Delhi Day!

Delhi. After the long overnight first class train ride from Jaisalmer to Delhi, we arrive. We are transported to the Good times hotel (not really a recommended accommodation) and we wait. We wait for our passports to be scanned, our rooms to be prepared and for our arrival to this city. We make plans for the day, we have a driver, our friend Lalu and off we go.
We stop for a week bit of lunch at a fabulous strip mall of restaurants and the meal is tasty and excellent, plenty of food arrives.
We want to see the place where Gandhi spent his last days and was assassinated, shot outside his home. It is powerful, moving and quietly. Quotes from his heart are scattered on signs. 
Then to the beginning of the Salt walk with Gandhi as he began the walk to Kerala region. Photos taken.
Finally to the place where he was cremated – the large park surrounding this sacred place. Moving.
Out for dinner to share our last few hours together, to thank Lalu and to have some words to summarize our thoughts and affections.  
An early morning flight for three of the six of us as we are heading back to Victoria. Our trip has needed. Three stay on for a visit to the famed Taj Mahal. This will be powerful for them.
I am on the plane almost home now and catching up on my blog posts and sentimental emails. No wifi for a few days, no time to make posts. My heart is still trying to stay present and respect the process of this journey. I remain positive and I hope to do this trip again, maybe two weeks next time. Maybe Kerala in the south? We shall see.
One thing seems certain to me now, my journey with India is not yet complete. I still feel warm and welcome in its arms and heart. I love the people I have met and I look forward to supporting them in our next tomorrows when we see each other again.
Namaste and thanks for following along ……

Highlights from the group travel in India

HIGHLIGHTS from the collection of 6 women. We gather on the train back to Delhi and ultimately we will return home to Canada. A long overnight and first class accommodations on the train begins. We get together to talk about our experiences and our views, shared with our guide and supported as always by each other.  

