Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Week 24: Goodbye to India

There are too many memories and emotions embodied in these past six months to try to capture them all in any one picture. As we depart from India to Italy this day, my thoughts are especially with students and staff associated with St. Thomas College. Here is the community that has welcomed me both in the classroom and in their hearts. Our group photo includes many but not all of those with whom I worked. Seated in the center is Dr. K.K. Jose, the Principal (who we would call President) of the College. The lengthy conversations he and I have shared have laid a strong foundation for what should emerge as an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) between St. Thomas College and Portland Community College (in Oregon) that may include a future student exchange program between the two institutions.

Much effort this week has been devoted to my completing a Final Report to the Fulbright folks regarding experiences relevant to my grant. Put simply, I was surprised to discover that various accomplishments during these 24 weeks include: 1) team-teaching 4 courses relating to Gandhian Thought, American Government, International Relations, and Nonviolent Action, 2) publishing four articles relating to Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Aristotle, and the Green Movement, and 3) delivering 24 presentations to a wide range of conferences, seminars, educational institutions, and community organizations. 2/3rds of the six months was spent in the beautiful southern state of Kerala, while the other two months involved traveling with speaking engagements in five other states of India. What an amazing collage of experiences, squeezed into such a compact period of time.....

By far the most wonderful memories are associated with people. The family of my teaching colleague, Stany Thomas, has taken us into their hearts and into their home. Much of this last week has been spent with Stany, his wife (Shanty) three children (Tom, Anna, and Hanna), his parents and his aunt where they all helped first Kristine, and then both Naomi and Mira recover from minor illnesses. It was with the loving support of this family that have enabled me to overcome computer problems that enabled me to both complete my Final Fulbright Report and write this blog entry (before we lose wireless internet access later today)!

Being able to share quality time with a few of those from my first visit to India (for six months in 1971-72) has been extremely special. Dina Patel, my spiritual sister and a soul mate: I am so grateful for our paths being able to cross three times during these six months -- and am very hopeful that you may come see us in the U.S. when your grand project is successfully completed (the republishing of the entire Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi). Laxmi Satyavrata, my friend from those challenging weeks in Calcutta, when birth was given to the nation of Bangladesh: may your friends bring you joy in your twilight years, as your light will always shine in our lives. Memories of others, mostly of this world no more, remind us both of our own mortality and of the blessings that each day may bring if we allow it to.

Other St. Thomas College people will be forever in our thoughts. Our neighbor Chumar and his wife, and the son whose marriage we were all able to attend just two days ago! K.V. Thomas, whose stimulating conversations about culture (as well as soccer!) have produced a lasting bond. Dr. Jose, our landlord, who gave welcomed us into his own home for two nights this week, has always shown great kindness. Stanys good friend, Mohammed Rasheed, who took time away from his duties at M.E.S. College Nekandum to show us the lovely backwaters of Kerala. So... so many others are also worthy of mention, but time is short -- and my internet connection will soon expire in a short time! Father Mathew, another good friend, will arrive to help transport the four of us to the airport at Kochi, where we will see Mira and Naomi off, enjoy a dinner with Father Mathew`s sister and family, and then go back for our departure from India.

FYI: our plan for the next two months is as follows: Mira and Naomi will take a flight this evening to Bangalore, then to Frankfurt (Germany), meeting Kristine and I in Rome late tomorrow. Kris and I depart early tomorrow morning and arrive in Rome (via Doha) earlier than our daughter and Naomi. Next week our blog entry will detail some of the adventures of the four of us in Rome. Following that week, we part ways, with Mira and Naomi traveling together in Europe (Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, and Czech Republic), while Kris and I will spend a total of three weeks in Italy and three more in Palestine -- before the four of us reunite together in Egypt for the last two weeks of July. August 1st we all fly to the U.S. from Rome, with Mira and Naomi going directly to Portland, while Kris and I will enjoy a one-week stopover in Chicago (seeing the Pierie Clan!) before returning to Portland on August 8th.

Enough for now. We must quickly complete our packing. There is also much activity relating to the funeral for a neighbor of Stany and Shanty: an untimely death of a taxi driver by heart attack at age 42, leaving behind his wife and two young children. The outpouring of support for this poor man`s family is nothing less than inspiring: from covering the funeral expenses to arranging future payments of his home mortgage (his first, approved by the bank only two months ago). In a nutshell, this is a fitting last memory of India: a land of great beauty and great poverty, where the strength of relationships provides the only true security that any of us may have. Not wealth, not military might, but people helping people -- at times reflecting what was once described by Martin Luther King as the Beloved Community....

It is my hope that these weekly reflections have been useful to each of you. It may be that what little we can share of our experiences here may relate to and feed the spirit of love in your own lives. Please be patient with future postings, as they may be as irregular as our future access to the internet, They should come near the beginning of each week, but we will see what is possible.

Goodbye to India for now. I have no doubt that I will be here again, if even it may be in the next lifetime.

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