Category: India, 2018

En route to Kolkata

October 11-12

Well, I got carded for the first time in quite a while. At O’Hare. One of the few advantages to being seventy-five is that you don’t have to take your shoes off going through security. Once the guy was satisfied that I qualified, he asked whether I had any implants, pacemakers, etc. I think I was just profiled.

There are definitely advantages to flying business class. There was one person ahead of me in line. Here’s a photo that does not BEGIN to show the wait for economy. In addition to a full zigzag line, there was a straight line of people about a city block long.

Though I was there about two and a half hours ahead of time, I honestly do not know whether I would have gotten through in time. It’s the longest airport line I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen some long ones. And this was just to check in; there was still security to get through.

After an hour or so in a rather crowded Air France lounge that Air India business class passengers have access to, I walk the short distance to the gate. The plane is fine, but rather tired compared to those of many other airlines.

Now starts the least enjoyable part of these trips, the long 15-hour flight to Dehli and then the connection to Kolkata. I’ll do some reading, try (most likely, unsuccessfully) to sleep a bit and perhaps watch a movie or two. In yesterday’s post I alluded to Dorothy and not being in Kansas any more, and said that I had another Dorothy I’d mention, so, here goes.

My Dorothy, our good friend Dorothy Hunt, lives in the land of CA, not Oz. She’s been our dear friend since the mid-1960s, when she was in the University of Chicago School of Social Services with Carol, and her husband, Jim, was a close friend and law school classmate of mine at Northwestern. We remained in regular contact with Jim and Dorothy, though we didn’t see them often, because they lived in San Francisco. Ours was the type of friendship, though, that no matter the length of time that passes, you pick up right where you left off as soon as you get together.

Sadly, Jim died a couple years ago, but I remain in regular/irregular contact with Dorthy, who is the founder of the San Francisco Center for Meditation and Psychotherapy, and serves as Spiritual Director and President of Moon Mountain Sangha, Inc., a California non-profit religious corporation. Dorothy offers meditation and satsang gatherings, weekend intensives and retreats, and also sees individuals for both psychotherapy and dokusan (private meetings with a spiritual teacher.)

My communications with Dorothy invariably contain three elements—catching up on our families, some discussion relating to Dorothy’s spiritual work and an analysis of the SF Giants, the Warriors and the Cubs. Dorothy’s devotion to the Giants (who Jim used to represent) and Warriors is nearly as deep as her meditative practice and her emails always reflect her compassion. Her most recent email to me, for example, was to express condolences for the Cubs early playoff demise.

I bought Dorothy’s latest book, Ending the Search, From Spiritual Ambition to the Heart of Awareness, when it came out about a year ago, intending to read it right away, but I got distracted after a few chapter (thus proving how much I need the book). I told Dorothy that I’m taking her with me to India, which seems an appropriate place to delve into her writing. I may sneak some of her wisdom into this blog, so watch out, if you don’t want to be enlightened. Heading to Kolkata is a particularly auspicious time to be reading Dorothy’s book, because Dorothy actually worked with Mother Teresa (yes, I misspelled Teresa in my earlier Al Capone/Michael Jordan post), who, Dorothy says, referred to herself as just “a little pencil in the hands of God.”

Well into the flight the flight now, I have not slept, watched a movie or eaten (turned down the first meal but will be getting something soon; not quite sure what, because I couldn’t understand what she said). But I have delved quite a bit into Dorothy’s book and find it interesting and challenging. It’s challenging because the concepts she espouses are so foreign to me, as a Westerner—including the non-existence of a separate self, the interconnectedness of all beings and things, the centrality of silence and stillness, the illusion of progress, the importance of self-inquiry and the inadequacy of words to express any of this. Can one really square any of this with being a Cubs fan or, in Dorothy’s case, a Giants and Warriors fan? As one who has, from time to time, meditated and, like all Jews I know, been attracted to Buddhism, I am engaged by her writing and would love to participate in one of her silent retreats, some time.

The other reading I’ve been doing on this flight is Harari’s new book, “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”, which I downloaded this morning before leaving for the airport. He continues to be extremely provocative, and I don’t mind that some of his points are repetitive, from book to book. First, they’re important enough to bear repetition. And, second, hearing them again helps me to understand them better and appreciate how everything he says hangs together. Harari, by the way, is heavily involved in meditation. So, maybe the universe is speaking to me here.

Not sure whether all this book stuff and reflecting interests you. But I’m not writing this blog just for you, y’know, so just suck it up and keep reading.

Anyway, landed in Delhi. The gate we deplaned at seemed to be roughly in Duluth, MN. Walking to the spot where you claim and re-check your bag, you are channeled through an area of ritzy shops–airports have become shopping malls–in the same manner that guests at a Las Vegas hotel have to walk through the casino in order to reach the elevator that will take them to their room. Several Air India employees were very helpful and forthcoming in providing directions and help with luggage.

I had a few hours in the Air India lounge before my flight to Kolkata. After clearing customs, I was met and driven (more than an hour) to my hotel, one of the fabulous chain of Oberoi hotels in India, The Oberoi Grand. Nice.

It’s now the night of October 12, so I spent pretty-much my whole birthday in transit. My guide, Parthia, who picked me up at the airport speaks English very well and clearly (which was a concern I have). Parthia and all of the Oberoi people wished me a happy birthday, and this was waiting for me in the room.

Yeh, I know, you meant to send me a nice present. Luckily, you still have time, because I won’t be home for two weeks.

Plan to crash just as soon as I shower and post this.

And tomorrow, the trip begins.

5 comments to En route to Kolkata

  • Barbara Sandler

    Glad to hear your voice and
    sorta spend your Bday with you!
    Look forward to hearing more and,
    of course, seeing your photos. The
    snapshot of your cake and flowers,
    was a great entré into what’s to come!
    Your much younger sister(YMYS)

  • PRskie

    Though your whole birthday was spent in transit, I’m sure the rest of the trip will make up for that! I’m excited to follow along the adventures!!

  • Bob Heywood

    Happy Birthday, Arnie! Going to India via your blog will be something I look forward to each day. Thanks for sharing! Some of us Goats are headed to Crystal Lake today to try to stem the Red Tide. India sounds way more interesting. Be careful out there!

  • Gil C.

    It appears that your birthday was a major event in Kolkata. Although it’s a bit late we join in celebrating your birthday.abd wish you a safe and rewarding journey

  • kay Osborne

    Happy belated Arnie, Enjoy as always

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