The Day After Christmas, etc. By P.S. Joshi

It’s the day after Christmas and I hope everyone had a good one.  Although my husband’s still in the hospital, hopefully he can come home soon.  Our son’s coming tomorrow and is going to talk to the doctor.  Our daughter and some family members and friends phoned, and a couple of friends came to visit, so I call that a good Christmas as I don’t get out much due to severe arthritis and sciatica.

I told one friend from church whowas amazed how much I accomplish even though I’m physically limited, “You do what you have to do.”  I’m blessed here in India with a good support system.  It’s a mixture of family, friends and employees.  Being in India, I pay for much of the help because I need it and they need the money which I’m blessed to be able to afford.

One person I’m not going to identify is critical of the way I had my husband hospitalized, but then she didn’t have to put up with his behavior when he was un-medicated.  He was being a danger to himself and I was forced to do something at the time.  I’m a realist, she refuses to face reality and I can’t help it.  That’s her problem, not mine.  I don’t go looking for a quarrel, but when she goes up against me, she’s going up against a tough woman who’s seen more years and battled more of life’s problems than she has and has developed a shell she’s not going to easily overcome.

Many people see me as just a sweet older woman, but there’s more to me than that and they find out if they test me.  My children know that and other’s find it out to their surprise.  I pray and then forge ahead and live by the Bible verse, “If God is for us, who is against us.” (Rom 8:31).  I think that’s a good way to live as it works for me with God’s help.  His opinion is the only one I care about.

I told my children when they were younger, “Not everyone is going to like you.  As long as you have some good friends, your family and your health, don’t worry about it.”  It’s seemed to work for them.

Since this is the season of peace, I thought I’d end with a little poem of mine.  I don’t expect to win any awards for my poetry, but I enjoy writing it.  It expresses what I think and that’s all I expect of it.

The Blessed Dell

Please tell me there’s a blessed dell

Where neighbor-loving people dwell;

No hatred, greed or corruption rules,

And judgements are not made by fools.

Take me to where green growth prevails,

And filth does not dishonor trails;

Where infants live and healthy grow,

And fear of war they never know.

Take me to where we’re free to think

And water runs that’s fit to drink;

Where we don’t need our weapons near,

And so can sleep devoid of fear.

Is this place only in my dreams?

Is it as distant as it seems?

Or can it one day still come true?

The answer’s left to me and you.

P.S. Joshi

I LIKE PEOPLE By P.S. Joshi

I like people and am old enough to have seen a lot of life.  Our children are grown and independent so a lot of times they don’t want advice.  I give it if I feel they want it, try to be a good listener, try not to judge because God told us that’s His job and know not everyone thinks the way I do.  I’m not a professional at giving advice but I like to help people when I can with granny-type advice.  If I feel I can’t advise about something and/or don’t have the knowledge, I tell them to look it up or ask an expert on the subject.  But to get advice you have to ask.

When our daughter was in high school she told me a teacher she had didn’t like anyone to ask questions.  Now I was a primary teacher for years and I told her,  “That’s what the teacher is there for!”  A teacher who only lectures practices the poorest type of teaching.  You can’t get away with that when you teach First or Second Grade (called Standard in some countries).

I try to use common sense because I believe God gave it to us to use and will help us when we do use it.  He may even ask us one day why we didn’t.  It’s a gift and meant to be used like other gifts.

There are a great many lonely people in the world with no one to talk to.  I think that some of these troubled people commit crimes because there’s no one to listen and talk them out of it.  There are a great many doers in the world today and not enough listeners.  That’s very sad.  Of course I realize there are some troubled people who need professional help, care and/or medication.

I’ll stumble along on my own trying to find interesting subjects for my blogs, but if anyone has a suggestion I welcome them to comment and I’ll consider it.  Please don’t be rude, nasty, etc.  Please remember I’m old enough to be someone’s mother and/or grandmother.  Picture an older (that always sounds better than old and I’m still a distance from 80) lady with greying hair and arthritis.

