भारत में स्वतंत्रता दिवस मनाना! जय हिंद!

Standard

translation: Celebrating India’s 64th Independence Day!

Dear Blog,

जय हिंद !!! (meaning Jai Hind: which is a slogan/ battle cry that asserts India’s independence, directly translates unto Hail India or Victory to India! Quite Patriotic, huh?)

It’s time for me to make you slightly more informative than usual. So on August 15th India proudly celebrates  its sovereignty and independence from British rule which was proclaimed in 1947. This day is a national holiday all over the country, meaning LONG WEEKEND!!! Yes! All over the country, there are special performances, flag hoisting, and even kite flying. The main events of course take place in Delhi, India’s capital! Yes, Delhi is better than the rest of the country (scratches her head) well for some strange reason all of these Delhi people that are presumably are better than the rest of India are scattering all over India and not in Delhi, hmmm puzzling!

Delhi hosts the main party, as the Prime Minister hoists a national flag at the Red Fort and delivers a nationally televised speech. In the speech the PM would highlight current achievements initiated by his government, raise important issues and emancipate awareness for further development and democracy. At the same time, the PM would also pay tribute to past leaders that have contributed to India’s freedom.

So we celebrated this national holiday by sleeping in, then having some brunch followed by some shopping, so many people would come out and about and in India national holidays mean that everything is pretty much open, unlike in Canada. Everyone were dressed in traditional kurta’s, males and females included. Many of the auto’s would hoist Indian flag’s with pride as they skimmed through the busy streets of Bangalore. As a side note, I must admit there is something very appealing about a kurta and jeans on men, maybe some guys in Canada should give it a chance. It’s traditional, yet modern. Welcome to Modern India! Where East and West unite in harmony.

Anyhow, it was nice to celebrate this special day with friends and wine!  As I walked by I would shake hands with the people in my neighbourhood, especially my friend, the security guard who I often have short conversations with in the mornings. He is a sweet heart and works such long shifts!! I will certainly miss his smile in the mornings as he waves good morning!

So yes, spending my first Independence day in India was rather chill and fun! I am not sure I got the full cultural experience being in Bangalore in comparison to that if I was in Delhi and where I would most likely be flying a kite, but it was definitely amazing to be surrounded by friends and people who truly believed in their country!

Jai Hind!

Happy 64th India! All the best!

Your Canadian wanna be Indian,

Anna

 

 

Advertisements

The last stretch

Standard

Dear Blog,

Throughout the summer I thought I could confess some of my innermost deepest thoughts and observations unto you, but somehow after my life really started gaining momentum I failed to do so, so hopefully this entry will try to highlight some of the many aspects of India which I came to love so dearly and which I will unconditionally miss, when back in Canada.

So first things first, like any adventure it follows a format, of a steady start, with an increasing climax which reaches a conflict, resolution and then a happily ever after. Arriving to this country has proved to be rather difficult for me, especially at first. Being in a developing country, where many of our pre conceived notions did not match with the way people behaved and performed in all different sectors of life, was a bit irritating. Fetching a rickshaw and assuming that the driver knew where he was going, was of course the biggest hindrance that I came to experience. However, after several weeks you realize that yes the auto drivers do not know where they are going and you have to be more subjective in articulating where you want to go, so you say a street and then hope you can find that place that your friends want you to be at, most of the time you call up that friend and let them guide the driver, and that is how it’s done in India! After a while, this becomes second nature, you being a incredibly resilient human being never really realize how adaptable and malleable you are, unless you put yourself through hoops of fire to only realize that you came through on the other end, not only stronger and maybe a bit better, but also “alive and well”. So my first encounter with the fire was definitely giving and receiving directions in India! But to that I am proud to say that even I have mastered the art of direction giving, so I will make a reference to a dear friend of mine to whom I was giving directions myself when driving! That felt rather cool, I won’t lie!

 

India is a place of chaos, where nothing and yet everything somehow makes sense, a bizarre contradiction that somehow makes lots of sense. I will miss the random wondering animals in the city, starting from stray dogs that chill along the streets, to cows and donkeys that graze on garbage, taking care of recycling needs and yes the monkeys that roamed around in places that we visited throughout our travels. The monkeys are an endless source of entertainment, I must admit. They are also big thieves, as you have to be very careful on watching over your belongings. If you put something down for a second, it is very likely that it will be gone. A fellow traveler experienced this when she put her bottle a coke on the ground, to find out that a minute later a monkey was already trying to open the lid to indulge in some of its goodness! So yes, monkeys of all shapes and sizes will certainly make you laugh, delight you with their lack of manners and want for snacks or any toys they can get their snarky hands on! All in all, they are darn cute! Especially the babies and the mom duos! I had to restrain myself from trying to steal on to take home as a pet! But something tells me that it wouldn’t go down so well when crossing the Canadian borders.

Something else I will miss dearly is just being able to stroll around in the neighbourhood in a late evening, especially a park near my apartment. It is similar to a Japanese garden, has the same sort of a feel. I like wondering through, seeing all these lovey dovey couples sitting along, cuddling. I love the street vendors selling mangoes, cucumbers, corn and jasmine. I enjoy snacking on street food as I take my afternoon stroll. I love seeing children play on the playgrounds, as if it is the best thing on the planet. It is nice to see people rejoice while appreciating the simple pleasures of life, such as a swing or a candy. It is nice to see people smile, plain and simple.

