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Love, Edward

Inner Journeys

by Edward Butterworth

© Edward Butterworth
Brahmin in the Gokarna Temple © Edward Butterworth

Gokarna, Oct. 31st. Four hours south on the train from Goa; this place – a small beach town full of temples – balances nature and culture and has abundance in both. Yesterday I was up at 6:00 a.m. and walked with my friend Gillian over two headlands and across two palm-fringed beaches, eventually coming to a small sandy beach with a few paddy fields behind and nobody except us and the friendly dog that designated himself our guide. I went skinny dipping in the warm waves.  

Today, as I walk around this temple town, I see many traditional Brahmin men. They have shaved heads except for a choti, a little pony tail. They wear a sarong and a shawl and have a loop of string over one shoulder. Often they also have caste marks on their foreheads – horizontal stripes of white and red chalk. I am still reading India, a Million Mutinies Now, a book by V.S. Naipaul in which he details how orthodox Brahmins live. Interviewing a scientist from a Brahmin family he traces the decline of their tradition in the last three generations. Describing his grandfather's life (and the life of countless preceding generations) he says, (pp.166), “The whole thing was ritualized in every way. For example, if your father was alive you shouldn't face south when you ate. If the shadow of a lower-caste person fell on your food, while you were eating, you stopped. The food became impure. Nobody should touch you while you were eating and you had to eat in a certain posture. Some people were so orthodox they couldn't even hear the voice of a lower-caste person while they ate. These people ate deep within their houses. ”  

I can view Indian tradition through the lens of Co-counselling Theory. In this theory different social groups are seen to be differently oppressed by society. It is an over-simplification to say that women are oppressed by men or the working class is oppressed by the upper class. All social groups are oppressed by their prejudices, assumptions and self-limiting beliefs.  

My favourite restaurant (it has chocolate lassis, a yoghurt drink) in town is run by Satish and his fiancée, Emma. It is vegetarian but not “pure veg” because the food is not cooked by a Brahmin. So orthodox Brahmins do not eat there.  

As far as I am concerned all their purity rules and prejudices are self-limiting, inimical to their spiritual growth. The sectarianism of the different castes divides people from one another, whereas true spirituality unites people. Their traditions are busy creating the illusion of separateness at the same time their meditations try to break it. Sticking to their rules, orthodox Brahmins may feel superior, but they are not free. Freedom comes from being self-directed, from abolishing all rule-following and all internalized voices of external, traditional authority. Not a path of comfort. But from this perspective the decline of tradition is opening a door for human evolution.  

© Edward Butterworth
Satish (left) at his puja. © Edward Butterworth

Nov. 4th. Satish is a beautiful man. A pussycat. His restaurant – the Mahalaxmi – is five minutes from the beach, Main St., Gokarna. The restaurant is full of foreigners every night. Arborite tables and benches – three outside, four inside – a concrete floor, stucco walls painted white. On a high shelf by the door hangs a print of a painting of Laxmi, Vishnu's consort, in a frame with glass. An oil lamp burns on a shelf beside it and there is a garland of calendulas draped on it. On the other side of the picture are bookshelves with sliding glass doors. On the shelves, toilet rolls, packets of biscuits, pasta, soap, cigarettes, a radio and a few books in English. The toilet is across the yard in the back. It is a squat toilet with no running water. Outside the door there is a tap, under it a bucket and a jug. Outside the front door there is another bucket and jug at the hand-washing sink, soap provided.

Satish has a little English, which he uses fluently. He is 30 years old, slightly built with dark skin, a mustache and a ready smile. His sincerity shines through every word he speaks. When he asks me how the meal is, I reply, “Very good, delicious! ” He says, “It is important to me. ” and I believe him. When I say, “I like that it is important to you ” he smiles, puts his palms together and bows his head in silence.

Satish tells me that he only went to school for one year because his parents were poor. From age seven he worked. He can read and do arithmetic (almost). He has picked up English from travellers. He rents the space for the restaurant and has a loan from the Grameen Bank. (Grameen Bank was started by Muhammad Yunus in Bangladesh. It offers micro-credit and small business loans for people with no collateral, only assurances. It has proven to be a most effective instrument for empowering people at the bottom of the social hierarchy and has been copied in many countries. Yunus was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2006.)

I ask Satish if he is Hindu. He says, “Not Hindu, not Muslim, not Christian. All. ” I ask him what caste he is. “People's caste. ” I gather that he has transcended orthodox Hinduism and is more universalist. There is a part of Hinduism that he likes and a part that he leaves behind. He says that he has done a lot of meditating. He is in conflict with his parents about his views. Traditional Hindus obey their parents in all things. Here is a man who thinks for himself and who is happy. He has only once been to the city, Panjim, and he didn't like it.

