western friends sponsoring them just about anything, warm clothes etc etc. But the poor Indian cannot even afford three square meals a day or a set of warm clothes for the severe winters. They toil day in and day out to make ends meet. He suffers suffers and suffers endlessly. Where's your Budhist compassion? are they not worthy of your 'compassions'? or has Budhism taught you to be compassionate ONLY to Tibetans and the monks? Did you see the slums in Mumbai? Do they need help? how about teaching THEM english rather than wasting your energies teaching English to the Tibetan monks?

  2. spirit...I feel your pain, and I wish you peace.
    To be quite frank, the Tibetans are not working because they ARE NOT ALLOWED to work. In China, the Han Chinese take their jobs. Former political prisoners are denied permission for employment (as well as for travel, etc). In India, the locals take their jobs.
    The refugees I knew and worked with are living on less than 3000 INR per month (that's about $60 USD). They have barely enough to cover room charge let alone eat. The community supports each other...those who have money take their friends out to eat. NONE of the people I worked with set foot in Mclo's.

    I pray also for the poor Indians. Everyone deserves happiness and security, and to have their basic needs met. However, I am one person, and not every person can support every cause. I pray those who are called to help the Indians will do so.
    And you? What are you doing for your country? Have you fed anyone in the slums today?
    Om shanti...

  3. DO NOT patronize Tibet and Tibetans against China or the people of mcledoganj when you have your ass in India. The next thing you and the likes of you will try is create a 'Jihad' here and paint a nasty picture for the Chinese. You westerners park yourself here in mcledoganj and we have prices going high, fancy malls, hotels and stores, drug pedalling and crime on the rise. The peace we have had here is all now gone. It's soon going to be another touristy hippy spot. I work for 6 different NGOs that cater to the welfare of slum children and creating jobs oppurtunities through liasioning with cottage industries throughout India.So dont you worry about my karma darling. Why not go to Tibet and see the situation for yourself. The Chinese have colonised Tibet, killed much of their culture but there are scores of Tibetans happy working for the chinese. ya? I can tell you this because I do business and travelling and I HAVE BEEN TO NEPAL,LHASA,AMDO,KHAM AND CHINA. Stayed in these places for over many months. The only thing Tibetans are not allowed to do is worship dalai lama like the way they used to. But most of them do not want to leave home because they are happy and content. They have jobs if not equal oppurtunities in all areas but they do no want to come to India as refugees trading the life they enjoy there. They now have concrete builidngs, schools, hospitals, electricity especially in Amdo which was once remote and nomadic. All thanks to the chinese ..ya? We Indians are quietly suffering the millions of illegal Tibetans crossing the borders since 1959. The Tibetans along with the dumb westerners stage protests in India against China which is absolutely ridiculous but then India still tolerates.India, the land of oppurtunities for them. Get in here, continue pfaffing around as monks,eat,drink make merry. How can they do all what they do here with the Chinese around? oh yes you said 'The refugees I knew and worked with are living on less than 3000 INR per month (that's about $60 USD)': Even 1000 rupees per month salary is a luxury here sweetheart.That shows how little you know about the general life up here.
    'I am one person, and not every person can support every cause.I pray those who are called to help the Indians will do so': I pity the 'knowledgeable monk' who taught you this distorted version of Budhism dear.
    'NONE of the people I worked with set foot in Mclo's': you seem to be working with a bunch of saints eh? now now that's hillarious!

  4. I have decided to leave the comments by spirit on here as a way of illustrating to the rest of the world the differences in thought on the issue.
    Spirit is entitled to his/her opinion. don't hurt me. I know what is my truth. I know what I saw, what I experienced. Take your anger and direct it in a productive manner at someone who is going to be moved to action by it instead of wasting your time and breath here.
    If you are as passionate about the cause of Indians as you say, if you are as busy with these 5 NGO's as you say...what are you doing here attacking others who work for different, but no less important, causes?

    Any further comments will be deleted as there is no point to arguing. This is not a chat board, but trolls are indeed banned.

    Love and peace.