Word Wabbit has been going through an existential crisis. When you find yourself asking the big “Why?” every day, the search for answers becomes a bit pressing. When my “to do” list reached 100 items, I suddenly wondered why do any of it. The list will continue to grow, and I can’t tell that I’m getting anywhere. So I went searching for inspiration and this is what I found.
First I want to say thank you and welcome to the new followers who have shown up recently.
This is not a diet blog, but I have been making discoveries lately about diet that I don’t want to flee my consciousness because they seem to be key.
- Get aerobic exercise (25 minutes in evening; 25 minutes in morning). Perspire.
- Avoid dairy.
- Avoid sugar.
- Avoid flour.
- Eat green veggies.
- Eat eggs and salmon.
- Be nice to yourself.
- Repeat every day; measure in a month.
- Focus on the process—not the result.
- Trust the process.
I have lost 25 pounds doing basically this. I have not been perfect. Just like in meditation, when my focus wanders, I gently guide myself back to my intention. Just like in meditation, I forgive myself for losing focus and simply try again. When I can maintain this for several days at a stretch, I feel energetic and happy.
Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity;
By Katherine Boo, @ 2012;
An audiobook read by Sunil Malhotra.
Abdul, 16 or 19, no one is sure not even him, has been accused of beating and burning a one-legged woman. The police are coming to get him, and he is hiding in a small shed next to his tin-roofed shack in the slum of Annawadi in Mumbai. Abdul’s father is going to take the fall since Abdul is the bread winner of the family, having started his own rather successful reclamation business of finding trash, sorting it, and selling whatever is salvageable to recyclers. The author, Katherine Boo, lets us know that Abdul is innocent, and in fact the one-legged lady actually set fire to herself.
This is nonfiction.
So comes alive the inner workings and politics of slum life in Mumbai. In Annawadi, over 3,000 people are swatting on airport-owned land, crammed into 335 huts bordering a lake of sewage. Abdul himself comes from a family of 11, and he is one of few Muslims who live in the predominantly Hindu slum. Luxury hotels surround them.
Within the first few sentences, Katherine Boo does a masterful job of setting the scene. She gives us the date (July 17, 2008), time (around midnight), place (Mumbai slum next to the international airport), people, action in progress, contrasts, and the current plan of action. Here is writing worthy of study. And incidentally, this is Katherine Boo’s first book.
It’s easy to be critical of a well-to-do Westerner writing and maybe profiting off the stories of poor people. But I find I don’t want to be critical of Katherine. She presents the social structure as well as the hopes, dreams, and challenges of the people she writes about. She turns “slum dwellers” into human beings. She examines how the set up of their lives shapes their aspirations and possibilities. This is the story of a community, not just of poverty. The people she writes about are smart, resilient, and strong.
According to Al Jazeera, 50 years from now 1 in 3 people worldwide will live in a slum.
That’s a shocking number, isn’t it?
I could relate to how the legal system treated Abdul and his family, except for me it is our medical system. Both systems deal with decisions about lives.
I’m not sure I’m walking away from the book with any grand conclusions. I feel it is an interesting and fair study of human nature that doesn’t seek to manipulate the reader, but instead accurately shows a glimpse of a way of life we might otherwise never see—important because it is a way of life for so many.
Is there any help for slum life? Any cure, any way to solve this? Any path of escape?
That’s a mighty big question. Remember, one third of the world’s population will soon be living in a slum. We don’t come away with a strong answer, rather a call for attention and further exploration.
Education is a good place to start. Compassion and education.
Introduced and Translated by Eknath Easwaran; @2007 Nigiri Press, 275 pages.
Dhammapada means “the path of truth, righteousness.” These are the teachings of Prince Siddhartha Gautama once he became the Buddha.
