At my school here in Darjeeling there is no internet or television for the students or staff, so I have been passing my time in the evening mostly with reading. I read a book about development in India, finished a couple music books, half a book about historical Jesus, and just started Gandhi’s autobiography, “The Story of My Experiments with Truth.” I love it. I’ve never read anything of his, so it is cool to be able to get introduced to his work while I’m here in India.
It has been interesting for me to make some comparisons with Gandhi’s travels abroad in England and South Africa as a young man over 100 years ago to my travels in India today. Gandhi talks about eating with a fork and spoon for the first time in England and having to teach his wife and children how to eat like Westerners before he returned with them to South Africa. For me, I still can’t help but feel a bit squeamish when I see some of the other teachers eating with their bare hands at lunch and dinner. We’re not taking finger food here either- more like straight up rice and curry. It is strange for me to watch an otherwise very polished young gentleman, in a suit, at a set table, in the company of guests, clean his plate with nothing but his fingers. I should learn how, but I am afraid to ask. Perhaps I will work up the courage before I leave.
I also find a lot of what Gandhi says about his religious quest to resonate with me. Of course, I am not anywhere near as thoughtful or devout as he was, but I too am quite interested in the ideas of God and Truth, so it has been nice to hear him recalling his encounters with the various religions of the world and how they affected his search for God. It is easy to poke fun and roll your eyes at the yogis and Eastern medicine types in the US (or for me it is at least), but there is certainly a spiritual energy here that can not be ignored. I’m not sticking around to become a monk or guru, but I can’t deny that there is something truly other-worldly about this place.
That is enough from me for now. I’m grateful for everything. I will leave you this week with one of my new favorite quotes:
“Service can have no meaning unless one takes pleasure in it. When it is done for show or for fear of public opinion, it stunts the man and crushes his spirit. Service which rendered without joy helps neither the servant nor the served. But all other pleasures and possessions pale into nothingness before service which is rendered in a spirit of joy.” - M.K. Gandhi