Letter From New York 03 28 15 In Holy Haridwar…

When I wake up in India, everyone I know is 9.5 hours behind me, sound asleep. It’s a little odd but I have gotten used to it. Beginning the day with an Indian breakfast, I moved on to two presentations here at Cognizance that I was interested in attending. One was by Kamlesh Sharma, Director of Coca-Cola, India. He is a remarkable young spokesperson for his company, invested with more enthusiasm for company, culture and product than I have recently seen in any individual.

He was followed by Elizabeth Nyamayaro, Senior Advisor, UN Women, who was here to talk about and evangelize “HeForShe,” a gender parity campaign launched by the UN earlier this year with a speech by Emma Watson, she of “Harry Potter” fame. And, yes, there is an app for that.

Following lunch, my new best friend, Ron Eglash, of RPI in Troy, NY, just up the road from Claverack, and I went with two of our young hosts to Haridwar, one of the seven holiest places in India for Hindus, the place where the Ganges flows into India.

We traveled for an hour to get there, through the dusty plains of northern India, past the roadside shantytowns and masses of humanity, threading our way through traffic, tossing our hat at danger at every moment. We rode past massive construction projects, all of which seemed halted at some point in their development with no sign they would ever be completed.

Walking on the bridge across the Ganges, you can stand and watch people bathing in the river. People by the dozens sell empty plastic bottles of varying sizes so that the pilgrims can take home the holy water of the Ganges.

People with deformed limbs line the walks, begging. It was a scene I remember well from my other times in India. One old woman looked me in the eye and I lined her tin cup with paper rupees. She reminded me of my mother.

In some ways, it felt very much like I was part of the Raj, sliding through the crushes of humanity in an air-conditioned Toyota, passing close enough to people that our eyes met and caught, my wondering about their world, as I am sure they wondered about mine.

Whole families transported themselves on motorbikes, no one wearing helmets, children delicately balanced between parents. It appeared to me that no one in India uses seatbelts either. Ashad, one of my hosts, languidly lounged in the front seat, his seat belt unbuckled.

The students who get into any of the branches of the India Institute of Technology are the best and brightest of Indian students. Each year only 5000 are granted places. I teased Ashad that I was with two of the brightest people I had ever known.

And I was.

We returned to the guesthouse as the sun was setting, a brilliant pink orb descending in the west and I retreated to my room to write.

While I was watching the Ganges flow, it was revealed that the co-pilot of the downed Germanwings flight, Andreas Lubitz, was responsible for the crash, with the loss of all aboard. He had said that his name would be famous. What a way to get what you want.

In Indiana, Governor Pence, has signed into law a “religious freedom” bill, which allows people to refuse service to same sex couples. He is surprised and frustrated that he is getting a negative response from a lot of folks, including the N.C.A.A., based in Indianapolis. The Mayor of San Francisco has banned all publicly funded travel to the state. Gen Con, a convention for gaming enthusiasts held every year in Indianapolis is threatening to leave. Salesforce.com is outraged and has said so.

Lots of celebrities and others, including Hillary Clinton, are piling on. The head of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce has called the bill “unnecessary.” Yelp is yelping, quite loudly.

Governor Pence is perplexed. If he had thought the bill was discriminatory, he wouldn’t have signed, he said.

He hasn’t ruled out a run for the Presidency.

Amanda Knox, who along with her boyfriend, had been accused of killing her roommate in Italy, has finally been vindicated and her conviction thrown out. The case has had more turns than a ride at Disneyland.

Apparently Hillary Clinton has wiped clean the server that she used for email in her years as Secretary of State. This isn’t going away for a long, long time.

And it’s not a very long time until I am giving my speech in the morning. I am skipping tonight’s festivities, a Swedish heavy metal band, and am going to my room after dinner to further prep my remarks and say some prayers that it all goes well.

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2 Responses to “Letter From New York 03 28 15 In Holy Haridwar…”

  1. Akhilesh Mishra Says:

    What do you think could be done to improve situations here, specially about families being transported on moterbikes. Keeping in mind the financial conditions of these families.

    • tombers Says:

      Since I saw your comment come in, it has been on my mind as I drove with friends from Delhi to Jaipur and back. It all seems too much. I wish I had a ready answer but I don’t, Akhilesh. Yesterday I saw a husband and wife riding a motorbike and wrapped in the wife’s arm was a tiny baby and I winced, because so much, so bad, could happen to them, all without helmets. What do you think could be done?

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