I will miss the “Indian” hospitality and how it reaches way and beyond of what us “foreigners” are used to. It is always nice to be treated with kindness and respect, especially when it is sincere! I would say that I only had few bad experienced with people while my stain in India, in general I was taken aback by people’s hospitality and kindness and will always refer to it while in Canada. So beware of my Indian kindness which spans from making sure you are taken care of, from food to entertainment.

I will also miss the noises, maybe not the smells but the noises for sure. It amazed me how fast everything became normal. You don’t realize it until you are talking to a friend on the phone or skype and they terrifyingly ask, “what is that freakish sound?” and you respond with “what sound, oh I didn’t even notice”, assuming it is some traffic mixed with some birds! Then you realize, yes anything can become silenced background noise! Amazing really!

I don’t want you to think that India is this hostile horrible place, I would say it is a maze. It is frustrating at times, and you think to yourself “what was I thinking when I decided to spend my summer here” but then you realize that it’s been a thrill and you don’t want to find your way back. In fact, you wouldn’t mind being lost for a little while longer, but circumstances force you to find your way in an efficient manner so then you are ready to take on another maze ahead of you, such as entering 5th year of a Liberal Arts degree and then considering applying for further Graduate education. It will be a fun year alright.

So this experience, overall has emancipated me to think about things that I doubt I would spending my summer at home in Toronto. So first thing, I want to extend a big THANK YOU to YORK INTERNATIONAL for giving me this extremely special and valuable opportunity to live, work and travel in a foreign country for a summer (that will I forever remember and will always draw on such experience in my personal and academic endavours), for which I will always be eternally grateful! Thank you Larissa, Natasha and Lisa! You guys work so hard for us, ensuring that we are all placed accordingly and happy with our internship, without you guys this could never be possible!!! So thank you a million times over!!! Again and Again!!!

So now time for those happy climaxes, traveling and loads and loads of traveling! Working for India Urban Space was a bit of a blessing, considering we don’t have to work the Saturdays like the rest of the organization has to. So we’ve done some extensive traveling which I will feature pictures of places by place in my next blog. I wanted to keep a travel log, but that also did not happen, considering, working, traveling and also managing to find the time for friends and hang outs has been extremely difficult. I won’t complain much, because it has been rather carefree, everything is pretty much done for me, cleaning (I have a maid), you can fetch an auto to go anywhere and everywhere (if they are willing to take you, because yes when you need them most, they usually reject you, because they may not like the place where you need to go, happens a lot in the mornings when you need to run to office, as usual). So yes in restaurants, your chair is pulled, door opened, food served by the waiter, water poured into your glass…I mean it gets to the point where you start expecting people to feed you with a spoon, it gets that ridiculous! So yes you eventually fall victim to such treatment and you feel inadequate, even when performing a mundane task such as taking your rubbish out, you almost feel like someone else should do it for you. Your behaviour alters, you feel the same and yet different. Everything you failed to accept at first, seems to seep into you and make you see everything differently, perhaps I am just going a long way around to say that I am lazy. But no really, everything that I objected to, I came to accept because as my coordinators mantra said “don’t attempt to change India, let it change you!” so that I did. When I arrive back in Canada, after several weeks of longing for my life back in India, I am sure my old self slightly more refined will pop up and I will partake in rewarding tasks of doing my own laundry, cleaning my room and opening my own doors, but it will definitely be tough at first! Ha!

Oh India how you corrupt me so! I will miss you dearly! I will miss the people, the work! Yes the work! Learning more about you and seeing you for all the complicated manifestations that your present! Not being able to understand and yet getting you! The noise, the small adventures of getting to and from work, especially in the monsoon torrential rain fall where you have to walk through knee deep puddles and feel absolutely gross trying not to think about what lurks beneath. Yes, it is all part of the fun, the adventure! Also the honking in your ear making you deaf, yes that is also is part of this invigorating surround sound Dolby digital 9.0 experience. A sidewalk is rare to spot in most Indian cities, but when you find one especially during traffic hours, well don’t be at all surprised if motorcyclists over take it, because when it’s traffic time, sidewalks apparently don’t exist and you as a pedestrian for whom those sidewalks were initially catered to, no longer matter either! It’s all fair in traffic and war, I suppose. This is India! If you are walking on a sidewalk and a bunch of motorcycles zoom by, brushing you against your shoulder. Do not panic, just walk and most importantly smile, you are still alive (ha ha)! I walked in front of many buses lately, my sense of danger has been dauntingly supressed, so I walk in front of them like it’s no big deal, no they won’t crush me to bits just by moving an inch! One time a bus almost did crush me and Steph on our way for some coffee, but we ran out of its way just in time. It was an exhilarating experience if I can’t say more about it. We couldn’t stop cracking up about it, that for sure. The sort of frantic laugh that you only experience maybe once a month or so. Oh it was such good fun, definitely woke me up better than that coffee!

What else is there to say, we also came to a bit of a pivotal moment. Getting sick at home or in a foreign country is never a fun experience. I won’t go into much details in this subsection of the blog, but Steph had to go through surgery to get her appendix removed due to an inflammation. She has become a medic junkie with all this knowledge that she has absorbed. I think both of us learned something unexpected about our passions, hers is medicine and mine is farming, makes me happy to see cows and donkeys all around, my natural state of wanting to own a farm perhaps! So yes we spent one of our weekends in a hospital to only realize we were treated like royalty. Steph had like 7 nurses looking after her, an experience that was rather stressful at times was also rather pleasant. Lots of people were around constantly making sure we were ok and our needs were looked after, especially the patients. Even I for some strange reason, ended up having servants that would cater to my needs, serve me food, along with anything else that I would require. The room was rather nice, like a 5 star hotel. Two flat screen tv’s, with cable! (yes we were excited to finally watch some tv, some reality shows and such), a nice couch, a lazy boy that our friends enjoyed very much when visiting, and a bed for moi! It was quite lovely! So Steph was also quite comfortable during this tenacious experience.