Night sky with stars touching the ground, deep sharp contrast. Big sky – I have never seen such a big sky. So big and so dark. Bright stars. From the earth they appear on every horizon as far as we can see and the sky is black with speckled stars and lights. It is magnificent and every one of us is in awe of this night and the sights.  
Meeting with the dancer, exchange and learning a little bit about her. Her husband at home watching the baby. She had been able to move to her passion to be dancer (passed on for generations) but been working as a snake charmer and is now able to do this. She has two sons so she won’t be passing on the dance to them. Hearing her story. Where she learned to dance. Human connection — generations of passing on the dancing. Appreciate Lalu being there to communicate with the dancer. Her face, body language … respect and grace with us. She calmly and intense, sharp, watching … with grace in answering questions
Dinner on top of the Fort …. the way we were served, the fabulous food, the attention of Lalu’s friends, the view, fireworks – as if it was all in place just for us. Invited to the family monthly gathering to celebrate the life of Lalu’s father – such a generosity to open his home to us. May have been the most beautiful place, how they took care of us. His friends looking after us. Flat terrace overlooking city. Tony’s coffee.  
That evening, seeing the family – we got the idea, flashlight, uncle, kids running up and down the roadways in fort. Seeing family attachments. In awe of the family attachment. I have never been around this type of family. Intellectual fellow – past life regression. Recorded video clip. Hypnotic state??? Spreading fresh breath into other … he lost a son and then a wife. Newly married again – the pain he went through. Mentoring other people – we all have to move on.  
Cooking Indian cuisine experience, that lady opening up her home to us. Pakoras, involvement, learning new skill, mastering masala chai, instructions on video, people in the house were so gracious – the men, women, kids. How they function in their kitchen space, in their home. Felt like “I could do this”. Learning with the language barrier. Chapati. Too heavy, add more oil, little water. Our hands are in it so we can feel what it will feel like when we do it again. That is how they learn and teach and so to be part of that process. Out of my comfort zone with new foods, numb lips (I can take a little heat). Did not “not” try a food because it was unfamiliar. Texture, they were impressed on how Christa was able to do it. Feel the texture – a lot of fun. We felt welcomed in to the family. The woman – judge’s day. The young girl.  
Tuk tuk ride on back from the fort that night. With Pam and Donna, lights. Generations of family sharing information and just chatting. Being part of it … Sense of a big family. Very special to be able to see that.  
Sterilize that! The train on the way to Jaisalmer … coming up against contrast to what we would experience in day to day life. Finding our comfort and connectedness. Sense of supporting one another. Bonding as a group. Special. Enjoyed as it gave us an opportunity to see the landscapes of the country and get a little snippet of the life of the outside community – the local … untainted by the world. Their simple life. Water jugs on the heads of women as they daily serve their families and communities to basic necessities. The sparse trees, the meager accommodations, the satellite dishes, the colorful sarees, the hard physical labor of the peoples of this country in the rural areas.  
Porters carrying our luggage at the train station. On their heads. Lalu told how he negotiated … asked for a lot. Maybe 3 times more what he should. Lalu told him he would lose his food. In the end he was paid what he was wanting. Touching hand at end. Showing picture to the porter that we had witnessed his hard work, and shared in the knowing that it was difficult and yet, his job, to serve these tourists.  
The intense feeling of Solitude on sand dunes. Felt small and insignificant on the dune. Me and the dung beetle. Peaceful. Silent, nothing to do and no where to be, Just here, just this space. Just now, We all Enjoyed the camel ride quiet and personal, each on our own, some tethered together, walking out in to the wild adventure that is a desert in India. This is truly a fantastic experience. Camel ride is very special.
Animals we saw. Bumping into goats, pigs, cows, dogs, horses, sheeps, deer, monkeys, elephants, men riding horses on the streets. Hearing the Howling of dogs.
The children, smiles and openness. Joy. Wonderful, intensity. Little girl touching Heather hands at the train station. We all felt it, perhaps Heather is forever changed by the bridging of our cultures. We truly are one on this globe. Magic.
The Lake and life line water source for Jaisalmer, the sunrise and golden light in the morning. We met Krishna. We hear her story and see the age on her hands and face. She tells the story of her sons, and her losses, her experience as an “untouchable” in this India. She is beautifully adorned in gold jewels and has retired from her government service as a sweeper. She has worn the same sweater now 5 years … coral colored. She will go on the train today to see family. We learn of her thoughts and impressions as Lalu asks questions that have arisen in his mind from our time together the previous night. He is learning about violence against women and so he searches to understand the meaning even on this day, this interaction, and this community. The conversation matters.
Donna and Pam went to see Luv. He was our tour guide last year for two weeks on the Indus Royal India tour with 17 women through Rajasthan. Wonderful guy, really liked him. Taught us so much. He was there and Lalu could make that connection. Donna and I – no Id no money, flying through streets in a Tuk tuk! Took us to hotel we went to last year … after a bit of exploring we know we are in the wrong place, but fun to see our old hotel. We get in with driver – to next hotel … Luv just arriving with group from Medicine Hat and Calgary. Warm and Fun. Hugs, appreciation and gratitude. Lalu is with us again and we head back to the Fort.

