Bitter Discourses

Isabel Hallock - India


October 22, 2017

The first day I arrived in my host family, my grandmother me an old book called Bitter Discourses. It smelled of curry and old dust, but she said it was one of her most sacred books, and to not damage it, or specifically, put it on the floor. As I began reading, one of the quote by their saints, Munishri Tarunsagarji, stuck out to me. It states, "In this world, some of the things grow very fast, while some other things require time. If one wants to grow carrots or grass, two to four days are enough. If you want to grow seasonal flowers, it is not possible with in 2 to 4 days, but it requires 2 to 4 weeks, and if you want to grow trees capable of standing out for hundreds of years, where beneath it people can take shelter, then such trees cannot be grown within two to four weeks. It takes your whole life to grow such trees, and sometimes even one lifespan is not sufficient." 

I miss home, yet am still trying to stay present as possible. It's difficult to go from days of familiar calls to family and friends to days of only speaking in broken hindi. I have been trying to find outlets to keep myself occupied and healthy, and far, my feelings of homesickness have been taken out on the local gym. The first day I arrived, I felt like I was in a scene out of Hollywood. It had been raining outside, the weather feeling like a wet blanket over my entire body, yet when I stepped into the large brightly lit gym filled with posters of hyper masculine men, mostly sexist music, and inhumanly buff trainers, I felt right at home again. After taking it all in, tried to sit down at a cycling machine, as I usually do in America. 

The trainer came over and tried to communicate with me in Hindi, which didn't work. There was one other man who had just joined the gym as well who spoke English, so he translated between us and then proceeded to say, "Take your shoes off, put them outside, stretch, then pick up the weights by the wall." I looked around and then noticed that nobody, even on the treadmill, was wearing shoes. I went back outside and took my shoes of, then proceeded to stretch. After I was done, I went for the 15 lb. weights. The trainer immediately took the weights from me and in return, handed me 2 lb. weights. He then handed the 15 lb. weights to the man. Feeling belittled, and  emotional, I immediately wondered what the hell I was doing. (The weights becoming my conception for the rest of my experience in India for the next 8 months.) I snapped back to reality and realized that India is a place that does not hold women to the same equality as men. A place where independence is very rare. A place where I, an American, was seen as different. So what the hell was I doing here?

  I then realized.. all of those feelings were okay. My presence, just being in a gym mostly filled with men, was enough to make me work as hard as I possibly could with the 2 lb. weights given to me. I knew for the next months, I would have to work with what I was given. It won't be easy, but I know I will grow mentally (and hopefully once my weight is moved up, psychically) and come out stronger then before. 

"I am a foreigner here. Soon, I will return to my native place, but a traveler lives very carefully. One does not fight with anyone. Keeps the sweet memories of all in his mind, because he knows in his heart of hearts that one day he has to return, and yes every morning and every evening you makes phone calls to get the news about your family there. Remember, you have also come from the house of the almighty. Make a telephone call every morning," (Munishri Tarunsagarji). 

Isabel Hallock