If you’re wondering what life is all about, I sincerely believe that God placed each of us in this time and place to perform some task for Him, to love and help others .  Maybe some of us are only able to pray or offer up our pain to God to help others.  When we finally meet Him we’ll understand what our special task was.  Until then, we’re like the little child who sees his/her mother’s embroidery from underneath and all he/she can see is a mass of tangled threads.  Finally, the loving mother takes the child into her lap and shows him or her the finished piece from above.  There the child sees the beautiful design.

Merry (or as they say in India, Happy) Christmas to all of you.

Our Christmas Gifts by P.S. Joshi

I’ve decided to leave the past in the past for now and write about something that’s important and close to home for me and our family.  We had, and will have, more than one Christmas gift this year.  Our daughter already came and our son will be here soon.  Unfortunately we had to, and will have to, visit my husband in the hospital.  Hopefully we can bring him home soon.  He has, as I’ve previously written, bi-polar disorder and refuses to acknowledge it and take the necessary medication.  This will not be the first time he’s been hospitalized for it.

At his best he’s a caring, family-loving person who provided for his own mother, a widow, and took my mother, also a widow, into our home when she wasn’t well and couldn’t live by herself.  He treated her with love and respect.  This was the man I married not realizing he had another side.  At his worst, he shouts and verbally abuses, is delusional, brings strangers into our home and takes any cash that he can find in the house to spend on goodness knows what. I have to hide most of it.  His common sense has seriously eroded.  He was a brilliant person and is still very intelligent and resourceful.

More and more people are stepping forward, some of them well-known, and declaring that they have bi-polar disorder and are on medication.  This enables them to work if they need to and lead a normal life without becoming severely depressed or severely manic which causes suffering for themselves and their loved ones.  It’s not something to be ashamed of; it’s something to treat and live with.

If you have a loved one you suspect has bi-polar disorder, or if you yourself are suffering periodic deep depression and/or mood swings, just go to the computer and type in bi-polar disorder and websites giving information will be listed.  Get a diagnosis and medical help if necessary.  People with this disorder suffer a great deal, and cause others to suffer, needlessly if they’re not on the correct medication.  The bad news is it can be fatal if the person becomes so depressed they’re suicidal.  The good news is it’s treatable.

I’m wishing all of you and your families a very Merry Christmas!!  

Our Road Trip by P.S. Joshi

Ajay had decided that as long as we were in northern India we should take a tour and see more of it.  It sounded reasonable and affordable.  We had our American ATM card with us so extra funds were available when we needed them.  There were sufficient funds in our account so why should we worry.

We went to a travel agent, a large, exuberant man who put all our worries to rest.  Yes, he could supply a car and driver and we would have a great trip.  He mentioned other Americans who had hired his agency and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.  We made a down payment and he made arrangements.

The next day we came to the agency and our driver and car were waiting.  The first place he drove us was to meet his family at their home.  My husband said,  “This is the Indian way.”  They were especially interested to meet an American and we had a pleasant visit.  Our driver spoke excellent English.  My husband interprets for anyone who speaks Hindi or, when in Maharashtra, Marathi.  Most people in the part of northern India we were visiting spoke Hindi, Urdu or both.  Many people in India also speak, or are eager to learn, English.  Many can understand some English but  Hindi is the official language taught in most schools.

We next were taken to some places of interest in Delhi including several shops selling items tourists might be interested in buying.  These stores apparently had some agreement with the agency.  We did actually  buy some small souvenirs and pieces of jewelry.  Rather I did as Ajay’s not interested in that type of thing.

Then we headed south and about an hour from Delhi stopped to see the Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary.  It was a warm day so I didn’t take a wrap or jacket from the car with me into the park.  The driver stayed with the car in the parking lot.  My husband thoroughly enjoyed looking at the various birds, talking with other visitors to the park and just sitting and relaxing in the environment while early afternoon drifted into late afternoon.  I tried to get him to budge with no luck.  Finally he agreed that it was time to move on.  The chill of evening was fast approaching and I began to feel it.  By the time we reached the car I was cold to my bones.  I felt like I was never going to be warm again.

