There’s been lot’s of hubbub lately about India because of the release of a new movie, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” starring Judi Dench. The movie takes place in Jaipur, India, which shares a border with Pakistan in the northern region of India.
I read and listened to the chatter about India with some sense of bemusement because I lived in India back in 1970-71. I was a confused, spoiled rich kid with 90 other spoiled rich kids navigating India as foreign exchange students ostensibly attending the University of Bangalore, in the southern region of India.
It was a program set up by the University of the Pacific’s cluster college, Callison, whereby students would learn another culture by emerging themselves in said culture. It was a great idea by a groundbreaking university. The problem was not the program. The problem was the students.
We had no idea the possibilities presented to us. We took advantage of the program, and in many ways disgraced it in the process.
This was a time of universal unrest, let’s say; a time of national discord. No question about that. The students in this particular program (I must be honest: It wasn’t all the students. It was just a small group of articulate, bright and loud students) decided to challenge the program while guests in India under strict guidelines agreed upon by the American and Indian government. Regrettably, this small contingent did not comply with those restrictions.
In fact, I tried to get the program to let me live in a tiny section of Bangalore populated mostly by what was called in those days of class distinctions, “Untouchables.” The request was denied.
I was to ultimately drop out of the program and head to the Middle East; Tehran, Iran, to be exact, before finally finding my way back home to America.
India changed me in so many ways it’s difficult to express. But here goes: It turned my world inside-out and upside-down to the point where today the recovery process is still a work-in-progress. I learned about the resilience of a nation. The power of spirituality. The decease of over-population. The strength of poverty and the brilliance of geography.
This probably doesn’t make much sense to anyone. I understand. All I can share with you is that India is, indeed, like nothing else on this planet. It is a country and a people worthy of a second, third and continuing look. This examination is important for us as a global community for we can learn how to live without.
The lesson of the famous book “Siddhartha” is exactly that. The answer to the meaning of live and how to live it with a sense of happiness and decorum is: Learn to live without anything and then you can live with anything.
I think back on India and cherish the memory. I just wish I had been more mature, a better person, if you will. But maybe therein lies the lesson. Today I am a more mature, a better person, and India is a significant part of that. Make no mistake about that. Talk soon.