The Blues, a Spark. Or, In and Out of the Sad Sack

Dear Friends,

First let me warn that this post gets more philosophical, spiritual, less narrative-like, and doesn’t have a lot of pictures–no photographs allowed at the Aurobindo ashram.   No talking, either.  Just silence.  But it gets to a good place.

So, as I noted, after my ecstatic time in Pune, when I got here to Pondicherry I felt a little isolated, out-of-sorts, listless, sad. I don’t know anyone in the ashram. I’ve always been a little bit shy, and I felt a little intimidated about going up to the resident monks, saints, and other holy people and saying, “Hi, I’m Michael Sowder from Utah!  Can you help me in my quest to attain Cosmic Consciousness?”

So, Thursday, my first full day here, I just hung out mostly in my room, reading and writing. And then went out for honey. But you know all about that.

I was also having a tooth ache, nothing too severe, but I was terrified of the thought of getting a root canal in Pondicherry, India. Not that there aren’t wonderful dentists here, I just don’t know any of them.
*  *  *
Then, I got word that my two sons were having a lot of trouble, missing me, and because of that, making things hard for Jennifer.  And I learned that Aidan is having a tooth ache, and is going to have to have a root canal, in Dallas, Texas. (Now, who is that quantum physicist who talks about psychic-like connections between atoms happening over vast distances?) Anyway, I was feeling very blue.  But maybe it was the work of Shiva.
Shiva Nataraj — Lord of the Dance

Or Kali.

 Now, if you don’t know a lot about the Sanatana Dharma (Eternal Truth), or “Hinduism,” as it was called by those from the West, upon crossing the Indus River, the main thing to know is that while there appear to be some 300,000,000 gods and goddesses, these are all just manifestations or aspects of the One, Formless, Infinite, Blissful Consciousness that pervades the universe, or for short: “Satchitananda”: “Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.”   Sort of like what we in the West call “God.”   Or, since it has no form or qualities, what Buddhists call “emptiness.”
*  *  *  (sorry about the asterisks, but the program wants to cram these paragraphs together!)
*  *  *
(It turns out that being raised Catholic, surrounded by statues and paintings of all those saints was actually a good Western prep for encountering all these deities everywhere!)
*  *  *
That formless Consciousness, also sometimes called “Brahman,” takes these forms, or is given by us these forms, merely to help us conceive of the Inconceivable, approach the Unapproachable, speak about the Ineffable.
*  *  *
The 300,000,000 gods and goddesses are able to embody every aspect of our lives.  So, death and destruction get deified, too, and there they are.  Destruction is necessary for new birth, new beginnings.  Everything is impermanent.  All things pass away.   These are the lessons of these aspects of Shiva and Kali.  (In fact, they have other aspects, too, such as Shiva being the great yogi who meditates for millions of ages, millennia, epochs.  But we don’t have to go into all that right now.)  We can seek Kali’s or Shiva’s help in overcoming or destroying our ego, our anger, greed, jealously, or other obstacles to liberation.
*  *  *
But, in reality, all these deities are just stand-ins for the Infinite, Formless Divine Blissful Consciousness that sustains and pervades the Universe.
*  *  *

So, in spite of my reservations, I decided to go over to the ashram.   After leaving my sandals outside, I went in from the busy street, and found myself in a garden, full of flowers.  There were arrows pointing to the right and I walked a path along a wall and into a courtyard canopied by a tremendous rain tree, whose branches touched every wall of the wide courtyard.   It was beautiful!   I could feel the powerful energy.   There were signs saying to maintain silence, and then I saw the samadhi tomb.  Like Ma’s, it was about three feet high, marble, about ten feet long and five feet wide, flat-topped, covered with flowers. (No photography is allowed, so that people snapping pictures don’t detract from the contemplative atmosphere, but we can take a photo from the web.  Here it is:)

I could really feel the energy.  People were lined up and moving slowly around it.  After bowing and putting my forehead onto the cool, white marble, I went over at sat against the wall of one of the buildings that made the perimeter of the courtyard.  (A sign said, “Do not meditate on or near the samadhi tomb.”)   Other people were  also sitting there.  No one really meditating.  Mostly just sitting.  A lot of people were writing.  Then, I saw that people were writing on pieces of paper and depositing them in a round, metal tube or canister at the foot of the samadhi tomb.  I suppose  they were asking for blessings or favors or help in their lives.
*  *  *
I remember hearing that people always came to Ma Indira Devi and asked for things in their lives.   She said that she had so much to give, but people often came for trinkets, not knowing what she really had to give them.   Which was liberation.    Similarly, Amma (Amritanandamayii Ma) says that people come and ask her for practical, personal favors, rather than for Realization.  But she says, it’s okay.  It brings them here.  And eventually, they will seek for something greater.