© Edward Butterworth
Diwali festival on Gokarna beach © Edward Butterworth

Today is Diwali, the festival of lights. Last night everybody gathered on the beach at sunset dressed in their best clothes. They were celebrating the marriage of Shiva to his third wife, Parvati. At around 9:00 p.m. the priests brought a palaquin (a carriage carried on the shoulders) with an image of Shiva and his wife back to the temple from the beach through the main street. There were candles on everyone's porch and the procession stopped at each house along the way, giving a puja (blessing) in return for sacrificial offerings of food and flowers.

Tonight Satish invites us to return at 10:00 p.m. for his puja for Laxmi, who is the goddess of money and prosperity. In the street there are lots of firecrackers, and children are going around to all the businesses with bags. At each place they receive gifts of money – a rupee –puffed rice and candy. Could it be that they believe that in order to experience abundance one must manifest it in generosity?

It is 10:00 o'clock. The restaurant has been cleaned and the tables removed. The benches are against the wall and in rows facing the picture of Laxmi. The door is decorated with flowers and leaves. Invited guests take seats, clientèle, mostly foreigners, but also staff. Satish, in a bright orange sarong and a purple and gold silk shawl over his shoulders, is transformed from his everyday drab green shirt and pants.

© Edward Butterworth
Satish (left) at his puja. © Edward Butterworth

The priest (Brahmin) arrives and starts the ceremony immediately. He and Satish light a dozen candles and as many incense sticks. The fragrant smoke drifts through the room. They start chanting, the priest leading, Satish echoing, glowing, serene. (For all his moving away from orthodoxy, clearly he still believes in the magic of this puja.) They put flowers all around the picture, offer food and circle a candle around it. Behind them, on the wall above the bookshelves, two geckos peep out from behind a picture frame, waiting patiently for their next meal to fly by. Emma gives everyone a handful of rice, which we will throw as if it were a wedding. Then she comes around with puffed rice, flower petals, a packet of crystallized sugar and a five-rupee note for everyone. At 10:45 the ceremony is over and it is Namaste and goodnight.




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Nov 4th. As a valued travelling companion I have India, a Million Mutinies Now by V.S. Naipaul. I share with him a fascination with tradition and its decline. By “tradition” I mean that process by which a culture is deliberately passed from generation to generation. The book is a series of interviews, mostly with people in positions of power or having been in power or with Brahmins (the priestly caste), orthodox or lapsed, together with his reflections on them.

Interviewing a scientist from a Brahmin family, he traces the decline of their tradition in the last three generations. Describing his grandfather's life (and the life of countless preceding generations) he says, (p.166), “The whole thing was ritualized in every way. For example, if your father was alive you shouldn't face south when you ate. If the shadow of a lower-caste person fell on your food, while you were eating, you stopped. The food became impure. Nobody should touch you while you were eating and you had to eat in a certain posture. Some people were so orthodox they couldn't even hear the voice of a lower-caste person while they ate. These people ate deep within their houses. ”  

Tradition laid down a pattern for every act in life, conditioned people into fixed, narrowly defined roles at home and in the world. This provided people with a great sense of security and stability and perpetuated the form of the culture for thousands of years. What Naipaul clarifies for me is not only some of the details of what Indian tradition was, but also how much it has declined in the last century. Last time I was in India, 25 years ago, I assumed that people here were living fully within their tradition. I guess this was because I was comparing their way of life with Canada's, where almost all outward forms of tradition have been swept away.  

Naipaul, Ibid, p.166. “My grandfather would practice the hard-core Sanskrit, the original mantras as written in the Vedas [about 3000 years ago]. It is the hallmark of ritualism that you don't necessarily understand the deeper meanings of everything you do and my grandfather didn't necessarily understand everything he chanted.” Just like the use of Latin in Catholic churches up until about 40 years ago.  

At the time of writing I am sitting in the Double Dutch Cafe in Arambol, North Goa. I am in an enclosed garden. Overhead there is a canopy of tall coconut palms suspending a net which protects us from falling coconuts. Below the net there are smaller exotic trees and plants creating glades for the low tables and chairs dotted around the sand underfoot. There are cats and kittens lounging everywhere. Discreet sculptures peep from behind the foliage. I must have spent two hours here gradually overheating until I had to retreat to a cold shower and the fan in my room.

