21 July, Mumbai to Ahmedabad
I ring the journalist contact but somehow we don’t connect. I ring Chandra and he allows me to come there. Having a shower (or bath) as they call it is a relief. I have a sleep in the spare room, so tired. The family are at the hospital as Priya is having her baby. The staff give me food and again, relieved as I am hungry. This is not Australia where you pop to the shop. I am in a Defence compound which is a rabbit warren of streets. I also have no map as they are not so easy to come by. I end up chatting with Chandra later and in the morning he organizes for me to go to an internet café so I can book my flight to Mumbai. I spend a few hours there as I have to do couch surfing for Greece and Cairo.
I go back get organized the taxi comes. The guy asks 500 rupees. This is what I love about this country. Prepaid from the airport is 300 rupees, then the next ride to the airport is 400 and the guy tries for more, now 500 rupees. I said no way. The staff member negotiates 450 rupees on my behalf. I accept it. Then just before the airport he stops the car and asks for cash. I said I won’t until I get to the airport. He then gets a guy who can speak English. He tells me there are police at the airport and the impression I am given is they take bribes. I insist on the guys ID card and plan to report him if he tries to rip me off. Anyway, all went well I got to the airport.
At the airport I met a professor of Psychology and we talked about wellbeing. She got quite excited about my work and we considered a workshop when I return to Delhi. I gave her REAL HOPE to look at. She is also into peace, so are there coincidences, I don’t think so.
I flew up north stopped in the Punjab (stayed on plane) and then flew down to Delhi. I was hungry and thought they were serving dinner, turns out only to first class. So I got a sandwich. The plane then touched down at Mumbai.
I caught a prepaid cab to Harmony (building) where my couch surfing friend Nitin was staying. We went out for dinner. He is a lovely guy into Reiki and the healing modalities. He loves nature and is a wonderful photographer. He was a gentleman the whole time I stayed here and was happy to show me around.
I did a Tarot reading for him and he said I was accurate. I did it intuitively. I could see in the cards who he is. Sometimes I have the ability to do that. He was happy.
We went to breakfast in Mumbai it is distinctly different from Delhi and you can see the British influence of paved streets/. There are many bill posters advertising capitalism and western images, it is clearly the financial capital. Even the airport is very luxurious. I am told this is the heart centre of the BJP and right wing politicians. This is where the money is.
The streets have little shops in rows, very neat and clean. The little arcades are quite small with tiny shops which is a feature of Asia. Very bustling environment lots of auto rickshaws and small cars, the cars are in good condition. It could be any western city. I am here in Monsoon season so it is raining a lot. That is lovely when having breakfast under an awning and smelling the many Indian spices. I particularly like dosa which comes as a long crisp bread with asian potatoe, lentils and various other tasty vegetables. I have a small coffee, which I enjoy but not the same size as a flat white, but I am grateful to have a cup anyway. Ritin is great company and we are good friends. He will try and bring me back to Asia to do workshops. Unfortunately I didn’t get to clown here as the weather is not conducive. I am tired so that is fine.
We went for a walk and I saw a Kashmir sign. I spoke to the guy who was very outgoing. He invited us into his shop and got us a tea/. He was interested in where I was from. Very nice guy. I ended up suggesting I buy a few Kashmir dresses. I really like the style. It cost around 2,500 rupees but thanks to the compensation payment by British Airways I was able to withdraw some money. We then went and organized tickets through a travel agent to catch the overnight train to Ahmedabad. I felt strongly to go there which is why I came to Mumbai. This is where Gandhi’s ashram is. Anyway bought air conditioned ticket one way there and un airconditioned for the way back. It cost 630 rupees and then 444 rupees.
Went to meet Ritin’s sister who is a determatologist at her surgery with a friend of his. She is a lovely modern Indian girl and shared with me she loves her work. That is great to find work that you really enjoy. Anyway later that day we went to Ritin’s parent’s place, they are well to do and a family of doctors. The flat was quite modern with flat screen tv’s in each room very homely/. They made us dinner (the two of us), not all at the same table. Then after we had finished exquisite Indian food the family then ate. It was different but I just went with the flow. Had a lovely conversation with his sister about Australia and family life. I see by comparison that western families are not as close as eastern families. The parents love their children to live with them and they live close to each other. Nitin goes for dinner there and there is little conflict. The father was a character and you can see he enjoys his children. He does laughter club and demonstrated his laughter stuff which was very funny, he would make a great clown. I was hoping to take them clowning on Saturday but they ended up at a birthday. They do a lot around family and extended family.
