Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Season Of Gratitude---Home From India

Nneka at Balanced Life Center has sent out an invitation to write and post articles on the subject of what you are grateful for in your life. She is the inspiration for me writing this article. Thanks, Nneka.

After coming back from each trip to India, this one in Sept./Oct. 2007 and the previous ones in March/April 1998 and July/August 1999, I am always grateful that I was born an American this lifetime. Most Americans have no idea how truly blessed they are by being born in a land of plenty. Believe it or not, but even our poor are rich by India standards. Maybe it is the sheer numbers of beggars that you see on the streets of India but there is a difference. I do know that many Indians looked at my American friend and I and saw "rich" Americans. To begin with, the money that we spent to fly from Arkansas to India and back is much more than the lower class in India makes in probably several years. By American standards, my friend and I are in middle class America, far from being rich, money-wise.

I am rich in so many other ways. Money-wise, I have the money to save and spend on my basic needs and a few luxuries. Basic needs of water, food and shelter, in America, are considered luxuries by some in India. In India, from what I have seen (I have only been to southern India.), there are two classes of people---the very poor and the very rich. There may be other classes in between these two, but they aren't very visable if they exist.

I come back from my India trips extremely grateful for clean, running, hot water and electricity. A warm shower feels so good at the end of a long day. Drinking water out of a faucet is definitely appreciated. Try brushing your teeth with water out of a bottle to see how convenient it is.

Electricity that is always available with a rare interruption of power is wonderful. Electricity is available but goes off at least once a day for 2-10 minutes at a time in the ashram.

In the hotel that we stayed in at Bangalore, we actually had a bathtub which my roommate loved. I prefer a shower. I never have liked sitting in dirty water. The water for showers in the ashram might get to luke warm during the middle of the afternoon. In the early mornings, after a night of sweating from my sinus infection fevers, the water was cold, especially if I still have a fever. After the initial gasp of shock, the water didn't feel so cold. At night if you took a shower before going to bed, the water was back to being cold. It is so nice to have warm water coming from your shower. As I have stated in one of my earlier articles, our room at the Brindavin ashram in Whitefield which is just outside of Bangalore (our first India trip), we had a faucet near the floor, a drain in the floor and a bucket and dipper which was what our shower consisted of.

I am grateful for soft toilet paper that moves with your hand and doesn't stick to the first part of your bottom that it touches. I know you are probably laughing at that one but it is true. I am grateful for toilet paper that didn't just come straight off of the tree with wood fibers that you can actually see still in it. Soft is very, very nice. If you ever go to India, buy the biggest rolls that you can find and take several with you depending upon how long your trip is. You can buy what they call toilet paper in the stores there. You will wish that you had listened when I said buy your own from home and take it with you.

I am grateful for my soft bed. I didn't realize how soft it was until I got back home after my most recent trip. Even in the hotel, the bed was hard as the floor. Actually, the floor might have been softer. I tried two mattresses on my bed in the ashram and my friend who is afraid of bedbugs had us take my husband's two blow up mattresses that he uses for sleeping out on hiking trips. Ever those blow up mattresses didn't make the beds any softer. Do I hear you saying, "She really is a very spoiled American." Hey, I admit it. I am spoiled by the American life style. I had no idea that I was spoiled until my first trip to India. I am also very grateful for this life style, even more so after these trips. That is why I have trouble believing the Indian Astrologer who said I would eventually retire in India at the ashram and just come back to the USA occasionally to visit family. Is he out of his mind? Do he and Swami know something that I don't? We will see what the future brings. It is truly full of possibilities.

I am grateful for hot food that doesn't burn my tongue and my throat and everything else that it touches with pepper. Mexican food is not hot compared to Indian food. What I thought of as hot Mexican food is no problem to eat after a trip to India. Hot and spicy is worse when you have a sore throat from sinus drainage. I love their hot food when I don't have a sore throat. I drink lots of lots of water to cool the fire of each bite.

I love cool weather of the Fall days of October in the USA. Temperatures were in the high 80's to low or mid-90's when we were at Puttiparthi. I love not sweating. Next time I will take a thermometer with me so I will know exactly what the high for each day is.