Sunset was coming and the  driver made a decision.  We had a four-star hotel booking for the evening but he said that he was absolutely not going to drive that far at night on this highway.  I realized he was right as we passed quite a few burned out wrecks of trucks littering the pavement edges.  A little way on we came to a town where he found a modest but acceptable hotel for us.  I never knew what his own sleeping arrangements were for the nights.  He might have had family or friends he stayed with, or had agreements with other hotels and/or hostels where he could stay along that route.  I was so cold all I could think about was near some kind of heat.  Some men in the hotel parking lot had a fire going on the ground and Ajay told me to go and get warm there.  It looked great to me at that moment so I joined the men around the fire while Ajay stood and watched.  I didn’t sit, I just stood as close as I safely could and soaked up the warmth.  I slept in my clothes and heavy coat that night.

The next day we continued on toward Jaipur in Rajasthan, leaving Uttar Pradesh.  In Jaipur we took a tour of the red sandstone Jaigarth Fort.  We ate some lunch and afterward made an unpleasant discovery.  Ajay went to an ATM that would accept our American debit card and tried to make a withdrawal.  We were horrified to find that the card was not accepted for some reason.  We knew there was money in our account but the card was just not working.  Knowing that we might be in serious trouble is putting it mildly.  That card was our lifeline in India.  Ajay become very disturbed and had to tell the driver that for some reason we would have to try later.  We did several times with no success.

We had some money with us still and drove on to Pushkar where we had a booking at the Pushkar Lake Palace.  It was a modest hotel with a balcony on the lake.  It was a lovely scene and we dined on that balcony.  Unlike Delhi, it was warm in Pushkar.

The next day we walked around and down to a bridge crossing the lake to a samll temple on the hilltop.  We started to walk across the bridge when an elderly man stopped us and said in Hindi, which Ajay interpreted, “You must take off your shoes when crossing this bridge to the temple.”  I looked down at the bridge surface and saw that it was covered with animal dung.  Numerous animals had no doubt been driven across it and no one had come and cleaned it in the recent past.  I told Ajay that no way was I going to cross that bridge without shoes in that filth.  I had seen, and would see, other temples so it just wasn’t worth the trouble.    While we were standing there, a young couple also came to see the temple and when I told them about shoes not being allowed on the bridge, they took off their shoes.  I guess some people think differently than I do but that didn’t change my mind one bit.

Our driver, understanding the money problem, drove us back toward Delhi the next day.  There were no more five-star or four-star hotels for us.  Reaching Delhi we had to face the travel agent.  He was no longer his jolly self.  His voice was raised in frustration bordering on anger.  He owed people and his business depended on trust.  Could someone loan us the money?  My husband was bordering on mania and the agent, who had a kind heart, seemed to take pity on me.  We called Ajay’s elderly uncle in Mumbai but he couldn’t loan us any money.

The agent wasn’t going to permit us to leave Delhi while we still owed him all that money so the trial of staying each night in a different modest hotel began while Ajay contacted different friends to see if he could get a loan.  He finally found friends in Delhi he could stay with while he sent me by train back to Mumbai to stay with his relatives.

Eventually, he contacted a friend who loaned him the money he needed to pay the travel agent so was able to  join me in Mumbai.  This friend was willing to loan the money both because he was an old friend of Ajay’s and because he once had the same problem on a trip.  Ajay finally was able to contact our bank in the U.S. and straighten out the problem. It turned out to be some trouble with the computer. The next time my husband traveled to the U.S., he had our son’s name put on the account just in case.  (Next we take the train home from Mumbai to the picturesque hotel.)

OUR TRIP NORTH by P. S. Joshi

 Ajay said he had a business deal with someone in Delhi and we could both go and stay in a guest house of his client’s company. This sounded okay and much better planned than the trip though Europe.