So tradition passed down culture, which may have been formed over a hundred generations ago, in the form of ritualized habits that controlled every aspect of life. My assumption is that all cultures, in their inception, represented the various human adaptations to particular places and times. As such they were a set of adaptive skills which were passed to succeeding generations until they became unconscious habits. This cultural transmission of habits happens by a natural, unconscious process of role modelling and imitation.  

Tradition appears to me to be a subversion or corruption of this natural process or a misunderstanding of it. Whereas the unconscious habits that form a culture would automatically pass from generation to generation, tradition is the deliberate imposition of culture on succeeding generations. Furthermore that which is imposed seems to consist of restrictions of natural behavior. Such imposition is inherently violent and children naturally resist such imposition. No surprise then, that physical violence towards children seems to be a common feature of all “civilized” traditions. Such violence may be an inseparable part of the process of traditional transmission of culture. Tradition, which can be so beautiful in its physical manifestations, seems to be unavoidably oppressive and its decline may prove to be a good thing in the long run.

 


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© Edward Butterworth
Edward and His New Friend © Edward Butterworth

Mahalbeshwar (Mb) is on a plateau at 4000ft and is delightfully cool. (Yesterday on my first day in Goa I took five showers!)  It took an effort to get to Mb – two trains, a taxi and a bus up the hill, plus continual asking which way and when?  I arrive after dark, finding myself in a main street busy with Indian tourists out for a stroll, buying “chikki”, locally made candy with nuts. It is off-season and hotels are 60% discounted. Watching a movie in Hindi, alone in my room, self-doubt creeps in. What the hell am I doing here?  No answer. I need to give meaning to my experience and I'm not finding it. “And I still haven't found what I'm looking for. ”  

The next morning, “A new day and I will face it, bravely, with all my heart. ” I wander round hearing the offers of the taxi drivers and, going with my gut feeling, choose a soft-spoken man of about 50 years old with a short white beard. Off we go for a three-hour guided tour, $6.00. His name is Aziz and he is a Muslim, does not drink or do drugs. He used to work at the Austrian consulate in Mumbai and went to Europe for a year with them as a cook. He drives me around the plateau in his three-wheeled motor rickshaw and guides me around Old Mb. There are ancient temples here.   

The main one has a pool with channels bringing in water from the sources of seven major rivers. They are joined here into one channel which runs along the back of a stone bull – Shiva's vehicle Nandi – and falls into the pool. As I go to take a picture a beautiful young Indian woman in western dress is standing there. I go ahead and snap, hoping to surreptitiously include her in the photo, but I am betrayed by the automatic flash. Then Aziz wants to take my photo by the bull, so down I go. The girl is still there, so I say to her, “Now you are a model! ” She laughs and flash, Aziz takes the picture.

He takes me to the “points, ” lookouts at the precipitous edge of the plateau. There is cloud swirling around and I only glimpse paddy fields and villages surrounded by the forested lower slopes of the plateau. Havens of peace and tranquility in an ocean of endless waves of humanity. Aziz tells me, however, that satellite TV is now ubiquitous, sowing the seeds of discontent and change. The villagers will all have seen Hollywood movies where everyone is rich and will now know they are poor. Aziz tells me that he is content in his semi-retirement, living on the family strawberry farm, his three children going to the local Muslim school. His contentment is beyond me.

Back in town for lunch I accidentally meet the same girl and her boyfriend in a cafe. I show them the photo I took of her and she wants me to email it to her. I sit with them and we talk. They both work in call centres in Mumbai, she in an English one, he in an American one. They have different accents. She is Jenny/Pavitra, age 23, and he is Angelo/Farhan, age 22. I show them photos of my daughters. Both Angelo and Jenny live with their parents, his Muslim, hers Hindu, and they are here for three days without their parents knowledge. I comment on how they are stepping away from tradition and into Western ways. They are making their own choices, which cut across tradition, just by being with one another. They are living with abundance; she making more than he (around $330 a month).  

We part company and I take myself for a walk around the back streets. I come across an old church that seems abandoned (almost 60 years since the British left town). Looking in through an open window I see the pews still intact. (Later Aziz tells me there are still a few Christians here who keep it going.)  Then it rains cats and dogs for an hour or so and I retreat to my hotel.  

After dark I creep out again with umbrella in hand, eat dinner, then wander up the muddy street with all its brightly lit tourist stores. Who should I meet but my young friends again. “You must be bored wandering around by yourself, ” Jenny says, “Do you want to join us shopping? ” She is doing the shopping; Angelo and I are watching. I wonder aloud if the difference is genetic or cultural. We are in a chikka store. She is buying fudge and chikka for a dozen presents, packets and boxes tied with white ribbons.

