Delhi – first impressions

12.30 PM Manju-Ka-tilla, Delhi

Hooray! Im finally here! Arrived in India last night. It was a pretty surreal experience. The first thing that hit me was the air. Even, at the airport a thick haze hung over the air, smelling like dried embers of a burnt fire. Initially, was concerned about myasthma, but it doesn’t seem to be much of an problem. After retrieving my luggage, I was then stopped for my passport by armed officers (policemen maybe?) carrying submachine guns and was greeted by my driver, Ramu as I came out. He was carrying a sign with my name but it wasn’t a smiling face, maybe he was as nervous as I was. As we walked out, an armed guard with an AK-47 stopped my driver and demanded something in Hindi, Ramu said the hotel I was staying at and scrambled for some documents. Eventually they let us pass… I guess he was on my side then in case Ramu had decided to kidnap me =). We walked through the car park, and stopped in front of a concrete block, which seemed to work as a Hindu Shrine. The first thing I noticed about his car was that the windscreen was cracked, there sat a Hindu god on his dashboard illuminated by LEDs changing color slowly, and a fire extinguisher sat on the window pane. When he started the engine, hindi music blasted through his sound system.

As much as Ive heard about Indian driving, its nothing until you experience it. Think of it like dodgem cars all going in relatively the same direction… except not hitting each other. The concept of staying in the same lane doesnt seem to exist here, I wonder why they even have lanes here (I did smirk as we passed a sign saying “Stay in your lane, Violations will be penalised”). As I held on for dear life, weaving in between rickshaws, trucks, bicycles and rickshaws Ramu seemed to ease up, maybe cos he left the airport. He smiled and we chatted but we didnt get very deep due to the language. There is alot of dirt well… everywhere. Along the roads, there are mounds of dirt just piled up, like everywhere is just a big unfinished construction site.

View from car on night of arrivalView from car on night of arrival

I was pretty tired by the time we reached the Guest house, it would be 5am Australian time. Ramu took a leak by the road, before he took me into the Tibetan Refugee community, Manju-Ka-Tilla. Before I knew it, a boy came and grabbed my luggage up to the room. He turned on the TV for me, and eagerly awaited a tip. I paniced as I had no change, so I gave him 100 rupies . The room was quite …well basic. Nothing was really clean, there were dark stains on the pillow, sheets, walls and even the towels. The bathroom was also underwhelming, no hot water (although the hot water tap was there), a toilet that didnt flush, and no toilet paper. Taking a shower wasnt really the something I was keen on, especially with tempretures of 7 degrees here. Nor could I brush my teeth as I didnt get a chance to pick up any bottled water. But really I guess I was glad to have somewhere to stay for the night.

Morning came, and I ate at the Restaurant downstairs, and chatted with the people there and alot of safron robes. Everyone seemed to think I came from Japan… so I had to explain I was from Australia, but Chinese, etc. They were all very friendly and I picked up some Tibetan words for the day. I went downstairs to confirm my hotel for tomorrow and as my agent typed stuff into the computer, I thought she mustve been entering stuff into some booking system, but it turned out she was on msn to her counterpart in Dharamshala. It seemed that Wizard Mastercard had just blocked my card, I will have to goto the embassy to get that sorted. Time now to go exploring! What am I doing here in an internet cafe anyway…

Multifaith extremism

I’ve just gotten back from the Parliament of World Religions, a massive gathering of people from all faiths and religions with more than 5000 delegates and speakers. After spending 7 days down in Melbourne I thought I needed some time to reflect on the experience.

Overall it was a great experience. With so many important leaders coming together to talk about how to solve the worlds problems of poverty, climate change and peace, no doubt the world would be changed even in a little way. Every timeslot had about 20 things happening concurrently so it was a true struggle to pick out the one you wanted to goto the most.

The sessions which had the most effect on me were actually the indigenous sessions.  Wisdom was found in Chief Oren Lyon’s presence. When someone asked whether there was separation between church and state with the Native Americans, he responded by saying “There is no church or and no state. There is only a state of being. There is no religion, it is a way of life.” Makes us think about how we practice religion these days, as something we might do on a Sunday, or when we sit down to meditate, or prostrating to the Buddha. Religions these days have been separated out into institutions, when once before it was lived and breathed, not as something called religion, but embedded into everyone’s values system, and were constantly connected with the spirit of the earth. What I found quite touching was the way indigenous people related to the land. Consciously or unconsciously we have a tendancy to view indigenous peoples of our contry as primative: incarcerated and intoxicated, or dressed in their loin clothes dancing. It makes us feel safer and superiour knowing that we are the “civilisated” ones looking after the “primatives”. Little do we recognise the wisdom that these people posses. They have been the custodians of this land for 60,000 years, making them the oldest people on this earth. Western civilisation on this continent of a little more than 200 years doesnt even raise a blimp. The land to them is sacred. The spirit is in this land, their spirits, our spirits. The laws of the land are contained in their song and stories, and they have knowledge passed on from generation to generation. Yet when the colonisers came, their knowledge culture and heritage was systematically wiped out… and we continue to rape what is sacred to them today.

I had always wondered what the point of all this multifaith stuff was about. Maybe it makes sense to have it in Israel, areas of conflict, or even between Muslims and Christians in Australia, but Buddhists? After speaking to Petr, one of the PWR organisers earlier this year about it, he did make a good point.  Religion is something people tend to keep private, we practice it ourselves, but day to day we are actually live these values which also manifests into real consequences in society, so until the day we start understanding each other openly in dialogue. You can think of it as insurance…. don’t apply it when its too late.

Run Run Run

Im not quite sure what to do with this blog, whether I keep it like a journal of the insignificant happenings of my life, a thoughts and philosophies blog of ramblings, or just reviews of my most recent gadget/cd/movie/<insert distraction here>. But at the end of the day, I think its just going to be an all of the above.

So today, after much procrastination, I went for a jog. Been doing some jogging lately. Today I ran  to the beach. About 19km. Took me 1hr 49 minutes. It was great, especially getting close to the beach and realising I had made it. During dusk, there were lots of Mediterranean and middle eastern families camped out near the water, watiing the planes come down from the runway where oil fields don over the horizon.

Jogging is great. I makes you ponder things like, maybe they put traffic lights at the top of a hill so that cars will slow down when they reach there, cos you have no breath left either, and that its much better to run against traffic as you can at least see when a car tries to sneak up on you when you cross the road. Anyways, I’ll keep running.