Monday Morning Musings

Posted on December 5, 2016 under Monday Morning Musings with 3 comments


This guy has the right of way


“ Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” Ian MacLaren

I saw this quote the other day and it really struck home. Travelling in the small villages in India, you can see firsthand the “great battles” that people fight everyday of their lives. We are prone to looking at friends we know, sometimes with a hint of envy, as they seem to have it all. Nobody gets through life unscathed.

There is simply not enough space here to capture what I see on a daily basis. It seems that something about India startles me with shocking regularity. If you are a person who likes structure and predictability, I’m not sure you would survive very long in this country.

Bathrooms. I have never seen so many different configurations for bathrooms in my entire life. I didn’t realize that I might need a degree in engineering to figure out how some of them work. But, by god I can tell you this, when nature calls, you must figure it out! Here’s a well known hint for North Americans. Carry toilet paper with you at all times… and hand sanitizer. Most washrooms have neither soap nor toilet tissue. This is NOT a criticism nor meant to be disparaging in any way.  It is simply different from North America.

A few days ago after a long day and  an even longer drive ( it took 4.5 hours to travel 100 kilometers! ), we were nearing our destination when my host asked me if I would like to sleep on a cot in his office or go to a hotel. Needless to say, I chose the hotel. I would have paid $1,000 at that point to have a few creature comforts. Ok. It wasn’t The Ritz but it was perfectly adequate. There was no hot water in the morning for washing up. A minor inconvenience.  ( Most places don’t have showers. You fill a large bucket with hot water and then use a smaller bucket to pour the water over your body ). When I checked out, I stared at my receipt. I hadn’t asked about the rate when I checked in. It came to approximately 800 rupees or $16.85 Canadian!

My colleagues took me to a restaurant for breakfast… spicy but delicious. When we were leaving, they pointed out two beautiful dogs who were lying on a bench. These belong to the owners of the business and are their “ children.” These are two of the most pampered animals on the planet. They don’t move all day and food is placed in their mouths at meal time. Good work if you can get it!

We went to a very small village where I did an interview for an upcoming “ Faces in the Crowd” story. I have three in the queue. The first one is coming up on Thursday.

On our way to our final destination for the day, we stopped for lunch around 2:00 ( 1:30 seems to be the norm around here ). We entered this large restaurant and the place was packed… jam packed. No seats. That it, until they escorted us to a secondary, air conditioned room that probably sat another 50. I asked for the usual lunch fare. It was the most impressive arrangement of food I’ve seen on one plate on my entire trip. It was loaded with yummy ( and spicy! ) stuff. We had three waiters buzzing around us the whole time, refilling our plates with whatever we wanted. All that plus a banana and a tasty Indian dessert. There was no menu so I didn’t know the price. As I was getting low on rupees again ( no money in the ATM’s ), I was a wee bit concerned about having enough cash to pay. I needn’t have worried. The total bill, including tax: 90 rupees ( about $1.80 ). You may not like the pollution, the noise and the general chaos of India but the prices for everything are ridiculously cheap.

On the way out of town, we came upon a funeral procession, with fireworks and lots of loud music. Very celebratory.

The train ride back to Hyderabad was uneventful… until the very end. I was travelling with a colleague who is a veteran of train travel. Normally we are picked up by a driver but when I questioned him the day before, he said that there wouldn’t be a driver because he wasn’t sure where we were getting off. Hmmm, I thought? Knowing we had about a half an hour before getting close to our destination, my friend beckoned me and we ran for the door. I couldn’t see the station because there wasn’t one. Apparently the train slows down at this spot for a few minutes and if you are quick enough, you can disembark before the train starts to move again (  at your own risk )…  a drop to the ground of around 5 feet. Now if I was 16, this might not be a big deal. But try doing this at 65 with 1) a suitcase ; 2) a laptop; 3) a “man bag”; and 4) a grocery bag with food, snacks etc. and a bad back.

I have learned on so many occasions not to ask but just go with the flow. We got out moments before the train lurched forward. We stood by the tracks until it was safe to walk. We walked along the tracks and down an embankment to a street. We hailed an auto rickshaw and got to our residence in 20 minutes. By doing this manoeuvre, we saved ourselves 2 hours of rush hour traffic,  had we gone to our final destination on the train! Well worth the adventure.

Have a great week.

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