of the main reasons I come to India is to experience my own
spirituality. This is not to say that on cannot experience oneís own
spirituality in HawaiíI where I live. One can experience oneís own
spirituality anywhere. In India, however, spirituality is so woven into
the fabric of everyday life that one may more easily allow themselves
to express their own spirituality.
I have made a
commitment to record my experiences on this trip, I feel it is important
to record the spiritual, as well as the interesting, amusing and the
disturbing, But this is not necessarily an easy thing.
far my spiritual experiences on this trip have not been many. This visit
to India is for healing. Spirit is, of course, at the basis of all
healing. But I came here to concentrate on the physical. This is not to
say that spirituality is absent from Dr. Joshiís clinic. On the
contrary, this is a very spiritually oriented place. There are statues
and pictures of Hindu Gods, Goddesses and saints in every public room of
the clinic and I see Dr, Joshi, Mukul and Parveen each burn incense and
offer a prayer to Ganesh before starting work.
my spirituality is so bound up in Gurbani (the singing and recitation of
the Sikh Scriptures) that, in its absence, I feel a great sense of
incompleteness. Even before I arrived in Nagpur, I was trying to find
out if there was a gurdwara close to the clinic. Initially, with my
exhausted condition plus starting the healing process, there was little I
the first Sunday I was here, I took a taxi to a gurdwara that I had seen
mentioned in the local newspaper. Arriving at 10:30 which I thought
woud be a pretty safe bet to find something going on on a Sunday
morning, I found that the program had finished at 9:30. This gurdwara
seemed to be about 4 miles from the clinic and a little hard to find in
the backstreets of Nagpur. The good news was that, on the way there and
back, I passed another gurdwara, Gurdwara Singh Sabha, that was on a
main road, easy to find and seemed to be about three miles from the
clinic. Just about within walking distance, if I felt like it, or an
easy auto rickshaw ride.
The following Friday, September 22nd,
I caught a rickshaw at 6:30 am, making it to the gurdwara in ten
minutes. Asa Di Var had just begun and, even though the ragis were not
very good, I was able to enter a deep meditation and retruned to the
clinic for my morning treatment feeling very inspired. I resolved to
return as soon as I could.
morning was the time for my Varechana (purge) so I was in no shape to
go anywhere. Overnight on Saturday, I experienced my first full nights
sleep since I started experiencing my rash and itch here. I had been
awake at 3:00am to urinate and took the opportunity to do my morning
path (prayers), after which I fell back asleep. When I
awoke, it was past 6:30 and I had arranged to call Elandra at 6. I
called her and we talked until my phone card ran out. I was also
intending to leave for gurdwara at 6:30, but I was able to get started
walked to the Singh Sabha Gurdwara (Sikh Temple). I had expected it to
take me half an hour. In fact, it took me an hour; partially because I
took a wrong turn near the train station. It looks like it will take me
about 45 minutes in future.
about 8:15, I caught the last fifteen minutes of Asa Di Var (a long
composition, sung and chanted in the morning). About the ragis
(professional singers of Sikh Scriptures), the less said the better. I
was just very happy to be in the presence of the Guru Sahib.
At exactly 8:30 they completed the 24th
chaki (last section of Asa Di Var), quickly packed up their instruments
and rushed off the little ragi stage. I was left wondering what was
coming next. I didnít have long to wait. A solitary Sikh got up on stage
and pulled the microphone towards his face. ďOh noĒ, I thought, ďKathaĒ
(spiritual discourse, usually in Punjabi or Hindi) . And sure enough he
launched into a powerful lecture of which I didnít understand a word.
At the time there were less than half a dozen people in a very large
gurdwara. I sat there in meditation and determined that, if things
didnít get better by 9:00am I would head back to the clinic.
being very pleased to be in the Guruís house, I have never found
listening to Katha to be an enlightening experience. When you canít
understand the language, no matter how spiritual the speaker, there is
just not that inspiring flow of energy. Plus most kathakar (person who
gives katha) deliver their message in a bombastic style and tend to
shout into the microphone. I can understand that, am many gurdwaras,
this is necessary to get peopleís attention but it gets very old the
fortieth or fiftieth time you have heard it. You can perhaps understand
why my patience was wearing thin.
before 9, what looked like another ragi jatha came in. After the katha
wala finished with his Guru Fateh, they opened their instrument cases.
