The Sounds of Silence

26
Jan
2007

This is it. I leave tomorrow morning very early to begin my Vipassana 10-day silent meditation. Wish me luck, I will either go mad or discover an astounding calm at the center of my being. Or both.

The blog will of course be silent as well for the next 10 days, so you can all spend your time perusing the many photos in my album, or reviewing past blog entries. There will be a quiz upon my return.

Indian Identity

26
Jan
2007

It is Republic Day here in India, and so this seems an apt time to begin a discussion on my perceptions related to India’s self image. Having only been here 6 weeks and not having a past in India to compare it to, I nevertheless have begun to form some opinions. Here are some of the interesting things I have noticed:

  • There are many ad campaigns that focus on the sense of Indian pride. The Times of India in particular is running a campaign with signs everywhere proclaiming “India poised” and “Our time is now”.
  • People I have spoken with at length tell me how India is emerging as the next superpower. They tell me how India is now throwing off the shackles of the past and achieving greatness. There is a palpable sense among the people that this is so.
  • India appears to be coming out from a sort of previous inferiority complex, loudly proclaiming itself to be as great as, or greater than other nations.
  • The bookstores I have been in have massive self-help and business management sections with many, many titles related to Indian identity, the Indian psyche, etc. These sections are far larger than any other for some reason.
  • A recent article I read in the newspaper here went on at length about Indians traditionally being shy about showing their patriotism, but how that was changing.

All of this is quite interesting to watch as an outsider. Indians I have spoken with all tell me that this is fairly new, this sense of pride and feeling of greatness. A lot of it seems to be related to competing in a global marketplace and economic growth. I can totally understand why a country with such great poverty (especially in the rural areas) would yearn for a higher standard of living for more of its citizens. I only hope that they stop short of some of the excesses of nationalism that plague the US.

Goodbye thefinaldomain, hello satoristephen

25
Jan
2007

Finally completed the transition to a new domain url more in line with the title of the site. Henceforth you can get to this blog at http://satoristephen.com. Please make a note of it and thanks for playing, void where prohibited.

I want to know

25
Jan
2007

There is something amazing I have been noticing here in India. I love it when people tell me about their faith. I am deeply, sincerely interested in listening to how they came to their belief systems, why they believe what they believe, what the circumstances of their journeys have been, and what the details of their faith entail. I would have mostly been annoyed by this back in the US, finding it slightly (or very) impolite and having the feeling that people were shoving their religion down my throat.

Here, the opposite is true. I am genuinely pleased that people will take the time and sincerely share with me their thoughts and feelings about [fill in the blank here with God, Meher Baba, Gurus, Buddha, Krishna, etc]. I am astonished by the fact that I seem to bring this out in people everywhere I go. Is it just the way things are in India, or is there something about the presence of a stranger on a cultural and spiritual journey that encourages people to try to connect on a deeper level with me?

The sincerity of the people who have shared their beliefs with me is overwhelming. Whether someone’s father or grandmother, westerners from a hippy tradition, business people in the cities or farmers in the countryside, all have eagerly and tenderly opened their hearts to me. And strangely, I have to them.

Close call

24
Jan
2007

Just before I left Delhi, I was on the street walking back to Meeta’s house when I had to dive out of the way of an oncoming auto rickshaw that seemed poised to kill me. As I jumped to his left, my trouser leg caught on a shard of metal sticking out from a car on my right, tearing a rather large gash in the side of my pants.

image

I was pretty lucky to get out without a scratch on me. Except, of course, the emotional scars of looking like a man of questionable fashion sense (and/or loose morals) while walking back.

Overnight train from Delhi

23
Jan
2007

Given my frozen experience in 2AC going to Delhi, I thought I would splurge (just this once, right) on a 1AC in the other direction. I am delighted that I did, but not for the added comfort (although it was quite nice). I was very fortunate to have as my cabin mates a pair of brothers who were absolutely fascinating to chat with, making the 17 hour journey fly by in no time. Both have vast experience in the IAS, with one retired and the other soon to retire and move to Calcutta. They are both quite well traveled and had good advice about places to go in India. I may even meet up with one of them for a brief trip in the south along the east coast.

Hangin’ in South Delhi

22
Jan
2007

Had a fantastic time with Meeta & Digraj and their two very cool kids Aashni and Arshia. They really made me feel welcome and we did a ton of things. I met with Meeta’s yoga instructor to get some info on various yoga schools and practice in India. We had an interesting discussion with some practitioners of Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism about their belief in the power of chanting. Meeta took me out for some fantastic street food. We had a picnic in a wonderful park not far from Qutab Minar that contained a collection of ruins, after which we drove around Delhi and took in some sights. And finally, I was invited to a wedding party by Meeta and Digraj and finally got to wear my fancy wedding outfit:

Guru

20
Jan
2007

No, this isn’t a post about finding a Guru or anything¬†spiritual.¬†

Went to go see the new Bollywood film Guru last night with Meeta et al. Despite the obvious fact that I don’t speak Hindi, I was able to get the gist of the film from the visuals and several well placed wispers to Meeta. Guru tells the story of an Indian industrialist who rose to great prominance and was then the target of several investigations into his business practices (and their legality/morality).

The fact that we are supposed to see the main character as a kind of hero is a little disturbing to me. During the film he lashes out at Indian bureaucracy and red tape, justifying his lawbreaking and other tactics in the service of some noble end (read: unfettered business and wealth creation). The moral comes down to this: The end justifies the means. I couldn’t disagree more. For me, the means ARE the ends (just as the journey is the destination).

Still, the production values were superb and the music quite good, continuing my introduction to Bollywood and its special language.

Back in Delhi

20
Jan
2007

Been in Delhi the last few days, hosted by Rittu’s sister Meeta and her lovely family in South Delhi. I have seen a few famous sites and been hanging out and having a number of fascinating discussions about Hinduism, urban planning, food (of course) and yoga.