Jaipur. Our hotel. Alsisair Haveli, Beautiful place inside the gate. And away from the beep beeps and chaos outside the door and isn’t he streets, An oasis. Older woman at the pool. Greeted, questions, lovely. Tired and stunned …Beautiful place, someones’ home. We are always welcomed wherever we go and we feel cared for. The hospitality in India seems so gracious while not necessarily luxurious. Caring is in small details and personal reception.  
Sunrise at the lake. Chaotic and swirling Catfish in the lake. Someone throwing bread. Fish, cows, dogs, birds, monkeys. All sacred in India. To feed them is good karma. Life is precious here, animals and human. Dinner in Jaipur that we had together was lovely. 
Putting the gifts together for Lalu’s family. We were in the Jasmin Haveli hotel room. See where they live. Mom shed tears over simple gifts. Great honor. Felt like we lived there. Connected. I hope they know that we appreciate Lalu and for his time with us.  
Jain temples. Energy from the east – and the story about the tunnel. 1200 page catalogue from so long ago. Translated by a guy who knows 17 languages of the world. Born blind, guru. 1940s or so … he went to school University in Varanasi (4 million students). Masters degree. Mrs Gandhi was Prime Minister … gave award, medallion for his work. Won two awards …. won third award. She was wanting to know what is happening out here?? 3 more awards …. different subjects. She came down from stage and went to him. How come? I can see from heart … 
Lalu lemon – we think we might like to help him brand this in India, ha ha.
Deb’s wine and No Jet Lag – her generosity and keeping to her own needs and desires to make this a comfortable trip for her. She speaks her mind, she holds her own, she enjoys her space and she shares the wine!  
Shopping, taking me, back to the Coop … with my shopping list and getting it done. Power shopped. We went with intention. We had the pallet from the day before. 4 of those, one of these.  
Watching Colleen buying her carpet and supporting her. Now I need to go away and digest the information. I kept getting more and more information. Overload and overwhelming.  
Conversations with Lalu and Jitu about the business, the spa, the empowerment of women in a culture that has long ignored this half of the population. We get to some critical points and I know I am here for a reason. My presence today and in future will change India. I know this somehow deep in my core. I feel the resonance with the mama and the women we have met, and the men I have challenged to be be better men. I feel the empowerment and the love I have shared and the change I have implemented. I am so grateful for this week and the opportunity to grow. These wonderful 6 women who shared and supported each other openly. The men who are held to account and who we know are up to the challenge of implementing change in their community.

Mysteries and Masala in India

A warm bamboo scarf hug after the collective intimate silent sunrise on the desert sand dunes our last morning in Jaisalmer. The moment was magic, “golden”. Donna sings a line. Tears slide down my face, falling to the thirsty sand. I feel oneness that transcends any discomfort.  

Waiting for our warm masala chai delivery we spoke about how to make the foods we have learned about yesterday. We had been welcomed into a local family home and taught to cook, hands on experience with local ladies/. Masala Chai tea, rice, pakoras, aloo gobi. It was magical. It was experience of India and shared with locals in their kitchen, in their space, with careful watchful eye of other men and women in their family and community.  
The tea arrives. We are talking now about our experience of night sounds, while sipping …. camel snorting, dogs barking, motorcycle engine sounds cutting through the absolute silence that exists in the desert far from the city activity.
We talked about last night with dancing with a local gypsy woman, having a chance to talk with her. Hearing her story, dancing with her on the stage, drums keeping rhythm with her movements and an ancient and deeply moving movement of grace, beauty, and skill, bringing forth her ancestors to dance with us.  
We talk more, about our interpretation of the Mysteries of India. Desolate. Is it beauty? It’s not the surroundings. It’s the passion in people. Their family ties and how passionate they are about it. We want to be adopted into the family, sense of belonging is so strong and we crave that. Communal eating. Beaming love. Look what they have! They don’t have the longing of the western world. We reflect on the two family activities we have been so generously invited to with our guide Lalu.  
The first, was a celebration of life for his father. In the past year the father in this lovely family has passed on. Once a month or so they all get together in a small family home, they have a communal space within the fort and they eat together, talk together, and spend a few days wrapped in the love for each other. We, the 6 women of Canada, are part of that family now. We shared this evening. Under the stars, in the fort on the top patio overlooking the city, we are entertained and cared for, fed by and so generously welcomed by Lalu’s friends. Many of these men we have met earlier in the week – now they come out at his request to meet with us, serve us and include us in their festivities. I will forever be moved by what fun that was to be treated like royalty and celebrities on that roof top terrace. Fireworks can be heard behind us. Activities in the street below, we are wrapped in the love of this community. So very gracious.
The second was the following day after. Touring the fort, the exquisite Jain temples, the tunnel that saved the lives of the fort’s peoples so long ago while under siege, the shop keepers, the roof top restaurant / cafe where we are now regulars and we enjoy wine, and some tasty foods, a clean WC and the attention of the lovely men that work and own this establishment. They urge us to return again, anytime. After all this we go to Lalu’s home for a proper introduction with his intimate family, his wife, his two lovely children, Dev and Sri and his mama, the madame, the matriarch in this home. We share our gifts that we had gathered and brought to India. Backpacks full of fun treasures for the kids, games for the family to share, purses and contents, scarves, hats and gloves for the ladies, and winter hats and scarves, gloves and more for Lalu. We thank them for letting us have his attention for this week tour that is so precious to us. It is so fantastic to be part of this day and this interaction. I think for me, as I hug the women and children, and we share a group photo, that this is is why I came to India. I feel one with this family now. Namaste.
Reflections of the day spent at the Fort in Jaisalmer. Door to the east. Sit in the square, how the energy works. Jain temple. Pride in Dev’s young face as he brought us to the sacred place in the neighbourhood. Ensuring we were all together and arrived. Announcing to the attendant that we were Lalu’s friends – that Lalu was our guide.  
We talked about our family of origin experiences. Comparing our stories, and feeling the love and connection of this place. Sibling order and constellation matters. Gentle caring questions that bring out our stories. It’s safe within this circle. We resonate with the family. We are creating our sense of connectedness here in this small intimate tour group, by choice. Here in the desert dunes of India, here in February 2017. We mingle our stories with those of the ancestors in this place.  
Masala omelet arrived. Masala tea refills. The feast of India continues.

