“India is like nothing you have ever seen before…” They told me.
Many said to me before I left, “If you get invited to an Indian wedding you have to go.” Only four days in India and there I was … at an Indian wedding … I was wrapped in layers and layers of yards and yards of fabric with a sparkling necklace and matching bangles on each wrist, all acquired on the first day of my arrival for about 900 rupees (that’s about $20 USD.)
The wedding was held at the largest Arcot Lutheran Church in town. The bride was the daughter of the senior pastor of the church. There were about 800 – 1000 people present. It was a pretty big deal, as I understand all Indian weddings are … lots of ritual, lots of food, lots of glitz.
One of the ladies here at Quo Vadis Vimala, explained to me that you need a crowd at weddings because the size of the crowd has something to say about your relationship to others. Those present are offering support and blessing to the couple and the family just by being present. It’s a very communal concept, not at all individual, just the way everything else Indian is here. (There are many westerners here, in later posts I’ll comment on that reality and their approach to Tiruvannamalai.)
The idea of individuality is quite literally a foreign concept. Where in the west one might greet another with the question, “how are you doing today?” Here in India the question would not be asked, and if you did you the person being asked the question might not even know what to say. Instead the question of greeting is, “how is your family?” It’s not about me, it’s about the family of which I am a part.
So, how is your family?
… in 28 hours flat, from New York to Tiruvannamalai! Trains, Planes and Automobiles to do it, but I made it with help of many gracious hosts along the way. It was about midnight local time when I left the Chennai airport and connected with Nicolaj and Sargunnan to make the journey to the Quo Vadis Interfaith Dialogue Center where I am staying this month. (Sargunnan is in the picture with me.) They greeted me with warm smiles and a very large flower garland. Hawaii’s got nothing on these garlands, it almost reached my knee.
I visited New York City, it is home to many iconic American images, institutions and collective history. The Statue of Liberty, Ground Zero, Wall Street … I wanted to put those images in my head as I started off on this year of adventure.
So just a few pictures and comments…
Nearly ten years ago the Twin Towers fell, leaving us with Ground Zero. Today most of it is a construction area blocked off from street level view by blue industrial fabric.
Unless of course you can find a periodic hole … but that doesn’t lead to much either.
So you have to find a building with public windows that open up to the area to get a better view. A friendly NYPD lady directed me to this building and it’s fifth story patio that was closed due to weather but nonetheless the only close view I could find.
I couldn’t decide which one was having its picture taken most often…
New York Stock Exchange
Oh to my last truly American meal for quite awhile…
It was great to be in the city again. It was kinder, just as busy and crowded but somehow much more human, than I remembered it….
The months turned into weeks, the weeks into days and now the days into hours … I leave tomorrow morning on a 7AM flight. Wow. All the dreaming, planning, fretting and hope have come to this, my last day in Detroit where I am spending it with closest friends and family. A day to have a last supper, store my car, kiss everyone I love, shed a few tears and gather my courage. After all it’s just me for up to a year, well me and all the new friends I have yet to meet. What has always seemed like a great opportunity and adventure is still that and somehow it’s also a little more, it’s real.
Pray with me this year for health and hope for those I meet and the person they meet in me. Read this blog, respond with questions and encouragement. I will post from time to time, highlighting some of the highlights, the beauty, the fun and the challenge.
Detroit, Minnesota, Phoenix, Iowa … I’ll see you next year!