From time to time, it is useful to see the beautiful in the unbeautiful...(said Buddha)
Posted on Saturday, May 11th, 2013 at 10:54 pm
We were all set for our first train journey in India, from Delhi to Amritsar, loaded up with rucksacks and filled with anticipation, when we were hijacked near the entrance to our platform. A man we thought was a ticket inspector insisted we needed a boarding pass to accompany the e-tickets we showed him. He declared we could not board the train without a boarding pass and we would be fined $190 each if we tried to! To cut a long story short, there was much animated talking on mobiles and replacement of one "official" after another, each presented as more senior and determined to help us.
So we found ourselves whisked off in a taxi with No 3 man to an office presented as The International Tourist Office, where the delightfully sympathetic and friendly 4th man managed to persuade us - with the help of a computer screen we couldn't quite read the data off - that all seats in first, second and third class were booked for the next few days. Similarly, we were handed a phone where the supposed bus company told us the buses were all booked out! The only proferred solution was a very, very expensive taxi and an eight hour drive.
Finally, in our desperation to get to Amritsar and our pre-booked hotel, we agreed to the private car. It then took another hour or so before we realised we had been duped. Stung! Taken for a ride!
But it had all been done so nicely (the beautiful in the unbeautiful) and so skilfully. They played the helpful part so beautifully and with such charm and smiles and cups of tea. We thanked each one profusely and only No 4 man in the supposed tourist office appeared a little uneasy at our thanks, protesting "don't thank me. I see you as my parents!" I wonder now, is that really how he would treat his parents...
But the aspect of this experience that I find most interesting is that we never lost our equanimity, even once we saw how we had been tricked out of our train ride and our money. Instead of anger, we found ourselves contemplating how thoroughly conditioned we were to believing people who appeared official. Indeed, both my husband, Alan, and I have a strong bias towards believing anyone who seems to be treating us with respect and doesn't sound hostile. So we were sitting ducks and oh so grateful for the apparent help.
What is satisfying to notice about our experience is that we really were able to see the beautiful in the unbeautiful. We admired their skill and were grateful for the lack of any apparent ill will from them, or from us. What we still remember are all the smiles and the attitude of helping us out of a [constructed] difficulty. We remembered that we could choose how to react and what stories to run through, introspectively and to each other, on that very long eight hour journey. We each knew that keeping our focus on the beautiful would keep us happy and support our equanimity. And so it did!
And even as we contemplated how it was that we were now driving rather than sitting back in our booked first class train carriage, the view from our window gave ample opportunity to further reflect on the beautiful in the unbeautiful and the unbeautiful in the beautiful. The road was shared by military vehicles of all types, numerous multi-coloured trucks, modern cars, tuk-tuks, rickshaws and bicycles and the view constantly changed from beautiful temples to tent cities of plastic and sacks; flat, sun-dried, barren land to lush reticulated crops and green trees.
Future posts will, I hope, have more exciting photos than these but you can imagine my difficulties taking photos with a slow camera on a bumpy road, sitting in the back seat of the car. These do at least make the point!
So just to further contemplate the dharmas of impermanence and consequent uncertainty about what is to be found in present and future experience, I will throw in today's contrasting example of outstanding beauty and devotional intensity experienced during our morning visit to the Golden Temple of the glorious Sikh tradition. It was one of those very particular, very strong, emotional and spiritual experiences.
Enough for now. In our first three days, India has already thrown us contrasting deception and sublime beauty of form and spirit. We have been reminded of the benefit of seeing the beautiful in the unbeautiful and the unbeautiful in the beautiful.
PS for Alan's version of events see his blog here.
Hi Jacqui, Just reading the Buddha's teaching on thought process where he states "by self evil is done, by self is one defiled, by self is no evil done, by self one is purified, both defilement and purity depend on oneself, no one is purified by another". What you showed was an example of real free will, by choosing to not letting anger or frustration control your mind. Great pictures apart from the rouges gallery you encountered it must have been a great experience. I'm afraid I would have been sorely disappointed missing out on the train journey as it is my most favoured mode of transport. Many thanks Bill
Ha India...land of extremes and everything in between and how beautifully photogenic she is...lovely to hear your tales and see through your eyes and heart
Thanks Jacqui.It sounds like a very interesting and non-rewarding trip (only in terms of money of course). Enjoyed your stories. Well done you and Allan. Safe travelling.
Ahhhh India! How familiar this story sounds. Indeed there is much that is beautiful and much that is in unbeautiful in India! May your journey continue to bring you many blessings.
Mother India, the land of sacred deceptions and ancient timeless unfoldings.
This story could have been mine at Delhi Railway station. I walked in the main gate toward the station and was engaged in conversation with a pleasant man in business garb, he then said goodbye and left, immediately another man was walking with me asking what I was looking for and proceeded to give me advice as to the way to the ticket office. In this way, very [plausably) I was with the fourth man and found myself at the other entrance to the station grounds further down the road. Unwittingly I had been persuaded past the actual station building entrance and was being directed across the main road to the multitude of ticket/tour office shacks. At this point the penny dropped that I had been well and truly scammed. And rudely (for he seemed a very nice person) I said an embarrassed "aw fuck off" and turned on my heel and back to the grand steps of the large pillared building and ran up the stairs to the glass-walled, air-conditioned refuge, the ticket office filled with white skinned europeans. The first I had seen since arriving in Delhi.
I found these attempts to befriend and con me to be incessant and very often incredibly subtle. In both India and Sri Lanka I purposely determined to toughen up, but in the process became less trusting and firmer in my disengagement. For sanity's sake I adopted also a blanket 'no' to begging hands and unsolicited offers of assistance.
Despite my brief expletive, my equilibrium in India was amazing. Perhaps the cultural religiosity added to that cause
It's a wonderful tale you tell of ruse and reconciliation. Thank you!