If you’re like me, some if this may need a bit of explaining. And since I am new to Buddhism, I will probably get some of this wrong. Just gently correct me in the comments. If you are a Buddhist, I need not tell you to be gentle. 🙂
Basically, the message is this: Life is all about suffering. Everyone/everything alive suffers. That’s a real pain. If you’d like to stop this madness, here’s how. There’s an eightfold path and four noble truths. It’s going to take some work on your part and you can do this with or without a teacher.
The Dhammapada is a map of the journey, the journey you’ll take to escape samsara, which is this continual cycle of death and rebirth that everything alive is stuck in.
Ok, Ok, so what are the four noble truths and the eightfold path?
Four Noble Truths
- All desire happiness and yet all find that life brings suffering. Life is change and change can never satisfy desire.
- Selfish desire brings suffering. Selfish desire is a desire for permanent pleasure unmixed with suffering. Selfishness can only bring sorrow.
- Any ailment that can be understood can be cured. When the fires of selfishness have been extinguished what remains is wakefulness (Buddha means awakened one), joy, peace, perfect health, i.e. nirvana.
- Selfishness can be extinguished by following the eightfold path.
- Right understanding
- Right purpose
- Right speech
- Right conduct
- Right occupation
- Right effort
- Right attention
- Right meditation
In this book the introductions are long (and interesting) and the actual verses are short.
I liked the message of this book and the philosophy, but it didn’t grab me like the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita did. Those really “spoke” to me. The core messages are very similar. There is a heavy emphasis on meditation and on right action and on respecting all life, not just human life. The more attached you are to things and even people, the greater are your chances of a return trip into another incarnation, and hence more suffering.
If you follow my blog, you already know that I have an interest in anger management and also in the psyche. This has grown over the years as I have become a caregiver for my husband and his advocate in our medical (cough, choke) system. This has given me my own strong dose of suffering and sorrow, and it has definitely been trying for my husband.
We are like two trees that have grown up together. During our lives we have wrapped around each other as we have reached toward the sky. Now one of us has fallen terminally ill and as this illness takes the unhealthy tree it leans more and more on the tree that is still vital. As time goes by they both begin to lean. The sickness for one is a sickness for the other. I don’t have the brain injury. I am not losing my mind, but to watch and bear the weight is bad in its own way. What I’m saying is that I am not unaffected.
The verses about anger resonated with me and will give you an idea of what the Dhammapada is like:
Give up anger, give up pride, and free yourself
from worldly bondage. No sorrow can befall
those who never try to possess people and things as their own.
Those who hold back rising anger like a rolling
chariot are real charioteers. Others merely hold the reins.
Conquer anger through gentleness, unkindness
through unkindness, greed through generosity, and
falsehood by truth. Be truthful; do not yield to
anger. Give freely, even if you have but little. the gods
will bless you.
Injuring no one, self-controlled, the wise enter the
state of peace beyond all sorrow. Those who are
vigilant, who train their minds day and night and
strive continually for nirvana, enter the state of peace
beyond all selfish passions.
There is an old saying: “People will blame you
if you say too much; they will blame you if you
say too little; they will blame you if you say just
enough.” No one in this world escapes blame.
There never was and never will be anyone who
receives all the praise or all the blame. But who
can blame those who are pure, wise, good, and
meditative? They shine like a coin of pure gold. Even
the gods praise them, even Brahma the Creator.
Use your body for doing good, not for harm. Train
it to follow the dharma. Use your tongue for doing
good, not harm Train it to speak kindly. Use
your mind for doing good, not for harm. Train your
mind in love. The wise are disciplined in body,
speech, and mind. They are well controlled indeed.
I have to admit that I don’t completely “get” all of the Dhammapada. I like the idea of meditating, but my Western perspective looks down on those who renounce everything and expect others to feed them. And I have a little bit of a problem with the idea that it’s ok to eat meat as long as you don’t kill it personally. There’s an inconsistency there that bothers me. Monks are supposed to take whatever is offered them and yet shun hurting other lifeforms.
