Thugs in a Temple!? WTF!?

Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal

Interesting experience. I met with a Brahmin priest upon my arrival who informed me of the rules: as a foreigner, I must pay an entrance fee and I am also not allowed in, since I am not Nepali nor am I Hindu. My friend, who is Nepali and Hindu, got in for free, that sucka. Haaha.

Here is a link: http://www.pashupatinathtemple.org/

I went down to the area for a prayer and a puja. I asked for the courage and bravery to continue being fearless and to remain consistently on my path—intellectually and spiritually. Funny, shortly thereafter, the priest bids us good-bye and we started walking towards the cremation area and we were assaulted/almost robbed by two tourists-scammers right in the temple area!? The audacity of these bitches! Because my friend is Nepali, as I previously mentioned, he has an awareness of the landscape and can spot out the good ones from the rotten ones. With intuition and strong-will, we exited with only a small altercation—who expects thugs in a temple?! Ugh, I guess human dignity has left the building. I would chalk it up as the divine just testing my ‘bravery, courage, and fearlessness’ since that was what I channelled during my puja—what do you think? This world keeps me on my toes! The complexity of being at a temple and having such an experience only highlights the absurdity of existence (Camus). What better way to celebrate the sacred and the profane—I think every ethnologists has encountered something of this nature, it is part of the territory I guess. Now back to the puja/prayer/mantra ceremony. It was quite an experience to be there, with this priest and my friend having this moment and being present. He (the Hindu priest) asked if I would like to extend this love and compassion to others like my family and I said yes, obviously. We took a few photos and exchanged e-mail addresses and he said that he will e-mail the photos to me since I am sans a mobile device and a camera (travelling like a gypsy, obvi).

On our way there and back, we stopped to watch a group of males playing cricket! I was so excited because I was my first encounter since being here—not even in India did I have the pleasure to see a full game in action. We return home and planned to hit the swimming pool because it is hot/humid today and we walked for an extended period of time. Instead, we used the water-hoes and had a splash pad/chase in the backyard/garden/side lawn area which was fun and a good form of exercise for the day. It was a nice way to end the day and take our minds of the two dweebs who attempted to ruin our day.

Yesterday, I attended the Darnal Award for Social Justice. I am a Research Associate with ICI and I worked on this event for the past year. Here is a link: http://www.darnalaward.org/event/2015-darnal-award-social-justice-special-event

This is just the beginning of great work to be done—an estimate of five schools will be built to help in the post-earthquake reconstruction. It is such an honour to be in the presence of such great and formative minds, people working passionately to better themselves and the communities they are exposed to/serve.

I am not sure what I will be doing for the rest of the day. I intend to edit my final reflection on Bhopal and have a post within the next few days….I will keep you posted.

Why are all the most beautiful things in nature the most dangerous at times?

Made it to Nepal! The view of the Himalayas flying into Nepal is what dreams of made of. I mean, pure beauty. I was in awe of its magnitude and utter divine beauty. The ice caps reaching beyond the clouds and the vision of whites, blues, greys from the distance is indescribable. You must see it for yourself, I fail to accurately describe it. Funny, I was reading a book and the author mentions one of his treks to the Himalayas (also, I found this book randomly on my last night in India!). As I am reading, I look up, and to my astonishment and serendipitous shock & awe, out my window, this monstrous beauty is staring right at me. I was stop dead in my tracks, well, the plane kept propelling forward but I was suspended in time & space for a second or two. This dangerous beauty causes one to become humble and prideful simultaneously—humble because of its sheer magnitude and prideful to be part of this universe, this cosmic composition we all share. It was a moment of pure magic and ephemeral divinity when I looking out my window—the ice caps, ah, the only word that comes to mind is beauty. The blues of the sky, the whites and greys of the clouds, the white ice caps, the greyness of the mountains, all meshed into one painting, whereby, the start and finish of either entity became embroiled into one being, it all felt like part of the same, no beginning and no end…endless delineations and contours—bliss! Why are all the most beautiful things in nature the most dangerous at times?