So yes that was our climatic downfall, but we made the best of it, because “ce’st la vie” and you have to move on and deal with it in the best way you can! Now we have 5 days remaining so it’s time to work hard, travel to Delhi to see the Taj Mahal in Agra and then work and party some more, say farewell to some very good friends (and you know who you are!!!)! Then pack up (which I still haven’t done and cringe at the very thought of it actually) and board that final plane to Toronto! It will be a long one, but were hoping to pass out so we can get adjusted right away. It will be incredibly sad to leave Bangalore which I know refer to as my second home! But like all good things have to come to an end, so does this, as unfortunate as it is. I am sure all of you fellow interns feel the same apprehension on leaving. We all have got attached to our cities, countries, organizations and most importantly friends, so it makes it extremely difficult to once again have to move away. But just remember that there is no place like home and once were back we will be graced with family and friends and the adaptation process will begin all over again!

So hope for all of you that still haven’t returned a safe flight home!

See you all in Sept!!!

Best

–          Anna

The dilemma of getting sick in a foreign country

Standard

Dear Blog,

So unfortunately this entry will be not as fun and perky as the rest, but this experience is just as important as any! This experience as tacky as it may begin to sound, will serve as the “turning point”. This was when I realized, crap I am really by myself and I have no one to fix me up a cup of tea or give me a bowl of strawberries when I am too ill to get up and do it on my own, plus I don’t even have a kitchen. So getting sick in a foreign country is always an adventure. I won’t be getting into any brutal details of my condition in this blog, but I will simply say that it got bad, to the point where I thought calling my mom at 12 am at night would be my only solace. Well no really. Actually I think the overall experience went rather well, after gaining what felt like 20 pounds in the first month of India, I definitely shed some of that poundage during a “barely can eat” 4 day period after getting sick.

Me being a tad stubborn, I still managed to go to the office, thinking that last night’s fever was the worst of the worst, but really with these things you just never know until it happens. So as the day progresses so did my health. I felt nauseous, dizzy and feverish. So with no further adieu I asked Steph about the hospital, she guided me (since she has been attending it already). So I wondered in, you first get an appointment, which is fairly easy and then you pay. For some reason they shafted me into emergency, where the doctor measured my temperatures and all of that fun stuff, offering to give me an injection for my nausea, I refused. Taking drugs was as intrusive as I would get at that moment in time. I was stubborn enough to get well soon. However, that night my fever got worse, throbbing and unable to sleep I sort of began to give up. Cuddling up to the toilet also did not help, but again that aspect of being “sick” I was all prepared for, nothing out of the ordinary. I was happy to have lived through a month and a half with no major problems. So yes, it was pretty good.

Overall, the hospitals in India are fairly amazing. The wait times are no longer than 5 minutes and the fee ranges from 150 rupees (which is approximately $3 to about 500 rupees for a normal visit which is about $12 Canadian) you could never get that sort of price if you were sick in Canada or the US, so the health care system here is rather comprehensive and for the sake of this argument, we will say “affordable” also.  The drugs are rather cheap also, I think I paid about 50 rupees for antibiotics, pain killers and some stomach tablets, and that equates to be slightly above a Canadian dollar. It is pretty ridiculous alright! The cheapness of drugs is due to the fact that India does not partake in the research and development of drugs, but rather simply duplicates what already exists, which means cutting costs beyond our Western understanding. Furthermore, since most people fall under the lower bracket of earnings, it only makes sense to have such essentials as medicine to be at affordable prices, so it is quite accessible to everyone, I view this aspect of Indian health system very favourably.

All in all, getting sick in a foreign country does get stressful because your mommy is far away and you ultimately feel uncomfortable relying on others or burdening them with your complaints and issues. But it is all part of the experience. You deal with the problem however you see it fit your needs and comforts. But in this respect, it was really a turning point when I realized, yes I am in India and after I get over this sickness I will continue enjoying it to the fullest!!! While at the same time, I felt extremely home sick, missing the comforts of home, fridge and an accessible tea pot. So in order to deal with this feeling I ended up cuddling up next to my lap top and watched continuous Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert! It made everything so much better! J

Hope all of you are staying healthy!!!

Sending warm wishes,

From Bangalore!!!

Understanding “Beauty” in India…a long and ardeous task…

Standard

Dear Blog,

I want to start this entry with some quotes that I randomly skimmed through while being submerged in one of those inspirational moods. I want to dedicate it to exploring the in’s and out’s of India’s perception of beauty. What is it? What does it mean? What does it look like?