I have to admit, I don’t truly understand everything here, and the Buddha would tell me to go and meditate—and I will understand more in that way.
So, I think I will. I like that idea.
What would travel be if it didn’t have constraints? I’m constrained by where I have to be and when. I’m constrained because I don’t speak Hindi or Marathi. I also can’t read the script of either of these languages. I’m constrained by my poor mathematical abilities. It frightens me to divide anything by 67. I’m not that great at walking around in sandals. It feels a little weird to be traveling alone without a friend or my husband. And finally, I’ll also be constrained by traffic; the sheer numbers of people trying to get around.
My 17-day trip to India has three main parts.
Part I: Landing in India, Recovering From Jet Lag
Day 1 (Monday): Leave my house at 3:30 a.m. to drive to the airport. Park my car there. (Need to research this.) Fly, fly, and fly. It will take a full day to travel from where I live to Mumbai.
Day 2 (Tuesday): Land; my hotel sends a car to get me at the airport. (I still need to arrange that with them.) I check in and then what? Either I’m wide awake or exhausted. (There is a 12-hour time difference.) I’ll probably grab something to eat in the hotel and spend the rest of the evening in my room. If I have time and energy, I’ll exchange money.
Day 3 (Wednesday): Two days have been crushed and I’m ready to go!!! I probably wimped out yesterday, so I’ll exchange money today. Now I’m off to Elephanta Island to see the caves and everything else.
Day 4 (Thursday): Did I get enough of the island? Do I want to do it again? Or, do I want to see some art museums that are nearby? The Prince of Wales Museum is supposed to be amazing! I could also see what the fuss is about with Leopold’s Cafe.
Part II: The Wedding in Aurangabad!
Day 5 (Friday): TBD
Day 6 (Saturday): I am on my own. The wedding is in two days, and today I’m a free agent. Gotta get to those caves! Ellora, Ajanta, Aurangabad? One of those.
Day 7 (Sunday): More caves!!
Day 8 (Monday): Today is the big day. My friend is getting married! She thinks she’ll be wearing a pink sari, but she hasn’t seen it yet because her parents are picking it out in India and none of the shops will let them send her pictures (all the way to the U.S. via internet) of their choices. When I complained that my sari fashioning didn’t go so well, she divulged that she will be having someone help her put hers on. That made me feel a little better. Still, I need to try again. It’s like deftly tying a parachute into a nicely shaped, elegant dress, that drapes well. (I’m going to sneak this in here. I just found a great post describing Hindu weddings.)
Day 9 (Tuesday): I am probably a bit exhausted as I crawl out of bed and head for an espresso and a dip in the pool. Not sure what I’m doing today, but likely it will be low key. TBD.
Day 10 (Wednesday): TBD.
Day 11 (Thursday): TBD. Go to bed early and set several alarms. I need to board a train at 6 a.m. tomorrow to get back to Mumbai. (So I get up when? 4:30 a.m.?) If I miss the train, a 6.5-hour journey could turn into a 20-hour journey, because all the other “express” trains are that pokey! Since I’ll be traveling with all of my belongings, I’ve decided to initially only carry one bag on this trip, which I’ll check when flying. In my purse, I’ll carry essentials. I’ll have to pack better than I’ve ever packed before!
Part III: Journey Back From Aurangabad to Mumbai or Navi Mumbai?
Day 12 (Friday): This was a very tricky part as far as planning was concerned. My friend thinks that train travel may be difficult for me because I don’t understand Hindi and may not hear the stops. She thinks I should take a luxury bus instead. I’m not too keen on busses and think a train ride sounds more fun. I figure that I’ll know when I reach Mumbai. How can I miss it?
There are two places I could stop. I could stop in Thane (east of Mumbai) and take an Uber or Ola to Navi Mumbai where the wedding reception will be, or I could go all the way to the beautiful but infamous Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. I say infamous because of the 2006 terrorist attacks, which were filmed in their entirety and available to watch on YouTube. I’d rather disembark at a station that doesn’t have such a high profile, but I also crave convenience.
