Bhubaneswar stinks. A sickly combination of cow shit, open sewage and human urine overwhelms the smelling sensation. It is noisy as well. The deafening sounds of hundreds of cars, buses, trucks and motorcycles constantly honking keeps me up way past 23:00 each night and wakes me up roughly around 05:30 in the morning. It is dusty and sandy and it lacks pavements. Human beings, cows and other non-wheeled sentient beings stroll to the side of the roads. Capital of the poorest state of India, aesthetic is not a priority for Bhubaneswar.
The flat I’ve been allocated is right by a main junction, thus I cannot escape the honking and stench even in my bedroom. I share the flat with two other ex-pats: Juliet and Anna. Potentially the flat is a good one. It is very big and has a fully equipped kitchen. I have a bed , a wooden table, a plastic chair and a closet. Other than that the flat is unfurnished. So we live in a really vast empty space. Functional, but not warm or inviting. Traveling to the office takes 50 minutes by bus followed by 1 km by foot.
A Sense of Renunciation
What else? There are only about 15 ex-pats other than myself leaving in Bhubaneswar at the moment. Most of them will be gone within a couple of months. The development professionals who are not VSO volunteers not only have actual salaries, they also received nice allowance from their NGOs to purchase furniture to furnish their houses. They can also afford to buy cheese and fly instead of taking ridiculously long train journeys. Some of them even have drivers and cars and generally a complete different lifestyle to mine.
I have opted to join the VSO. It has a humble approach which I preferred and appreciate but the allowance I receive doesn’t really allow me or my colleague to purchase any meaningful furniture so it looks like my house will remain empty for a while. I got to say this is the first time since I’ve landed in India a month ago that I feel a sense of renunciation. For the first time I feel that I actually am giving up on more favorable conditions to “save the world”.
Last week was challenging and in the heat of events I temporarily forgot that arriving into India to carry out a development project is a dream coming true. That this is exactly what I’ve aspired for and worked really hard to get. It is just that my visualizations and aspirations of this project failed to include stench, dust, empty living room or daily two hours commute to work. At one point yesterday afternoon, as I was waiting for 45 minutes for a bus, under the burning sun of 35 degrees celsius, I even entertained the thought that accepting a placement in Bhubaneswar has been a mistake. I truly felt sorry for “myself”. For a minute there I believed my story.
Resistance in Futile.
So…… I’ve spent the last few days complaining. Whining. Comparing. Wanting what I don’t have. Not wanting what I have. Not accepting reality. Resisting what is.
And “I” suffer.
Of course “I” would.
I don’t know how many times I was told and how many times I was telling others – resistance in futile. It is our resistance of reality that increases our own pain. Our own sufferings. The past few days have been a great reminder of that basic fundamental truth.
My personal definition to the pali word “dukkha” which translates into suffering, discomfort, dissatisfaction or stress, is any moment we resist what is. Any moment we don’t accept what life offers we are suffering. I’ve had plenty of those moments over the past week. Not accepting what life offers. Wanting things to be different than they are. Forgetting nothing is personal. And I suffer the consequences.
In a spirit of self compassion, conditions are far from being easy or favorable and it is understandable that I will be challenged. In the spirit of allowing things to be what they are I simply allow this whining phase to exist and exhaust itself. There is no point resisting the resistance. This, too, is happening.
I also try to apply my beloved teacher, U-Vivekananda’s, teachings: “so I suffer, so I’m in pain, so what?”. I know. I deeply know that this is just another impersonal mental formation. I know it is OK exactly the way it is – with the unpleasantness involved. I also know things are bound to change. As this is the nature of everything. So, I let Adva whine.
Yet, there are at least a couple of good things too about Bhubaneswar. First and foremost I like the office and the people at AAINA. Everyone is extremely hospitable and people go out of their way to make me feel comfortable and at home. Staff members took me around to shop for essentials, made sure my needs were met and were genuinely curious to get to know me. I also very much like my new flatmates.
So, in the name of fairness and for the sake of balancing this whiny post, please allow me to share my thoughts on some of the people and things I’m truly grateful for in the past few days. The order of listed sentences is random:
- Prakahsh from AAINA who picked me up at the station on Thursday night, made sure I get safely to my new home in BBS and even bought dinner
- Juliet who waited for us in the flat and welcomed us so warmly and informatively
- Parvati who sweeps and washes the floor of our home every single day
- Akshe from AAINA who drove me all over the city for hours so I could get my a sim card and a data card and my keys duplicated and a window screen. Not an easy task, I’m telling you
- Sneha, the director of AAINA who made me feel very welcome on my first day at the office
- Joyshna from AAINA who arranged all the picking up and driving around
- Anna, my flatmate, for her presence
- Priya – for making me feel so much at home in Delhi and for giving me a whole Indian ward raw
- Drew – for being so sweet and stable over the past three weeks during the country orientation
- Ross – for your kindness and generosity and outgoing heart and for sticking it out when no one else wants to deal with things
- Rinky Singh – for your motherly welcome and hospitality and your deep curiosity and inclination towards the essence of what is
- Paven – for welcoming us and for being so funny and so honest
- Mike – for your friendship and for chilled out attitude and for coaching me in basketball for the first time in my life
- Shekhar boker – for introducing me to a whole new dimension of India and for the donates
- For not having a Delhi Belli as of yet
- For the opportunity to visit McLeod Gunj for a weekend
- For the beautiful people who took care of me on the way down from the Himalayan last week
- Grace – my fellow yogini for your inner beauty and courage
- Namgio – for the meaningful conversation and for reminding me to take a good deep look at my virtue
- Miles – for coordinating a retreat of our beloved Vivekananda to Israel
- For the fish curry I had for lunch today
- For the comfortable crocks I’m wearing today
- For not being bitten by mosquitoes too badly
- For sitting in a temple today and listening to Mike Snider talks about infinity
- For being invited to pancakes evening tonight
- For my mother’s care
- For being able to fulfil my tax documents on time
- For being offered to apply for an exciting training opportunity in Afghanistan
- For listening to Shlomo Artzi’s Gever Holech Le-Ibod over and over again
- For sensing the inner life
- For being able to smell stench
- For being able to hear honks
- For having a healthy body that can walk
- For having eyes that can see
- For the food I’ve been eating in one of the poorest countries in the world
- For not having too many power cuts
- For bringing an electric kettle from Israel with me
- For having brown bread for breakfast yesterday
- For the appealing grapes I bought yesterday
- For being upgraded to 1st class on the train to BBS and being pampered like a maha raja all the way
- For Carl –for your long email
- Shelly – for the same reason and I still owe you one
- Mark – for taking the time to reply despite
- Gidi – for your friendship, your kindness and endless wisdom
- Jolene – for remembering me and writing to inquire how I was doing
- For buying a new yoga mat
- For sitting meditation
- For not needing to use the mosquito net
- For having a water filter in the kitchen
- Mira – for cooking me an beautiful lunch the other day
- For being able to fix my spaces in Delhi
- For watching Superman 1978!!!
- For finding a yoga school in Bhubaneswar
- For finding an Odisha dance teacher
- for writing and posting this blog
*My apologies to all my present and future friends in Bhubaneswar for the blunt words I’m using and for the grim presentation of the city. It is of course not personal and wasn’t meant to offend anyone.