I look down and there are greens, browns, and rivers underneath, and to my left, the Himalayas, honestly, it felt like a dream. And there was a moment, when I questioned my sanity, asking myself: “Wait, is this really happening?” Haaha—basically, “IS THIS REAL LIFE?” (youtube video from a few years ago with the little boy David, high from laughing gas from his visit to the dentist). I found the video, priceless.

I made two friends — one Nepali and the other an American from Seattle (Buddhist practitioner). The American will be in the mountain at a village, re-visiting his friends there, locals we met during his extended stay a few years back.

Happy to be in Nepal. Warm greetings upon my arrival and happy to see my friend-soul sister, Sarita, and meet her loving and compassionate family.

Unlike Bhopal, there is no wake-up call of prayer horns, rather, the charming sound of roosters!!! I was instantly reminded of my time in the Caribbean and it brought me comfort and felicity. The food is also shared with the Caribbean and many vegetables, flowers, and spices used here, are also used in the Caribbean—to my pleasant surprise! For example, callaloo and corella bush! Nepal, has pleased me thus far and I am thankful to have this experience.

Gobinda Hari,

-A

Day Seventeen: Sanchi…Buddhalicious

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Oh man, what a trip! Pure beauty. Whoever crated this earth, he or she did a darn magnificent job—because even excrescences are beautiful.

The landscape changed drastically from urban industrious and polluted to green, scenic, peaceful and natural. It was night and day in a matter of miles/minutes, well, kilometres, over here miles is not the mode of calculation when it comes to distance. The city is very populated and everyone is on a motorbike, a moped, or some form of automobile. The air pollution is problematic and one can feel the dirt and fine particles on one’s face, so washing your face is crucial if you don’t want to break out.

Getting to Sanchi after the madness that is the urban area, was what the doctor recommended. Pure and utter peace and serenity, in a lusciously green backdrop. The rice fields and agricultural cultivation can be seen for miles. Sachi is located on top of a hill so the elevation allows for a panoptical view.

We were going to hire a taxi for the day but a staff member at the clinic recommended that we use his son. It worked in our favour because it is someone familiar and the fare stays in the family. He was accompanied by his best friend, and we brought our friend who could speak Hindi in case we needed to translate anything. We all enjoyed the beauty of Sanchi and everyone were in a state of tranquillity.

As an ex-competitive sprinter, I look for moments when I can relive my glory days. There are these ancient stone steps all over Sanchi that looks like hurdles—so, obviously, I suggested we race to the top. And yes, I won! I kicked those younglings…#ageinggracefully, haaha. Sanchi is one of those places that you have to visit once to fully comprehend its history, its intent, and its significance in human progress.

Upon our return, we all had lunch together and decompress from the experience…cool down period. I will now get some work done and then do final gift shopping before I depart on Saturday morning. It is bitter-sweet leaving India. Upon my next arrival, I will ensure to spend more time in the country side rather than the City—however, the City is where I was needed for this trip. The next trip, I will ensure I spend time grazing on the greenery that this sacred and mystical place has to provide.

Do you believe in omens? If you haven’t read The Alchemist, I kindly suggest that you do. It is a life-changer, fo shizzle. Oh, I forgot to mention. If you have not been exposed to Indian pop music, your life is about to change. It gives Korean pop a run for its money. I was first exposed to K-pop whilst in San Francisco, and I fell in love—it’s over the top fun! Think New Year’s Eve spectacle but in a music video, high entertainment.

 

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Day Fifteen: Transitions—time and space…Kant where are you when we need you!?

 

I spent time at the Bhopal Memorial Hospital yesterday. Oh man. I got to shadow a physician who is specialized in cancer. He was also training a junior physician, so I got to a see a lot – doctor-trainee, trainee-patient, and doctor-patient.