He had spoken of retiring and living comfortably but that wasn’t exciting enough for him in reality.  He had worked and been a department head and/or consultant in the U.S. for years in the fields of coated fabrics and non-wovens for various companies and loved meeting people.  He always seemed to have some business deal going, none of which came to anything after he retired.  However, his mind kept churning them out and they gave him opportunities to meet new people.  

It took me years to find out what was his problem.  When I read about bi-polar disorder I was fairly certain that was it.  He was billiant and is still very intelligent and clever even in his 80’s.  The problem is that he won’t take medication and insists he’s well.  Traveling with him is always surprising, but can at times also be unpleasant.  

If there’s one season in India a person should hesitate to travel north for sightseeing it’s winter.  It becomes very cold and is often foggy.  There are no heating systems in Indian homes and hotels.  People in private homes and in businesses, use space heaters if they have them or just bundle up.  The problem is that the electricity sometimes goes off either unexpectantly for some reason or because of planned load shedding. That also makes a hot bath impossible. I slept more than one night on that trip fully clothed including my winter coat, even under a thick quilt.

We took a sleeper train north to Delhi.  In our car was a young, newly-married couple on their honeymoon–with a group of friends their own age.  I thought perhaps it was another Indian custom I wasn’t familiar with until I told an Indian woman friend of mine and she laughed and laughed.  Since it was this couple’s first marriage, they either didn’t understand why they shouldn’t bring their friends along or they were very, very shy.

Nothing came of the business venture, but Ajay suggested we go to a travel agent to book a tour by car to various interesting cities and tourist sights in that region of northern India.  It started out well at least. (Next blog–Our Driving Tour) 

WE ARRIVE IN INDIA By P.S. Joshi

Ajay and I arrived in Mumbai with our backpacks and my wet wash and were greeted by relatives at the airport.  My husband’s cousin hung up the wash to dry.  In Mumbai, unlike Europe in November, it was warm enough to dry in no time.  I’d brought only what clothes I could carry in that darn backpack so it was essential that the clothes be dried quickly.  Most of our stuff was being shipped including most of our clothes, so it would take a while to reach India.

Ajay’s cousin fed us well but also bought some snack from a stand on the beach.  Big mistake for me and my American stomach.  I became very ill.  The only good thing was that my feet and ankles had been swelling and believe me, the excess water in my system left me in no time.

We decided after a few days when I felt better to proceed to the city (which shall remain nameless to protect the privacy of friends and relatives) where we were to make our permanent home.  Actually, the permanent home was occupied so we had to stay at a hotel.  Ajay’s idea was to eventually check out a lovely resort area in the nearby foothills. This resort was being developed by a friend of his and had building sites.  We would sell the flat when it came into my husband’s possession once more.  Pictures of this resort had been what first lured me to India to retire.  Ajay was already retired and I had left my present job at a call center with dreams of living my remaining years in a resort.  It was a beautiful dream which died a premature death.

We took up residence at an old hotel which was inexpensive because they were rebuilding.  The floor beneath ours was being  gutted so that it could be rebuilt inside without tearing down the whole building. I will call this hotel picturesque to be kind.  It was the type of Indian hotel where you went out and came back and employees asked you where you had gone.  My husband, who had been homesick for his homeland, thought it was great to be thought of as one of the family.  Actually, the desk clerk discovered that they were distantly related and we went to visit his immediate family.

What added to the family atmosphere was a dog named Tiger who belonged to one of the employees.  This was a large, fat animal who would wander into the open lobby and drink from a fountain pool there.  He not only made himself at home, it was his home, at least during the day.  I was sitting in the courtyard eating an egg one day and Tiger came over and plopped his big head right in my lap.  He was quite used to being fed by employees and guests, thus his girth.

I’ll conclude today’s blog with a short poem:

The Indian City Footpaths (Sidewalks For Westerners)   

             You go out for your daily walk,

 And look about the town;

                                But you must take care where you step,

                                                       Because it’s up and down.

                                                       There are broken tiles and pipes and holes.

                                                       The loose rocks make you frown;

                                                       And if you don’t watch where you step,

                                                       You will fall down, down, down.