*  *  *

So, I sat down and folded my legs in lotus and started meditating.  When I got to India, to Ma’s ashram and in other places, I was surprised that I didn’t see more people  sitting in lotus.  In the 1970’s, in the yoga order I was involved in, we were taught to sit in lotus when meditating, and as a young,  idealistic aspirant, I was of course going to learn to do so.  It took about a year of trying.   I am the only one in my sangha meditation group that sits in lotus.   Few Buddhists do.  I sometimes feel self-conscious about it, imagining people thinking I’m showing off.  But it helps still the mind, as the ancient scriptures say, and it is much easier on my back.

 

So, I folded my legs in lotus, and started meditating, but also feeling self-conscious among all the people.  As I settled into my meditation, I could hear the quiet footsteps of the people filing by, some coming to sit down near me.  Then, I felt the bite of a mosquito.  “Damn!   Forgot the repellent!   I can bear bites, but what about malaria?  I’m on doxycycline.  Okay, relax.   Just focus.”

 

Then, my mind just completely stilled.  I was amazed at how easily.   My mind became like a vast blue lake, utterly, perfectly still.  I could feel a powerful energy coming down through the top of my head, or maybe going out.   But going in or out, there was a powerful energy there.  I could feel my  consciousness as something larger than my body, somehow outside of it, inhabiting the space around me, filling the whole courtyard.

 

Then, thoughts came back.  I started to worry about the people.  Do they think I’m being pretentious?  Presumptuous?   Look at the white Westerner coming here and sitting in lotus.  He  thinks he’s some kind of great yogi.  What does he know about India and our saints?”


Then, I had the thought, coming from my Buddhist training:  What really am I feeling?  Drop the story-line.  Go into the body.   I’m just feeling fear.  I’m feeling scared of these people.   I went into the fear.  Then, I remembered a practice that I’ve been learning from reading Ramana Maharshi’s book, Be As You Are, a book of dialogues compiled by his devotees.  (Ramana Maharishi was one of the most famous twentieth-century gurus, who rarely wrote anything down himself.  In fact, much of his teaching  happened in silence.)

Be  As You Are

is the most wonderful book I have read in a long time.   It has a simple, mind opening practice,  which is this:   We all have a sense of ourselves, of being “I.”  For example, I am a writer.  I am a seeker.  I am a professor.  But he says, the “Self,” is behind these identifications.  The real Self  is not the limited, separate self, the ego, which thinks it is this or  that.

***

The ego is the mind, and the mind  is just thoughts.  Thoughts are always identified with objects, physical, mental, conceptual, etc.  So, the Maharishi’s practice is a practice of self inquiry.  Find out who this “I” is.  Instead of identifying the “I” as  something external, just ask yourself, “Who is this ‘I’ — without identification with an external form.  Go within and ask “Who is this ‘I’?”   Or, “Who am I?”  Don’t try to answer the question with a thought.  Just be present with that sense of “I-ness” without external objectification.   Seek the source of the “I.”   When thoughts arise, ask, “Who is thinking ?”  Or, “To whom do these  thoughts pertain?”

 

What happens, according to RM is that the ego sense  of “I” dissolves and the greater Self, which is not a separate self, which is One with all Things, Eternal, Fresh, Self-Luminous, Infinite begins to be felt.  He says, just stay with this feeling.  Stay in the feeling sense of “I” without external definitions or limitations or  objectification and the Greater Self (which  in Hinduism, is another name for God) will become present, apparent, perceptible.  Ramana quotes the Bible, “Be still  and know that I am God.”   That’s all that’s necessary.  And says that “I am that I am,” is the complete Reality.

 

It is an effortless practice, because that Greater Self is the Reality in which live and move and have our being.  The false-, ego-, thought-created self requires immense effort to maintain.  Resting in the real Self becomes effortless and something that we can maintain throughout the day.  Eventually, by remaining in this Great Self for longer and longer periods of time, eventually the Great Self destroys the
ego-self, and one is Enlightened or Self-Realized.

