Spirituality infuses everything here

Jasmine Patel with a baby goatJasmine Patel with a baby goat.
Udvada, India.

I am having an amazing time in India, and think everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime.

I’ve been wandering around the streets all day to really get a feel for what life is like for people. I am really touched by how spirituality infuses every aspect of people’s lives here. When they open their stores and businesses in the morning, they burn incense, chant or pray. At a little temple right outside the train station I watched people leave flowers, bow down, or just walk by and stop for a moment, close their eyes and offer a prayer for a safe journey, or give thanks for a safe journey. Right next to the temple at a little mosque, the same thing was going on. I was really touched to see the sincerity with which people offer their quick little prayers. And it’s done so often throughout the day. These actions really create a nice atmosphere and environment, despite all the pollution and crowds.

I am really in an animal lover’s heaven. There are all kinds of animals all over the streets. I’ve been petting and hugging cows, buffalos, goats, lambs, dogs, kittens, chickens, etc. A little puppy wandered into the community co-op where my grandparents live. It’s a tiny little thing and I was worried about it, so I fed it some milk and sat with it for a long time. The little kids saw what I was doing and came to see how they could help. Well, the good news is, the entire community decided to adopt the puppy. So the little kids collected money from everyone who lives in the co-op so that we could take the puppy to the vet to get its shots and get it treated. (It has mange). I was willing to take it to the vet and pay for its treatment, but it was so nice to see how the entire community pitched in for this and everyone really loves the puppy.

Monkeys hanging out. Mahableshwar, India.Monkeys hanging out.
Mahableshwar, India.

This tribal/community living really has its benefits. It’s difficult to explain, but different from co-op living in the US. You’ll just have to experience this for yourself sometime. The only downside is that I don’t get much time alone. And since I tend to be a loner, it feels a little strange to be surrounded by people all the time. But there is so much love here that it really doesn’t matter. And I am taking time for myself everyday to meditate and take walks. It’s very peaceful.

Now for some fun news — I actually drove a little auto rickshaw down the road to my grandparents’ place! This afternoon I was coming back from the city The road was almost empty, so I convinced the driver to let me drive. An auto rickshaw is a small, 3-wheeled vehicle. It was fun. You just have to remember that they drive on the opposite side of the street here.

Reflections on India

The hand-carved Kailash temple at the Ellora caves.The hand-carved Kailash temple at the Ellora caves. Can you find the wild parrots? Avrangabad, India.

Well, I’ve returned from my trip to India and am now back in Seattle. So I thought I’d share some of my reflections about my time spent in India. While there, I was able to visit my grandparents and aunts, travel, work at a couple of clinics with some really amazing doctors, and just take in all the culture and wonders of India. Throughout India, I visited Bombay, Pune, Goa, Ahmednagar and Udwada.

I ended my trip by lounging on the beach in Goa. How wonderful! I was in South Goa, where the beaches are secluded and totally clean — blue water, white sands, lots of sun. I got to soak up some sun before returning to the gray, drizzly weather of Seattle. I was supposed to go on a fishing boat with some local fishermen, but instead of fishing they ended up taking me out to see the dolphins. It was so wonderful to watch the dolphins swimming all around our boat. One even jumped up out of the water.

I was also happy to see that the environment is really intact on the South Goa beaches. I saw sand crabs running all around, clams in the sandy surf that would burrow back into the sand, lots of fish, seaweed, wonderful palm trees, and the sand dunes were in good shape.

There are a lot of rice farmers in Goa. It’s fascinating to see the canals they had built during the winter (dry season) to bring water to the rice fields. When any of the fields (rice, millet, corn, etc.) are harvested, the grain farmers all over India invite the farmers with cows, sheep, goats, etc. to bring their animals and allow them to eat whatever is left in the fields. This way the fields get cleaned up and the cow and goat dung (of course they are going to poop while grazing) fertilizes the fields for the next crop. What a smart system of sustainable agriculture.

I had the wonderful opportunity to work at an integrative medicine clinic in Ahmednagar. This clinic is run by donations and all care is given for free. There is an ayurvedic doctor, a TCM doctor, a homeopathic doctor, and an allopathic doctor. They all see the patient together and then together decide on the best course of treatment. It’s nice to see that these doctors had put their egos on hold and were genuinely concerned about giving the patient the best care. None of the doctors believed their system of medicine to be more superior, so there were no arguments about the treatments. The doctors were salaried and not paid based on the number of patients they treated.

In most cases, a combination of therapies was used on the patient. It was interesting to see the TCM doctor and the ayurvedic doctor creating combined herbal formulas from the two systems of medicine. It was also quite an experience to feel a patient’s pulses change with the administration of homeopathic medicine. The TCM doctor asked me to check the pulses of the patients who were being treated with homeopathic medicine. The homeopathic doctor would give a dose of a remedy and then the TCM doctor would check the pulses for any change. It was so interesting to see these modalities combined in this way.

They were experiencing a water shortage while I was in Ahmednagar. It was quite an experience to bathe with only one bucket of hot water. So I had to come up with some innovative methods of washing my long, thick hair. If I used up all the water to just wet my hair, then I’d have none left to rinse with. So I devised this technique of dunking my head in the bucket of water, shampooing, and then using the water to rinse my hair. After about three weeks of this I ended up with quite a few spilt ends. So before returning to the US I got my hair cut (nothing drastic — about six inches chopped off).