Given that the reception isn’t until Sunday, and this is Friday, do I really want to spend that tourist time on my own in Navi Mumbai? After all, there are several amazing temples to see in Mumbai. I struggled with this and finally decided to stay in Mumbai for the remainder of the trip. So today, I will ride the train from 6 a.m. to about 12:30 p.m. and then either have an Uber or Ola to take me to the hotel, which I think has a check-in time of 2:00 p.m., but I need to check on that. Tonight, I am probably feeling a bit tired, so I’ll settle in at the hotel, send off some pictures to my husband and some friends, and then go up to the rooftop and watch the sunset.
Day 13 (Saturday): I’m on my own today. Mumbai is my oyster and I’m off to see some temples. TBD.
Day 14 (Sunday): My friend’s wedding reception is today in Navi Mumbai. I know where it is, but I don’t know when it is. She told me that it will only last a few hours, so it won’t be an all-day affair. So today, I think I’ll start the day early by visiting the Afghan Church, which opens at 7 a.m. It is only open on Sundays, and this is my only Sunday in Mumbai. Afterwards, I think I’ll walk to breakfast somewhere. (Need to figure that out.) The rest is TBD. Then an Uber or Ola to Navi Mumbai. Since I have no idea what traffic is like between Mumbai and Navi Mumbai and I don’t know how late the reception ends or how safe I’ll feel traveling back by myself, I’ve decided to get a room at the hotel where the reception is being held in Navi Mumbai. It doesn’t cost a lot, and the peace of mind will make it worth it. I’ll leave all my bags and stuff in Mumbai and travel light to Navi Mumbai for the evening.
Day 15 (Monday): If there was dancing and eating and merriment at the reception, I’m probably having a hard time getting up. I check out of the room in Navi Mumbai and head back to my hotel in Mumbai. I have found that typically, there are a lot of things that are closed on Mondays in India, so I’ll have to do some research to figure out what I’m doing today. Generally speaking, temples or maybe Nehru’s Museum or Observatory? This evening, I’ll be watching the sunset from the roof of my hotel in Mumbai.
Day 16 (Tuesday): This is my last full day in Mumbai. I’m sad even though I haven’t left home yet. This is TBD. Tonight I will spend the evening in the roof of the hotel watching the sun set and listening to music.
Day 17 (Wednesday): This is another tricky part. I have to check out of my hotel at 12 noon, but my flight doesn’t leave Mumbai until 10 p.m. tonight. Just me and my bag for 10 hours! This is a problem.
Day 18: (Thursday): Arrive at 9:48 a.m. back home. Get car, and drive, drive, drive.
- Still need to get my vaccinations. Will be doing this on Wednesday of this week.
- Still need to get my visa for India. Can’t do that yet. Too soon.
- Still need to learn basic Hindi and ideally recognize basic signage. Need to learn phrases like: “Your mother is watching you.” (LOL!)
- Still need to get a decent suitcase and decide what I’m going to take. Perhaps need to get a larger and more casual looking purse since I’m not taking a carry on.
- Need to dig out my “walking sandals.”
- Still need to figure out how much money to take.
- Need to make sure our bills are all paid up.
- Still need to figure out what food will cost and where I might go, so I’m not eating something questionable at the last minute.
- Still need to talk to friends about checking in on my husband. He’s doing better, but I want to make sure he’s ok.
- Still need to put signs and money around the house, so that he’s remembering to lock the doors at night, bring in the dog, and make sure the chickens have water. For the most part he has this, but I worry.
- Need to make sure my phone has enough data allotted to it.
- Need to find out how much parking my car at the airport will cost. (After all that traveling, am I going to want to drive two hours to get home?)
- Need to research those temples, get their times and locations.
- Need to read up on the places I’ve decided to visit, so I know what I’m looking at.
- Need to breathe! 🙂