Returning to Pune is like visiting a good friend who inherited a small fortune. The development over the last twenty years is shocking. While the standard of living has improved for half of the population, it is not uncommon to see a shiny spotless Toyota Highlander next to someone pushing a cart peddling cilantro or coconuts. This evening, on Mahatma Gandhi road, we saw a line of cars ten deep waiting at a red light while four cows sauntered across the intersection. How did the cows know that they had the green light?
Credit cards and cell phones abound, while the jewelry shops are packed with couples young and old ornamenting the lady of the house in gold. Shopping for staples at the newly renovated upscale market Dorabjees, we found organic millet, oats, soy milk, and an entire row of gluten free foods, alongside L’Oreal cosmetics. By contrast, for our daily fare, we buy vegetables at an outdoor produce market. The shop keeper’s son sleeps beneath the wooden shelving that constitutes the store. Rows of tiny eggplant, bright green coriander, tomatoes, cucumbers, oranges, giant mangoes, chilies and cauliflower beckon.
My neighborhood in Pune has cross walks, or at least they look like crosswalks, horizontal lines that stretch across the street at an intersection. I have never seen anyone use these crosswalks. Here is an example of government spending imitating the West with senseless projects. Crossing the street, however, is a worthwhile project, and it can be a frightening one. Walk like a cow, slow, deliberate, and never try and gage where the moving vehicle will be next. The driver will avoid you. This is nerve-racking the first few times, and it eventually builds patience, courage, and, out of necessity, to remain completely alert.
I began my studies at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Institute in 1986. At that time, there were very few cars on the road, no one had a credit card, purchases were wrapped in newspaper, and water buffalo strolled down Hare Krishna Mandir road. We ladies were advised to cover our arms and ankles, and to not go out alone after eight PM. Well, all of that has changed. The last ten years have brought industry and growth to a country that suffered from over regulation and corruption. By 2008, India had established itself as one the world’s fastest growing economies. My daily visits to the Institute now include passing through a tall gate guarded by security personnel and signing into a government log.
Terrorism has changed the face of daily life everywhere. It has also encouraged many people to seek out practices that embody values supporting community, an internal locus of control, healthy lifestyles, harmony and peace. For real peace lies within.