Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bhuneswar-Chennai,India -20Aug07

My Last Long Long Train Ride

* This keyboard has problem with "h". So if i do not hit the keyboard hard enough, the 'H' will be missing. !#$%^*&(&%

One whole day of train. My last long train ride in India. Like usual, food and books. "Picnic" at my upper berth.
There is a family from Bangladesh sharing the cabin with me. Te grandson said the grandpa is going to Bangalore for a bypass operation. it took them 3 days by bus and train to go to Bangalore from Bangladesh! The grandson later invited me to stay with them, but i said i am meeting my husband. :P
During this boring and trapped almost 22 hours of train ride, i have finished 3 books! One book is about the life of the Muslim women in India. It makes me feel that, many Indian muslim women is the victim of men intepretated Islam. Not allowed to go out alone or go out from the house without chaperon means the woman is not pure. Of course they are some women who go against this, but with great hard time from the society and even her own family. The other book is about Kumari, the living goddess in Nepal. Interesting story about how a gril living as or worshipped as the living goddess for 8 years and eventually or inevitably go back to her own family and live as a mortal again. Some of her stories especially in school reminded me of my time from Primary school until university. The other book is about Vippassana meditation, a book which teach us to be happy. :)
i also recalled that, when i first arrive in India, i won't eat anything that people sell in the train. i am always sceptical wit te hygien issue. But now, i would look forward to see what i could eat! Someone took an airconditioning coach told me that, they have guards for AC coach and food is included in the inflated ticket price. Of course in tis case, it is safer as no people other than the passengers with ticket is allow to go inside to the cabin. However i would think, they actually miss the fun of people shouting, "Chai, Chai, Chai!" (Tea) or "Samosa, Samosa!"
Back home, it is impossible for me to buy food wrapped in newspaper. But in India, this is a norm. i am now eating peanuts, samosa, pakoda and whatever in newspaper 'container'.
May be one of the reasons that people should come to India is to let you yourself realised that, while you have many choices in your life, but many are not as fortunate as you to have an option.

Indian Railway, Sleeper Class. The train ride from Bhuneswar to Chennai. It was so long and everyone got so bored that most of the people just sleep. i got an upper berth.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Kolkata, India-15Aug07

Praying for my Friend, Zi Boon, in Memory

Jenny sms me the news that Zi Boon, our childhood friend and neighbour has passed a way in a road accident and asked me together to pray for his peaceful deceased.
i feel very sad, eventhough the last time i saw him was months ago during his brother's wedding and we didn't even talk. He was so young and yet he has just gone like this.
May his family be able to accept his deceased calmly.

In some way, i asked myself that, if i just died unexpectedly, what would i regret?
Especially on the Indian no-rule street, i think chances of die by knock down by a car is rather high.

i don't surprise that i don't think i have anything to regret to even if i just die. i have done whatever i need to, i have to and i want to. i have always do my duty to take care of my family, at least financially, i told the men that i like him so, eventhough i couldn't control his response and i always try my best to keep in touch with my friends. i like to travel, so i treated myself well to take a break from my work. In fact, these are the three things that came across my mind and i didn't even think about whehter i have a good career, reputation, money or asset.

i hope no matter how i die later, i would be able to maintain a peaceful mind and the one who loved me will be able to accept the impermanent nature of my deceased calmly and without much sadness.

May all beings be well and happy.

i wasn't in much mind to talk about my trip now, but, well, i have helped out as a volunteer for a day at Shanti Dan of Mother's House (for women with mental illness) and tomorrow, i will go to Prem Dan to volunteer at the centre for people with critical illness. More later ...

*Mother house is the charity centre or missionary by Mother Theresa.

The tomb of Mother Theresa at Mother House. The visitors are allowed to take picture of the tomb, but not the activities of the sisters in Mother House. There is a museum about the life of Mother and you could see her simple room, place she used to stay. Theare are daily Mass at the tomb chamber and the upper floor. i even woke up at 4.30am to join some other volunteers to go to the Mass at 5am. (The 5am in India looks almost as 'bright' as the 7am in Malaysia.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Kolkata, India: 14Aug07

