Oct 29, 2012

The Last Day

A squadron of 3-wheeled rickshaws surround and cut my ride like starfighters, their annoying RING-NA-DING-DING! two-strokes squirting blue smoky smog.  Driver Ranjit counters with a stab on the oil burner's go pedal, followed by a raunchy horn blast and veer into the buzzing intruders to let them know Homey the Clown doesn't play games.

The sun's down on my final day in the office, I weep a little on the ride home and realize:  This is it.

Can't quite put my finger on it yet, but something profound happened over the last two weeks that will stay with me for a long time.  It'll probably come to and become clearer after digesting the trip, but initial guess is it's the people.




The little things stick, like a Pune friend from the office gripping my forearm and leading me across a busy intersection during a shopping run on Laxmi Road.  The same dude patiently searched with me in a ladies clothing store for a delicate Indo-patterned dress for my daughter.  He met Pigtails last month while in the states on business and wanted to help.

I often go for long walks from the hotel, scratching the lower rungs of the city in 5 mile chunks.  While winding through a poor neighborhood, a place some would call a "slum", I paused at a shanty.  A mother was busily cooking dinner on the ground for her family, using a tiny gas burner. 

She smiled, I waved, she didn't speak English, but motioned me over and handed me a hot fried fritter.  Gave her a little thank you bow and tried to give her a small amount of money, but she wouldn't take it.  Poor as can be, yet she gave me the only thing she had.  Made me think of the Bible story about the widow tossing in 2 mites.

No idea what she fed me, but it was friggin' spicy and delicious.


A couple people from the office asked if it was safe to travel those neighborhoods.  I told them it's not for everyone, but I never felt threatened.  South Chicago or even certain neighborhoods back home in Des Moines are more dangerous than anything I've seen here.  The people here generally aren't violent and don't carry weapons. 

Plus I'm a scrawny but scrappy bastard and can hold my own.  Grew up doing a paper route in the projects when I was 13.  A group of 3 boys used to hassle me, throwing fists of rocks and always trying to pick a fistfight.  Got my butt kicked a couple times, I learned pretty quickly at a young age how to protect myself and avoid another black eye.

Some people of India are much poorer than anything I've seen.  Yet they do the best they can.  These kids are from the same neighborhood I snapped above, but you wouldn't know it from their smiles and clean dress.  Mom and dad love them.



Just scratched the itch here, more to write but it's 3:30 am in Pune now and Lufthansa lifts in two hours.  The flights last significantly longer on the return due to the Earth's rotation slowing us with a western wind.  2 x 11 hour jets, plus a couple puddle-jumpers to bypass Hurricane Sandy. 

Somehow, I feel like I've been preparing for this visit to India my whole life, without even knowing it.  I'll see you on the other side.

-Beard


15 comments:

  1. Your experience is one that I hope you share with our future generation. That of kindness and openness and appreciation. Thank you!

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    1. I worry the attitude of the next generation will be one of apathy and indifference. I see it creeping in with the parents of this generation. I'll continue trying to stomp it out with posts like this.

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  2. Anonymous10/29/2012

    I know exactly how you are feeling...I felt exactly the same way after my first trip to India, and my 2nd and my 3rd. I love reading about your adventures there and re-living it in my mind. I was also in Pune, I also walked MG Road...alone...at night...and through all my excursions (Taj, Mahableshwar, Matheran) I never once felt in harms way. The smells, the sounds, the sights of India are more than one can explain in words. Welcome back to our reality. :)

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    1. It was difficult today at work to explain to co-workers what India was like. Words like "the trip was fun" are obviously insufficient, hopefully the grin on my face better got the point across. I hope I can return again, as you did.

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  3. Seems to have been a great adventure you took!! Good all around. Hope you continue to share your stories of adventure with us when you get back home and have rested up a bit.

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    1. Editing a couple videos tonight, hope to have a 1-minute clip ready soon that highlights a few seconds of sights from each day.

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  4. I am so glad that you have had the same wonderful experience that myself and many others have had in India. The Indian people are genuinely happy, loving and so unbelievably welcoming! I am blessed to work with teams in both Jaipur, Hyderabad and Mumbai. These coworkers are literally my family and we care for and worry about each other as if we were blood. I have never been on the receiving end of such genuine hospitality, but I am glad that I have and it has been a blessing to me on many levels. Quite simply, the Indian people and culture are "real" there is no pretense, no false front, just genuine feeling and love for others.

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    1. You sum it up well, the people there are real. The fake facades and pretend games we play here don't exist in that land. It was refreshing, I want more.

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  5. Amazing insight and reflection, Beard. I look forward to reading more about your take on Pune in a future post. Safe travels to you!

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  6. I wish we knew how to give like that here in the states.

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  7. Aaah... Looks like India has made a lasting impression on you. She does that! You'll be carrying her in your heart for the rest of your life. Glad you enjoyed your trip!

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  8. Amazing post! What a blessing in that a work trip would end up showing you this part of the world as well as all you got to experience along the way. We should all be so lucky. As a reader, I feel you have taken our hearts with you and Thank YOU for sharing part of that journey.

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    1. The trip was a blessing, I worked and played hard, it will stick with me for years. I'm glad there were readers to share it with, so thank you!

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  9. You made my feeler feel. And that's not easy to do.

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    1. Don't you get soft on me now, Erica.

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Thanks for the note, check back for my response!