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dimanche 25 janvier 2009

Welcome to France and to 2009

It is by the sacrifices you do for another person that you would be judged on the capacity to help that person.

I have always done what I wanted, but however I have been lucky. People who do things only for themselves cannot be satisfied, like Rabbi Hillel said: if you are only for yourself, what are you? but to combine your profession into one in which your desire to help others is combined with your desires which helps you connect with the greater universe, which the Indians call the Spirituality. If you are not for yourself, rabbi Hillel continued, who will be for you?

And there is no time like the present time. If not now, when, asked the sage.

It is this concept of not wanting to be a participant in “If not now, when that many of the westerners or those people who espouse western way of thinking, can look at the future gloomily. A New Zealand psychiatrist had written : people are waiting for the curtain to open and the stage to reveal what will happen, what they don’t realize that the curtains are already drawn and we are the actors and on stage. And we are our own scriptwriters, we write what we want to say and when the script writer has packed up and gone home, the actor on the stage, ourselves, have nothing to say, looks around for someone to prompt to say something. Un alma sin raices es una injusticia, the poet must have echoed the same sentiments.. a soul without roots is an injustice.

I have always sacrificed for a group of people. Poor people of Jamaica, then American Indians and many many other poor people.. but the rewards have been many and I am judged by many by the rewards that have come my way, rather than the original intentions of mine which brought those rewards without being asked for. So they ogled at my comfortable life in Jamaica but not at the long days at the clinics in the countryside over rough roads where I had to comfort and give medicines to 100 patients per day..They praised the food cooked by my neighbor the chef on dinners that I put out every night in Cuba, without realizing that Cuba was one great sacrifice: financially, emotionally and chronologically. Everything was a gift. I carry that within my self. The first ever gift was Australia. Intellectual curiosity of Sweden was the next; the open mindedness of Americans came next, Anthropological education, medical education in Miami, one gift after another…but the greatest gift in my life of course is that I am a Jew.

2006 a great gift arrived at my doorstep. I was so overblown by it, that I remember clearly telling my nurse at the Indian clinic: I am sorry I can no longer work, I must go home and I will come back later..

This particular gift compares with the four greatest gifts in my life: being a Jew, being an Australian, being a doctor to the Indians and living in Cuba…these are ambient materialistic immoveable quantificable parameters, the presents that repeat themselves are the friends who have traipsed through my life…

2007 France  2008 Cambodia and Malaysia and Austalia and as I begin 2009, I know in my heart it would be France once again.


Friends, I have to be where I am needed and I am of more use

Where I get, in return the connection to the universe of human beings..

Yes, in 2009, I will visit Eretz Israel to see my nephew Shmulik and also my dear younger brother Shimon and his bride Avital.

Yes, in 2009, I will visit Malaysia to visit my best friend in Asia, MunChing and all the new friends I have made in Malaysia which has become my second home after France.

Yes, in 2009, I will visit Australia, even if it is just to see my friend Sandra and her husband..

Yes, in 2009, I will visit Cuba, to visit my colleagues and my daughter and relive the glorious moments of that moveable feast that was cuba for me.

Yes, in 2009, I will visit Miami, to be with my sister Jacqui, who is more than a sister to me.

Yes, in 2009, it would be also an year of Mothers; my birth mother in India, my other mother in Malaysia, my Cuban mother in la Havana..

Yes, in 2009, it would also be an year of Sisters: my sister Jackie, my sister Dar in Yakima, my Indian sisters, Georgia of Hocank and Sylvia of the Kickapoo (who said, you don’t travel alone, good spirits travel with you). There is a group of five women, I think of as one, all UmonHon Indians, one way or another: Vida, Mitexi, MiHusa, Noni and Michele.  I know I will see them 2009

But in 2009, France will be my home, that is where I would be, my body and my soul and my heart, to be particular, Paris, France; at the little house in  Ave Jeanne by the Seine.

mardi 20 janvier 2009

Saudade for Baracoa

stars have falen out of the sky
adding their glitter to the silent ocean
this night, we wait under the light of the moon
for the stars to reappear
clouds go by, the moon escapes from its grip
the stars in the water rejoice
our hearts are nets into which these stars
fall as we sail across these waters
its presence only to remind us that 
distances exist between us
and that which will be... overcome
our tears are the same, we are the same for the moment
the sky, the moon, teh stars have swallowed us
we have become part of each other, with indelible
impressions of our love stamped into each other

samedi 17 janvier 2009

What all Happens in the Course of One Day?


