Peg and I often told each other that it was better to go to India from Southeast Asia than the United States; and it seems reasonable that that was true after we experienced the neglect and poverty of India. India has no doubt changed from when we were over there in the early seventies. We reached Bombay (Mumbia today) in the middle of the night, on a flight from Djakarta. It was a Czechoslovakian plane bound for Prague with only five passengers on board for part of the flight (from Djakarta to Singapore): three men besides Peg and me. By the way the three of them interacted it seemed obvious to us that one of the men was being escorted back to his communist home. Only the guarded-one spoke to us. He wore a tailored suit (no tied) and carried a briefcase and said he was an art historian. His two companions stuck pretty close to him and never shared his geniality. So times have changed along with the map of the world; as India no doubt has changed, while our experiences there were more of the physical nature than the spiritual. We never visited an ashram and missed the Taj by fifty miles (not to be confused with the Taj Hotel, which while we were in Bombay became part of our morning itinerary).
The standard of living throughout Southeast Asia seemed higher than in India. The poverty didn’t seem so overwhelming in say the Philippines or Malaysia, although I remember stepping in an open sewer during one of our first days in Manila. (Poverty and open sewers, is there a connection?) One hardly sees such things after a while.
Madras was just too black for us and after seeing so many people living on the streets we got out there as quickly as possible. The huge temples and the palaces of Maharajas south of there, where we lingered, compensated for the ugliness we had seen.
We lived in a hospital in Vengurla, the last stop of the steamer before Goa, but we weren’t ill or incapacitated in any way; the memories of chickens in the operating room remain with us. There could be nothing that disturbed the Indian English-trained doctor more than that. It was near the end of his stay there (he hoped) because he had applied for a position in New Zealand. He felt he couldn’t do anything about the chickens and gave Peg a job typing for him. Feeling compelled to read it through, I spent my days reading the Bible and riding a bicycle.
More next time, Randy Ford