                                                        It doesn’t matter if you’re poor,

                                                         Or someone of renown,

                                                         The footpaths still remain the same;

                                                          They’re always up and down.

AN AMERICAN IN INDIA by P.S. Joshi

My life in India is different than some peoples.  As a visitor will tell you, “Visiting India is different than living there.”  How true!  My husband, an Indian citizen, owned a flat here and the idea was to move here upon retirement and live happily on our Social Security.  This would have been okay except that his brother had been living rent-free in the flat and wasn’t ready to move when we arrived.  

My husband didn’t plan well as he has a bi-polar condition which he won’t acknowledge, so thinks medication is not needed.  Looking back, I should have checked into the situation more thoroughly, but the glorified vision of me not having to work and just enjoying life clouded the possible reality. 

Actually, not planning well is an understatement.  He decided we should travel on a budget which ended up in us spending some time in Germany where out flight touched down, then reaching a train station in Italy at night with no hotel booking and where we were told to leave when the staff wanted to clean.  Fortunately, or as I prefer to think–by God’s good graces–a small man showed up to lead us to a nearby hotel.  He was an older gentleman and no doubt supplemented his income by doing just that.

 Next in Italy, we got off at the wrong station, had to walk to a local hotel, found a busload of people there ahead of us and faced the reality of having to sleep outside somewhere.  Once more we were rescued by a man who said he could drive us to another hotel.  It was a beautifully-tiled rustic place with great food.  The only problem was we didn’t have transportation and it was quite a distance from Rome.  Again we got a ride and ended up in Rome where it was raining and the parts of the Vatican visitors go to see were closed down because dignataries were visiting.  My husband became manic due to his unmedicated condition and started to use language which wasn’t at all fitting for that place.

We caught a train back to Germany and decided to scrap our plans to travel through France and England.  I had a bag of wet laundry I had washed in Italy and no place to dry it.  I decided enough was enough and we decided to scrap the rest of the trip through France and England and come straight to India. (Next blog–more about India and a poem on an Indian topic.)

LIFE IN INDIA

When I married an Indian he spoke about one day moving to India, but that seemed a long way off at the time.  About 13 years ago we did move here–bringing far too much stuff with us–and I’m making the best of it.  Before moving here, I’d been to India only once in my life, when our children were small.  It seemed very exotic then and some things are still foreign to me.  Just when you start thinking of it as home, something happens that makes you realize that it’s actually a different way of thinking than in the West in many ways.

I’ve starting writing recently at the urging of my daughter who acts and writes.  I’m working on a book about my childhood so that at least my children will understand me and my family better and, if I can get it published one day all the better.  I’ve also considered writing a book about my experiences in India.  I don’t need to depend on writing for a living so I’m just enjoying the process.  I’ve written some poems about India I hope someone out there will enjoy even if it’s just family and friends.  I’m including one of these in this first blog.

    A RIDE IN A MOTOR RICKSHAW

                   The rickshaws are so plentiful

                    And you really need a ride,

                    To try and drive these city streets

                     Can be like suicide.

                      You need to get from place to place,

                       To get from here to there,

                        You need to spend those rupees

                         If you want to pay the fare.

                         You give the rickshaw driver

                          Directions where to go.

                           You climb right in and he takes off.

                           The way he seems to know.

                           And then he speeds right by the street

                            Where he should have made a turn.

                             You have to shout and point the way.

                              You start to feel concern.

                              Car drivers honk their noisy horns,

                                And force their way ahead.

                                 Two-wheelers dive now in, now out.

                                 There is no fear or dread.

                                 Sometimes the driver hits a bump,

                                   And you bounce up, then land.

                                    He takes no notice of your plight,

                                    As he didn’t have it planned.

                                    For richshaws seatbelts don’t exist,

                                     And headrests, there are none,

                                     So you just have to take the risks,

                                      When all is said and done.

                                       Then finally your trip’s complete.

                                        You’ve arrived with time to spare.

                                         You pay the driver rupees owed,

                                          Then he looks for his next fare.