A mehendi (henna) artist applying mehendi to Jasmine Patel’s hand.

A mehendi (henna) artist applying mehendi to Jasmine Patel’s hand.The co-op where my grandparents live wanted to throw me a going away party, which I really didn’t want. So we finally agreed on a mehendi (henna) party. If you’ve seen me since I’ve been back, you’ve probably noticed my hands and feet look like they’ve been tattooed. Well, it’s just henna and will fade in a couple of weeks. But the henna artist did this intricate design freehand in just 30 minutes on my hands and my feet. I was in awe of her talent.

So after being out of the country for 4 ½ months, I am back and hope to see you and/or hear from you all soon.

Treating patients with acupuncture, Chinese herbs, Tui Na

  Jasmine Patel with a carving of the marriage of Shiva & Parvati in the Ellora caves. Avrangabad, India.Jasmine Patel with a carving of the marriage of Shiva & Parvati in the Ellora caves. Avrangabad, India.

I have just returned from what you might call a “jungle adventure.” All I’ll say right now is…”Lions and tigers and bears, OH MY!!” I also had the opportunity to hike through the ghats, where some of the views were just breathtaking.

Currently I am working at an integrative medicine clinic in Ahmednagar. They use TCM, ayurvedic medicine, allopathic medicine, homeopathy, massage and chiropractic. It’s really stimulating to watch everyone work together. This clinic treats mostly poor people from a nearby village. I think one of the reasons they are able to work successfully with all these different modalities and always choose what’s best for the patient is because they do this out of pure love and service. They remove their egos from it as much as possible, and the patient is the one who benefits. Other practitioners from the US and Europe come to volunteer at the clinic.

I’ve really enjoyed this opportunity to treat patients with acupuncture, Chinese herbs and Tui Na. Patients in India and China are much more willing to take herbs no matter how terrible they taste. The Chinese herbal medicine dispensary here is a modest, little dispensary mostly full of patents, along with some loose, raw herbs. Everything is done through donations. I even had the chance to treat some children with acupuncture while I was here. That’s been a really great experience!! We basically do an “in and out” needling technique on children — get the qi in and take the needle out.

I visited the Ellora caves and the Valley of the Saints. These caves are 1,700 years old and have Hindu, Buddhist and Jain carvings in the base of a mountain. They’ve been preserved very well. I got there early so was able to wander through the caves practically by myself. That is a rare occasion in India — to be anywhere by yourself! It was really something to wander through the Valley of the Saints, around the tombs of Indian saints.

I’ve got about a month left here. Before I return I’ll be in Ahmednagar, Bombay, Pune and Goa, which should be a lot of fun. It’s a beach town. And I absolutely love the ocean and beach!

Acupuncture, Christmas, berries and business

Jasmine Patel with her grandmother Roshan Irani at Aulbless Bavg.Jasmine Patel with her grandmother Roshan Irani at Aulbless Bavg.
Bombay, India.

I’ve been working with an acupuncturist here in Pune who trained in India under the acupuncturist whom I’ll be working with in Bombay. He also trained in China for a couple of months in Beijing as well. He practices straight TCM, but at times mixes in a lot of ayurvedic medicine principles, sometimes prescribing ayurvedic medicine instead of Chinese herbs. So I am learning many new things from him, which is always fun! He lets me use his second treatment room to treat patients. I’ve gotten a following of patients now who are already saying they’ll be sad to see me leave and are telling me I should just live here. But don’t worry, you’ll all be dealing with me back in the US soon!

Christmas in India is not as commercial and the country isn’t all decorated and decked out like back in the US. The weather isn’t cold either, so it really doesn’t feel much like Christmas. My grandparents and their neighbors are planning a big tree trimming party and a Christmas dinner party, which should be a lot of fun. I’ll be making egg nog and spiced cider for the parties.

I just returned from a trip to Panchghani and Mahebleshwar. These places were breathtakingly beautiful. When my mum was little, my grandparents used to rent a cottage in Panchghani, which I visited. I sat on the steps and could just imagine my mum as a little girl running around there playing. I also did a lot of hiking and trekking there. There was a natural spring where people were stopping to fill up their water bottles. I have one of those bottles with a filter that will make filthy gutter water safe to drink, so I filled up and enjoyed the cool, spring water. I wasn’t brave enough to try it without the filter.

In Mahbleshwar they grow lots of berries and have some very well known jam-making factories. I really loved walking through the strawberry fields, and visiting the factory. I even got a VIP tour since I was visiting from America. There was a heavenly smell of berries all around the factory.

I’ve also been busy setting up some money-making ventures for my grandparents’ co-op in Pune. It’s a totally new complex, so the society is trying to figure out ways to earn money. They’re already doing the basics like recycling newspapers, bottles and cans to collect money. But as you know, that doesn’t make much money. Since the entire co-op is a Zoroastrian co-op, I suggested we contact one of the Zoroastrian bakeries about supplying products at a discount. They will supply the bread, milk, eggs and any other staples for the entire co-op with like a 50-cent discount per loaf, per dozen eggs, per liter of milk, etc. The products will then get sold to each person at regular price. So every 50 cents profit goes into the society fund. This arrangement will make a lot of money quickly, so they’re all very optimistic about it. It’s a win-win situation all around! I was really glad to be able to set this up and get it going for them.