Thursday, April 2, 2009

India and Basketball-Some Thoughts

April 2, 2009
Another day of Hindi classes. I so hope to learn this language and fortunately will have lots of time to practice in my new home in Dwarki. The family living on the first two floors consists of 14 people, the mother and father, the three brothers, who are in business together and their wives, with each of them having two children.

I’m excited about really becoming more rooted in New Delhi, but also somewhat sad about all of the volunteers disbursing. My VSO family continues to grow and it would be really great just to hang with all of them, but I know that we have our jobs to do. Of course we will all meet up during conferences and such, but still.

This experience is all about transitions and being extremely flexible to the environment. I truly feel that this is the only way to survive and thrive. But of course in being flexible the world opens up. Let me give you an example.

On Sunday I went along with five other volunteers to a sports complex. For Rs$100 one could play basketball outdoors, go swimming, play tennis, shoot, play badminton, squash, etc. I saw a bunch of basketball players sitting near the courts. They were dressed like guys in the States and I made this assumption and thought, “What are these African American guys doing in India”. Well, of course, when I asked them where they were from it became quite apparent that they weren’t from the States, but were in fact from Congo. I also met a guy from France who later in the week came to the American Embassy School.

The NBA has done such an incredible job of marketing basketball throughout the world. The guys from the Congo were amazing players with one guy able to dunk and actually do a goal tending on one play. I can’t wait to play with them and apparently they play year round even when it gets up to 45 degrees C, which is really hot.

I do spend an inordinate amount of time on basketball, following the Lakers, teaching the sport and of course playing. This sport is so much about life to me in the sense of it is a way of living. It not only keeps me physically fit, but also keeps me mentally fit. When I play basketball there is nothing else happening in the world, so that, in some sense it is a form of meditation. I’ve now met Eastern Europeans, who are just a blast to play with, Americans, who want to live their lives in Delhi, and will meet guys from the Congo. How incredible is that?

I always go back to Phil Jackson’s book, “Sacred Hoops”, which I’ve read a couple of times. In the book Phil talks about the Chicago Bulls and how he molded them into a “team” that was able to win championships, something that other coaches weren’t able to do even with Michael Jordan.

The fact is that basketball has such a beautiful flow, a dance, to it when all of the five players are working together. So much about life when we cooperate with one another towards achieving common goals. We all have our places and when we realize what those places are, amazing things can be accomplished. It’s somewhat letting go of the ego for the good of the larger “team”.

Even though New Delhi is highly polluted it is a breath of fresh air, in that, everything is so very different than what I’m used to. On Saturday my VSO Canadian friend Mark and I went to Old Delhi, a very crowded area with narrow streets. We went to a market leading up to the Jamma Masjid, which I believe is a Muslim temple. There were many things that seemed familiar, as vendors were selling shoes, plastic toys, western clothing, etc. But then there is the unfamiliar, the Muslim hat vendors, the women wearing saris, the extremely narrow streets lined with a multitude of shops, the man crouched on a counter, putting raw dough for chapattis into an inverted oven, the many goats, a mongoose crossing the market walking path, the fruit and vegetable vendors pedaling from carts and it goes on.

The newness of it all is something that I hope doesn’t change. There seem to be surprises everywhere one goes and one really does not have to look. If variety is in fact the spice of life, then this is what India is about, of course literally with the food, but also with the people and the place.

Traveling in India is something that I will do to really understand the diversity that this very magical place is. Yes, of course, there are the McDonald’s with no meat, in fact a sign states that “we do not serve beef here”, and the KFC’s, Subway’s, Adidas Stores, but most of it is so unfamiliar. The small entrepreneur seems to be the method that most people use to make money.

The poverty can be overwhelming, but overall people that I meet seem to be quite happy. The caste system is alive no matter what anyone says, although I really admire the Indians for being somewhat open about this. In the U.S. we are much more subtle and although we don’t ever talk about a caste system, people are born into certain families and therefore have certain opportunities more available to them than others. No, we don’t have so called “arranged” marriages in the U.S. but of course people typically marry within their social class. India is different, but not so different when it comes to these matters.

I’m looking forward to moving into my quite “Western” living arrangements and becoming a family member of the owners who live downstairs. They seem incredibly sweet and welcoming as Indian families tend to be. There is nothing like being welcomed into another culture. I think that others can tell when one is open or closed and I feel very open to the possibilities and opportunities. I think that being open is something that suits me well as it has brought me to the incredibly enriching place in my life.

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