Beauty?… To me it is a word without sense because I do not know where its meaning comes from nor where it leads to.  ~Pablo Picasso

In the Western world, beauty is often perceived to be of physical, material nature. It is mainly about being thin, I will leave it at that without listing a whole bunch of generic stereotypes. Try skimming through typical Cosmopolitan or Elle and you should get a clue. It seems that media as a cliché continues to dictate what beauty is, what to wear, what to eat, how to act and we obviously fall victim to its criteria, at times almost unconsciously. However, in India beauty is a bit more settle. It is difficult to determine what beauty is? When looking around, commercial signage portrays beauty as with this determinism for fairer skin, with most of the Indian women looking almost “white” instead of showcasing their true ethnicity and darker tone. That brings much grief to me, because Indian women are absolutely stunning and this whole obsession with fairer skin, is slightly disturbing. I often wonder, why can’t we ever accept ourselves the way we are? Why do most of us express this negating ambition to constantly alter our appearance, is that even natural? One thing that really sunk in with me, while my time in India is that happiness is our natural state, if we are not happy then we are not ourselves, we are not in tune with our natural tendencies. Thus, we have to embrace our appearances the way they are even if it means at times accepting being darker skinned or gaining extra weight. Accepting that will lead to sincere and long lasting satisfaction of one self and of others, at least so that I think. So yeah aside from this bombardment of fairer skin products that clutter the shelves of the beauty stores in India, it is also evident that beauty here has other dimensions, which are far more complex.

Beauty comes in all sizes, not just size 5.  ~Roseanne

Indian women in particular, embody this strength and presence; I see it all around, while they carry jugs of water on their heads as they gracefully pass you by, or on the young girls that take on labour way beyond their age, also carrying water and bricks on their heads in support of their household needs. You can definitely see the power and strength that a woman holds. She is the cement that holds everything together in a household. Secondly, I am often mesmerized with the hues and patterns that women wear, with their sari’s and kurties. They’re colourful, intricate and all encompassing. Women definitely dress to impress and everyday seeing these colourful dresses definitely inspires one to seek colour and life in once appearance. So beauty here is multidimensional, there is this Western conception of beauty that is so prevalent in the commercial sphere and yet there is a traditional conception of beauty which embodies and graces woman’s body, being voluptuous and concealed, somewhat. The fashion here is rather modest, conservative, you would not be so  free to wear revealing attire, as it would not be deemed appropriate. Therefore, in order to not attract so much attention, especially from men it is best that one covers up! At times it is rather frustrating, because I do begin to miss the idea of wearing shorts and not really caring what others think about me, but here even something as simple as wearing a tank top can be frowned upon unless you are covered up with a tunic. However if you go out into bars and clubs, there is a whole different India that lurks in these places. This is where women can wear dresses and open tops. This is what many here refer to as modern India!

In sum, beauty here is contradictory and complex. You see billboards of Indian women looking very fair and light, with “white” being the prime idea of beauty, so apparently. Everywhere that Steph and I travel we seem to garner attention from people, families, groups of friends and such, with all of the wanting to take photographs with us. At times it is rather frustrating, because you want some time and peace to yourself, yet you have to stand in pose in other people’s photo’s. The reason behind it is that for some strange reason being white is a token of some weird perception of beauty, seen as it is rare to see a white person in India, a lot of them get really excited at the sight, again it is bizarre and I can’t force myself to agree with it. As I see South Asian women to be ridiculously gorgeous and the men are rather assertive in their looks and demeanour. I think I will wrap up this blog with this saying and hope that we can all appreciate multidimensional aspects of beauty and our perceptions of it!

Beauty comes as much from the mind as from the eye.  ~Grey Livingston

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.  ~Confucius

Embarking on a Spiritual Journey at the Art of Living Ashram

Standard

So even before coming to India, I always envisioned myself practicing and learning new forms of yoga and meditation techniques in an Ashram setting. It was always on the bucket list of mine, so to say. So when packing my suit case I was determined to bring some yoga gear and my sense of spirituality along for the plane ride. Given the rare opportunity of having a weekend to myself, with Steph being of at Delhi, I decided to go to an ashram. Being unaware, I “googled” several searches to get myself on track and in the know with what is in the near vicinity. So the first search result that I came across was the Art of Living, which is known all over the world, apparently. But I had no clue, so I excitedly researched  the Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who founded this ashram/ non for profit organization in 1981 in attempt to achieve world peace by getting rid of stress and fostering a sense of inner peace in his followers, through the practice of meditation and yoga. Now this foundation operates in 151 countries all over the world and yes there is an Art of Living Ashram in Canada (Montreal), how random? But I shall definitely pay a visit, to Part 2 of the programme I started.

But now I shall continue to describe the actual experience, I apologize for getting a bit side tracked, but it tends to happen with me. So having been in India for almost a month, I was still hungry for some of that “spirituality” that India is so well known for, after kama sutra of course. So yes, I decided that no matter what, I had to go to an ashram; I would forever regret it if I did not. So yes after a hectic day spent trying to get a reservation (with my visa being locked out, several times over), it was a done deal and I barely slept that night, because I was super excited, like it was Christmas or something. So I packed my bags and along with my driver, made an hour and a half journey up to the outskirts of Bangalore. The traffic is always so bad at night, so a distance of 40 km would take you hours to travel, unlike in Canada on the QEW, which would take you under half an hour or so.

Once I arrived at the ashram, it was already getting late and the long registration and check in process also took some of my energy. But I was still excited and happy to be there, the place looked so lovely and green, after B’lore I was happy to inhale some fresh air, it’s all about them simple things really. So yes after getting my DNA approved and picture taken for my FBI badge and all, I got driven by a shuttle up to my room. The room itself is meant for three people to stay, but I kept on waiting for my roommates to arrive and no one showed, so I restlessly decided to go grab some dinner at the cafeteria.