Guruji speaks in his broken tones on a clear telephone call from Madras; he wants to do a Pooja, a kind of prayer.. Yes Please, there is no better way than that to evict  bad luck..

News from KT of a PAS victory, a shot in the arm for Malaysian Democracy.

Skype to the rescue, conversations with clear tones to countries to the East.

Getting ready to go to Omaha. 10 50 am Discover that the Rental Car parked in front of the Blue House has been vandalized… 1105 the Policeman is here. Random Vandalism of the Bored Youth… Called Avis 100 miles away to report the damage, both back windows broken and the tyres let out of air.. Exactly two hours later, remember it takes 90 minutes to get to the Blue House from Omaha, a tow truck arrives with a replacement car.  This kind of service you get only in the United States.. Happy to rent from Avis.. over and over again..

A patient calls. Tell him about the vandalism. He lives 30 miles away. Within half an hour he is here. Checking out. Then begins to shovel the snow and clear the path. Sits and chats.

I follow him in my new rental car, to Olive Garden, a kind of an Italian Franchise Mall restaurant.. his favourite he says..I have never been there.. not much of a fan of Americanized food.. he orders Spaghetti with tomato sauce and I have gnocchi Veronese thinking of the days in Buenos Aires..

The night falls quickly. The gorgeous sunset turns into dark night within a few minutes. Snow on the ground but the air has warmed up from its frigid minus 18 F temperature of a couple of days ago.

Now writing these notes.. thinking of my home in Paris, my friends in Malaysia, Japan and my family here and there and as always about Cuba… 

mercredi 14 janvier 2009

The Shoe maker of Pondichery

The shoe maker  of Pondicherry

I had visited this erstwhile French colony in 2004, and just around the corner from the boutique hotel (now undergoiong reparations) was a hole in the wall leather worker and shoe maker. I remember pointing out to the model I wanted and within a day the sandals were ready, which I use still. The price was 600 inr ( about 20 usd of that day)..

Rue suffren is a leafy street with French mansions on both side of the street. A distinct French touch to it. You know that you are in India and at the same time, wonder where in India you are. 

I remembered the shoemaker but did not remember where his shop was. While exploring the street, taking pictures of the various French colonial homes, I found myself standing in front of the hole in the wall, hand made shoe factory that is what it was any way. Two workers bent over the task, and the owner, in conversation with two westerners buying a pair of open sandals for the heat and comfort of this country.

I pointed out to the same model, and asked the price, 600 INR he replied..( about 11 usd of today)…then I told him the story after the westerners had departed.

Four years ago, I was here and I bought a pair made and the price was 600 and I was expecting to hear the price of shoes have gone up to 800 or 900 rupees.. He looks at my face carefully and makes a mental nod as if he had recognized it.. he said.. Yes it is still 600 inr and I have not put up the price.

An Indian customer comes for repair of her sandals and he talks to her for while and then turns his attention to me..  I remember your face now. How long before you can make another pair for me?  Tomorrow evening it would be ready, said he.

And I realized that this man is one honest man.. in a country where Le Meridien charges 750 rupees per day for Internet access, The cunning autorikshaw wallahs charging whatever they want and then some more. Asking around for the price of handmade belts… 200 rupees sir.. what? They are being sold for 600 to 900 rupees at stores as Casablanca.. I realixed that he is content with his business which gives him a good livelihood and that he does have to be avaricious like the autorikshaw driver to try and extrat a few rupees and thus the bad feelings as well of the people visiting Pondicherry.

I ordered two pairs of sandals.. one to leave in Paris and the other in Miami; five pairs of sandals for my friends, all in all a princely sum of  3800 rupees for seven pairs of sandals handmade by Mr Shoe maker of Pondicherry. I will pick the products of his manual dexterity, which I was privileged to enjoy for the past four years, occasionally when I wore the sandals from Pondicherry.. I will pick them up on my way out of the city of Pondicherry.. taxi to madras and Air France to Paris…

The next day, after attending an exhibition at Annexe Colambani of Alliance Francaise, I came by this shop to get my shoulder bag repaired, and an extra latch added. After he finished his work, I wanted to pay.. he said: small small work sir, no need to pay..


