Monday, February 17, 2014

From the Heart: Motivation and Appreciation

Not sure why, but I've been indulging in a bit of reflection lately.  So I'm going to take a break from my typical travelogue today to do a couple of things.  First, to tell you why I blog, and second to thank you for reading this.  And just so I don't totally lose your interest, I'll include pictures that don't fit into any particular topics.

So, why?  Not why am I here.  Maybe I'll maybe address that later.  But why do I blog?  The primary reason is to share my experiences with friends and family.  I am very fortunate to be doing this, and it only seems right to share it with others, to the extent that's possible.  Besides, it means more than you can imagine to know that I have company on this adventure!  I do miss you, and every time I get a comment or email from one of you, it makes me smile to know that you are with me. I also am very grateful for the new friends I am making through the blog.  Another benefit is, of course, that I have a record of my experiences to look back on.

Watching the sunrise over the Bay of Bengal in Pondicherry.  Reflecting on my good fortune.

The other important motivation for this blog is to encourage people to have the courage to live life to the fullest, whatever that means for you!  I am a 67 year old woman who is on her own, visiting India for the first time.  If I can do something this crazy, if I can embark on such an unlikely adventure, if I can continue to learn and grow by taking on life's challenges, then what might you be able to do?

I know that as I've aged, it has been tempting to think that I need to stay home, not to take risks, to be safe, to believe that the most interesting part of my life is over.  I think it is especially easy for women who are older and alone to think that we can't do much.  I used to think of all the reasons I couldn't do something, and I always found plenty of them.  Now I look at opportunities that come my way as gifts, and I believe one should graciously accept the gifts that are presented to her.

I'm not trying to convince everyone to plan a trip to India, although I'm finding it to be a very rich experience.  What I do want to encourage you to do is to, "take risks, and be safe!"  as my friend Patick advised me.  It won't cure all your ills, that's for sure.  You will still be fearful, but you will learn that you can be courageous and do it anyway!  If you are lonely, you will still be lonely, but you will learn that life can be full and meaningful even on your own.  Whatever it is that you decide to do, once done, will increase your confidence in your ability to live life fully.  

So take risks, but please remember to be safe too.  One of the reasons I'm able to enjoy my time here is that I'm aware of the very real dangers that exist, and I'm taking appropriate actions to mitigate the risks.  So when I read that a woman was raped on a train leaving Chennai, I looked for transportation other than trains to take me where I want to go.  Pay attention.  Don't let your fear immobilize you, but do listen to your intuition.

Okay, enough of that.  The other thing I want to express is my gratitude to you for coming along with me!  As I said earlier, I miss my friends back home!  I get lonely, even though I'm surrounded by a loving family.  I would say I get homesick, but in fact this IS my home now, and I'll probably be homesick when I leave here!  Anyway, your company is very much appreciated.  It's good to have you along, and I hope you'll stay with me for the rest of this adventure.

And most of all thanks to all the people who are making it possible for me to do this.  Ravi, Sheela, Shruti, Shraddha, Pravin, Indrani, Vignesh, Kannan, to name a few of my support crew here in India.  And thanks too to the folks back home who are collecting my mail, paying my bills and taking care of my car.  It takes a village to send an old woman on an adventure to India!

Here are some miscellaneous pictures for you.  Next blogs will be New Delhi, Agra and the Taj Mahal!

Ravi and Sheela on their wedding day.  Aren't they a handsome couple?  Indian weddings are very elaborate events and typically last many days.  Their wedding was simple by comparison, but still seems quite elaborate, based on the pictures they shared.

Part of the wedding ceremony involves placing a ring on the bride's toe.  Interesting, isn't it?

The beach in Chennai.

It rained yesterday, a rare event for Chennai in February.  This picture of the rain is taken from my balcony.  I didn't put up the dragonfly decoration.  It was already here waiting for me.  (The dragonfly is my totem animal.)

Visiting Kalekshetra, wearing some of my FabIndia clothes.  

Just down the street from us is a shelter for abandoned cows.  I love walking past, since the smell reminds me of growing up on a dairy farm!

In Pondicherry, a monument to Ambedkar, who was a freedom fighter, a crusader for social justice and the first law minister in independent India.  He was in charge of drafting the constitution, and ensured that the practice of untouchability was abolished.  He himself was an "untouchable."  When his proposal to expand women's rights failed in parliament, he resigned in disgust.

A fence at Auroville.  Not sure how it was made, but it was quite effective and went on for quite some distance.

In the waiting room at the eye doctor's.  The man in white is wearing the traditional veshti, also known as a dhoti.  It is common to see men in traditional dress in Chennai.  By the way, I got an excellent eye exam for under $10.  Although my prescription has changed some, it doesn't warrant new glasses.  I need to go back in one year to see how my cataracts are doing.

The veshti can also be folded up.  It is very common to see men going about their daily work, walking down the street, riding motorcycles or bicycles, dressed in veshtis that have been folded up.

I often take pictures from the car, trying to capture candid street scenes.  This time I was in an auto rickshaw, and I got caught!  

Indrani is not only a fantastic cook and a dear sweet person, she is also beautiful!


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  2. Harlene, you are such a wonderful role model for me. I know I haven't come very far, but that means there's lots of room for improvement! I love being able to feel I'm with you on your adventures. You give your friends a very rich gift.

    1. Haven't come far?!?? Let's see. Saint John, Joy of Seasons, California, exercise classes. Just keep it coming sister!

  3. Harlene: Thanks for sharing your thoughts and reflections on why you blog! Please know that all of us who follow your adventure and experiences truly appreciate your efforts and keen insights! They make us feel like we are with you and are part of it!!!

  4. Thanks for the comments. I hope I wasn't too preachy here. That wasn't my intent. I am surprised sometimes when people act like I'm so brave. In fact, I'm struggling with the same negative feelings we all have - fear, loneliness, lack of confidence, worry, sadness. But I've been fortunate in finding teachers who help me deal with feelings like these, to learn from them instead of letting them immobilize me. Like Ravi, whose teachings on the Yoga Sutra are priceless. Some of my most important teachers have been the vibrant and dynamic older women I know. They show me who I want to be as I grow older! Also, I'm fortunate to have friends and family who give me support.