 

So, I asked, “Who is it that is feeling this fear?”   And then after a little while, I felt that largeness, that spaciousness, again, and before long I started to see that the fear was something apart from me, like an automatically self-generating phenomenon.  Fear and the thoughts around it were just generating themselves, and I was this deeper, wider, vaster presence watching it.  The thoughts were like a cartoon strip or a stream of images on a roll of film.  I could clearly see that the film and its thoughts and images were not me, at all.  They were just doing their own thing.

 

It was amazing.  I felt so free.  And then the fear was gone.  And what I suddenly felt instead was love, compassion, tenderness for all these people around me.  I felt joy and gratitude for being with them.   I opened my eyes and looked up at the huge, beautiful far-branching tree, with watery-green, fern-like leaves, all filled with light, spreading and filling the whole courtyard.   I watched all the people and just felt immense love for each and all of them.  It was amazing.

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The Heat, the Honey, the Blues, a Spark. Part One: The Heat. The Honey.

Well, here in Pondicherry, a former French colony,

I’m having a bit of a harder time.  I don’t know anyone at the ashram, and I’m staying at a Guest House that’s not physically attached to it.    So, I feel a bit isolated.   I’ve written to my Pune friends to ask for advice. Yesterday, I devoted myself to writing and reading in my room and then venturing out in the middle of the day.   This was a mistake!   But I needed honey.

See, it is SO HOT here, it’s unbelievable.  After having spent two weeks in New Orleans one August and once living for a summer in Charleston, SC, in a house without AC, I figured I knew what this would be like. But, Oh, no.  This is different.  The heat here feels like something solid, like getting whacked with a board, tackled, spanked.

I went out to look for a grocery store.  I knew there had to be one.  I needed honey.  I like honey in my tea.  Sugar, which normal people use without a thought, in my strange dietary world, is something that was devised by the devil.  It wrecks me emotionally.

I’m also addicted to it.  So, I try to avoid it.  It’s a problem.   Normal people can’t understand this.  But honey doesn’t seem to have the same effect on me.  So, having a sweet tooth, and trying to avoid sugar, I like to have honey.  I NEED IT.  It can also be hard to find.

(Let it be admitted that all of this of course demonstrates the extent of my attachment to worldly things,

cows, mommy and baby

how far I am from anything like enlightenment, and may be the as yet undiscovered and unknown factor in bee-colony decline.)

So, I walked and walked and walked, past hundreds of shops and stalls and carts

selling fabrics, clothes, fruits, dried fruits, milk products, juices, handicrafts, fish, shrimp, dried fish, tobacco products, ice cream, leather works, newspapers, papers, magazines, cds, past notaries, tailors, astrologers, mediums, etc.,

 and not like just one of each of these, all of them repeated again and again.  And remember, every corner is perilous, every street crossing a danger.  Did I mention the exhaust?   The diesel?

Watch out for that bike!  The Ambassador!  The rickshaw!  People were everywhere sitting on the sidewalks or on the curbs, smartly doing very little.  Of course hundreds of others were shopping with panache, obviously constitutionally prepared for the outing.  I went into a spiritual bookstore, panting and covered in sweat, and asked for a grocery.   The nice calm beautiful spiritual woman told me where one was, writing down the name and the street, a few blocks farther off.

I went back out into the heat.

Not that it had been any cooler in the bookstore.  I told myself, “Only walk in the shade.”   Which made me think of being on a mountaineering training course one winter in Alta, Utah, in a blizzard, saying to myself, “Don’t face the wind.”   No wind here, Buck-O .   I was feeling a little delirious.   An old woman came up to me asking me for money.   She looked terrible.  Really bad.  I didn’t have any small bills or change, so I just had to say, “No, sorry,” and wave her off, and keep walking.   That haunted me.  I could give her something on my way back.

Finally, I made it to Nilgiri’s. 

A grocery store!  Small, but still.  Inside, it was less hot.  I thought there must be a refrigerator section somewhere where I could just hang out for a while and gaze at the cheeses and chicken.  But, no, the milk, juice, etc., is boxed.  At one point, when I felt I was going to pass out, I stood under a weak AC vent in the ceiling, staring up at it as if there were some kind of magical insect with translucent blue wings flitting about.  I needed water.  I found the one little standing cooler and opened the glass door to see what kind of water was in there.  The bottle said, “Club Soda.”  Club Soda!   Santa Maria!  Or, I guess I should say, “Jai Lakshmi!”  Unlike in Spain or Italy, where “agua con gas” is everywhere, I keep asking for sparkling water, but no one knows what I’m talking about.  (Obviously, I’m not eating at the finest restaurants.)  Since I don’t drink Coke, it being sparkled by Satan, I’ve felt that soda water might be good for my stomach.  I’ve not been sick , but my stomach gets a little queasy.  And here it was, water fizzed by angels.   I grabbed two of them, and a few other items, and my big jar of honey, and exhausted went back out into the exhaust-blown, heat-sizzling street.

