Sunday, December 18, 2011

November 2011, Part 5, Robyn and Michael, BK Flag in

Robyn and Michael/Badthe Kadam Flag In
Back to Delhi on Tuesday for me, with Robyn and Michael coming in on Wednesday and the Badhte Kadam flag in on Friday. R&M had been in India since November 4 and on November 5 left for Ranchi, Lucknow and the mountains. They are in India to do some filming for YSS and to write some more music and get ready for their European tour. They are very busy, Michael doing a lot of editing for a variety of projects, with the main one being for my beloved friends and cousins Mark and Andrew.

I was happy that R&M were coming to Delhi to spend a bit of time before going off to do the rest of their India trip. Given our places in the world we haven’t been able to spend a lot of time together as adults and of course, the most likely place for us to be together would be India, which is a second home to R&M. I had the added surprise of Robyn cooking every night and both of them doing a really nice, thorough cleaning of my flat. It was also an opportunity for my Indian family, especially Anjilee and Bulbul, to continue to interact with Americans. ( I had gotten Aamir Khan to give an autograph to, as he wrote, Bobo. My American Hindi!)

Friday December 2 was the big day for the Badhte Kadam flag in at Delhi University. Thanks to AADI providing coordination, this year we did things a bit differently. It was smart on NT’s part to work with AADI rather than doing the same old thing, which I felt hadn’t been too successful last year. AADI is a very professionally run NGO and they implemented a huge list of very creative items during BK. We also counted on them to organize both the flag out and flag in.

The flag in was at Delhi University North and was a beautiful area with a large lawn, enabling students walking by to see what we were doing. D. Napoleon our Minister of State was supposed to come as well as Sheila Dixits the Chief Minister of Delhi. Unfortunately Napoleon was called away to parliament while Dixits did spend 15 or so minutes with us. The children highlighted in the flag in did lots of dancing and through their costumes showcased the diversity that makes India, incredible. The hearing impaired children again performed the sign national anthem and as they started I had tears in my eyes for my adopted homeland. There was also Baul, or folk singing, from West Bengal which was just beautiful. The Baul singers had also performed in Connaught Place during the week and I was able to follow them around. Doordarshan and CNN-IBN covered the event.

Previously, during the week, my pal Aditya had called and said that CNN-IBN wanted to do a follow-up, that Saturday, December 3-World Disability Day, to the wheelchair basketball. This time they were going to be doing a lot of filming. With the cooperation of Uma and Seema Thuli of Amar Jyoti, and the wheelchair basketball and able bodied children, we put together an event from 9:30-1 PM. It was fantastic and turned out to be part of the CNN-IBN citizen’s journalist show. A full 20 minutes with all Amar Jyoti children featured throughout. (I was able to be a citizen’s journalist and also introduced another story in my introduction!)

Earlier in the week I had also noticed that the Dalai Lama was in Delhi for a World Buddhist Congress but would also be doing one speaking engagement. (China told India not to allow the Dalai Lama to do this and they cut off border talks because India did). This was going to be at the Habitat Centre and one had to get tickets through members. I called upon my dear friend Shekhar as he seems to know everyone. Although Shekhar isn’t a member he was able to secure two tickets for us. By the time though that we got to the door nobody else was allowed inside. Two huge video screens had been set up in the courtyard and so we sat with a number of other people.

Since I wanted to see the Dalai Lama live I went to the driveway line where he would be entering Habitat Centre. Sure enough he rolled down his window as he entered the driveway and I was able to make a short video. As I sat watching the video screen I knew that I must make an attempt to get inside. I noticed, after the talk was over and the q and a was starting that some people were being let inside the auditorium. I told Shekhar that I was going to try and sure enough I did get in and sat in the back with the journalists, snapping lots of lots of photos. I came so close to shaking his hand as well as I went to the stage when the Q and A was over, but did shake the hand of the monk accompanying the Dalai Lama. I then waited in the line to take a video of him leaving.

