Visits BACK Tales of the Class of 1959 REFLECTIONS ON A RETURN TRIP TO INDIA in 1999
Weldon. Sat. 4 Dec 1999.

[Also see 3Nov99 - Preparing for the trip]

REFLECTIONS ON A RETURN TRIP TO INDIA
(WHAT WAS BAD AND WHAT WAS GOOD)
November 14-28, 1999

Note: The terms "good" and "bad" indicate positive or negative feelings and do not have any specific moral or ethical implications.

THE ENVIRONMENT:
BAD: Crowds, lines, dust, exhaust fumes, urine odor along walls and outside public buildings, open drains, etc. all a part of India, but strikes one anew after being away for 9 years.
GOOD: People well dressed and nourished, few beggers, only 1 accident seen in Delhi despite all the "near misses". Decision of the young people of Delhi not to light fireworks on Dewali night as an antipollution measure.

ECONOMICS:
BAD: Service and handout mentality. I've always had a problem with tipping, but appreciate it's facility in getting things done and actually found myself doing so generously and "hilariously" on occasion.
GOOD: good rice crop this year (with irrigation 2 crops can be raised), many of the people in MP I know have opened small businesses in addition to their professions, money for "luxury items"

WILDLIFE:
BAD: Few birds, even crows, in the rural areas due to the extensive use of chemicals and pesticides. Natural forests of MP devoid of animals except a few bear. You never hear a jackal or see deer or peacock.
GOOD: Tiger and wildlife are thriving at the game reserve in Kanha.

MISSIONARY ERA:
BAD: It was sad to see the crumbling buildings and unkept compounds that once were home. In the villages surrounding Shantipur it was only the elderly that had a recollection of the presence of my parents 27 years ago.
GOOD: the Church remains strong though it has its struggles. Its witness and influence has grown through individual rather than institutional channels.

CULTURAL PROGRAM: (A new feature in celebrative gatherings and the entertainment of foreign guests in our Mission area.)
BAD: Microphone gain and volume have to be turned up to maximum distortion to be appreciated. My recorder contribution of a piece by Mozart was either unrecognized or disowned by the master.
GOOD: It was wonderful to see the talents of young people expressed through traditional music, dances and costuming.

GANDHI MEMORIAL:
BAD: He has fallen into disrepute amongst many of his country men as one who set the country back economically through his advocacy of the simple life.
GOOD: I was impressed again with the profound wisdom and charisma of a humble person with a mission. His list of 7 social sins is worth remembering: "Politics without principles; Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Commerce without morality; Science without humanity; and Worship without sacrifice"

TOURIST TRAP:
BAD: I got hit with it twice. the first time when a rickshaw walla dropped me off in an emporium in the Chor Bazaar to look around for a "few minutes" until the Chemist Shop opened at 11:00. the second was when I was the victim of the "shit on the shoe" ploy by shisters in Connaught Circle.
GOOD: I was "first customer of the day" and am happy with the unplanned purchase of a Christmas gift for LuEtta. I was able to ignore and eventually lose the young men that were so anxious to clean my shoe.

TRAVEL AGENTS: (A must if you are going to travel in India with a group.)
BAD: No bad experiences.
GOOD: Highly recommend International Ventures and Travel, with offices in New York and Delhi. Without Sunil Biswas we would have been bumped from our overbooked flight out of Delhi. He was worth his commission and a generous tip as well.

JETLAG:
BAD: After 5 days I'm still really dragging by mid-afternoon and can hardly wait for an after supper nap.
GOOD: Wakening at 2:00 AM and in the stillness and darkness becoming aware that my life companion is also wide awake.

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From Weldon Friesen
Subject: Indian roots
Date: 3 Nov 1999

Luetta and I are in the count down phase of preparations to leave for 2 weeks in India on Nov. 14.

The Mennonite Church in India is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Mennonite Mission in M.P. the Friesens will be well represented, with my parents John and Genevieve who are in their mid 80s, my 3 children, a daughter-in-law and 6 year old grand daughter, my brothers Stan ('58) and Delbert ('66) each taking one of their sons, and an aunt who with her husband, children and grandchildren make a party of 14. Needless to say we have kept the phone and e-mail busy trying to keep one another informed and get things coordinated.

On recommendation from Ann Lind whose family recently made a tour of India, we are using International Ventures and TRVL that has offices in New York and Delhi, to arrange our travel and hotel in India. they are the agency used by Woodstock, and have been very helpful, though I have given up at trying to figure out how they figure their charges on an individual basis since we never have received a fully itemized bill. It is going to take a different mind set to enjoy the luxury of travelling as a tourist, rather than arranging for your own coolies and taxi etc., and I would welcome the suggestions of any recent travellers when it comes to tipping all of the persons who are "at your service".

Looking foreward to the WOSA meeting in Colorado next year, I can't think of anyone better to MC the occasion than you, Willie. And Jerry, it sounds like you have a wealth of good suggestions to get your thinking started on planning the worship service. Happy birthday to Dick. the last time I saw you, you gave me a chain and lock to secure our suitcases for our train trip from Dehra Dun to Delhi in '92. Our children didn't think a visit to India would be complete without some train travel, so while my parents take the plane, the rest of us will take the Gondawana Express from Raipur to Delhi.

Weldon

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