The cafeteria is an interesting venue at the ashram, it is huge and spacious and awfully chatty! The dinner service was ending when I walked in, but I could still see carpets spread across the floor, so I grabbed a serving plate and sat down cross legged on the floor, like one should at an ashram. But this girl came out of nowhere, and ushered me into this enclosed area with tables and chairs. This dining area was specifically reserved for international’s such as myself, which was easy to spot vis a vi my “skin colour”. The girl was in “silence” so she couldn’t explain herself but just grabbed me and got me to the room.

The food was delicious, but vegetarian to which many of you would shrug in dismay. My guru specifically said that if one is practicing meditation, it is important to maintain a light vegetable based diet, so that way the meditation is more effective and produces greater result for once body. So the whole weekend consisted of a vegetarian cuisine, lots of dals , chick peas and other veggies that I was not aware existed. However, by the end of the second day I was already craving some meats, mhhmm….but tried my best to stay on track.

I would also try to eat amongst everyone instead of the enclosed foreign territory, so yeah I would sit down cross legged and hoped that the food wouldn’t splatter all over my clothes. I am not the cleanest of eaters, so for me this set up was even more challenging, but I seem to have passed my own test. But now that the food is all covered in some detail, I shall divert your attention to some of the lessons learned while at the ashram. Why do people go to ashrams anyways? What is the point? So yeah something that I was interested is to learn more about meditation and self-awareness. I won’t go on talking about spirituality and what it means to me, because that can take days and volumes of books as well, so to spare you dozing off, I shall simply say that an ashram is a spiritual hermitage, a centre for moral and ethical instruction, also music, yoga and religious rituals. So an ashram is somewhat defined differently by different people, as people attend an ashram for multitudes of reasons. Some come to discover themselves, find solace, happiness, overcome grief, whatever the reason may be, it unites different people in different ways.

So taking Part 1 in the ashram has helped me to turn off my mind, shut it off completely, in a way that enabled me to truly focus and concentrate on the present moment, instead of the past or the future that clutter the premises of our minds. The first session of meditation was absolutely surreal and I won’t even try to begin to describe it. It was that unfathomable. So I was completely blown away, not to mention that sitting in one position for more than 45 minutes does get extremely uncomfortable, and yes the first meditation session was spent trying to shake off all of the pins and needles that I felt throughout my footsies. It was quite horrible, but it was well worth it. When the kriya (the meditation technique developed by Guruje, was over it was as if time stood literally still and your body was not of any importance, it was just there but your awareness was completely occupied by other aspects of existence, something as simple as maintaining a rhythmic breathing pattern was enough to stop the tenacious workings of the mind. This meditation practice or regime continued for the next two days, in order to set in the “kriya” rhythm into our bodies. So that was pretty neat.

The course load also consisted of some interesting normative and hypothetical questions that would question the individual about personal dilemmas, purpose, pursuits and everything and anything that a person may dwell upon at some point in their lives. What surprised me the most was people’s unedited openness in sharing their life experiences with strangers, that was very refreshing considering most of the time we try to edit our lives as much as possible, so in that way we suit someone else’s idea of a perfect script. So it was quite nice to hear raw versions of people’s experiences, especially when being surrounded by a rather international and interdisciplinary crowd. That’s where I really could see true beauty, not so much in people’s appearances, but in their gestures, their openness, their believes and ability to love. We often fall victim to the appearance and identifying what is attractive or not, but in India I feel there is a mixture of appearances and traditions, that synchronize together to procure what true beauty is all about.

Furthermore, I learned that everyone is an artist, whether you are an associate at a finance firm or a journalist, you are a craftsman of your own divinity. It is your duty and responsibility to first be responsible to yourself, your own happiness, so then you can be ready to take on responsibility for others. The ashram definitely nurtures that sense of responsibility, especially when it makes volunteering so simple and accessible to all. Anyone at the ashram can grab a bucket of rice or dal during meal time and walk around distributing the food to others. It can be a 20 minute affair or something that can take much longer, but it is an affair in which anyone can participate. So I and a couple of my friends would grab some buckets and walk around distributing food. It was so much fun, minus the fact that I had this heavy bucket of ginger tea, so I was scared of spilling the beverage all over someone by accident. My friends laughed at me, as I remained hunched with the bucket, attempting to pour the beverage into each and every cup, carefully trying not to make a mess, which I am also quite talented at.

Living at an ashram is like an escape, it acts as an oasis from the stresses and chaos of everyday lives’ routine, making it an ideal destination for most modern human beings, ha ha.  I thought it was going to be a quiet weekend, but little did I know I was going to meet some really fabulous and interesting people with whom I would engage in deep invigorating discussions over all things spiritual, political and theoretical. The ashram was not a quiet place; as it was one of celebration, music and sound. The sat sun’s, are events that took place later in the afternoon in the main centre of the ashram city. A sat sun is a festival of sound and dance, happens every weekend, with everyone gathering together to perform meditation which later disperses into dancing and singing. It is a truly wonderful experience, to see everyone dancing.

As the weekend approached its end, it was rather sad to see all these wonderful people go, especially after getting to know everyone at a very personal level. We ended up all exchanging contact information and gifts. What was the most touching moment for me was the random gift I received from a friend. He simply walked up to me and gave me a gift, just because. No reason, no intent, just said “Thank you for being my friend” and then left. I was really touched by such act of random kindness. This was probably one of the nicest gift giving instances I’ve encountered in a long time, as it took me by surprise.