The Beauty and The Melanchody

i thought India won't give me anymore shock now, but i still feel so when i saw the human-pulled riskshaw and the poorest one just stay outside around the museum wall with merely a piece of canvas as roof and an iron bed.
However, in some way, in fact i like this place if compare with other Indian cities such as Chenai or Delhi.
Unfortunately, the reason is i could enjoy some modern facilities here (eg. REAL coffee with air-con, although the air-con is not really cold and modern CD shops... at least something quite similar back home) while seeing something different, something that i won't see back home (eg. the typical noisy and crowded Indian bazaar).
i tried to get a few days of volunteer work at Mother's House (Mother Therisa's Charity organization) but they only work on Wednesday and Friday and tomorrow is the national day of India. So no chance, as i am likely to leave on Friday.
Mother House is the first place i went in Kolkata. i sitted in front of Mother Theresa's tomb and saw people came to pray to her. The place has a peaceful feeling despite the honk and noise from just outside. This is the place where a human with great love and compassion once lead her life and took her last breath. For no reason, i just feel touched and there were moisture in my eyes.
As i roamed around the ex-British goverment area later, the buildings are impressively beautiful in the colonial style. This very much reminded me of Bombay and its beautiful buildings.
However in compare with Bombay, the poor and the rich in Kolkata is even more obvious. At least in Bombay, the slum is outskirt away from the city centre but in Kolkata, slums are around the crowded city area.
May be, it is about the time to go back home now, just another ten days. i found the heat , the flood and the annoying Indian young men are not as unbearable. The not so good side is, i don't put efforts to make friend now, since it is not as easy to find someone heading East and then South together with me. I do talk to people, but most of the time i don't even bother to ask where they come from or what is their name. Why bother to do so since i am not likely to see them again? :)

Human powered rickshaw ( 人力车). i have only seen this in the Singapore TV drama which featured the live of the immigrants from China when they came to Singapore. Many of them work as rickshaw driver at that time. So i was rather shock to see this in Kolkata. I did not sit on this. Even sitting on a cycle rickshaw was making me feel bad. In Lonely Planet, they said: "You may find it morally unacceptable to have a man pulling you around in a carriage; the only compensation is knowing that you are supporting someone's livelihood." This is exactly how i feel when i hired a cycle rickshaw. This human powered rickshaw is just too much to me.

It is common in Kolkata that the street got flooded when during monsoon. i had to walk in one of the street like this too. It is gross as the street is always with human/animals waste and rubbish. So i know i am walking in the very dirty water.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Pashupatinath, Nepal: 11Aug07

Powerful Comtemplation of Death

This is the only journal or diary that i write it on the spot. Pashupatinath, the holy place of Hindu in Nepal, which is the equivalent of Varanasi in India. The holy river, The Bagmati, has cremation gaoing on from time to time.
Visitors of Pashupatinath temple are aloowed to sit right opposite to the river bank in front of the burning ghat, but access to the main temple is only for Hindu. The sould of howling, griefing women in their bright color sarees were lingering in the air as i sat by the river bank. The boday of the deceased was covered with some bright yellow color clothes. Every famil members kind of offering their last respect to the deceased with a piece of cloth and some kind of powder or water. A pile of woods were there ready for the cremation. The body then lifted on top of the logs. The male family memebers spraying holy water (the river water) and put flowers on the body. The women have left. As the last ritual to the deceased, the religiours man took off the bright yellow cloth of the deceased and throw the cloth into the river. He unwrapped the body a little bit more and installed more logs and dried grasses around the body. Finally, he lit the fire. So the holy fire (fire is sacred in Nepal) sends the deceased to the heaven or higher born as the holy river water cleanses his sins.
There are a total of 7 burning ghats along the west bank of river. There are two ghats already 'done' and the staff washed the ashes into the river. One ghat has pile of woods, waiting for another body. (By the time i left, an ambulance arrived with another body.) Three ghats are still burning and for two of the ghats, i could still see the human figure and recognised even the long hair. In the air, there was the smell of burning meat. May be that is why Hinduism promotes vegetarianism, so that when your close one dies and burns into ashes, you won't have the feelings of he is been burnt like a piece of barbeque meat.
Just around 20 meter from the ghat, people are bathing, washing and children are swimming. i could never understand how could they manage to do so. i remember the boatman in Varanasi said, " You foreigners think Ganges is dirty water, but for us, it is holy water." May be this is just the matter of faith.
i could see many tourists are busying taking pictures of the on going funeral. i am tempted to do so but back home, i would think it is rude to intrude people's funeral. So i don't think it would be right for me to do so. This is merely my tiny bit of respect to the family and the deceased.

People are actually standing around the river and bridge to see the cremation. The east side of the river got the body just less than 50meter from the "viewers", so more people are here. i sat at the West side of the river though. It is quieter for observation.