Monday, September 28, 2009


I’ve discovered a whole new world of music through Samy’s indie rock playlist Autumn 2009. Groups such as +/-, Paper Route, Former Child Stars, Seamus and I realize how much I continue love music, especially new music, and could never live without it. A continuing passion to add to basketball, farmers markets and living an extraordinary life.

This past weekend has been loads of fun as we are now into the festival season in India. I started out Friday evening by going to the American Embassy School, to see a performance of my most very favorite play in the world, “Our Town”. Yes, I’ve seen this play performed numerous times, watched videos of performances and read the play so many times, that I do know a lot of the script. (I once performed one of the monologues in an acting class). However to see this performed in India, with a diverse cast of children from all over the world, made it quite special. For example, George Gibbs was played by an Indian student, the milk man was instead a milk woman named Rosie and the Stage Manager, instead of being one person was performed by three people, two female students and an Indian student with a British accent. At first I thought what is this, but as I got used to it, I thought how brilliant.

I love this play because although it is about a “simpler” time in the United States, the early 1900’s, it still maintains relevance today. The fact that we’re always rushing around and don’t truly look “hard” enough at life and really see one another, the fact that much of the time we suffer and don’t truly enjoy what we’ve been given. I most love one of the last monologues by the stage manager about how there’s something eternal in our bones, but we don’t take it out and look at it very often and don’t even realize it. The young woman who performed this was just great, very comfortable in her body and with being on stage.

My Saturday was not a typical basketball Saturday as there was a tournament going on at both the American Embassy School, where I play and at the YMCA where I coach. I ended up going to the New Delhi Railway Station to buy some tickets for my friends Cindy, Melissa and I so that we can go to the Pushkar Camel Festival at the end of October. It’s always an adventure to go the train station and fortunately they have a special section for International people to buy tickets. Although I was told that I couldn’t buy the tickets for all of us, because I didn’t have everyone’s passport, the man at the greeting desk said I’ll do you a special favor and let you buy the tickets and then present your passports on the train. The person that I actually purchased the tickets from didn’t seem at all bothered by this, so I really wonder, but that is India.

The train stations in India are just a mass of people and at some point I need to take pictures. People everywhere, sleeping, talking, eating, seems unorganized but like other things in India it all seems to work.

In the evening I went to Chitra’s, a National Trust volunteer, for some song, company and food. It’s so lovely to be invited to the home of an Indian, perfect hosts. I spoke with the children of another guest and recruited them to come to the YMCA for basketball. It’s so special when I can mix my b-ball passion in with interest in just learning and absorbing Indian culture. Chitra’s husband is a phenomenal origami maker and he had made an elephant, dog, etc. which I thought were made of clay-unbelievable. My colleagues Allan and Margaret from the UK were also in attendance and Allan sang a song and Margaret played a keyboard.

On Sunday I went to Dellihut which is one of the treasures of New Delhi. It is owned by the Indian government and every few weeks a new group of crafters come in to display and sell their wares. This next few weeks many of the crafters are from NGOs that fall under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment who I work for. The products are just outstanding, beautiful and although some of it is repetitive the majority consist of items that one wants to take home. It’s so difficult for me because I do own many of the things that I would buy again, but those things are in storage at my friend’s house in Connecticut.

The evening consisted of cultural performances from mainly children who have a number of disabilities. At National Trust we talk about “discoverabilities” and these children certainly showed that through music, dance and theatre. There was one little boy with, maybe club feet, not entirely sure, but he just stole the show with his dancing, couldn’t stand still, another young man, who has an intellectual disability, donned sunglasses and was dancing like Michael Jackson. I was smiling the entire time and at the end joined them all on stage to jump around. This all helped me to be connected with the population that I’m ultimately working with, but don’t get to regularly see because of the actual work that I’m doing. So important for me to be connected though with the reality, which in this particular night was so very joyous.