So that is pretty much it, the weekend was finished and although I didn’t feel I was changed, something inside of me became more aware and that is something if not everything. Some things learned during the weekend at the ashram, I shall harbour and carry around with me for years to come. That in itself was the purpose of my visit. Perhaps I did not come to any intricate realizations about myself, but what I realized is that beauty exists in almost everything and that we all aspire towards the same goals, peace and love.

With the corny ending,

I shall retire,

With lots of Love,

Anna

http://www.artofliving.org/in-en (here is a link where you can check out all the cool projects and programs that this ashram runs, some of them are absolutely amazing, rehabilitation programs, schools, etc)

Love (just because I feel love is the most essential, so here are some of Guruji sayings)
  • Love is not an emotion, it is your very existence.
  • Here are the signs of love. When you love someone, you see nothing wrong with them.
  • When you love someone, you want to see them always happy and you want them to have the best.
  • Love is the highest strength, yet it makes you absolutely weak
  • Love cannot tolerate distance, and hatred cannot tolerate nearness.
  • You can experience love, but you cannot describe it or express it totally.
  • Love is beyond sight, touch, smell, taste, and sound.
  • When there is Love, there is no ego; ego dissolves like the dew drops with the sun.
  • In the company of one who is living Love, you also cant but spring into that Love.
  • Love is that phenomenon of dissolving, disappearing, merging, becoming one with.
  • Love is that phenomenon of total letting go.
  • The seers, the seen, and the process of seeing all merge. The knowledge, the knower, and the known, they all merge, become one & that is Divine Love.

Happy Canada Day! from India!

Standard

Dear Blog,

This entry is a bit bitter sweet. This is when I really do realize, ouch I miss Canada! (Scratches her head in amusement) I do miss Toronto, the BBQ’s, the beach, dipping my feet unto a nice crystal clear lake, the lakeshore, having an ice cream at Yorkville while skimming through art galleries, shopping and dining on Queen Street (both West and East, just to be specific ha ha), cottage chairs, having a pint of cider on a nice patio, firework displays and yes of course all of you lovely friends and family! I could never forget to mention you guys. I am going to try to close my eyes and visualise …mhmm what would we be doing if I was there, well maybe have a road trip somewhere or have a BBQ cook off? Sounds good? Grill up some juicy burgers and hot dogs. Hope you guys make the best of the day! Party, dance, see some fireworks and eat lots of yummy Canadian cuisine, jealous! To all of the fellow interns in all of the far far away places, I hope you also embrace your Canadian selves in celebration and do something particularly Canadian on this day! I shall try to find some sort of a prototype French Canadian poutine and if not, then I shall force a chef to put some cheese and chicken gravy on some regular fries and indulge, that should do the trick for now.

All in all, it’s been great in India, so I can’t complain too much. Life is really taking up its form and routine, as I commonly say. Lately the weather has been warming up in B’lore so hoping to catch some sun rays while frolicking about during lunch breaks. This week just zoomed by, had some eventful encounters. Well one morning it took me about half an hour to get an auto to reach the office, like what is up with that? So I spent that morning, frustrated, walking up and down the road, scrounging for an auto to take me to work, with most of them being either in use or just not bothered to take me to the desired destination, shaking their head in dismay and driving off, leaving me high and dry! Arg! So my patience was tested as it is so often is, in this country. I think once I return, I shall be the most patient person you ever encounter, given all the trials and tribulations experienced here. So yes after about half an hour of walking through hectic traffic and I want to place emphasis on hectic, as it was absolutely nuts!!! I mean there were people pushing buses onto roads, rickshaws were being pushed into ditches, people screaming, so it was absolutely unimaginable. I haven’t seen it this bad yet. Oh and to add to the scenery of such chaos, I walked by a pile of garbage and a new friend made an appearance, this fatso rat was having breakfast on the curb of the road, oh how delightful! I’ve been seeing these furry friends everywhere, great!

This week has been rather difficult, a bit emotionally draining, as now more than ever I can’t help but to think about the issues of poverty that plague this country. Yes there is a story coming on I am afraid. So I took a rickshaw to go shopping after work, well what else is there to do in monsoon season!? Therefore, being inside a shopping centres is a pretty good refuge and a place to really chill and relax. But the story is not about my consumerist endeavours, but rather a human story about a man who was nice and sincere enough to share some of his hard ships with me. No I may not know his motive behind it, whether it was for financial purposes or an honest sharing of experience to someone who is willing to listen, I guess we just will never know and some things in life are better that way. He was funny and kind, even attempted to teach me some Hindi words, putting emphasis on attempted, because my pronunciation made him chuckle. I was embarrassed because he could speak Urdu, Hindi, Kanata, English and some other regional language that I forgot to take note of, phew even that is an exhaustive list, he was so clever and passionate. So we talked about health care systems, bureaucratic structures, public policies, salary wages (to know that he earns less that 50, 000 rps a year made me rather sad, as that equates to about $1600 Cad, Just wow!? )