I ask, “How many people do you live with? ” Five, but she is buying for friends at work and she is buying for Angelo! In all this I feel very much included, part of the family – an easy, joking hanging out, communing with equals in the way I do with friends and family back home. We wander down the street eating bits of strawberry and chocolate fudge she has brought. She is complaining because her stretch-flared jeans are covered in red mud at the bottom. They drop me at my hotel and I give them both a hug, promising to call them when I pass through Mumbai on the way home.  

The next day I reconnect with Aziz for another three-hour tour of the local wonders. Later I catch the bus back down the hill. It starts off half empty but then fills up on the edge of town. I am jammed between two men, one of whom seems to be the village idiot. Short and dark, around 50 years of age, he is dressed in dirty white cotton with a white Nehru cap on his head. He thinks that if he keeps repeating things to me in Hindi that I must get it eventually. Eventually the boy facing us translates: “Where is your wife? ”  “In Canada, ” I respond. He continues speaking in Hindi, grinning and gesturing. He reminds me of Eric Idle in Monty Python, “A nod's as good as good as a wink to a blind man, eh, eh, know what I mean, know what I mean? ” My guess is that he is trying to get me to admit that I'm gay, since I evidence no wife.  

Relieved when he gets off, I settle in to enjoy the picturesque bus ride as we pass through the villages and paddy fields I had spied from above. Being jammed in this increasingly hot bus I feel like I am experiencing the real India.




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oshos ashram
Selling Robes Outside Osho's Ashram © Edward Butterworth

Oct 14. I am back in the deck chair by the pool at Osho's Ashram. It's dark green and three men with bald heads are swimming: billiard balls. I have been to three events in the auditorium. Now I have a sense of the internal form. The roof of the auditorium is in the form of a square pyramid supported at each corner by a massive pillar. Outside, it is smooth black marble. Inside, the floor of polished green marble tiles is the size of half a football field.

For the evening meeting, the main event, everyone must wear a white robe (I bought a used one the night before and washed it by hand). A certain atmosphere is created when there are about 300 people, all in white robes under a pyramid ceiling shimmering with coloured lights. “Celestial” is the best descriptor I can think of: God and His angels meeting in Heaven, except that here, God is not embodied.

When I arrive there is music and everyone is dancing – some wildly, some sedately. This is the first of the “meditations” this evening. In this and the other sessions (one is 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.!) there is shaking, yelling, speaking gibberish, rapid breathing, jumping, silent sitting and watching a video of Osho speaking. These things I generally appreciate, recognizing that their intent is to relax tensions, build energy and facilitate self-awareness. In the video Osho mentions the eclectic sources of his methodology, says he does not believe in withdrawing from the world to seek enlightenment, tells the tragic story of Wilhelm Reich and acknowledges his indebtedness to him. “Zorba the Buddha” characterizes his attitude, simultaneously seeking the serenity of the Buddha and the passion for life of Zorba.

I relate to Osho as a self-directed spiritual eclectic. I have to acknowledge that he knew a lot, but he had the temerity to set himself above Jesus and the Buddha. As Reich before him, however, he also came to a tragic end for the same transgression: flaunting taboos and powerful, vested interests in promoting healthy sexuality as the source of life-energy. (Reich was one of the inner circle of psychotherapists around Freud. He described himself as a sexologist. He wrote that repression of human sexuality was life-denying and existed because it served the interests of church and state control. He developed and practiced methods of “healing” which led to his imprisonment in the US for practicing medicine without a license. He died in prison, alone and ostracized.)

I keep seeing old guys with long white beards and caps walking by: Osho clones?

11:00 a.m. A beige marble plaza, 200 feet long, surrounded by trees and stands of huge bamboo, leaves continually fluttering down. Recorded dance music. Fifty people, ages 17 to 70, dancing across the whole, each one separately, no eye contact. In participation my spirits rise. This is experiential learning, direct to the body, which makes sense to me. It will do me no harm and may even do me some good. The only thing is that, even if it does me good, how will I ever know? I still do not agree with Osho's vision of Utopia as a gated community, but that doesn't mean that I can't appreciate some of his other offerings.

I have made friends with a woman from Brazil (not really close) who danced with me on our introductory morning. Otherwise, typically, I don't find it easy to connect with the other participants. Is it because I'm so introverted? I guess I would meet people if I took one of the various meditation workshops, but they are way over my budget and I'm not that committed.