Tonight is the end of a nine day holiday with the blowing up of these effigies. I can’t wait to see this as I’ve seen the actual effigies in a number of locations around Delhi. Big faces with gigantic moustaches made out of paper mache. India is so much full of celebration.

Finally, there is the love that is developing in my personal life. It’s so very sweet and loving. It’s what I’ve wanted and longed for, for a very long time. It’s growing on a daily basis and it is so very mutual. This love makes me smile and very comfortable and I’ll continue to write more about this for a long time to come.

Monday, September 21, 2009


As I’ve noted in numerous writings, I am very much enjoying living my life in India, but there are, of course, challenges. I mean my ego wouldn’t get any pleasure if I didn’t complain a bit.

But let me just start this writing with noting that I was awakened in the middle of the night with a gecko on my back. Now, was it a dream? I don’t think so as I felt something, small, cool and lizard like on my back. How would the gecko even get into my bed is a question that I have. I think that after I realized that it was on my back it moved to another part of my bed. Anyway, not sure how much sleep I got after that. I do like geckos because they eat mosquitoes and there might have possibly been one or many on my back. But in the middle of the night, please let me sleep. And then the question of whether in fact this was a gecko or some other lizard like being in my bed….Ah, India.

A bit about my challenges-there is the metro/bus, vehicles/pedestrians, internet, maybe the same kinds of frustrations that I might encounter in the western world, but besides the internet I don’t think so.

The metro/bus, vehicles/pedestrians is tied into my notion about “manners”. I am constantly being bumped, pushed aside, with not so much of a mention of “excuse me” or “sorry”. On the bus, at times, people crowded next to each other on the seats, with someone standing, deciding to squeeze in to the seats. Not at all unusual, where someone, typically a man will end up sitting on your lap.

There is something about personal space and it has become somewhat exaggerated for me by being in India. I’m very aware of it in a western sense, wanting people at times, to just back off and not squeeze so very close to my body. But Delhi, is after all one of the most populous cities in the world and I need to deal with this. But I do have my moments. I never really understood this idea of people squeezing in like sardines in a can. I now know exactly what this means when I ride the metro during rush hour.

Typically I wait for people to get off of the metro before I get on. This is not generally the case for Indians. Even though a couple of people may be getting off at a stop and the fact that the metro is incredibly crowded already, 10 more people will get on. The “sardine” concept has become based in reality.

I do my thing though in getting off at the most crowded stop, that being Rajiv Chowk, just by putting my arms straight in front of me when I get off of the metro and politely saying excuse me, excuse me, excuse me. This seems to work as people are a bit “freaked out” by this “western” guy looking rather strange anyway, typically wearing shorts and a t-shirt. It become even more of a strange scene when I’m wearing my Lakers jersey after coming back from playing b-ball. Don’t see any men wearing a “tank top” here.

There is no pedestrian right of way in India and so even if you cross in front of a car or bus, or rickshaw, which is highly unadvisable, the driver will not stop for you, unless you’re a cow. But even then, I wouldn’t want to be a cow crossing the street. I tend to be a bit more aggressive in trying to cross the road, as there are no crosswalks, but caution is advisable. As I was crossing at the major intersection in my area, known to me as Dabri crossing, I almost got smushed between and bus and a truck.

I have started using the word “Dude” quite a lot in India. You can ask my work friend Rohit about this, it’s “dude” this and “dude” that. Every time I get pushed out of the way or almost run over, I say “Dude”. I don’t know that anybody understands me, but it all seems appropriate given that my roots are based in the San Fernando Valley and I am after all a “Valley Boy” but without the blond locks or surfboard.

I’m so used to using what I consider to be “manners” but this is in a western sense. I get somewhat annoyed when I don’t find “manners” used, but am pleasantly surprised when I do hear that “excuse me” on the metro in order to move around as opposed to being bumped by generally a man with a rather rotund belly and orange hair. The orange hair is supposed to keep the heat down, with the belly most generally used for clearing space for one’s self. I don’t think that I’ll ever get to the point of wanting either for myself, but stuffing pillows under my shirt, might make some sense, especially when I’m feeling somewhat sardine like.