Tomorrow, please join me in exploring the inside of the sad sack I inhabited yesterday.  I’ll dedicate the page to Shiva and Kali–god and goddess of destruction.

 

Pondicherry, Aurobindo Guesthouse, Beach

Last night I made it to Pondicherry and the Seaside Guesthouse of the Sri Aurobindo ashram.   On the way, my flight first stopped at Bangaluru (formerly, Bangalore).    The landscape below us was agricultural, orange-brown fields, bordered by palm trees, the houses of the villages mostly square concrete buildings, brightly painted in all the colors of the rainbow.  The Indians have a wonderful aesthetic sense–as comes across even in the names of their domestic airlines: Kingfisher, IndiGo (blue planes), SpiceJet.   Everything not yet given over to efficiency and utilitarianism.

The drive from Chennai (formerly, Madras) was harrowing!   My driver for the three-hour adventure spoke almost no English, and I speak almost no Tamil.  He had a small car — no seat-belts — (“No problem!”) — and was doing his best to break a land speed record.  Everything going by at a blur!

As darkness fell, we were doing well over a hundred-miles-an-hour, the driver blaring his horn the entire way, flashing his lights, weaving in and out of brightly painted trucks, whose rear-ends appeared briefly in the headlights before disappearing behind us.

daytime shot

He was dodging motorcycles, which normally carry a man, with a woman behind, sitting “side-saddle” in a sari, often one or two children wedged in front back or middle — no one wearing helmets, the motorcycles disappearing, probably doing only 60 or 70.   I got quick views of bicycles and pedestrians trudging along on the side of the road, loaded with huge sacks on their heads, on their on backs, or the back of their bikes.   As we whizzed through villages, open shops and stalls were lit up by colored lights.  I tried to catch glimpses of the people inside.  But my eyes were mostly riveted to the highway ahead, in a condition of mild, wide-eyed terror.

As the miles clicked by, eventually, I just lay my head on my backpack, closed my eyes and repeated a mantra, surrendering to the Universe — to the Divine — or whatever you like to call it.  “There are worse places to die than India!” — I kept telling myself.

Besides I’ve been reading a book by a swami who found this tactic quite utilitarian and efficient.  Back in the early twentieth century, Papa Ramdas abandoned his ordinary life to devote himself to a full-time search for God.  (This happens a lot in India.)  He became a wandering sanyassi (like a monk, but without an ashram) and traveled all over India, to pilgrimage sites, penniless, depending on God for everything–and writing a book about it.   Full of humor and inspiration, it’s called In Quest of God.   Whatever happened he took as God’s will.

As you can see, dining-out was not  high on his list of traveling pleasures.  One meal a day, mostly fruit.  Have taste only for God, he says.  You can also see the radiant smile on his face that resulted.

(It’s fascinating how literature-based the Indian, spiritual/ashram culture is.  Everyone recommends books to read, gives you books to read).

So, following the lead of Swami Ramdas, I resigned myself to God and tried to get some sleep in the back of the hurtling car.

*          *          *

         Now, this morning, just beyond the little balcony of my guesthouse room, is the Bay of Bengal.

A little hazy this morning.     

In a little while, I’ll head over to the Sri Aurobindo ashram, see the neighborhood, and walk along the coast.

Gear!

Prompted by a question from Charles Waugh about my backpack and “water wand” for purifying water, this post is going to be all about gear!   From backpack to Woolite packets for washing your clothes in the sink, to camera, footwear, bathroom essentials, clothes and more.

However, as I’m packing to leave Pune for Pondicherry this morning, I’ll have to put it all together this evening in Pondicherry!   My internet connection takes a very long time (10 minutes to upload a photo), so I’ll need more time!

And if you can’t wait to find out how to pack for India, see the Travel Forum: IndiaMike.com, (no relation) which is the best forum in the world.   Has everything you ever wanted to know about India but were afraid to ask.   Full of high spirits and detailed advice.

More soon!

Bye, bye, Pune!

Ramakrishna Mission Meditation Hall

Doubts and Devotees

Everything has not been completely roses since I’ve been here!