The next day waited around to pick up tickets, finally got them and then arranged to meet Kishu near the station, he was on my Rotary Program in Bangkok. Nitin and I went to dinner and has a pizza between us which was very yummy. We then met Kishu and he drove us to a Portugese church. He then took me to the station. We stayed in the car for a while as it was pouring. The station and surrounds looked pretty bad, I was a bit uneasy. It was surrounded by a slum. But I tried to just be open to the experience. Kishu was warning me not to tell people I am Australian as some uneducated people might refer to the violence against Indians. He also said not to take any food offered. But in ac (air conditioning) I should be ok. Nitin walked me into the station I gave him a hug and then I had to go to the 3rd platform. I am the only westerner, it is an interesting experience. As I am always looked at. No blending in.
I get on the train and notice my seat near the window. There are people sitting facing each other. If you can imagine 3 bunk beds on either side. For the first hour the middle bunk bed is collapsed so people can sit on the lower one and have dinner. I am sitting with Gujurati’s with the name of Gandhi. They are older couples and they offered me dinner. The grandmothers are looking after me, and I accept it. The older gentleman is smiling chatting to his grandchild and puts me on the phone, I laugh and say hello. Then later I ask one of the other grandfather’s about his children he tells me he has a daughter and son. He said would you like to see I said yes, he gets his mobile and I am waiting for photo’s, instead he rings his daughter and we speak. That would never happen in Australia. Talk about global family.
After a tasty Indian dinner and roti they get ready to sleep I climb up on the top bunk, funnily the oldies are allocated those beds even though they give information of age. I notice the old fellow trying to get up the side, but it is too hard. I even have a struggle and I am a lot more flexible. I keep an eye on my bag but feel pretty secure. The door to the next compartment is constantly opening and closing, so I don’t expect much sleep. The train pulls at Ahmedbad around 4.50 and a rickshaw guy makes a bee line. I go to the toilet. Nothing is open at this time and he tells me the Gandhi ashram is closed. He suggests a hotel I say not sure, only if coffee is there maybe I can wait. He gets there no coffee they suggest returning to station. I feel no, I must go to the Gandhi ashram. I feel strongly to go. So I get dropped off there, he takes 150 when it is supposed to be 50. Ooh that gets to me but fact of life when a traveler. However, if I know they are doing it I can be pretty stubborn. I don’t go for dishonesty. He tried to get 200 rupees and I said no.
I see a woman walk out of the Gandhi museum and I walk in. I am overwhelmed when I see his face. For me it is coming home. I cried. I felt I suffered so much for my own truth. It just flooded me. But I am glad I have spoken the truth in my life and felt it so important to be transparent. I found others not so forthcoming, most avoid anything that is direct as they have not dealt with past issues. I see his dedications to truth and feel very happy. The museum is a garden with a bagowlah or temple style building. Open to the air but the walls have photo’s and Gandhi quotes (see photo’s). He was truly a light to humanity and I found myself crying in resonance with someone I really believe in. Everything was quite just a few security people. I lay down on a cold bench but it is so hot I just felt the coldness cool me down. Travelling all night on a train and sweating so much is exhausting. I went for a walk in the garden and saw a statue dedicated to him, I felt a peace here with a likeminded person. I curiously walked towards what I thought was a white wall which turned out to be the ocean and it was a channel actually. It was beautiful to look at the tiered stairs and imagine people walking down to the water to bathe. I saw the place of prayer and the original tree planted over 100 years ago. I recognized the little building in the Attenborough movie (Gandhi) where Gandhi stayed in very modest quarters. I saw a picture of him and a prayer on the wall. He was so full of goodwill, I see humanity is so lost and yet when we examine ourselves, the truth reveals itself.
I am standing there engulfed by his words, I feel my leg rubbed, I look down and see the loveliest dog looking up at me. It was the first dog I came across that had loving eyes. It was very special this dog. I really saw the beauty in this dog and I spent time giving the dog a good rub on its head and back, it was most unexpected. It felt as if a sign.
I go back to rest on one of the cold slabs. I lie there feeling quite exhausted but happy. I feel Gandhi’s protect. I hear a man behind me doing yoga. I saw he was flexible and how he used his breathing techniques, quite rapid and loud blowing noises. It is a deeply entrenched in Indian culture. Something I have to practice more.
I was guided by a man to go across the road to the Toran Guest house. I thought when I made contact with the ashram I was staying with the people. Turns out I was paying 450 per night for unairconditioned accommodation, not in the Gandhi tradition. However, I am tired and I just want to shower and sleep. I am surprised to find the room is a double and I have a shower, so that appeases me. I try to rest but it is noisy outside. Thankfully I know the trick with tv to put it onto white noise. My ex-husband taught me that, very useful for blocking noise. So I rest for a few hours and then go to the Gandhi ashram.