Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mission Accomplished

Caitlin Johnson played an integral role in the process of preparing me for my trip to India. Caitlin had given a year of volunteer work for the Bahá’i faith in India a few years back, and therefore was quite well versed in Indian culture. She gave me tips on food, dress, language, mosquitoes, among many other things. I do not mean to insult her humbleness by devoting a few paragraphs to her, however I feel it quite necessary in order to tell this tale. Among the activities she told me I needed to do during my stay in India was to listen to a certain Mr. Afshin give a talk. “A prolific speaker he is”, she said (the staff at current time is not able to give 100% assurance that Caitlin actually said that, so please disregard the quotations, they are only for effect – ed.) “You must see him speak!” Caitlin then asked me if I would be willing to bring a gift across seas to give to Mr. Afshin, who resides in Bangalore. I let her know that I would be more than wiling, and for the last few months, have had a package in tow for Mr. Afshin & Family. This last Saturday I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. and Mrs. Afshin, and their son Naim at a talk he gave on the subject of “The nonexistence of evil”.

It was held at a weekly gathering hosted by various Bahá’is known as “Open House”, where people gather and discuss certain topics. It was held on the terrace of a very beautiful house, and as the evening went on, a discussion that was quite enlightening was passed among the some 30 participants. Mr. Afshin is indeed quite a prolific speaker and I felt honored to be able to meet him.

So without Further ado, I give you photographic evidence that Caitlin’s package did indeed make it safely into the hands of Mr. Afshin.

The range of experiences I have had since arriving in India are so many, I thought I would make a quick list of things I have taken note of that differ from the states:

The toilet paper rolls (when they have them) are a bit smaller than the ones in the states.

Traffic morphs around any obstacle it may have, making it safer than in America to stand in the middle of two lanes of speeding vehicles.

IST (India standard time, the time zone we are in) also can stand for “India Stretchable time”

I wake up to the Muslim call to prayer every morning, and hear it often throughout the day.

Even middle-class families can afford to have a maid come to clean and cook everyday.

The bills of India's money (the rupee) decrease in size as they decrease in value.

People of every religion can co-exist peacefully with one another, as there might be a mosque, a cathedral, a temple, and a church all on the same block.

If you are white, people will stare.

The vehicle drivers oftentimes turn off their engines at a red light, I assume to save petrol.

I am refered to as "Boss" by most people I do business with.

Indians are the most hospitable, welcoming people I have ever been around.

Food is not eaten with utensils most of the time, but with your right hand. This is a practice I have gotten quite used to doing.

Haggling is a normal occurrence and most of the time you can get things for cheaper if you are willing to negotiate.

There are piles of trash on some streets.

A slum with people living in tents may be only two kilometers from an upscale neighborhood.

There is no posted speed limit anywhere throughout the city.

There are many more fruits and vegetables on the planet besides the standard fare known to Americans.

You do see cows on the side of the road all over the city.

People will try to take advantage of you, assuming that because you are foreign you have lots of money.

Because you are foreign, people are interested in why you have come to India, and are eager to show you the best that their country has to offer.

Little children seem to stare the most, and are the most curious and have very little inhibitions when it comes to talking to you. They seem to make a game of trying to touch the “white guy” as they will come up to me and want to shake my hand, and when they do they will run off laughing as they catch up with their friends. I carry a small compass on me to help me with my sense of direction, and the children are often fascinated with such a simple object, wanting me to explain to them how it works and why I have it, the same with my mobile phone. I love stopping to talk with a child who has asked me my name, and often find that within minutes I have a large group around me wanting to know “What food is popular in America?” “What sport is popular in America?” and “Why did you come to India?” I was in a neighborhood the other night talking with a group of children for nearly an hour and they asked me upon leaving if I was going to come back. I noted the location of the neighborhood and have every intention of returning to see them again. What beautiful characters children have, I now perhaps understand why ‘Abdu’l-Baha loved them so dearly.