(Bougainvillea)

One day last week I lost my Internet connection, couldn’t contact Jennifer and my boys, was completely frustrated trying to get it working, and went into a tail spin.  (Attachment, anyone?)

I was feeling, “what am I doing here, anyway?   I obviously made all this crazy stuff up about Ma and coming to India looking for spiritual teachers.   Here I am sitting among statues of gods and goddesses, some of which aren’t even ceramic or bronze, but just little kitsch-y dolls.  The whole thing is a big charade, one I concocted for myself!   (stock photo from web, here).

Then, the next day I was sitting in Ma Indira Devi’s room for my mid-day meditation, and after about two hours, I began to be overcome with sadness about having to leave in a few days.  After the meditation, I went out into the garden and sat again before Ma’s samadhi tomb, feeling very sad.  I couldn’t understand it.  I was feeling that, not only does this feel like home, but more, it feels like the only Real Place I have ever been.

During my first week in India, I had kept saying “It’s so wonderful!  I feel like I’m in a dream!”  But now I started feeling that everything else in my life has been like a dream, and being in India, at this ashram, is the only REAL thing I’ve ever  done.  I can’t explain it.

I thought of all the arguments and objections I’d been having, and then an image came of my “monkey-mind” going crazy, doing cartwheels and somersaults, trying to make sense of all of this, trying to convince me that it’s all nuts.

I had an image of being on a high-speed train, barreling through the landscape, my mind like this crazy monkey on the roof of the train jumping up and down, not able to understand what was going on, trying to stop the train!

But I was going–and the monkey was not going to stop anything!  I feel some great inner Presence that is bigger than my mind, carrying me, which has brought me here, no matter what my mind thinks of it!

And, the people are perhaps the most amazing part.  Everyone has an amazing story about how they got here.   And none of them are dummies.  Karishma and her husband Udo came here 24 years ago from Germany, the next year came back and then never left.  I LOVE them.   The moment I saw Udo, he seemed like someone I have known all my life.  He is such a sweet, bright, kind man.  Very bright.  They are both very deeply spiritual, very evolved.   Karishma is of Greek descent.  Dark
hair, full of spiritual fire.  They are both about 51.   She is very intense.  He’s very joyful.                
Rajkumar, whom I’d also been in touch with from the US,  is a brilliant, 40-year-old cardiologist from Chennai (Madras).  He was so kind to me the day I was so bummed out about the Internet.  He gave me a cell phone of his and we are getting a card for it.  So I can call home, if I don’t have internet.  Last Friday, he spent the whole day showing me the city, buying me lunch, gave me a key to his apartment, so I can go and use his computer or hang out.  It’s right next to the ashram.  He was with Ma when she died.   He was a total skeptic and atheist when he first came.


Rajkumar, outside Ramakrishna Mission Temple.

 Then there are two sixty-ish Gujarati sisters, B. and M., who were professors—of
chemistry and economics—who left their professions to become sanyassis (monks–
or nuns) at the ashram.   M. is so sweet.  She sits down and rubs her open hand on the place beside her to invite me to sit down by her, and then tells me story after miraculous story about saints and spiritual teachers in India, many of whom she has met.  B. is–as Karishma mentioned–sort of the acting Mother Superior.  She’s taken me in hand and shown me everything.

The other night I was surrounded by all these holy women in saris and younger men and women all wanting to hear my story of how I got here, all of them giving me books and fruit and little presents and other things.  I was overwhelmed with kindness.

It’s cool here.  No one tells anyone what to do, spiritually.  Ma said that after she was gone it should be this way.   She once said, “Not only do you have to walk to God alone.  You have to go naked.”   So, everyone lives here or meets here, but no one tells anyone what to do.  Very laid-back and friendly.  You come and go as
you want.

I love India.  It feels, I don’t know, just very real.  Like a place I’ve always lived.  Not like déjà vu–but more like I never even left here.  Like I’ve always been here.  It’s crazy!

So, me–and monkey-mind,

say, thanks for reading!

Love and Namaste, Michael

First days in the Ashram

When my driver and I arrived in Pune, what I started to notice was

women in saris on motorcycles.  Pune is in love with the motorcycle, reports the Times of India.  The second thing was the towering canopies of trees.

The streets are dirty, noisy, and chaotic, but smaller than those of Mumbai and shaded by towering, far-and-wide-branching rain trees, umbrella trees, and magnificent others that I’ve not yet learned names for.  The raintrees are covered in brilliant orange blossoms

and many others are in bloom.  In Mumbai, you’re shaded mostly by buildings
if at all.  I’m also seeing wonderful new birds that inhabit these canopies and wake me in the morning singing.  (No AC, windows open.)