Cancer is a helluva thing – some patients will die and others, are showing signs of recovery. I left with this gem of a mantra, “He is going to die – we all die”. The blunt honesty hit me like a ton of brick but then the reality set in, he is right, and he’s a doctor, and he sees this every day.  For the past year I volunteered at hospice palliative care but I am still not immune to the shock upon hearing the words that “he/she will die and there is nothing, medically, we can do to save them.”

I was instantly reminded of this scene from Hadrian’s Memoirs:

My dear Mark, Today I went to see my physician, Hermogenes, who has just returned to the villa from a rather long journey in Asia … I took off my cloak and tunic and lay down on a couch. I spare you details which would be as disagreeable to you as to me … the description of the body of a man who is growing old, and is about to die of a dropsical heart … It is difficult to remain an emperor in presence of a physician, and difficult even to keep one’s essential quality as a man … This morning it occurred to me that my body, my faithful companion and friend, truer and better known to me than my own soul, may be, after all, a sly beast who will end by devouring his master … ”

Right before I left for the hospital, I was asked to edit a document. The document was for a seventeen year old boy who has a hole in his heart—his parents were both victims of the gas leak and are now survivors who are chronically ill, which their son has inherited. This is common here in Bhopal…heart breaking.

Today, all day staff meeting….I  am planning on visiting a mosque this evening. If I do, you’ll read about it tomorrow.

 

Day Thirteen: Kite Runner

 

It has been years since I flew a kite but I did just that yesterday. It was a moment of nostalgia and utter excitement. I felt like a little boy for that short duration—the eagerness of the kids to show me how it is done Indian style was exhilarating. I wanted to prove to them that though I maybe a tad bit older, ‘I still got it’…I can still do this, haaha, silly man.  I am glad I took the five minutes to simply stop and engage the kite, engage memories of my youth, and of days gone, the freedom entailed in just keeping an eye on your kite—I have not yet read Kite Runner…have you? (I just did a Google search and it sounds intense).

Yesterday, I went to the Indira Gandhi State Museum. First off, the grounds are spectacular! It is located in the hills of Bhopal overlooking the lake, breath-taking views! Now I understand the concept of new and old Bhopal. I will elaborate more on this in my final reflection essay.

This is a cliché…being in a place like India, if you self-reflex, you become aware of the things you take for granted. Simple things like fresh/clean drinking water, healthy and sustainable food, clean clothes, basic medicine, and the ability to have an education. Though things are expensive in a place like New York City, I, at times, take certain luxuries for granted—being here has opened my eyes to new perspectives and ways in which I think I will forever be altered. I would spend superfluously on dinners, drinks, and or cabs in one night, some people here, make less in one month than I would pay for a cab from Union Square to the Lower East Side, how can one return and continue such spending, without a conscientious thought?

One thing is universal, we all seek “the good life” in its assorted forms—what is your idea of a good life and are you living up to it? Today’s food-for-thought.

Do you get as excited as I do at the junction/intersection between the end of a book and the beginning of another—that space where you turn the last page of the present book and reach for the first page of the new book? Ah, bliss.

Day Eleven and Day Twelve: ‘I Share Your Love’

IMG_3747 He was caught of guard — he was laughing and smiling right before this…I think we surprised him with the flash. Haaha (Peter, I know you’ll enjoy this one).

I am watching a clinic employee feed the fish in the pond downstairs as I type. Like I said, everything here is connected and holistic—parts all come together to make a whole, it is marvellous. Speaking of feeding, I have not ingest meat in 10 days, as I mentioned a few posts ago, I may return a vegetarian…one that eats seafood. Haaha.

I had a great meeting with the Directing Trustee yesterday and his advised me on an exciting idea for my final write-up. I am visiting a few local government hospitals meant for the treatment of survivors. Basically, I will be on the go all day, from one location to the other—I am doing six total. So I am thinking two per day for the next three days but we’ll see.

