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.