vendredi 14 septembre 2012
AUGUST A MONTH OF GOOD NEWS FROM NORTH EAST WEST SOUTH
A Good Month of News that warms the heart..
I left IAH on 1 August 2012 on Qatar Airways to DOHA and then on to Jakarta.
This was my first flight on QR and I was favourably impressed. An additional treat was my fello passenger, who was a Parsi who teaches Bollywood Dancing in Houston! We had a nice conversation and could spend a little time together at the Premium Lounge at Doha before she went off to Bombay and I had some hours to catch the flight to Jakarta.
44 hours after leaving the Blue House in the Indian Reservation, I cleared Immigration at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta. Sr Winata and Ence Endang were there to welcome me and it was the time of Ramadaan and luckily the traffic was not its congested peak and we sped towards Sentul City, Bogor under the shadows of gunung salak!
For the next two days with the staff and family of my good friend Joe and it was a complete immersion into philosophy of a compassionate man, genuine sundanese food and friendship offered by pak judy, pak wowo, pak ending, pak julianto and their families as well as Pak Joe..
Saturday 4th August was the day I became an official member of the inner circle of Pak Joe’s friends who gather around the lake under the shadow of gunung salak! At 6 30 am, Pak Judi arrives with a pair of size 43 Asics Gel Kayano..Every one is already there at the lake and Pak Joe gives me the introduction to go walking around the lake, while the others are exerting at their levels of competence. Afterwards, It is time to have breakfast at the hotel and sure enough there are all sorts of Indonesian specialties and it is good to indulge before the onset of the day of talk, friendship and counsel. Not to mention, Nespresso at the offices of Pak Joe.
Early the morning of 6th August, four of us met at the CGK Air Asia Terminal and boarded a flight to KUL. Waiting to meet us on arrival was a good friend from Malaysia, Chee. We trooped off to eat a nice mamak meal near the Sunway Mall and we walked off the heavy meal with various stops at the Chinese Medicine Tea stall. Pak Joe stopped at various stores and in the end he came over and said that he had gotten a size 43 Asics GEL 1160 T0J3N shoes to wear in Cambodia so that my new habit of walking in the early morning wouldn't be broken.
I realized that if you are preaching a certain philosophy, you not only have to live by that philosophy and also enable others to live by that philosophy. I saw Pak Joe in action many a times, always it was his desire to assist others in matters concerning improvement in health and prevention of diseases.
In Phnom Penh we were joined by another delightful Malaysian, Ong, who wanted to make sure that our stay in his adopted city would be as seamless without difficulties and full of enjoyment. Rooms had been booked for us at Nagaland right in the heart of the city, and more importantly for me, on the fourth day of my new career in Walking Briskly in the Morning, there were plenty of paths to explore, which I did each day , long before the heat of the day became unbearable.
We ate well, Chinese, Vietnamese and Khmer cuisines; we toasted Fidel Castro’s birthday at Mekong River Bar where we went each and every evening before going out to dinner and on the last evening, we sipped while watching the river from the Balcony of the Foreign Correspondents Club, made famous during the Vietnam War..
I took one day off from our festivities, to immerse myself in preparing a presentation, which was to be in the morning after our arrival back into Jakarta. It was to the senior managers of the largest bank in Indonesia, and we were expecting about 25 of the illustrious bank managers of various branches. I wondered to myself, I have to talk to these people, coming as I am from an entirely different discipline and monetary and economic outlook on this world, how to make it worth their time and evoke some interest. I chose as my subject : Health and Happiness, combining the Philosophies of the American Indians I am confident on expounding; the Yogic Philosophy from Yoga Sutra introduced to me by my friend in KL whom I had met on a flight to Siem Reap in 2008 and also the philosophy of the western world. I was cooped up in my room at the hotel all day preparing this presentation and I left the hotel only when I was convinced that the presentation would go well did I leave to go to Mekong River Bar to join the others.
On arrival in Jakarta, I stayed at the Mercure Hotel in Jakarta and after a nice breakfast of Indonesian delicacies, I was whisked off to the elegant conference room of the head office of the bank in the historic centre of Jakarta.
One by one, the managers came, some members of the staff of Pak Joe’s office also rolled in. A projector and a screen were in place and the presentation came alive on the screen.
I had planned the presentation in such a fashion that I would present a concept and let Pak Joe explain it in Indonesian language and I would prompt him to give examples that we had discussed.
I would say: Happiness can be achieved by decreasing our desires. And will give an European and Tibetan explanation of that statement, drawing upon Theodore Koening and the Dalai Lama.
Then, Pak Joe would step in, explain the concept from the Indonesian context. I would remind him to tell the story of a Singaporean friend, an expert on Zheng He, who was showing me around Singapore one day earlier this year. I was surprised at the number of upscale shops, such as Luis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Yves St Laurent.
Even for the French, these are very expensive! I exclaimed.
They are not at all expensive, calmly explained my Singaporean friend, if you have no desire to buy them or own them.
Thus, our combined talk, with me talking in English and Pak Joe talking in Indonesian, to the group of top managers of the largest bank in Indonesia, went on for over two hours.
Then we sauntered over to Café Batavia, a historic building reeking of colonial history. An excellent Indonesian lunch was ordered, I had a variation of Oxtail soup and curry ( I was thinking of Jamaica where it is a well known dish, but here the taste was entirely different)..
Nice conversations all around, then informal consultation on the various health and philosophical subjects mentioned in the talk.
The managers who had come to the talk, on that Saturday morning, slowly departed to their respective destinations, while I began exploring this area of exquisite colonial buildings some of which were museums now..