I will stop by the market and start collecting gifts seeing that my time in India is coming to a close. I fly off to Nepal next Saturday for another project.

I found out that Hitler imitated a Hindu religious symbol and turned it into his Aryan nation symbol?! Madness. I found that out this evening whilst shopping for gifts at a metal store. They all sorts of metal utensils in silver, copper, and brass. I also bought a few spices, tea, and raw mint that looks like ice crystals!

On our way back however, we saw a sad scene – a man on the side of the road bleeding with a crowd around him. It may have been from an accident or a fight or something else, either way, my heart ached upon viewing. Things can go from pleasant to unpleasant in a flash…guess it’s one of life’s mysteries that we may never understand.

I am coming down with a cold. I got wet in the rain a few days ago and now I have a sore throat, a slight runny nose, and I feel it coming on stronger. I am drinking a cup of tea at the moment and rubbed my chest/neck with Vick’s vapour rub, hopefully, by the morning, I’ll be feeling much better because there is lots to do.

Here are a few photos…I don’t have a camera so I get photos from others. I used to love 7Ups as a kid, hence my excitement at finding this one…”life is like lemons, squeeze the juice out”

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Day Ten: A NEW Day Has Come…

This morning, I would like to start off with one of my favourite quotes. I found it a few years ago whilst living in San Francisco and every year that goes by, I grow more doting and enamoured by it. It goes a something like this:

Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behaviour. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know, many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them—if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry. – J.D Salinger.

 How divine is this passage? Especially the ending, “You’ll learn from them—if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.”

It is 3:48 am, I went to bed shortly after 8:30 pm – yesterday I had a very productive day going through the archives. I found the 20th Anniversary of Bhopal Chemical Disaster media highlights from December 2004 and they are absorbing! I learned about these two amazing women: Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla. I am always inspired in the most unusual times and I think those aberrant moments of surprise are the salt of life. There are so many ways to stand up for something that you believe in. There are so many ways you can voice your values and what those values mean to you. The beauty of living in a democratic state is for that exact reason, to celebrate the differences and varied ways people express themselves, their beliefs, and the things that they value. Some, like Bee—who was illiterate at the time of the 20th Anniversary publication—fight for their core beliefs by protesting and fasting, but there are other ways to voice your disgust against injustice and inhumane acts. Others, like myself, select their daily actions and the written word to express what is in their souls, their beliefs, and their visions for the world. And here is a blurb from Our 15th Year and 100th Prize Recipient, the Goldman Environment Prize 1990 – 2004,  “The duo draws strength from each other. Bee’s vision and oratory passion make her a natural spokesperson; Shukla’s quiet diligence and strength make her a formiable organizer. Their partnership is all the more remarkable because Shukla is Hindu and Bee is Muslim, religious factions with a long history of conflict in India. Together, they have made the struggle for justice a powerful validation of women’s role on the frontline of India’s civil society.”

Today, I want you to think about the way you show up to lend alliance to others, the ways in which you stand against things that are opposed to your core beliefs, and the ways in which you show up against injustice and inequality in its multifarious forms (gender, sex/sexuality, race/ethnicity, age, career hierarchy, caste/class etc.). Be inspired…disrupt the status quo, think outside the box, dare yourself to do something different (within reason, obviously, haaha).

Today, I will continue reading the 20th Anniversary media release because it is wise to compare the notes from the 20th Anniversary of the disaster to the 30th Anniversary report. By comparing, I can track the changes that occurred since and the things that have remained the same. It is a way to mark progress (not that progress always equates to a victory).  In addition, I am engaging a few employees at the clinic in conversation—a handful are victims/survivors themselves, it would be nice to hear their perspectives on tragedy and the varied ways healing can occur (or I should say, the varied ways healing occurs). I will be visiting the Ayurvedic system of care practitioner and shadow his daily routine…see the healing in action, experience how it is done, here, in Bhopal, India.