Can you believe this is in India, in a tourist town?

I will find out more about him and his family and left him my visiting card which he displayed prominently. On the wall was an advertisement for a taxi service , since it might be his friend, I wanted to ask him for the taxi service, and his reply stunned me.. Sir, he is my friend, but he always charges the foreigners two hundred rupees extra so I think you should go to the Taxi Stand and organize a ride for yourself. Which I did and was able to get an airconditioned Ambassador to take us to Madras , into the city, to visit our good friend Srini and his family before going to the international departure section of the Madras airport…

M Mumurty, Give and Take Leather Products, No 20 rue suffren, Pondichery. Mobile Phone 9790667710


mardi 13 janvier 2009

Lonely Roads in an Indian Reservation

Lonely Roads, Bright Sun and a Blue Sky

UmonHon Indian Reservation 13th January 2009

A very sound sleep, after the trouble getting home through 50 km winds playing ballet with the snow, cold, immeasurably cold, cold that enters with your breath into the depths of your soul. The house is warm, the thermostat is set at 72 F (about 19 C), has a cocoon like feeling, like a thief I look out through the glass windows, at the wind outside, snow swirling, the trees protecting their naked limbs with some inner strength. This morning, calm had descended, an absolute silence, like the one you feel after a hurricane had passed through. No wind. The sun is up and bright and the blue skies are just interrupted here and there with wisps of clouds...

Today is Tuesday; last Tuesday had left Pondicherry where people have no memories of snow but of Tsunami? Ah well... it is a fair exchange I suppose. Kovalam, Triplicane, Guindy, Raja Annamalai nagar sonorous Dravidian names, an extremely courteous driver who had lost a finger in an industrial accident thirty years ago, Balu by name and soon it was Air France and a load of coolies headed to the west.

A cup of coffee from Baracoa sweetened with raw sugar from Baracoa. Four layers of clothes, two scarves, sunglasses, walking like a scarecrow in the deep snow in front of the house, just a few meters to the car. Thank god for good cars they rent... starts with no problem but moving the car is another story. The tyres have stuck to the ground, and bit of forward and reverse motions, the car is able to move, slide would be a better word, and then we are off, like the dinghy on Kerala backwaters...

I noticed one thing. There was not a single person on the road. The school next door was deserted, normally there is some moment or other this time of the morning, children going to school, someone or other struggling to get to work, but absolute silence in this village of the Indians. Got to the main road, ditto, not a soul, no cars, no sound... the sun glistening on the surface of the road now covered with ice and snow... reflecting on thesunglasses..

The incongruity of all these was that I was listening to BBC World Services on the Satellite radio in the car. A staid British accent comes over discussing internet business strategies, it felt like either he or I was in another planet and this dissociation with nature and nurture, what has been here for thousands of years and what is to come...

I looked at the sky, remembered the Indian patient asking me, everything good in life is fee, doctor, you just have to look around for it... I enjoyed the changing hues of the blue skies, with cotton clouds standing as silent as the guards at Buckingham palace.

It was just me in this heated car, bundled up, listening to BBC , sliding along the  lonely road over the hills trying not to sway too far from the centre of the road, lest I end up in the ditch.

Suddenly a visitor. A deer, was not an adult one, looked like a little one, not a baby, jumped from the hills and crossed the road in front of me, paying no attention to me, as if it had an appointment to keep with its mother. My spirits immediately rose, here is a picture perfect cameo of this world of our ancestors: lonely road, snow on the ground, blue skies, bright sun, nothing man made to be seen... except the road.

I was a little puzzled as I pulled into the Clinic grounds, once again no cars, no one milling around, no patients in a hurry to get in there for attention.. Same inside the clinic. I went to the kitchen which was busy preparing the meals for lunch time, my friend was there. What happened, I asked her? Don’t you watch TV? They announced the late start of offices and schools and clinics today on TV, so no one would be here for another hour or two.

So I use this opportunity to write about my little journey this morning. And the tranquility it gave me.

I thought of M in Paris and all my other friends in Malaysia, Japan, Cambodia, Cuba etc etc; and I thanked the Indians for giving me this opportunity to enjoy their earth without causing too much damage with my presence.

Have a good day /evening wherever you are, my dear friends, lovers and other sweeties, little butterflies that make my heart flutter