The day however, was not through as now I was going to the metro to meet up with Robyn and Michael in order to attend the National Disability Awards Ceremony, hosted by the Indian President. It was great to again introduce Robyn and Michael to what I was doing in India. Merry Bawa from Action for Autism was getting one award and it was wonderful to see her on stage for the great work that she is doing. My friends Shekhar and Anil, board members of the National Trust were there. Anil’s company, IBM, was also getting an award. R&M and I sat with Anil’s wife, Rashmi and their daughter Davanshe, who is a role model for Persons with Disability. My friends from NT were also in attendance. They all make me feel so much a part of the disability movement and I feel no different from anyone else, except that I still can’t speak Hindi.

Unfortunately the President didn’t make it, but the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, Mr. Wasnik, who seems to be a great individual, conducted the awards ceremony. The same hearing impaired children who were at the Badhte Kadam Flag off and in to perform the national anthem in sign were also at the awards ceremony. They are just phenomenal.

As R&M and I went to get some food it was already gone. By that time it was too late and we decided to go home even though Poonam had offered to bring us to the Minister’s home for dinner. An incredible day to say the least. I was however so exhausted and didn’t wake up on Sunday morning until 11 AM!

On Sunday I introduced Robyn to one of my local markets and we had a blast. Robyn is slow and loves to really experience things and that is what we did. We stopped at a vendor selling all kinds of green vegetables or sagh and we had them grind them all up into a lovely mixture. Robyn made this for at least four dinners with a variety of spices. I’m certainly going to miss her cooking.

Tuesday was a day off and Robyn and I went to meet up with Shekhar, who is a member, at the Indian International Centre for breakfast. It was wonderful, especially the croissants and after this we all walked in Lodhi Gardens, herb garden, butterfly garden. Shekhar said that his friend a Member of Parliament, Mr. Dixits and his daughter were in the park exercising, and sure enough we were able to meet up with them. We ended our time with Shekhar having a scrumptious lunch. As always Shekhar was too gracious!

Robyn and I went off to Connaught Place where she exchanged some money, I took her to Janpath to see the great crafts and then went shopping at Fab India where Robyn bought some pants and I bought a beautiful blue with gold stitched highlights kurtha. This was the end of my gift certificates from Voice and Vision for a workshop that I facilitated with Len regarding their strategic plan. I feel good about how I used the certificates as I shared them with Len, Robyn and Michael.

Robyn’s cooking was very welcomed, as at times, I am just too tired to make anything other than my fruit mixture for dinner. Robyn is a good cook and made a number of Indian dishes, while Michael made the papads and cleaned up. My kitchen has never been cleaner, oh maybe once when Mark used to live with me.

On Friday, December 9, M&R were leaving for the Noida ashram, although I wanted to find a way for them to come to National Trust to play a few songs. Sure enough Poonam and her driver Kumar came through to pick M&R up at my home with their four suitcases, the harmonium and tablas they had purchased in Old Delhi and their three guitars, although one is a mini. They made it to the office in time for a BK celebratory lunch, played three songs which all of the staff was able to witness and then listened as some of the staff sang some songs. This is where I said goodbye to R&M until who knows where and when. But I’ll look forward to sharing stories the next time that we are able to meet up.

Whirlwind to say the least and now my assignment with National Trust is down to 2.5 months remaining. I sit on the train to Bhubaneswar as I type this, stopped yet again, hoping to arrive before my workshop starts, but as I know won’t. I continue to say that my experience has been incredible, that just being in India makes the possibilities and opportunities endless as long as one is willing to jump through doors and windows that are constantly presenting themselves. Maybe that is why I just can’t get enough. One’s life in their native countries becomes the same, while life abroad is always new. This is truly who I am, wanting and somewhat needing to experience the newness on a regular basis. I’m not in any sense bored wherever I am, but being abroad just makes life that much more special!

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