Chennai Journal
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Thoughts on India
As 2008 begins and I've returned to the U.S., this will be the last post of Chennai Journal. I'm starting a new blog, called Transitions, where I'll record the adjustment back to the U.S., retirement or whatever this phase turns out to be, and other random thoughts including my experience of Vipassana.

So how to sum up three years in India? Someone wrote to me that I must have never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would end up there, and he was right. What an opportunity, a challenge, and an incredible experience. I do feel that I made the most of it--traveling all over the country and to other parts of Asia as well, and have no regrets on that score. My staff gave an overwhelming farewell to me, and I have lots of fond memories of my work experience and the people there--some of whom I know will remain in touch for life.

Someone once said of Japan that all countries are unique, Japan is just more unique than others. I think that can be said of India as well. It is a very intense place, and not one you can be indifferent about. There were things I grew weary of---a mundane one is the use of cilantro in almost every dish --and it will be a while before I venture into an Indian restaurant. I won't miss the commute to work--as fascinating as the varied tableau of cows, trucks, men peeing on the side of the road, and overstuffed buses and rickshaws often was, it was very tiring at the end of the day to know that I faced an hour and a half or more ride home--even though I wasn't driving. And I won't miss how difficult it was to get even simple things understood and done, or just the difficulty of getting around, and being dependent on a driver, or the stark poverty in places and begging. Or being separated from my family for a good part of the time I was there.

But India has left its mark on me. The culture and the spirituality fascinated me. I loved the temples, the sound of the daily rituals (sometimes I still hear the bells from next door in my sleep), the varied sights, sounds, and smells, the intense drive and eagerness of people--the sheer level of energy. These will stay with me for a long time to come. I'm very glad to be home---but I wouldn't have missed the experience for the world.
I couldn't have said it better - the ups and the downs, the repulsion and the fascination. This is a land of opposites and no one can be ambivalent about it. I will miss this blog but look forward to the next. Provide guidance on transitions, please!
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I'm an FSO hopeful(should be added to the register any day now, and will likely start A-100 in January) and was hoping you might be able to tell me a bit about Chennai. I've seen it on old bid lists several times, and think it sounds quite interesting. I'd welcome your general thoughts on life in the city, and would appreciate if you could please address the issue of safety for women. Is it safe enough for a 20-something woman to make her way around alone during the day? I, myself, have spent a fair amount of time in rough, underdeveloped spots, but my fiance hasn't - we'd like to bid on spots where she'd feel comfortable on her own during the day. Thanks so much. I've really enjoyed browsing your blog.

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You are right that Indian is a bit different from any other place. There is just a kind of energy that could not be sensed on much places in the world. I will check your other blog too.

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