Monday Morning Musings

Posted on February 20, 2017 under Monday Morning Musings with 3 comments

Tearing a strip off a politician

“Sweet surrender, is all I have to give”

Sweet Surrender – Sarah McLachlan

It’s official. I’ve thrown in the towel. I have completely and utterly surrendered to India. It has been building up for months. We have butted heads. Every now and then, I think I’m getting the better of her but she is a force to be reckoned with. India controls me. She’s the boss.

In this space, I have written repeatedly about this great country and how it is vastly different from the country I call home. It is a country full of contradictions. While I can’t promise that I won’t speak on this subject again, I think it’s time to let go and talk about politics or cricket from now on. By the way, the sports pages in The Hindu is all cricket all of the time. Occasionally they mention Lebron James or Tiger Woods’ back spasms in tiny print on the back page, but the rest of the 4 pages is devoted to cricket. I sat down one evening and watched a small portion of a match while three Indians eagerly tried to explain the subtleties of the sport. I was none the wiser when I left.

But I won’t surrender until I tell you about a short road trip I took last week with two of the Sisters and my friends from Ireland who run the B@B. We were on a fact finding mission looking at some new technologies and small business opportunities for the Sisters to help fund their charitable works. On the drive up, we saw one of the largest land based windmill farms in the world. We looked at solar power as an electrical source for the convent and solar powered fish drying technology.

Because it was a two day jaunt, we stayed overnight in Madurai at a retreat centre operated by Catholic priests. It is a magnificent facility… world class really. This is in stark contrast to the poverty that we see on a regular basis and one of the things that some of us find troubling and perplexing. I decided to delicately broach the subject with one of the priests. The money for the retreat facility did not come from parishioners. Private foreign donors not only built the place but also subsidize the operation. Groups come from all over Asia and Europe to reflect and spend time in a peaceful environment. They pay to attend.

So, where does the money go? A few hundred yards away is a private Catholic boys’ school. But this is no ordinary private school. The students are poor… very poor, in fact. All of their educational costs are paid by the retreat house and the benefactors.The fathers of these children are quarry workers. You can see the quarry far off in the hills behind the retreat centre. These men spend 10-12 hours a day breaking rock with a hammer and chisel. They get paid about 100 rupees a day. That’s roughly $2.00 Canadian. The day we were there the temperature rose to 33. Father told me that this was one of the cooler times of the year. Think about this.

The moral of that little saga: don’t judge a book by its cover.

After a reasonable sleep, I got up at 5:00 to go for a walk. I have been managing to average about 12K a day since I came to India. I wandered down the hall to the front door of the building but it was locked. I checked out several other doors in different parts of the building with similar results. I was beginning to wonder if some cult had captured us. I waited patiently (!) until 6:00 when an attendant finally freed me from my imprisonment. I later discovered that there is a pack of 13 very large , very angry, very dangerous dogs that frequent the retreat house between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 in the morning ( my guess is that they are not seeking spiritual guidance but rather human flesh ). Guests are locked in in order to keep body and soul together.

After my walk, I jumped into the shower and jumped right back out. Ice cold water. I know that hot water is a luxury in many parts of the country but I figured that the retreat facility would have lots. Oh well, no big deal as I am used to this.

As I was publishing a story that day, I decided to charge up both my laptop and iphone which were perilously low on power. A minute after I plugged them in, the power went out and stayed out all morning.

 After breakfast, we hung out waiting for two businessmen to show up to give us the specifications for the solar panels. We were originally supposed to meet at 9:00 a.m. so that we could get back on the road for home. They notified us the night before that they had to change this to 11:00 a.m. Well, 11:00 came and went. Ditto for 12:00. At 1:00 we decided to have lunch. Our group ( mostly me ! ) were getting very antsy. Around 2:00 we decided to hit the road. At that moment, one of the businessmen arrived on the scene, terribly apologetic. He and his partner ( travelling separately ) got caught in a protest in the city and traffic stopped dead for hours. It was far too late to start the meeting. My “patience meter” was running a bit thin.

We had to go under an overpass to get on to the divided highway. Cars were zipping along. It is common to see cows just about anywhere but until this moment, I had never seen one under an overpass. He was grazing on some posters. Just about every poster in India is about politics. I reckoned that this cow was chewing the arse off some politician.

It felt good to be out on the divided highway. We were cruising along nicely when up ahead we saw some cows on the road occupying the passing lane. Par for the course. There was a young man who seemed to be tending them. He had his bicycle parked cross ways on the dotted line. Cars were going by at 100 km. an hour. Just sayin’.

Moments later we encountered a bus sharing our side of the highway. Problem is he was going the wrong way on the divided highway. This too,  is as common as cows. After a while, none of this seems odd.

India. I am yours. You are the boss.

That evening, I sat with Ashwin watching Tamil children’s videos. When he fell asleep in my arms, all of the small irritants of the day vanished and reminded me what’s really important.

I was deeply saddened along with many others to hear of the passing of Stuart McLean. I had my 15 minutes of fame in 2002 when Stuart did a story about me. I also had supper with him one evening in Port Hawkesbury along with my niece, Audrey Hibbs. I am preparing a tribute to Stuart which will appear on my website in a few days time.

And , speaking of stories, I have one coming up tomorrow about electricity or, more accurately, the lack of it.  It’s called, “ At My Watts End.”

Have a great week.

P.S. In case you missed it, I posted this video a few days ago with an update on the water taps at the leprosy community. Check it out.


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