Live and let live…

Day Nine: Sandalwood, Kurta, and a Rickshaw = Atiba’s in Heaven!

I finally found sandalwood after a few days search!!! (Yes, Lex, I will be bring some for Ava, she’ll smell charming).

I had a meeting with the director of the clinic yesterday and another meeting with him today. There is also the staff meeting happening this evening (I think I mentioned in the beginning that there is a weekly staff meeting).

It is now 5:48 am, the sky is opening and the animals are making their varied sounds, accounting for their existence.

The site tour yesterday was quite an experience. I learned a lot about the abandoned plant, and myself. I learned that the rusting/decaying structures that are left can be a metaphor for the conditions directly surrounding the abandoned plant and the lives that co-exists symbiotically. There was a brief moment of a scare, but all is good…one must be cautious at all times because everyone else is not as solicitous/alert/and or vigilante, so you must pick up the slack when others fail to pay heed to what’s directly in front of them!

I will hand out a questionnaire today and hopefully have all the data by Friday, which means, my weekend will be spent collecting, sorting, analysing, and making sense of it all. Though, I plan on making a visit to Sanchi (Google it, hella cool!).

I am receiving such fond e-mails from loved one (family and friends) and it is a joy to wake up t such kind and loving words—funny at times, which is always good! Thanks Lex, Linda, Lucia, Marty, Uncle Kendell, Steggy, and Aunt Betty.

Dharma Love.

Day Eight: Do you have any Indian Sandalwood Oil? I cannot find sandalwood anywhere, ugh!!!

Today’s agenda: (1) visit the permit office to tour Union Carbide; (2) first round of interviews with staff/administration and doctors; (3) visit the Old Market.

Thought for the day:

“Hurry to your own directing mind, to the mind of the Whole, and to the mind of this particular man. To your own mind, to make its understanding just; to the mind of the Whole, to recall what you are part of; to this man’s mind, to see whether there is ignorance or design—and at the same time to reflect that his is a kindred mind.”

What a day…what a day I had! Woof! One thing is needful when coming to India—patience. We arrived at 10:25 am and was informed that we had to wait until 11 am, we didn’t leave the office until 3 pm…permit in hand. We are not allowed to take photos or videos during the tour tomorrow, which is fine with me. Taking photos at times can hinder having a true experience with an object, I’ll will bring my note pad and pen, as I always do, and take copious notes. I made it to Old Market where I purchased bags of varied fruits, no veggies—I will buy veggies on my next trip…Friday evening…I will also buy spices and fruits. I have been contemplating what to bring home as gifts to my family and friends and I’ve figured it out—spices and teas! After all, I am in the deep East, the land of ‘exotic’ spices and teas!

In an attempt to relax after a mildly frustrating morning/afternoon, I am writing this blog and having Tulsi tea, which is delicious!

Because of the long wait at the permit office, our scheduled interviews were postponed until Wednesday. Tomorrow morning, I will start interviews at 8:30 am, then we will head to the Union Carbide site for a one-hour guided tour at 11 am. We will then walk around the colonies and converse with individuals directly affected by gas leak of 1984 and the subsequent contamination of drinking water in the years that follow, including presently.

The clinic is self-sustained and follows a strict no ‘outside chemicals’ model, in order to keep in good faith—since the patients are victims of a chemical gas leak. Everything that is used here is manufactured on site, which goes along with the holistic approach embedded within the clinics configuration. The medicine is made here, plants are grown in the garden, cultivated, and turned into organic remedies and treatment. The water is filtered and treated on site allowing foreigners (like yours truly) to consume with ease and at their own leisure. There are cooks on site too, providing vegetarian meals three times per day.

I will end today’s post with this…I had my first encounter with a victim of the Bhopal Gas Disaster, and it was an intense one, definitely divine in its occurrence. I will not describe it here because sometimes details are rudimentary.

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