So when he told me about his brother suffering from a ligament disease, my heart sank into despair. It is rather common for people in India’s lower class to be injured or fall drastically ill, leaving the financial burden on their family. So the costs of his brother’s surgery were approximately 27,000 rps, which is a lot for someone who only earns 50,000 annually. He told me about the fact that his brother has to get his arm amputated, before the infection spreads throughout the body. At the same time, the family has to forgo food and electricity in order to afford the medical bill, while also his two sisters are being married off in order to be provided by their husbands. Of course to many of us, these problems seem distant and irrelevant, but the reality is, such hardships are widespread, whether in India or in the developments of Canada.  It is all about the unseen, at times seeing beyond the smile and the person that bears it. It is about sharing a story with a stranger who is willing to listen, to offer a sympathetic ear, if that’s all we can do at the end. The driver would not accept the extra money I offered him, so he could buy himself a snack. But instead I offered him a dinner date, got his number and promised him I would get in touch. Sometimes even money don’t seem like the adequate option, it is all about human compassion, in its most elusive and raw state. Compassion in this instance came from him, his ability and resiliency to share his story while at the same time bear to smile through it, to which I am very grateful. At the end of the day, honesty and understanding is what really drives us to friendship and love, there is a bit of Anna’s philosophy for you (to bore you that is, sowie!).

So as you know I am a tad nuts for guitars and anything with strings, I am still drooling over the idea of bringing a zee tar over to Canada to add to my clutter of antiques and instruments, Ha.  Obviously, I made an investment into my musical salvation and purchased a guitar, to occupy my spare time and get back some of them skills I had back in the day, so yes jamming up with some friends is to be expected. I also bring around the guitar into the office, it is always nice to liven up the mood during the lunch break, get everyone to sing along.

But for now I shall move on to a peppier topic, the plans of this weekend! So while you shall be lounging around in some remote foreign destination or simply sitting around enjoying the sun at your cottage, I want to let you know that I shall be also lounging about by the beach in Pondicherry, a French colony.  So I hope that Steph and I will enjoy plenty of sunshine (and no monsoon rain), to finally get that tan we’ve been so desperate for and eat some fine French cuisine, while staying in a nice colonial hotel that was built by the French in the 18th century or so, basically history shall surround us all weekend long. Cannot wait! I am hoping to start a more comprehensive travel diary to post up on this blog, we shall see how my motivation will pan out! Because I see so many places and people, I feel that not enough can ever be said to even describe it all in the slightest of details.

However for now, I shall start packing and prepping for a long bus ride. But I shall enthusiastically celebrate Canada Day and Steph’s and my mom’s Birthday’s (which freakishly enough fall on the same day so Happy Birthday Linda and Valentyna!!!! Hope you both have a wonderful day and we shall toast to you by the Bengal Sea and pick out some nice birthday presents!!!!) So this weekend will be one of celebration and lots of French wine, mmmm…. But also I shall celebrate the Canadian in me by wearing my “Hockey night in Canada” t-shirt, that was given to me as a going away gift by a very lovely co-worker and friend. So that shall be my token of nationalism for this special weekend. However, I still can’t believe Canada is only 144 years old! Being in a country that is considered to be one of the most ancient civilizations in the world, it is al

most ludicrous to consider Canada as a comparison. So continue to stay young Canada and take care!

Arevoir!!!

Until next time,

Yours truly

Anna

 

Adjusting….slowly but surely!

Standard

Dear Blog,

I am sorry I haven’t been consistent with you, but my life in India has been picking up, which is always good. I no longer feel like a visitor as much as I initially did, now crossing the street comes almost naturally, not that it isn’t still terrifying when a bus skews right by you or speeds right towards, but nonetheless it has become more of a familiar experience, with every passing day I feel more and more daring and less bothered, while also lazy. Today I even decided to be daring and listen to my ipod while walking down the road to meet up with Steph (I know badass huh). It was nice to do so for once something that I would do while running about Toronto that I of course miss terribly, but for now Bangalore fills that void, slowly but surely I feel more at home.

The past week we decided to finally explore the city in which we’ve been     living for almost a month and yet hadn’t been formally acquainted with, how pathetic huh?  The weather has been rather pleasant and the monsoon rains have stayed away, which is always good for afternoon frolicking. So after work we would change up our usual routine of shopping/ dining or cinema going and decided to walk about, discovering what B’lore town has to offer, and let me tell you it’s pretty awesome. So like most parts of India everything is about contrasts and contradiction, every corner is filled with surprises of sorts, you may be in a posh area and right next to you there is a child begging for money to afford a snack, well at least that’s what I would like to believe however the auto drivers urges us otherwise, saying that the children beg for drugs. It is mad alright, everything sets of tantrums of questions and astonishments. Still shocks me at times, but I am slowly adjusting to it, if that’s even possible. I just speculatively examine the society, the people hoping to understand more and more, perhaps I will but at the moment I would be naïve to think so. So I shall take India for an elephant that it is, robust and enormous, yet slow and stubborn. Evaluating slum populations in conjunction to urban population growth also helps to see a small part of that puzzle, which can perhaps enlarge my overall understanding, one can only hope.

So we finally found a park nearby, where we can go for a jog, we can also get some sort of fresh air, which is nice. We are actually lucky to be in B’lore, as it is considered to be not only the greenest city in India but also one of the cleanest, phew! So yes the park was lovely, loads of amazing and crazy trees, tall bamboos and such. The trees are surreal and ancient, some of them are approximately 120 years old, if not older. Those are some beasts of trees I tell ya and I’ve seen Red Woods in California so I know what a beastly tree looks and feels like, completely overpowering and ragingly beautiful. Of course we took lots of picture of the trees, why not?

