Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

India - driving, divine destiny, dining

Driving in India is a free-for-all art.
The steering wheel is on the right side of the car and the vehicle is supposed to be on the left side of the road. My deep breathing, namaste-type attitude has been a blessing for me but I recommend those with heart conditions not used to this phenomenon wear a night mask as you ride with your Indian traffic-wise driver doing the work.
It's no wonder so many people from this area of the world become taxi drivers when they come to the U.S. Compared to driving in India, New York City is a cakewalk. Seattle a joke. Pocatello a *nap.*
Drivers here honk constantly. As far as I can tell honking only relieves the driver's stress, because basically their honks go ignored. And beeps here are wimpy compared to US cars.
I mean, American horns go "freaking HONK!" Sending a MOVE OVER! GET. OUT. OF. MY. WAY. message. Here, automobiles are quieter, more polite, making a sweeter *beep* - as if to say "excuse me" "please to move over." With hundreds of honks going on simultaneously, Indian beeps create more of a symphony than a cacophony.
Ubiquitous on Indian roads: cars, tripeds, motorcycles with two riders (women ride sidesaddle on the back wearing traditional Indian garb) bicycles and smokers. Being allergic to smoke, I've been cautious and the places I've visited so far do not allow smoking in public areas.
Non-US airports have hideous "smoking rooms" for passengers, with glass walls for all of us to peer into the smoke-filled rooms, pathetic with nicotine-addicted prisoners trying to appear as if they don't care we see them contained in a sort of human zoo display, puffing away as we go about life. I wonder if this public display will give any of them cause to quit.
I was asked about my comment on yesterday's blog about seeing the visually shattering images of stark poverty alongside vestiges of material wealth and well-being. When I said I wasn't bothered by it, it is what it is, did I mean I experienced it as good or bad?
I replied that it is neither good nor bad, it is what it is and I'm not judging. If we see the God in everything, which is what the term "Namaste" means ("I see the God in you"), how can we judge?
It does not mean we need be passive, but it also means we do not try to force an explanation or rationalization of something that has no rationale explanation.
There are reasons Indian people believe that give them what they have or don't have as a birth right (or wrong) based in actions of the past (they believe in rebirth/reincarnation). So most (of course not all because like any nationality they are not all of one mind!) believe they are handed the lives they have - without feeling superior or inferior if they have a healthy outlook - and it is up to them to better their lot or live the life to which they were born.
Some born in rank poverty shrink in bitterness, others simply accept their lot and do not believe it will improve, others believe they can educate and work their way to a better life. To those born with material wealth, they can take what they have for granted, disrespecting their gifts, squandering their lives meaninglessly; they can take what they have, appreciate it and make the most of their talents and lives every day, sharing and raising the lot of everyone around them (which in turns gives their life true meaning and value), or they can simply do nothing except use what they have thoughtlessly, living empty lives.
Hmmm. This sounds like any culture on the planet, doesn't it? I think India portrays the contrasts and attitudes perhaps more vividly than other cultures. The contrasts are "in your face" rather than calculatingly hidden. I consider this more honest.
But to be historically fair, the European influence, perhaps intended to enhance the "civility" and culture of nations backfired, and did more than its fair share of destruction along the way. In the US and other nations considered colonies "in the day."
My host and I had this conversation yesterday. If you love intelligent conversation as I do, you would love it here because people have them constantly. Thoughtful, informed, open. AND, I'm happy to report that preconceived negative notions of Americans by folks here are doused by the minute after speaking with me. Several times they have responded, "Really? Most Americans.." "Interesting, most Americans I've spoken to don't understand.." etc., etc.
I'm staying at a hotel for students; I chatted with one who is with a group of Americans from MIT, studying disabled children here. He inferred that their studies of kids with disabilities has been eclipsed by learning so much more from the culture itself.
Caution! Anyone who knows me is aware that I do accents. I teach people how to create accents for roles they play as well as how to lose an accent if they need to (I once helped a budding psychologist starting to work in Seattle replace a thick New York/Jersey ["Noo Yak/Joisey"] sound with a "cultured western" accent). My East Indian friends in the US think I'm hysterically entertaining when I speak in my East Indian accent. They want to show me off to their kids for a laugh. Hey! They are laughing *with*, not *at!* ... well, I'm *pretty* sure.. '-)
At any rate, I have to remember NOT to do that here. No. First on my list of "Things NOT to do." 1. Use NO accents here. Not just the East Indian, but all except Canadian. Canadians seem to be non-controversial just about anywhere in the world I've traveled. So you see, Mireille? There is an upside to Canadians having a "nice" reputation!
Dining has been not nearly as dicey as I thought it might be. Turns out all the East Indian restaurants I've been frequenting actually do serve ... Indian food. I also had some Indian Chinese, which is a huge hit in the UK.
Best travel advice I've received: from my friend Nedra Gaskill, who was told by someone who lives here: take two Pepto-Bismol pills in the a.m. and again in the p.m. I'm careful to drink only bottled water, but one must brush one's teeth, etc., using tap, so there's no avoiding the water altogether. After being here nearly 24 hours, having two meals, brushing my teeth twice -no problems!
My traveling partner, photographer Michael Conner, arrives within a couple hours; I'm going with our driver/guide to pick him up. When I arrived after nearly three days' travel, I had shifted my sleep patterns to at least closely resemble India's. So whilst tired and rummy-silly at one point (Sorry, Lisa for the cyber-hanging, clingy hug, continually declaring, "I love ya, man! I love ya, man!") I went to bed early last night and do not feel in the least jet-lagged this morning!
Michael gets "housebroken" and rested up today after a brief tour of New Delhi; tomorrow it is off to Jaipur, then to the girls' school for three and a half days, then to Agra where we're taking pictures of the Taj Mahal with a full moon in the background. Then we see the Red Fort, the jail where Mumtaz Mahal was incarcerated after driving the national economy into the dirt from building the uber-dedication to his beloved wife. Ain't love grand? Centuries after it was built, the Taj lives on as a monument to a man's undying, phenomenal love for his wife, nay, to love itself. today no one even knows about that economic disaster thing.
And when he was put in jail, it was built so he could see the Taj, reliving his great love 24/7. Now *that* is civility!
I must give a huge shout out to my friend Lyndon Davis from Cowboys and Angels Styling Salon! Lyndon! Your haircut and new color scheme has been a *smash!* People who haven't seen me since you gave my hair a makeover will be shocked when I return - I've received several admiring glances! Thank you! It's fun to have one's hair admired with all those stares, I- wait. What is that *thing* hanging from my NOSE-!
Blog you tomorrow! No guarantees for photos because downloading them will take significant time since Michael is shooting RAW, with massive file memory. I won't, though, so, we'll see!
As my dear friend Rick Overton would say, "Namaste, Baby!"

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