Intense emotional presence

Great morning. Emotional hangover from intense feeling and sensations from the days events yesterday.  
On the train since about 5 pm yesterday and we will be until about 11 am or noon today when we are scheduled to arrive in Delhi.
As I continue to practice patience, both with myself and my environment and interactions, with observing my process, with intention of positivity and staying present to what is. It has been an intense week in that regard.  

There is haze on the horizon. I watched the sky wake up this morning from my train window .. hazy. Powerful intense feelings arise, tears fall. Again. Again.
I woke up weeping in my sleeper cabin. I feel I must be present with my heart today. Gently I offer loving kindness to myself and then I can share it with the world. Christa arrives to bring me some goodies for the morning. She has been a very warm and loving roommate and tremendously supportive friend throughout the trip. Sometimes she notices my state before I have settled in.


The Edge of India

Extraordinary. Spectacular. Life altering, heart connecting, 
All the senses are awake and vibrating with sounds, tastes, smells, textures, the heart and soul of India and its people and culture.
If the opportunity arises for you to ever come to this magical historic, epic and ancient place, don’t hesitate. Put your fear in your back pocket, pack a little bag and come and open your mind, heart and find yourself.  
Leave a bit of yourself behind. Have the hard conversations. Let the heart open wide, be vulnerable And enjoy that by showing up in your power and love, all the world MUST change. And it will. Faith and trust.  
Yesterday we started early at 7 am to watch the golden sunrise on the Fort and the lake. We were captured with the stories and visions. An “untouchable” senior woman was meeting with us to discuss her life and to share her experiences of 60 some years living in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India. Lalu, our unique and very special award winning guide had made the arrangements and set the tone, asked the questions and interpreted the responses to the group.
The sun is bigger here. How does that impact on humanity?  
Community transforming, again. We start with a desert. On the Silk Road. Now windmills, the energy. It’s recreating itself …. It is providing natural energy for many more people than its inhabits. 
We see construction and changes in transportation, waterways. Political influences, outside information exchange on the internet.
We are somehow in the midst of change in this place on the edge of India.

