Our Trip to India: Dharamsala Day 17

by Siegfried Othmer | November 10th, 2014

by Siegfried Othmer, PhD

Sue and I have just returned from a sojourn to India, where we taught our training course at the Tibetan Medical Institute, Men-Tsee-Khang.
Day 17

October 2 (Thursday)

The day of our departure was a holiday. The birthday of Mahatma Ghandi was being celebrated. This was also the day on which the Dalai Lama’s Nobel Peace Price was to be commemorated at the monastery, the culmination of the five-day celebration.

As we gathered our belongings for the departure by caravan, the father of the autistic girl arrived bearing gifts. He was so grateful. The girl was now more playful; she had been laughing; and she even made a gesture of affection. All that with less than an hour of collective training time. Of course Sue had also made clear to them that they needed to continue, preferably without long interruption, and that a long road of recovery lay ahead of them.

At the Kangra Valley airport the security people were tediously meticulous. After all, they didn’t have very much to do, so they had to make the best of it. Our luggage was overweight, due to excessive purchasing on our part. This meant paying an additional fee. That alone was not a problem. What presented difficulties was the associated paperwork. The computer system was erratic. The credit card reader wasn’t functioning. But we had time. Lots of time. The plane was an hour late. The computer came back up. It was realized that the card reader actually had to be connected to a phone cord in order to function. Eventually everything came together.

At the Delhi airport we came to our final parting from the Vietnamese contingent. Also Evvy and Kara were on their way to more travel destinations within India, including in particular the Taj Mahal. The remaining four us bivouacked at the Radisson Hotel near the Delhi airport. On the way there, the taxi driver handed a begging boy some change at a stoplight. Change is nothing. A one rupee coin is worth one-sixtieth of a penny. But was the driver modeling behavior for me here, in the hope that his generosity would kindle my own when it came time to tip him? The driver then lamented that whereas China had taken the population problem in hand, India had not. I responded that India would not attain prosperity until it dealt with the problem. It is archaic to think that economic progress is still tied to population. Labor is now in surplus everywhere.

As we re-entered mainstream Indian society, we also started paying attention again to the news. Prime Minister Modi had returned from his successful trip to New York and Washington, and now was launching his country onto a campaign of cleanliness. In India some 50% of the country does not get to use ordinary indoor toileting facilities, and by these I am not referring to the porcelain throne but rather to a hole in the floor. India is a nexus of the traditional water culture with the paper culture of England. When water is not available, the outdoors serve as public toilets.

Throughout our stay I had the words of John Kenneth Galbraith running through my mind: “Private affluence and public squalor.” Funds are expended lavishly on private ventures, and public infrastructure is neglected, along with all public services except for the military. He was referring to the United States, but his views may well have been shaped while he was Ambassador to India during the Kennedy Administration. Why not harness the under-utilised capacities of the poor to clean up the place, just as Russia did during the Soviet era?

Here at the Radisson, Virginia finally found her Buddha that was not too heavy. It was carved from wood rather than cast in metal. Virginia’s flight was at 3 AM, and would take her via Amsterdam and Panama back to Bogota, Colombia.

Our Trip to India Continues

The Journey Home: Day 18

Siegfried Othmer, PhD

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