I don’t really like the fact that men seated on metro or the bus won’t get up for women, either with or without children, when they are standing. There is something inherently wrong with this. I don’t think that it is chauvinism on my part, but I was brought up to give up my seat and I constantly do this, hoping that the Indian men will see this and do the same. I was recently on one of the smaller buses and three men were sitting and a number of women got on. I asked the men to get up and they wouldn’t. However, this was balanced by this last week when riding the metro I noted to a man to get up and there was no problem. In fact, a very nice conversation ensued in which he told me how much respect he has for the elderly and of course he always gets up, because that woman who is standing could be his mother. This was what I thought India would be more about.

But there also is a certain sense of that insanely needing to rush around, like in the west. I try to always take my time and not rush especially when getting on and off the metro, but I find all around me people rushing. In getting on the metro one has to go through a security check, one for men and one for women. Often men will just cut in front of me, like it really is going to make a difference in how quickly one gets onto the metro. For some reason this bothers me, and I say “dude” and then it is gone.

Not having grown up with so many people all around me, I somewhat lack this “what do I need to do to get ahead”, no matter how miniscule it might be. Maybe that cutting in front of me, or just ignoring the fact that there is another human being in front of you doesn’t matter in this case. It’s not that I’m not assertive, because I’ve certainly become more assertive since coming to India, but I don’t see the point from my western way of thinking of pushing or cutting to get one’s way. (One time though a man cut in front of me in the metro line and I told him that there was a line where he proceeded to laugh. I then cut directly in front of him without looking back. Yes, I do have my moments).

I’m certainly looking forward to being in other parts of India. Maybe it will be different, maybe not. It all is a major learning experience for me, in that “my way” is certainly not the only way. But I knew this coming to India and knew that I wanted to learn more about other ways of looking at the world.

I still love India and always will. The aliveness is just something that I don’t think I’ll see in the west. The things that I’m seeing and experiencing here are truly remarkable, just the everyday kinds of things, which I can see in my pictures. Galoo and Namu, the two little girls in the house where I’m living, talking to me in Hindi, and thinking that I’m understanding, and now in some English will be something that I will always treasure. I’ve come to “love” this children, their way of saying “Mike”, juice, their laugh. To think that this “world” never would have happened for me if I hadn’t dreamed about and really wanted it.

Experiencing the Indian culture is a wonderful thing for me. It is so very foreign from what I knew as a boy growing up in the San Fernando Valley. When I moved to the east coast of the US as a 22 year old, this had a foreign feel for me, but nothing like living in a place such as India. My life is so much more rich now that I’ve been here for six months and I look forward to the next 18 months with so much awe and especially love for the country, the people, the dust, the cows and smells.

I also look forward to a growing love in my personal life, but that will have to wait for the next blog!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Almost 6 months in India

September 6, 2009
I truly can’t believe that mid-September will mark six months for me living in New Delhi. Time just seems to pass so rapidly, although I’m living every day the fullest and maybe that is exactly the reason. The magic continues to occur, as I’m now growing a watermelon out of my Ashoka tree. How this happened I’m not really sure, but one day a vine appeared and soon there was a watermelon. I know that I do spit out my watermelon seeds all over my deck and so a few must have landed in the Ashoka tree pot. Regardless, I just can’t wait to taste this baby melon. (This takes me back to Lancaster, PA when I worked in the fields of Ruth and Wilmer, Mennonite farmers, Ruth being about 59 and Wilmer 70. As I worked out in the, what at that time I thought was really hot sun, they taught me how to spot a ripened watermelon). With the growth of my melon, I’ve thrown some potatoes, okra and peas into the pot, so let’s see what else grows.