‘Being’ in JaisalmerĀ 

I am still not sleeping very well. We have spent two nights in this Haveli Jasmin in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India.
It is a group trip and yet, it is my journey only that I am experiencing. Maybe due to the state of tiredness, and being in a very foreign environment, or maybe it is my desire to be present to every last morsel that is being offered.
Yesterday we had an easier morning although I was awake very early to try to catch the sunrise on the Golden City as it passes, as it does, every day. I had been awake late the previous night until after three a.m. with the train ride, late arrival, welcoming hot brewed ginger tea with lemon and deep friendship connection and conversations.
Awakened to the sounds of this desert city, inspired by the sights out my third floor window with view of the magnificent living fort, the golden rooftops of the city and the awakening and daily routines of the inhabitants, human and otherwise. We spied a camel on the other side of the tree, a cow looking for breakfast, dogs foraging through the refuse and playing, people walking about to do their daily business.
And then breakfast on the rooftop cafe, with glass walls overlooking the city and fort, more sounds, more tastes of India to enjoy.

After a consultation and conversation about the do’s and don’ts here, as tourists, we ventured in tuk tuks out to see the sights that are world famous and presented with stories upon stories of history layered with present day situations bringing this destination to life.
I am an advocate for Local Living Adventures, To have a chance to wake up and smell the new day with all the senses and to walk with the locals in their hometown is a gift for my tourist self, I feel welcome here and safe
A day of sightseeing, a rooftop lunch of Indian spicy pakoras dipped in green chile sauce, rice and lentils and curry, more water, and a glass of wine we head back to our haveli home in tuk tuk style. Greeted there by previously arranged Kerala style Ayurvedic spa massage and facials. A little time to process and take it in. 
Dinner on the roof top as a group and late evening conversation about life in our homes, our communities and our larger world. Once again confirming we are one and all people having personal responsibility to make it the best we possibly can. 
Deep and rich, sharing of grief that we carry from our work, now and in the past, and wise in knowing how it is with and and for women here and everywhere. We share this and we honour those that brought our hearts to the table. Namaste.
I am richer, wiser and somehow more universally connected because of yesterdays talks and being together as a group. I had some insights and moments of mindfulness that give meaning to my travels

“Being” On the train

On the train. Outside the window is India. The north, the history, the dry earth, the pollution. The sunshine, motorcycles, dry brush, stunted trees looking very bare and sparsely speckled on the brown and grey countryside. Some huts, some women sitting solitary on the ground, maybe taking a rest from her work in the fields.  
Tall grasses on sandy patches. A shrine grabs my attention, small, colourful. Gone. Sometimes we are beside another track, sometimes nothing between us and the ground.  
A family of goats, maybe 8 in a group foraging in a field.  
Young families or older children working to gather up recyclable bottles left behind in heaps at the train stations that we pass through. More women working in back bending labour, dressed still in colourful silky fabrics, with bracelets gleaming in the sun as her arms swing gently and her body carries the burden of the work at hand. Random cows eating what they find, standing on a road, engaged in the simple act of being.
“My need to be sociable is more great than my need for comfort and personal space.” The phrase pops out of my mouth without the forethought that might precede that kind of statement. An insight for me. A knowing deep in my heart. I wanted this journey. I may have asked for it in a previous life. Perhaps just new to my awareness.  
Silly emotions come and go with stories wanting to attach and attract my awakened attention. The purpose of the day is to try to let those stories stay unspoken. Can I be with this? Can I stay in this moment? Just this, only this, always this.  

I say a peaceful mantra with my hand over my heart. I wish peace for myself, for my friends, for those I care about, for those I don’t know on this trip and for those others out there who I neither know nor will meet.  
Can I be OK with my heart feeling wounded? Can I sit still in this moment. This one too …. and the next and the next. 12 hours of rail trip. Say it again. Be it.