More talk, more walk, more history, the hindu connection to Java where we were now..
Back to Café Batavia for afternoon gouter like the French would call it, a taste..
Among us were Indonesians of Moslem persuasion, so we patiently waited for the radio to announce the hour of breaking of the fast when we could celebrate it with them. We all headed towards a nice thai style, fondue style, cook yourself in the table restaurant. The food was delicious and fresh.
I had to say good bye to my dear Indonesian friends from Bogor as I was leaving early the next morning for Brunei.
It was not an expected visit, but as American Indians would say, nothing is coincidental. I had spent some pleasant months of my adolescence with my mother and father in the town of Kuala Belait in Brunei, and it was to say metaphorically a Good Bye to those memories, I thought to myself, that I am in Brunei. Over the long years of absence, Brunei had become dim in memories and the affection became oblivious, a vague sense of the past and now is the time to say a firm good bye.
There is something very artificial about Brunei, an Asian version of some of the Persian gulf emirates transformed, Malays dressed incongruously in imagined finery of their past, huge mosques to cater for the few and all the work done by outsiders, Europeans paid handsomely, Asians paid slave wages slightly better than what they would make in their countries but with the promise that they could migrate somewhere else. Strict division of labour and race and colour.
I witnessed this social violence, when a south indian looking man wanted a dish to eat at lunch, at a restaurant which was open. (it was Ramadan). He was subjected to some humiliation and had to produce his Identification Card and prove that he was not a moslem to waiters who like him were also foreigners but had transferred their own humiliation of being slaves to this poor man. I was enjoying a nice Paratta and a tasty Tea, and intervened on behalf of this man. I told the bullying moslems, you see this man is a Hindou, and you can see that in his name. They sullenly served him what he had asked for.
Back at the Bandar Seri Bagawan Airport, an ageing 777 aircraft which had belonged to Singapore Airlines many years ago, arrived from Melbourne, unloaded an unsightly group of foreigners with more than average weight. We took off soon after and arrived at Dubai soon after the night had settled in.
From One Slave land of Converted Moslems to another Slave land of Camel Drivers, I thought. Here you see Modern Slavery in its florescent fashion, Local Emirati, a tier below are the money hungry Europeans, not here for cultural pursuits, then comes various tiers of slaves, arabs from other countries, Filipinos, Iranians, all hues and statures and definitely on the bottom of the scale are the Bangladeshis…
My taxi driver was from Kerala, the person who checked me in the hotel was a braggadocios young Indian from Bombay, the bellboy was Johny from Philippines, an Egyptian brings up my tea at that late hour..the next day, Pakistanis in long robes are working under the 40 C heat at the wharf. No restaurants are allowed to be open (except in hotels and the airports) and eating in a public place can land you in jail. Shops are open full of eager shoppers for food.
To be faithful to my new regime of walking, I donned my newly gifted shoes, and went along the Dubai creek, the temperature was over 35 C early in the morning, to the stare of Pakistani wharfies and other slaves from the East. Needless to say, not even Mad Englishmen or Dogs were out on the streets and apart from the speeding cars I had the major road all to myself.
I couldn't wait to leave the Desert Soil now so full of concrete and find refuge in the Air France Lounge at the airport. I was not at all interested in the huge duty free emporiums where other slaves were at work. An occasional Emirati paraded with his family, but the airport felt like it was somewhere else in the planet, most of the passengers passing through and those serving them perhaps had the same passports!
I entered the lounge, the first thing was to treat myself to a flute of champagne, and then await the dinner onboard even though it was way past midnight. A brief stopover in Paris and soon I was at the familiar LHR terminal in London, waiting to hear from my sister and her husband.
Another treat was waiting at the Novotel LHR, they were there, had ordered a little something to eat and with them was a delightful mutual friend, who is a pleasure to be with. Our parting dinner that night was at Kazan, an “indian” restaurant serving Mogul dishes.
The next morning they left for Miami, it was the day after the end of Olympics and Heathrow had reported the busiest day in its history. It was nice to note that Olympics has had a wonderful effect upon the Londoners and the Britishers.. they had all become incredibly friendly and accommodating, I don't ever remember that, during my years as a student in this magnificent city.
This month has been a special month in that three of my friends were trying to get visas to visit places under some duress, and I felt great happiness when all three were granted visas to visit their loved ones and destinations of their desires.
One such was a visa granted to visit Cuba to a good friend of mine, who had been barred from doing so for many years for political reasons: I wrote,
This is the best news i have had from Cuba in a long long long time..
I want to be there to welcome you but before then, enjoy a lovely holiday without any pressure with Y in Jamaica .. if possible... and he replied
yes, finally!!, thanks for everything, I hope this is beginning of "new era"
American Indians believe that when you truly desire something, if you beg for it with a pure heart with true humility and gratitude, the wish may be granted. They are not talking about individual desires or personal desires, they usually mean the sacrifices you are willing to do for others so that their desires or dreams, not of a material nature comes true.
More good news came along..in conversations with friends far and near. I knew that somehow good feelings had once again returned to my life.
I realized that like Pak Joe my friend in Bogor, we have to extend our hands and say What can I do for you?
This is the difference in the parlance of Networking: we have to change from What can you do for me, to What can I do for you?
So when a student of Psychology wanted some advice, I called and asked What can I do for you? How can I help you?
i am among the indians of north america, the original inhabitants of this land, before illegal aliens began arriving and occupying the land. It is truly a pleasure to be with them.
I expect the coming months to be as pleasant as the month of August
Pak Joe and family
As always I wonder, where would I end up welcoming 2013? I have no idea..