Soap in your ear!

oshos ashram
Stage Set for Ramayana Play, Kerala © Edward Butterworth

October 16. Back by the pool in Club Med. This morning I was feeling lonely and full of aches and pains – the remainder of my cold probably. Then I went to the laughter “meditation.” One half-hour of laughter, one quarter-hour of dance celebration, one quarter-hour of silence, lying face down on the marble. We were told no tickling, no clowning. Only laughter from the inside. OK to look at one-another. I began by faking it, then started getting into it. But the thing was that I started to feel connected just from the glancing eye contact. With one guy in particular who held eye contact, I had the feeling of seeing through the mask to the soul, to some sort of unity. It reminded me that I have been starved of eye contact in this ashram – everybody is busy looking inward. It's far from the open, sexy place of my anticipation.

In the laughter I remembered an event from the previous evening. Imagine this: I'm walking along this busy street when a scruffy young guy I'm passing says, “Soap in your ear!”  “What?”  “Soap in your ear.”  Without thinking I reach for my ear, but in a flash he's right there sticking his finger in my ear!  I recoil, backing away. He quickly shows me a little metal rod with earwax on the end of it. He stuck that in my ear!?  No, it's bullshit; I had the doctor clean my ears just before I left. I start moving away faster but he is following saying, “Wait, wait, not finished,” and showing me a pair of tweezers with a bit of cotton wool in them. “Get away, go, go!!”  It didn't seem funny at the time but the next morning. Ha!  Add that to the list of scams to watch out for – he was teaching me to stay alert.

Souvenir Seller, Angkor Wat © Edward Butterworth

At Osho's Ashram. I am sitting on a reclining beach chair beside the swimming pool. It's in the shape of an "s" and Olympic-size. On this side is a restaurant serving only organic vegetarian food. I have a latte and a chocolate croissant!  On the other three sides are huge exotic trees reaching out over the pool. The walkway around the pool is black slate. I can see about a dozen people, all wearing maroon robes or maroon bathing suits (mandatory). I bought a robe yesterday, used, for $3. (A friendly worker advised me that I could obtain such cheaper outside the gate on the street.) It had holes burnt in it when the previous owner smoked ganga (marijuana). There is a big gong across the pool from me. 

Osho is the current name for Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, an Indian Guru who died in 1990. Highly controversial, critical of establishment values, revered by many and reviled by many, he described himself as the rich man's guru. He once owned ninety Rolls Royces, gifts from admirers. The Ashram he built in Pune, near Mumbai, is a modern Xanadu of 'stately pleasure domes' in exotic gardens. It is now run as a meditation resort by former followers.  

An association that comes up for me as I type this in a little Internet cafe is from less than two weeks ago. I was sitting with Agi on the balcony of the Sandbar Restaurant, Granville Island, Vancouver. We could see False Creek, full of yachts and flanked on the far side by green-glass towers of apartments, each with a fancy penthouse atop. My comment (Was it cynical?) was "This is a fascist vision of paradise." Everything was luxurious, clean and well run. Everybody was clean. The only poor people were in service roles, and they too were clean!  Some of the washrooms here in Osho's Ashram are done out in marble (executive washrooms?). The great unwashed do not enter here. It is a gated community, a little piece of the dream of Western civilization, transposed. In some ways all of Canada is a gated community: the main way of gaining entry is to have large amounts of money. But Canada is separated from the unwashed by oceans. Here there is just a wall. For those who stay in the fine accommodation here ($50 a night) the illusion must be complete. I go back and forth to my $6 room in the real world. I remember Winston Smith venturing into the slums in Nineteen Eighty Four, finding rough and crude people full of vitality.  

Still fresh, the memory of the serenity I felt in the alleyways of the fishing community in Mumbai. (And the words of Scott Peck – "True community is inclusive as opposed to exclusive.")  Yet all this is about my reaction to the form of this place and my perception of the dissonance between the form and the content. I don't think I have a problem with the content or with the people delivering it. I do contrast the form here with the Zen monastery I visited with Paul in Japan years ago. That was also very beautiful but neither grandiose nor exclusive. If we are all one, from whence arises this exclusivity?  

Morning Mist in Ooty © Edward Butterworth

So my challenge in being here: to be in it but not of it, to wear the robe on the outside but not on the inside. I am here because I like to dance, and the notion of dance meditation makes perfect sense to me. I know that I can most easily get out of my head when I dance. Apart from all the words and the beauty of this place, dance meditation seems to have been Osho's main contribution.  