I recently met with an Indian filmmaker, who is making a film about ex-pats. I’m not sure whether she’ll want me to be in the film, but one of the questions that she asked was, “Why do you love India?” To me, this question is rhetorical, like when someone asks me about my love for basketball, it’s just very obvious and doesn’t really need an answer.
To someone who lives in the same country for most of their life, thought, maybe it’s not so obvious. After all, the amount of traffic and people and pollution, etc., in Delhi is so oppressive, one might ask why would anyone want to live in India, much less love India.

I walked out my front door to get some medications at my local chemist, but it’s not the same type of walk that one might make in the States, and the prices are certainly not nearly the same as in the States. Yes, people do recognize me now and so there are many hello’s, but it’s nothing like one sees in the “sanitary” streets at “home”. (I’m truly not quite sure where home acutally is anymore but in the present it is definitely New Delhi). It’s difficult to actually describe, unless you’re here. You can see pictures, but until you are in the midst of it, seeing so many people, doing so many different things, most with huge smiles on their faces at the site of a foreigner, you can’t truly appreciate this.

After purchasing my medications and waving hello to the local shoe repair dude, I walked towards my local Reliance “supermarket”. I decided today to walk down a side street, as I saw lots of signs, indicating shops and people. As I walked down the street, or alley, my camera immediately came out to take pics of the people. The sites are still remarkable to me, but it’s the people that I’m so enthralled with. As I walked down one street and started snapping, people came out of their houses and indicated that they wanted to be photographed as well. I can’t imagine a foreigner in the US asking people to pose for pics. I just can’t imagine so many people being outside of their homes in the US. Well, maybe in smaller towns, but I can’t imagine it being anything like India.

It’s definitely the people from the very young, who sometimes seems to be a bit afraid of me, to the, what appears to be very old men, in their turbans, to the young women, on their 50 year old sewing machines to the women in their multi-colored saris. I’m not quite sure what they make of me, because many just don’t speak English and I only, Mei todhi Hindi bolte hu. (I only speak a little Hindi). I guess though that it doesn’t quite matter as there is a communication that is done through so much smiling.

But there is also the basketball stuff. Yeah, I could be playing wherever I live and of course I would be, but where would I be able to play with Indians, French and Congolese dudes, a 6’8” Australian gus, Eastern Europeans who are constantly speaking to each other in Serbian, an American named Moosa who has the deepest voice in the world and works for the World Bank and an American doctor who spends time in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Maybe I’m exaggerating and could find this kind of game on a playground in Orange County, CA, possibly as it is fairly diverse, but I don’t think so. And where could I be teaching Indian children how to meditate?

Ok, so that maybe is going a bit too far, but last night at the YMCA this is exactly what I was doing. It was a small group, 15 children and I asked how many of them had ever meditated. None raised their hands and I said, in order to be present, to just focus on basketball, we are going to meditate. This is exactly what we did, after stretching and talking about how basketball is about life, a short meditation. I even told the kids about Phil Jackson and how he uses meditation. I have to say that this was a magical moment for me as I walked around looking at the children in a very peaceful state. I was amazed. I get chills now just writing about last night.

We have so much fun and the children are always laughing with me. They are continuing to “get” what I’m trying to teach, there was actually a “give and go” last night run so perfectly that it could have been a highlight on ESPN. I stopped the game and was jumping up and down and cheering as the children just cracked up. But I can so much be “me” in India.

A silly concept, “me”. I’m reading about this in Eckhart’s Tolle’s most recent book “A New Earth”. Yes, it’s this “silly new age” stuff, which makes so much sense to me. But yes, this me is feeling so, at home in India. Here is the picture though-I’m getting off the metro, in that famous Rajiv Chowk place where nobody will let you off. I wink at the Indian guys next to me waiting to get off. The doors open, I put my arms out in front of me and just say excuse me in rapid fire statements until I’m totally clear and not one person has touched me. The “guards” dressed in orange vests, who are supposed to be helping people get off, just smile as I wave good-bye, mission accomplished.

It doesn’t take much for me to be in “love” because I’m constantly working on being present. I know I shouldn’t be working but…this is India and I say why not, what else will grow?