Almost from the word go I could tell something very good was about to
happen. I realized, however, that I was like a man in the desert dying
of thirst; it was so long since I had heard outstanding live kirtan.
can tell competent musicians from the way they take out their
instruments and tune them. These were three young men, perhaps mid
thirties with the tablachi looking a bit younger. The two harmonium vale
looked like brothers. They had a very clean and wholesome vibration
a few minutes tuning, they launched into their alaap, which is where
they sing long, slow notes to show off the raag. Not only was there one
good singer but both of them had outstanding voices.
are some ragis who are just good singers; there are others whose voices
just ooze the longing to be joined with the Almighty. As well as being
fine technical singers, the devotion in their voices was overwhelming.
starting with a shlok sung in teental in classical style, they sang for
an hour, the theme of their shabads being about taking refuge in God. I
found my eyes filling with tears for the whole hour.
the bhog, I went to talk with them. The two brother were named Joginder
Singh and Jagjit Singh. They were very happy to meet me and I had an
opportunity to practice my Punjabi. It seems that they are regular at
Gurdawa Dukh Nivaran Sahib in Patiala, which is where they live. They
are going to be here in Nagpur for another week doing a program every
evening at 5:30 at the Singh Sabha Gurdwara.
The Sidewalks of Nagpur
has spacious streets. In most parts of the city that I have visited,
the streets have been wide divided highways with well-built and
convenient sidewalks. Yet no one uses them; everyone walks on the
street. Except me.
two weeks of exploring the city, I have seen the light. Following the
example of David Letterman, I Ďm now going to give you the top ten
reasons why I have decided to quit walking on the sidewalks of Nagpur
and join everyone else in the street.
The streets of Nagpur are lined with trees, mostly growing from
planters set in the sidewalk. (some grow straight out of the street!)
Unfortunately the trees are not pruned so many of their branches
obstruct the sidewalk.
9. Green Slime
Because of the trees, most of the sidewalks are covered in a green
slime. Early in the day, because of the night time dew or overnight
rain, the sidewalks are quite slippery. I almost fell on my butt several
times in my first days here.
There are many manholes set in the sidewalk with concrete covers. All
too often, the covers are either left off or have disappeared, leaving
the unwary pedestrian open to a three foot plunge into a fetid sewer.
To the men of India, the whole country is one big urinal. (The guide
books donít tell you this) Along the main streets, even in the best
parts of town, if a man wants to relieve himself he merely steps onto
the sidewalk and, at the side furthest from the road, pees through the
fence on to the garden of the poor unfortunate who has the misfortune to
own that property. Auto rickshaw drivers are particularly apt to do
This hazard is most likely to occur in the evening or early morning but
may happen at any time of day. In walking the sidewalks of Nagpur, one
has to keep a constant vigilance for human beings lying supine on the
concrete. They are generally sleeping but I would not be surprised to
stumble over the occasional dead body.
5. Construction Debris
There is a tremendous amount of construction going on in the city. For
some reason, construction workers seem to like to pile their spare dirt,
rock sand or debris on the sidewalk outside the project. Thus many
sidewalks are blocked with huge piles of dirt.
4. Cable Spools For
reasons that I do not fully understand, the local utility company has
taken to leaving huge, six foot wooden spools of electrical cable on a
number of sidewalks around town. Nagpurians seem to be a tolerant lot
when it comes to misuse of their sidewalks. But this abuse pushed their
collective tolerance to the brink. Complaints were made and the local
Nagpur newspaper (The Hitivata) sent out a reporter and photographer.
The story was published in the ďCityĒ section of the newspaper and the
utility company, when challenged, said they would do something about the
situation. Sadly, talk is cheap in India (like everywhere else)
so, at time of writing, the spools are still there.
The curbs in Nagpur are extraordinarily high, in some places as high as
eighteen inches. If you are walking in a part of town where there are
many driveways entering a main road, such as the street where the clinic
is located, you have to step down eighteen inches and up eighteen
inches at every driveway. This can get tiring. Itís a lot easier to walk
in the road and stay on the same level.
Everyone has heard of sacred cows in India. They are everywhere
including on the sidewalks. They are not belligerent. But they do have a
habit of sitting down and blocking the way, often in groups of two or
three. For a pedestrian, itís easier to walk on the road and avoid them
completely than having to play cowboy. Goats, wild dogs and the
occasional monkey also use the sidewalks although they tend to keep
1. Animal Waste
Need I say more? Even though the cows, goats, dogs and monkeys move on,
the physical evidence of their having been there remains. This
particular hazard may, of course, also be found in the street.
So, if you have plans to come to Nagpur, do as the locals do and stay off the sidewalks. Itís less hazardous.