August 4, 2010

It’s nearly 6 AM here in Vadodara and I can hear heavy rain pelting the table on the balcony outside my hotel room. Another gray and wet day here in Gujarat state, the heavy rain will make the already-chaotic streets nearly impassable, as there was already a lot of water down yesterday.

Vadodara is a very congested small city. With the rain falling last night, this city in monsoon India with its film noir-esque electric lights on rain-slicked pavement and crowded streets brought to mind something out of Peter Weir’s fine film “The Year of Living Dangerously” (one of my all-time favorite movies). After the typically-chaotic cab ride, a co-worker and I ducked into a Japanese/Asian restaurant called “KaiAsian” and had a wonderful meal – he, as a practicer of Jainism, went vegetarian (fried broccoli with roasted veggies), I had one of the best stir-fries I’ve ever tasted: chicken, onion, and red bell pepper in a delicious “red chilly” sauce that was sufficiently spicy and tasty beyond belief. Alas, there was no wine to be had, as the front desk clerk told us I would have to go to some registry a 5-minute cab away to get a permit once I showed my passport. Hey, I enjoy a nice bottle of wine as much (if not more) than anyone, but not enough for that! So bottled water was good enough.

Today I hit the road for my next destination, Pune – from what I’m told, a much larger and more modern city than Vadodara. After a couple of hours at the office catching up on yesterday’s e-mails, I’ll be driven two hours through the Gujarati countryside to Ahmedabad (Jet Airways doesn’t fly direct from Vadodara to Pune), then catch a 40-minute hop down to Pune, where I’ll have dinner with some execs. Tomorrow, an abbreviated day at the Pune office with meetings and candidate interviews before a late-afternoon flight to Mumbai and the long journey home.

I’m looking forward to Pune, not only because I’ll be able to get me a glass of wine there, but whatever initial charm being in as exotic a place as Vadodara once had is wearing off quickly. As the saying goes, a nice place to visit but you wouldn’t want to live there.

That being said, even here in this small, crowded speck in that vast and diverse country called India, I can see why people venture here in search of spiritual discovery and fulfillment – there is something magnetic about the people (very, very kind and accommodating, almost to a fault) and the various forms of Hinduism practiced here. I love the scented candles and bowls of water covered in flowers. I’m kicking myself for not bringing my monastic breviary with me on this trip, since it would be a wonderful companion to a place that seems to naturally lend itself to prayer and meditation; it’s a good thing I have Thomas Merton as a spiritual companion through Michael Mott’s fine “The Seven Mountains of Thomas Merton”.

For me, if this trip to India has any greater purpose, it will be that it has helped affirm what I have been feeling ever since arriving in Atlanta last Friday night: a great awakening to the serious spiritual imbalance present in my life, and the re-kindling of a fervent need and desire to both simplify my life and dedicate myself to regular daily prayer. Perhaps this trip that I had been dreading for so long will have had an impact long after the aircraft cabin doors open for the final time and the expense reports have been submitted.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:47 | Comments (0)
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