Wednesday, February 06, 2013

India trip - Learnings

Coincidence is a rare thing.  It happens all the time, but unless it is absolutely explicit, you don't realize that there was actually one.  Some of the worst and best things in life are those that happen on the spur of the moment, and somehow, when they seem to be remotely connected, they add a new flavor to the whole situation.  Mostly, you're making a reference to someone, when the same person either calls you the next instant or shows up on you.  You call it a happy coincidence or a comeuppance depending on your equation with the reference.

You question yourself occasionally.

Recently, I was at a point where I was questioning my beliefs and the whole purpose of existence, presence of God and so on about things which I have no idea of, and which even if I read a million texts, would ascertain none.  I spoke to a lot of people, and most of them have been through this phase or dismiss it as over the board thinking.  Whatever! I am surprised that people think I think.  Thoughts have never been my strength and when you couple that with profundity, I am a goner.

So, on my recent India trip, with a billion thoughts running in my head, my wife, my mother-in-law and I caught a local bus in Chennai when we headed out to this Express Avenue Mall in the heart of the city.  It's a good mall, but it's nowhere compared to that other one in Bangalore, called as Orion Mall.  Orion Mall makes you feel like as though you are in the US within India.  Anyway, as we picked the last row of seats in the bus and were immersed in our conversations, a couple of old ladies sat next to me to fill the remaining seats.  Right in front of them was a middle aged couple.  As these old ladies started talking about the vagaries of their work and the helplessness that came out of it at various times, the middle aged man sitting right in front turned back and got into the conversation.  Such a thing is pretty common in India.

"Sorry for interrupting, but since you talk about helplessness, I have my own stories to tell."

He went on about how he was ill treated by his sisters and how his wife suffered all these years in submissive silence.  He then looked at me and said the following.

"Brother, I will tell you something.  There is God.  Don't lose faith in God.  Keep your faith.  If not for God, this world would have suffered destruction long time ago."

My wife and I immediately glanced at each other.  She knew what was running in my head.  If Paulo Coelho was sitting nearby, he would have immediately told me to understand the signs.  But then, how some things unfold in life is mesmerizing and beyond belief.

Anyway, I purchased a Kindle version of "The complete works of Swami Vivekananda" to understand more and pick the brains of one of India's finest philosophers.  It's not an easy read, but then I did not set myself any lofty ambitions.  I figured I'd read one chapter a day and not more.

Coming to my favorite topic of food, which I can talk endlessly and with a lot more assurance and confidence.  When you go to India, one of the things that you can't escape and that you wouldn't want to miss is food.  Any food is good food back home. 

So, my routine in India was something like this.

Go out for a walk in the morning with my father, eat something on the way (pre-breakfast if I may call that way), get back home, have breakfast, take a nap due to jet lag or whatever, get up and have lunch, then watch TV, have some tea, have a light snack, head out, eat chaats or one of the thousand things that's lined up on Bangalore streets, then come back and eat.  I didn't even feel like adding a full stop to that sentence.  Even a full stop feels like an insult there.

Half the time, we were meeting people and going out, but there was one common factor in all this - food and more food.  There was no dearth of good food.  I just devoured.  I was eating as though I would never eat again in my life.

And then, what happened? I developed a severe stomach infection.  I stalled visiting my doctor; he has seen me since I was a little kid.  Eventually, I did visit him.  He examined my stomach and let out a guffaw.

"What's it Doctor?", I asked with the same meekness like I used to when I was a kid.

"You've been over-eating, Praveen.  Just take this medicine and you'll be fine."

I took his instructions grinning at him sheepishly.  I mean, who would get treated for over-eating.  It just felt dumb.  So, when I came back home and told my wife that it was my over-eating that had caused this, she gave me a look that felt exactly like the way I felt after reading about Jab Tak Hai Jaan in the reviews.

So, if you see, an India trip teaches you a lot of things.  A person in the bus told me that God exists and a person in white coat told me that I was over-eating.