India continues to excite, and having a city full of experiences waiting at my fingertips to be explored is an exhilarating notion to say the least.

I appreciate all of your comments, I love you all and think of you often.



Anonymous Luis said...

"I wake up to the Muslim call to prayer every morning" ...
That's so beautiful. Someday I'd like to live somewhere where I could do the same.

6:46 PM  
Anonymous Rachel said...


It sounds like you have been there for so long already. We all miss you here at Green Acre, people are still talking about you...and almost everyday someone asks me who the guy is on the wall in the Cafe ( the character drawing of you). Or people will ask for a free smile and then say, " oh Thaddeus does it better.." haha. Which, I do agree. But I am so glad you are happy and that your heart is content. Is does great things for ones spirit. I hope you can soak up as much as possible. Keep in touch...You are in my prayers...

11:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Thaddeus,
I know your list will grow longer and more subtle as your journey continues. We are very glad that you arrived safely and hope that each day is an education. You are very lucky and I know you'll take advantage of all the opportunities open to you. Cheers,
Carolyn from JCCC International Office.

2:20 AM  
Anonymous anisa said...

the decrease in the size of indian's money was the most interesting one, I wondered if it was the same in iran.

And I miss waking up with muslim call early in the morining, I forgot about that. But wait till Ramadan, interesting things yet to see!

We all miss you here, hope everything goes well for you

8:10 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

Hi Thaddeus!

Oh it was so good to see a picture of you :)........what is it around your upper torso, it looks like a cord of some sort? Just curious!

Love, Mom

7:12 PM  
Blogger King of Vegetable said...

It's the cord to a little pouch I carry that has my money and i.d. cards and other various items that might come in handy in it. Some would maybe call it a "man purse" haha! It comes in quite handy.

8:03 PM  
Anonymous Andrew said...

Hey there, brother!!

This is just a fantastic post to read! I'm really excited for you, and eager to hear more about your experiences in this facinating place. Keep giving us passionate descriptions and vivid imagery. Prayers surround you!

3:59 AM  
Anonymous Laura Peterson said...


Thaddeus, it sounds like a wonderful RICH experience. Wow. The heart of Bangalore must be quite different from Curtis, Nebraska...the heart of...US agriculture....

PS I've been listening to Weaker Thans. "Plea from a cat named virtue" has very insightful lyrics.

Love from my family!

4:03 AM  
Anonymous JOn said...

OH Thaddeus I miss thee most deeply! I am so glad that you are having such a great experience in India. I look forward to your post with anticipation. Keep the stuff coming.

7:57 AM  
Anonymous Molly said...

Thaddeus: wear that little pouch INSIDE your shirt. Please. Theives are sneaky. Loved the entry!


10:32 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

YES Molly I was thinking the exact same thing and just had not mentioned it to your brother yet. So Thaddeus, do listen to your sister :)

Love, Mom

11:22 PM  
Anonymous caitlin said...

Oh! I am bursting at the seams with happiness for you. My face was trying to strecth to accomodate a larger and larger smile as i read your post. Thank you again so much for delivering the package to the Afshins and I hope that you will have many more chances to experience him and other eloquent speakers move your heart.
I loved the list of differences and found myself laughing, in spite of being in the quiet zone of the kansas union computer lab. (hehe!)
Oh!!! I can't express how much my heart is pouring over with love for you and the friends in india! I am sure that you will be, in a sense, a shining "american" light for those children, and many others, and defy the predefined categories which americans have been expected to fall into.
Much, much love as you continue your studies and service in Bangalore!
(and btw, not to question your ability to make due without, may i ask if i might at some point be so bold as to send by mail.... TOILET PAPER!?!? Any refusal from you will be borne without question, but let it be known that it would bring much happiness for me to be able to send such a "luxury item" for a friend.)
Again, with sincere wishes of happiness for you,

12:48 AM  

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