Chennai Journal
Friday, September 22, 2006
Rosh Hashanah
I arrived in the U.S. last night for a whirlwind stay for Rosh Hashanah, which begins tonight at sunset, and will return to India on Tuesday night. So no post this week.

L'shanah tova!

Sunday, September 17, 2006
Best of Show
Every year Global Adjustments, which runs cultural training and offers other services for expatriates and outbound Indians, puts on a photo contest called "Beautiful India" exclusively for expatriates. We entered several photos taken by Marty, Roberta and me. The one at the right, which I called "Reflections", won not only the prize for its category, "Places", but won the overall grand prize for the whole event! There were about 170 photos submitted, and the judges were an expatriate, a film producer, and a local business person. I was surprised not only to win the overall best but also that some of the other photos we entered didn't win anything (a representative sample at the top).

Today was the prize distribution and, not realizing that I would be called to the stage, I told them in advance that since I had another engagement in the morning I would be late. The American Consul General, David Hopper, received the award on my behalf, which included a one week trip for two to the Maldives. By company policy--and my personal conviction-- I cannot accept such a gift, so I've asked them to donate the proceeds to a local charity.

Sunday, September 10, 2006
To the Punjab and Back

This week I went to Chandigarh and Ludiana, in the state of Punjab, to visit two of our dealers. Punjab is a state heavily populated by Sikhs, who broke away from Hinduism in the 16th century. All male Sikhs are named Singh either as a last or middle name (although not all Singhs are Sikhs) and females are given the name Kaur. One of the dealers, who is orthodox, explained their prayer ritual and gave me a mala---a kind of cotton rosary (this is the closest analogy I can think of) that is an aid to meditations and has 108 woven beads as a short hand for the 10,800 breaths that one is supposed to take in a day. (It is believed that prayer magnifies by 100, therefore the 108 becomes 10,800). The Sikhs believe in one God. As in Judaism, anyone can say or lead prayers---it does not require a priest---and prayers are offered for any and all events---opening of a shop, starting out on a journey, or occupying a new dwelling.

Chandigarh is only about 3 hours drive from Shimla, an old British hill station which usually has fantastic views of the Himalayas---unless socked in by rain and fog, as it was both days I was there (see above). The maddening thing was that the weather on Thursday and Friday was evidently very nice. I do seem to have bad luck when it comes to hill station weather---Marty and I had a similar experience when we went to Ooty. I am told that after October the weather should be more predictable. Shimla was a lovely place even in the fog, and it would be worth going back.

Saturday, September 02, 2006
Bon Secours

In any neighborhood here, no matter how wealthy, you don't have to go very far to find the poverty that permeates this nation. The scenes here are from an orphanage just down the road from my apartment complex, run by the sisters of Bon Secours.

The orphanage has about 100 girls, most from the surrounding villages and the city itself. They come to the orphanage by various routes---most through word of mouth. Some are "half orphans"----usually meaning their mother is dead--but most are "full orphans" , with no living parents or family. They go to school next door at the St. Francis Xavier academy.

One of the women in our IT group spends some time here every month, and has donated funds to teach the girls to dance. They put on a little show for us, and also helped another co-worker celebrate her birthday by singing "Happy Birthday" --in English!

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