Thriving in India
Thursday, January 27, 2000
I am writing you from Pune (pronounced POONA), India which is a five hour train ride east of Mumbai. I came here a few days ago to check out the Osho Commune and a Gandhi memorial. Two days ago, I took the train back to Mumbai and was ready to head south…then my plans changed (this is the beauty of traveling alone). I met the nicest young man named Shriram, and he helped me get situated on the train. It was rush hour and I had no idea what I was doing. The train was crowded and chaotic. Shriram speaks very good English and we ended up talking the entire trip – we talked about spirituality, meditation and yoga. We had to stand crammed into a tiny little space for five hours and the time passed so quickly! Shriram invited me to his family’s house for a meal and I felt comfortable with him so I agreed (always a risk but sometimes you have to trust your intuition).
I am smiling ear to ear as I share with you one of the most wonderful experiences in my life. Shriram’s family welcomed me with open arms and more importantly – open hearts. His mother is a music teacher and the following day her students were performing in a recital and she was having them over for a little party and celebration. I kept thinking about my mom and how nervous she gets before entertaining. I don’t think she would appreciate it if her son brought home a foreigner who he met on a train the night before a big event, but she didn’t mind at all.
It was a holiday in India – Republic Day – so the family was together to celebrate. Shriram lives and grew up in a four bedroom apartment. There is one bedroom, another bedroom that is a workshop for his dad, a family room and a kitchen. There are very clean squat toilets outside of the apartment for all the people who live on that floor to use. His father, mother and a cousin are now staying together in the apartment, and Shriram is living in Pune for a year while he is completing job training. Because it was a special occasion, his Granny slept over and two young cousins slept over. His brother, Shrikant, (there are only two boys in the family) lives 3 minutes away. So, it was a full house! They invited me to spend the night and of course I happily agreed. What a generous invitation!
We had a delicious vegetarian meal consisting of vegetable byrani and rice and curd soup. Shrikant had just bought a car – this was a HUGE happening – the first car the family has ever owned! We went for a test drive and this was a joyful and enthusiastic event!
In the evening, we sat in the family room (the futon couch unfolded) and listened to his mother play a traditional instrument (a sitar which is a string instrument with a round base that rests on the floor and has a 3 ft. long shaft with 4 strings) and sing classical music. Also, his 10 year old cousin, Varad, is a truly gifted child who played the flute for us – no question he is a prodigy. A house filled with loving people and beautiful music – how can it get batter?
That night, I shared a bed with Granny (she is pure sweetness) and I was amazed that so many people could sleep in a relatively small space, but we did and it was comfortable. Shriram woke me up at 5:00 a.m. and we went to a nice park and he showed me his yoga routine. People of all ages and sizes were out walking and getting exercise. After breakfast we went out visiting. He introduced me to one of his spiritual counselors (that’s what I call it/her) and she was incredible. An independent woman who is self-employed (some type of financial business) and who is incredibly centered and insightful.
After a busy morning we went to the recital and watched the children sing and dance – they were so cute! Afterwards, there was a big meal – traditional Indian style – where you eat on the ground, in a large circle, sitting on mats and eating with no utensils (yes…you eat with your hands…your right hand). There were six little girls (ages 11-14) and we formed a special relationship. They all wanted me to eat with them, so I did. Then, they wanted to dance with me, so I did. We had so much fun together – we giggled and laughed and sang and danced. They had never seen or spent time with a foreigner so it was a real treat for them to be around someone different. I have connected with children ever since I’ve been away…they do warm my heart.
My plans changed because I had such a good time with Shriram and his family. I decided that I would return to Pune with Shriram and spend time at the Osho Commune. He works until 3:00 p.m. and will hook-up with me in the afternoon. He’s also going to give me a crash course in Hindi so I can have some understanding of what’s going on around me. Just to dispel any thoughts about Shriram and me – he’s much younger than me – we’re friends. I believe he will be a very special friend who I will know for a long time.
About the Osho Commune – I took a tour a few days ago and really like it and thought seriously about returning after I traveled around India a bit but here I am NOW. They have created a peaceful and beautiful environment for meditation, They use a variety of techniques and have a variety of offerings. The price is reasonable ($3 per day for use of all facilities) but you have to find your own accommodations outside the commune. Many ashrams provide housing and food for $3 per day! I can still afford to be here awhile! There are Osho centers all over the world. The man Osho, a wise guru who wouldn’t want to be called a “guru,” made his transition (he died) in 1990 but his philosophy lives on. As I learn more, I will share. I am so blessed!