I step outside and walk to the main street of this suburb. I sit on the edge of the raised sidewalk and talk to the woman who sold me the red robe yesterday. She is about my age and has a certain beauty still. She shows me what she is chewing: betel nut. Her teeth are all red-stained from it. She chews tobacco, too, and some other thing – all mildly psychoactive, I'm sure.  

I'm looking for a cheaper Internet cafe and ask the tout who brought me to my hotel. We sit on the edge of the sidewalk and talk about what is real and what is not. He seems to think there are two good things in the ashram: dance and available women. Yes, well there is a fantasy about Western women that I've come across before. We agree that it is best to let them approach us. He says I should get my hair cut!  

I am still asking, every few yards, for Internet when a grey bearded man, sitting on the sidewalk, says he has a message for me. I sit down again and he reads my palm, does some numerology and tells my fortune. I will live to 85, have a lover called Sandra and be happy. A good performance – deadpan – and I give him 30 cents. He asks for $3.00. I tell him that if I had agreed ahead of time I might have paid that. He shakes my hand.

I wait five minutes to cross the lane-less street. It is jam-packed with cars, buses, trucks, auto-rickshaws, scooters and motorcycles. It feels death defying to walk across. This is the intensity of India, like an ant nest, crowds of people moving in every direction, all available to pass the time of day. Yes, they would like to make some money but, if not, it's OK.

British Columbia's Edward Butterworth knows that travel is more than just seeing the sights. His deep interest in people, culture and politics, as well as his keen aestheticism, gives him a deep appreciation and down-to-earth perspective of life everywhere.

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cobber india

Travel in the developing world is, for me, primarily a wake-up experience, comfort being soporific. This life of consumerism—the one George Bush says is not negotiable—I see as an unreal and unsustainable bubble. When I travel, I don't go looking for fun and illusion, or for Disneyland or a hooker who can pretend she loves me. I want the cold shower of reality. Did I have fun on my recent trip to India? Now and then, but mostly not. It was difficult, and I've grown soft through the years. Yes, I looked for beauty in nature and art; and yes, I took breaks from the urban mayhem on beaches or in the highlands. But it was personal encounter that lent meaning to my trip.

In the city of Ooty, in the mountains of Southern India, I had one of my sandals repaired by a man on the street—the sole was starting to come unglued. I'd had it resoled in Victoria before I left at a cost $70 Canadian. The cobbler chalked a line around the edges and scored them with a sharp knife. He then hand stitched all the way round, the thread weaving in and out of the grooves he'd cut. Afterward, he cleaned and polished both sandals. He charged me 30 rupees (approx. 80 cents). I knew this was more than what an Indian would pay, but I didn't quibble. The man had tears of gratitude in his eyes when he thanked me, palms together. This was surely a big day for him.

The following afternoon, I went back. He sewed my other sandal, and I gave him 25 rupees, again received with immense gratitude. I asked his English-speaking friend how much money the cobbler normally earned in a day. "100 to 120 rupees," he responded. $3 to $4 didn't seem so bad, I thought. After all, this was India. When he volunteered that the cobbler had six children—all girls—my mental arithmetic went into overdrive. Among eight people, that equalled 300 rupees (approx. $8) a month per capita! I asked the friend if the cobbler's family had enough to eat. "Yes, yes, rice is cheap," he said. I searched for the cobbler over the next several days, but it had been raining, and doubtless he felt business would be slim.

On my trip, I read an article in The Hindu, one of India's national newspapers, about the plight of India's farmers, who comprise roughly two-thirds of the country's population. According to the paper, farmers' annual income has dropped dramatically in recent years: globalization has not been in their favour. The paper stated that there are now 131 billionaires in India whose net worth increased by an average of 71% last year. India's government, like the governments of so many other nations, is apparently enthralled by globalization's potential. They seem, though, to have abandoned the majority of their citizens: the national budget allocated only two per cent to agriculture.

The average monthly per-capita expenditure of farm households across India in 2003 was approximately $12. The breakdown includes: $7.00 for food; $2.00 for clothing, fuel and light; $1.00 for health care; and $0.50 for education. This doesn't necessarily mean starvation, as households often grow or trade for much of their food. It does mean the perpetuation of poverty, however, since poorer families tend to have more kids. It also means (according to the article) more debt-related suicides—a statistic that dispels romantic notions of village life. After getting this news from reality, paying 80 cents for my shoe repair didn't seem like such a good deal.