Leaving JaipurĀ 

Before the peacefulness, there was the train culture shock.
Unprepared, once again, for what I might find today as we leave the comfort and luxury of our stay in Jaipur, I discovered more about India.  
As we say good bye and gather our bags. We enter the busy streets of Jaipur. Not as frantic it seems, as yesterday. There is activity plenty on the streets. Some people walking, tuk tuks beeping and swerving in and out, roundabouts that seem to take us in circles, store fronts open for business and the streets humming. Cows grazing and people moving.  
A thought comes to me. As I see a virtually enter “store” with chairs inside and men sitting on them. It occurs to me and I spontaneously utter “the Men are at the ready.” For what? Sitting next to and across from same other man as yesterday and tomorrow. Is that a job? What are they talking about? Colleen says maybe they are talking about the next tourist van, ours, and wondering what are they doing? Same bus, same women, sitting across from each other, talking about what??? Ha Ha.  

Jaipur magic

In the darkness, it is the wee hours of the morning and a call to prayer chant can be heard above the sweet bird song in this magical oasis. It’s like a moment of spiritual awakening and fellowship for all souls. The call to India, as my friend, Colleen states, is about the spiritual connection. There is magic in this place, in the people and the very sounds that make us one.

When the chanting stops, as I lay in the darkened room I hold on to the promise of staying present. I hear the echoes of the voice and they melt into the flutter warble and cheep of morning birds, nested in trees outside my window in the open courtyard at this magnificent Haveli Alsisair in Jaipur. Although the busy city is outside the walls, in my room painted and decorated by a true genius, I feel so connected in this place.

Jaipur is chaotic. Traffic bumping along in almost Delhi style … constant beeping and jostling for position on the unmarked roadways and roundabouts. Pedestrians milling and walking through, holding hands with little children, places to go.

A gentle man, squatting by the side of the road. his two grandsons squatting in the very same physical configuration. Together, in synchronicity and obvious genetic similarities. Mirrors of each other, generations together. They hold their hands in the same way … like in prayer. Looking to one side, the same side so we can see the lines of ancient ones in their faces. I have only the pictures in my mind, so present was I with them on the sidewalk. Mindful moment and highlight.

My room in the Alsisar Haveli. Primary colours painted and stain glass, not black and white but classic colours of nature. Sharp red, glowing golds and yellows, deep blues. A prism of light outlining true Indian design. I step back, I take a photo or two, to hold on to it.

My dear friend Christa and I share time together this morning as we awaken in India. Our first morning together on this trip. We talk.

Processing our process for play instead of pressure. When shopping yesterday we were investigating textiles and carpets. We are looking for a taste of what is available in the store. My purchase power is my politics. Honouring the meaning of connections within community of support. I am supporting a family and they are supporting me. I think that is what we are hungry for as a people. I want to be responsible for the way in the which I exchange with the lives of another.

My friend Lalu defines this for us in India. I support his lifestyle by arranging our travel experiences through him. He honours me by his honesty and sensitivity to heart. I get to share this richness of experience with dear friends and travel companions. I feel happy, content and somehow precious and important in my roll and my friendships.



The flight to India

Great morning and Namaste,

About 1500 kms left of our 12488 km journey in the air, from Vancouver airport to Delhi India, I am awake and inspired. It will be 20 February 2017 local date and time when I arrive in Delhi.

This flight is really restful, with Premium Economy seating for extra leg room, close to the facilities, only two seats across, window location one back from bulkhead. Many children and large families on this flight. I have to give credit and extend patience to the wonderful mothers and fathers who attempt this 14 hour flight with their darling small daughters and sons. Even though sleep comes easily with exhaustion and not too many interruptions, it can’t be an easy trek with tiny lives to care for. Brava!!

My words for this trip included Patience, Process, Positivity and staying patient. So far with less than the size of this small space allotted to my seat and me, I have had plenty of opportunity to practice and witness my state of mind.

I have a friend beside me, my water bottle for refreshment and a beautiful new plane surrounding us as we careen through space. Temperatures outside ranging from -50 to -61 degrees that I have seen. Up over the pole, starting in northern BC and then down through Scandinavian countries, and now I see Kabul and Kandahar on my screen as I track the journey on my screen. Almost two hours to go, at 968 km an hour.

What will we expect? What delights greet us? What will I see that I did not in my journey a year ago to this location half way around the world from my home?