We called K, a disciple of Ma Indira Devi’s.  (I’m going to use initials, until I find out from everyone if they want their name on the internet!)  We were very close to her flat, where I would stay.   My driver turned down a street, pulled over, and turned off the engine.   Soon a statuesque woman with long dark hair was walking toward us down the street.  It must be K!   Over the past year, K has been my guide, mentor, and spiritual friend, helping me make this trip possible in so many ways—practical and spiritual.  In addition to all of her advice and inspiration, she is also letting me stay in one of her flats, which is close to the ashram.
Thank you, K!

I got out of the car and we shook hands and exchanged greetings.  Then, she
says, “First, we’ll go to your flat.  Then, I’ll take you to Ma.  Ya?”

View from my flat.

Then, we walked around the corner to the ashram.  As we approached the “mandir,” another word for ashram,

I could hear singing coming out of the open windows.  It was Sunday, and monks and nuns and local people were singing bhajans–sacred songs.   We went inside, took off our sandals, and went into the temple hall.   A monk was playing the harmonium and leading the singing.

I did whatever K did.   We knelt and touched our heads to the carpeted floor and then sat cross-legged, everyone facing the front, where there was a shrine with statues of Krishna and Radha, Hanuman, Shiva, along with photos of the two gurus of the ashram, Dadaji and Ma, and on the walls pictures of other spiritual masters, Ramakrishna, Ramana Maharshi, the sacred heart of Jesus, too.   About twenty people were sitting, monks in orange , nuns is orange saris, local women in colorful saris, men in ashram white or street clothes, most on the floor, some in chairs.

I tried to sing along.  I looked around and saw all the pictures of Ma Indira Devi, and my eyes spontaneously filled with tears.  Before long I settled into a meditative state, sometimes singing, sometimes closing my eyes and feeling the energy.   The thought that kept coming to me was, “Here I am at the center of the universe.”

Of course, from a spiritual perspective, every place is the center of the universe.  St. Augustine defined God as “a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.”   And yet, some places seem to have a palpable, powerful spiritual energy that’s undeniable.   I’ve felt it at monasteries in Spain and the US, at native American sacred places.  The Celts called these “the thin places,” places where the veil between the material and spiritual worlds is thinner.  Many of the great cathedrals of Europe are built over ancient, pagan “thin places.”   There is a powerful energy here. very subtle, very bright, clear, clean .   Like electricity in the air.  I’ll be here for ten days.

The next day, I meditated upstairs in the room where Ma used to give private talks to the monks and main devotees of the ashram.  I meditated for two hours just floating in the beautiful energy, not wanting to stop.   I could understand why K told me that people sometimes meditate there for seven hours or more.

After meditation, I went out and walked in the gardens.

More soon!   Thanks for reading.

Michael

Poverty

May 15, I made it to Pune—about three hours drive from Mumbai, driven by this great young man, whose name I forgot to ask for.

On the way, leaving Mumbai,

we passed immense and endless poverty.

As far as you can see, as far as you can drive, thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of people living in crumbling dilapidated apartments and high rises, mud huts, tin-covered shacks, tents.  At a highway entrance a family under a sheet held up by sticks , barefoot children on the ramp, the mother squatting and washing or cooking in a pot on the curb.

Arrival City,

the book mentioned in an earlier post is a call to action for the world to invest in these urban landing places, or else suffer untold consequences. The book sees these places, despite the suffering and infant mortality and despair, as places of great vitality and creativity and tracks how people come into them and contribute to new economies and then either return to their rural homes, or move out into the greater life of the city.

Leaving Mumbai, at one point a little boy came up to the window of the car when we were stopped. I didn’t have any change or small bills on me, so I didn’t roll down the window or give him anything.  It made me very sad.  He reminded me of my own son, Aidan.

Many say not to give, to volunteer somewhere if you want to help. But a few days later, in Pune, I gave some rupees to a woman, the only person who has approached me on the streets (apart from tourist sites), and the little connection we had was positive for both of us.  It costs me almost nothing.  It’s a connection.  She needed it.  Who knows what is the “best” thing to do?   I felt better when I gave her something.

I don’ really feel adequate or knowledgeable enough to really say anything about the poverty here.  Later, I may write about it more. I don’t feel capable now. I also didn’t want to take any photos of the poor.

Thanks for reading. Michael