We also finally found a neighbourhood that closely resembles that of Yorkville in Toronto, oh it made me so happy! So yes, we were delighted to fine dine in a restaurant similar to those in Toronto, yet not really. We were craving sushi, which is extremely difficult to get in India because Indian’s really don’t like raw fish. So there French and Italian styled bistro’s, open terraces, lights, the whole deal. We went up to a Japanese restaurant which was massive, with huge sculptures staring in every direction. They definitely don’t go half way on their themes, really over the top décor, which makes you feel as if you are truly inside some historic cave in candle light. Definitely a great spot for Steph and I to attend again and again. However, the price of dinner there is the same as it would be in Toronto, about $20, which is the most we’ve paid for dinner thus far, because usually a steak dinner or what not would cost just under $5, so you can imagine how much we splurged.

 

The cause of such foolish behaviour was the events that took place on an evening prior. So I know in my prior blogs I have introduced you all to my lover and roommate, Suresh. Well, to my disappointment Suresh failed to respect our rules of intimacy and brought along some of his mates, who made themselves extremely comfortable in my suitcase amongst my clothes, yuk! So one evening, returning happily home after dinner, I decided to slip on a pair of shorts and to my surprise a friend appeared out of nowhere and ran up my leg. I screamed and yelled, like a complete idiot. So I decided to deal with the situation the next day, because at that time I was way too disgusted to do anything productive. I don’t even know how I slept that mind, constantly thinking about the possibility of Suresh and his friends being nearby made me really squeamish and anxious.

But the next day I was really lucky when Steph volunteered to help me out with the crisis. So during work she was enough of a sweetheart to do some intense research on extermination methods, some information she found was rather graphic and just gross, I mean why would anyone would want to have cockroaches as pets!? Why? Yuk, yuk! So yes after work we got the spray, bottle of rum and some chocolate which cost the same as rum, which is bizarre. To mark the occasion of course and anyways I really needed a drink in me in order to take on that evening. So yes, that wasn’t something I was really looking forward to. Took a swig of my cocktail and Steph and I started hunting them down, spraying them down, one at a time. It was rather frightening at times as they would run out and scatter all over the room. Definitely got our adrenalin racing. But it was fun to say the very least and so far I haven’t seen any around, fingers crossed they won’t return until August, after that they are welcome to do as they wish. I know it was rude of me to murder Suresh but he broke my heart and for that he deserves to be punished! (ha ha)

So Steph discovered a new skill, exterminating cockroaches while I definitely acquired a new sort of tolerance for pests. Moving on from this very exciting segment I want to describe more about the city in which I am making a temporary home for the coming 2 months. This weekend has been the only weekend on which we stayed back in the city, because the last couple of weekends were spent traveling out. So we tried to make the best of it and see the Botanical Gardens, which was awesome! Lots of historical sights, buildings built by the British. It was lovely to stroll around the trees and flowers and produce vendors. I ended up indulging in a delicious mango, getting messy and loving it! It was absolutely delish! It is a mango festival in India, meaning the mango harvest is being collected so there are so many of them, different shapes, colours and textures! Mango-Galore in Bang-a-lore! We also indulged in some yummy cucumber and corn on the cob sprinkled with chilli powder, yum! Also got another henna done! That was fun, the second Steph and I sat down, there were about 25 people crowding over us, taking pictures and filming, us the two white girls getting their henna done, how amusing! It’s definitely bizarre to get so much attention, for no reason.  I try to engage in conversation with the locals, but I get easily turned off when someone who looks my age attributes me as “ma’am” and yes I know it’s a sign of respect, but I really like to be on the same level with a person in order to feel comfortable to engage in a chit chat.

We took pictures with families, boys, girls, whoever would ask for some. We got used to this from past experiences in Mysore and Cochin. What can you do, just got to go with it and “smile for the camera”. People often ask us the same questions “What is your name, what you are doing here, where are you from and how long will you stay?” so we have our speech down on pact.

 

Next day we hung out on Mahatma Ghandi, which is a posh district in every Indian city and it pays tribute to you know what famous figure! Stumbled into a couple of shops, several of which sold clothes that is sold to H & M and Zara, as we know a lot of the clothes sold in these international stores is made in India, so we ended up getting the same tops for quarter of the price, sweet! But of course street vendors would harass us with random trinkets that we had no intention in purchasing, drums, wooden snakes, chess boards. Hassling us and reducing the prices as we would attempt to get away, at times we literally ran away, it gets so confounding. Once we get away, we have a giggle and move on to the next shop.

After some “chillin” as Benjamin refers to, we headed over to the Fete de la Musique at Alliance Francaise, which was absolutely kick ass! I often sulk thinking about the Four Seasons and all of the music and art festivals I am missing in Toronto, but I guess the God’s over here answered my prayers and absolutely delighted my senses. It was so nice to hang out and listen to world music from traditional Karnataka bands (playing an instrument only one woman in the world does and she was absolutely amazing) to fusion bands from folk, jazz and metal backgrounds.  Also, Indians seem to know how to appreciate good music and let loose. No one is fearful of really getting into the grove, which is amazing! I really feel at home, because I like to get dancin’.

So I shall wrap up my updates, I hope they were somewhat entertaining. I hope there will be lots more for me to report but for now this week will be packed with work, partying and yes a visit to an Ashram! But that will be a whole different entry! I cannot wait to tell you all about in more detail.

For now I hope everyone is enjoying their experiences at home and abroad, sending love to all of the fellow interns!!! Hope everyone is working hard and also playing hard!

Lots of hugs,

Anna