I am grateful for being back home with my friends and family. Mail moves much slower in India than in the U.S. I got home quicker than some of the post cards that I mailed home on my first week in India. We didn't take my friend's cell phone. She doesn't have international service on it and I don't own a cell phone. My husband thinks it is an expense that we can live without. There was a phone place that we could go to near our room in the ashram. I told this story in one of my other articles. Calling home is difficult because of the time differences. 10:00 a.m. India time was near midnight Arkansas time the one time that I called and spoke to Daniel.

I did have to come home and tell my husband that, "Yes, they do have cell phones in India." As one of my new friends stated in jest, "Why, even the dogs in the ashram have their own cell phones." I saw an article in the newspaper on our second day in the hotel that said that the use of cell phones was beginning to be the cause of auto accidents in Bangalore. Some of the drivers are beginning to be distracted from their driving because of cell phone calls. Believe me, driving in India takes your full attention. You cannot drive intuitively and be distracted by a phone conversation. I don't even want to talk to the driver and possibly distract him from his driving when we are in the taxi or motorized rickshaw. One Indian hotel employee laughingly offered us a ride on his motor scooter. I laughingly refused. No thank you. Not enough protection between me and the other drivers. A rickshaw does offer some protection from dents and bruises. Scooters usually have one-three riders at a time. Not for me. My adventurous spirit does not go for foolhardy.



Larissa said...

I can definitely relate to this post! I even feel this way when I come back from Europe, where abundance is prevalent as well. We are surrounded by luxury here in the U.S. Familiarity is also a luxury because it makes us feel comfortable and grounded. I love the way we do things in the U.S. because it is so familiar to me. But, as I'm sure you know, you have these strong feelings of gratitude for being back in a comfortable state because you went out of your comfort zone. And that is so important in this life! Happy travels!

Patricia Singleton said...

Larissa, thanks for your comment. It is so true that I was definitely out of my comfort zone. Getting out of my comfort zone really stretches my adventurous spirit and does make me more appreciative of what "home" and "comfort" really mean to me.

Paritosh Uttam said...

Hi Patricia,

Your heart is in the right place because you know what you have and what others don't, and are grateful for that.

There definitely is a rapidly growing middle class in India. That's the section of the population that makes India a fast developing economy in the eyes of the world outside. Apart from the very rich and the very poor as you mentioned, there's a whole spectrum of middle class families too. I guess they were not visible to you because they are just busy getting on with their lives, saving, building a better future for their next generation.

I would call myself a part of the upper middle class in India (and I am grateful for being there!). You could say an upper middle class family would live in a big house/flat, own at least one car, go on vacation once a year, etc.

A lower middle class family would live in a smaller, cramped house, own a motorcycle o scooter (no car), hardly any vacation. Their basic needs are met, but not much luxury beyond.

Then there are the very poor, the starving. It breaks your heart to see such squalor, but when you grow up seeing it everyday, you grow inured to it. Roll up the windows of your car, turn on the air conditioner, and act as if you cannot see the beggar girl tapping on the window. She doesn't exist.

It's horrible if you think about it, so you try not to think.

Funny you mentioned the bathtub. Now that I am in US for a few days, I use the bathtub everyday :-) Back to the bucket when I am back in India!

- Paritosh

Patricia Singleton said...

Paritosh, thanks for the information on the middle class. I am glad that I actually have someone from India that can give us valuable information like you are doing about the economy and other areas that I am not familiar with or may out of ignorance misrepresent. Thanks.

Patricia Singleton said...

This article has been included in the Engineer Your Own Happiness: Carnival of Positivity No. 7 found at

Pat said...

Patricia - thank you for submitting this post at Janie's Colloquium's All Women Blogging Carnival. It inspired me to write last night's post, "Reminders".
I love your writing and the messages you put out there.

Pat R

Patricia Singleton said...

Pat, thanks for your vote of confidence. I look forward to reading your article.

Patricia Singleton said...

This article has been accepted in the All Women Blogging Carnival hosted by Colloquium this month and found at