Last Thursday, I woke up feeling a little blue about being 7,000 miles away from my family. I decided to use the negative feelings as a source of energy for a long walk into the main market of Rishikesh. My mission on that particular day was to practice gratitude and to be thankful.
On most mornings, strong winds blow from the Himalayas and the cooler air keeps the early morning crowds off the streets. About a quarter of a mile from my hotel, I ran into a local Indian man squatting in front of a public water spigot. Using some cold water accumulated in a small canister, he opened his dhoti (rectangular cloth draped around the waist and legs) and began to clean his body.
Another mile down the road, I passed a group of workers mixing sand and gravel to create concrete. They were constructing a retaining wall near a small section of the river boardwalk. At my home, the cement truck arrives and the sludge slides down a huge slide into the desired spot. At this site, a merry-go-round of men and women carry buckets of sand and rocks on their heads to be poured into the mixer. I sat spellbound for about 20 minutes just taking in this process.
Across the bridge and near the river cremation site, a large group of women were washing their clothes by hand in The Ganges. With arms extended above the heads, their long rectangular wraps flap like flags. From afar it looks like a colorful ceremony but in reality, they are using the stiff breeze to dry their garments by hand.
Much further down the road, I began thinking of one of my best friends in Boise. Many moons ago, he was injured in a crash and lost an arm and a leg. He does have a prosthetic leg, but walking long distances is not an easy task. Using my mobile, I video called him and took him on a twenty minute walk along the river. Because of the noise, we did not talk during the walking time. It was nice to be connected with a bestie in this manner. At the very end he said, “Dude, it felt like I was in a James Bond Movie.”
That evening one of my local Indian friends invited me to dine with his family. It was my forth trip in as many years to his home. Instead of turkey and stuffing, we enjoyed rice, dal, and radishes drizzled with homemade hot chili sauce. An endless supply of chipati (Indian flatbread) accompanied the piles of food. One of the sons, Vishal, works as a jeweler making gold rings that are exported to the US. He works six days a week and ten hours a day. He is paid around $275 per month.
Before going to bed, I was able to call my mom and wished her a Happy T-Day. India is 12 hours ahead, so my goodnight was her good morning. There was no shortage of gratitude as I drifted to sleep.