Self Examination

by francine Hardaway on January 16, 2009

There’s nothing like a trip to India to bring out the best and the worst in yourself. As usual, on this latest trip I wasn’t insulated in a country-neutral five-star hotel (except for one fact-finding lunch before visiting the Taj Mahal) or the business compound of an American company in Bangalore.

No, I stayed at an Ayurveda Clinic in a suburb of Delhi, next door to a school where 1000 children came to learn every day in their unisex uniforms of gray slacks and maroon blazers, identical from kindergarten to high school.

Students at the Jiva School listen to Rishi tell them not to eat junk food and to eat mindfully

Students at the Jiva School listen to Rishi tell them not to eat junk food and to eat mindfully

Indian parents are desperate to get a good education for their children. Public schools (our equivalent of private schools) are intensely competitive, and in the best Delhi schools if you don’t have a college education yourself, no matter how successful you are, your child may be rejected. India needs about 200,000 additional schools to get every child and education. Something like 40% of the population is under 20. (I’m hoping that Steven Rudolph, director of education at Jiva Institute, will correct me here if I’m off on the number. It’s big, anyway.)

At the clinic, where i lived in a room usually reserved for either people traveling from afar for Ayurvedic treatments or students of this ancient wisdom of mind-body-soul balance, the hot water and electricity both sputter fretfully and showers require exquisite timing and enough agility to balance shampoo,shower wand and body over a bucket to catch waste water before the electricity goes off or the hot water runs out. The day I arrived I was treated to a wake-up cold shower before my first meeting.

However, after the first day, which can be jarring, none of this matters. Not the layer of dust on the trees in Delhi, nor the Indian toilets with their scarce toilet paper and faucets with buckets for washing your privates, nor the litter in the streets, the poor living in tents by the side of the road, or the miscommunications of people who can speak English but don’t necessarily understand it.

The only thing that ultimately matters to me after the shock of the first day is the brilliance of the ancient Vedic wisdom and culture, coupled with the spirit of entrepreneurship of the people. Like no other country I’ve visited, the beauty of India’s spiritual tradition casts a warm glow over everyday life and draws me in.

I went there to help Jiva Institute expand its reach through online marketing. The principals in the company are mission-driven; they want to spread the wisdom of the Vedas to modern life. To do that, they have to fight the allopathic medical establishment, the misconception that the Vedas are attached to a religion, and the deafness of modern society to a balanced life. But after three massages, a week of detoxifying fresh, unprocessed food, and a whole lot of love, I came away feeling they have done more for me than I did for them.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

mvndrvrt January 16, 2009 at 11:54 pm


Your trip sounds wonderful. When I went to India in 2007, I was jarred for the first two days, and then I slowly began to realize what a brilliant and special place it is. The Vedic clinic you visited sounds wonderful.

I have talked with several people in Sedona who spent years studying in India and I am beginning to think it is something I want to experience for myself.

I’ll look forward to hearing much more about your trip the next time we can get together.

Welcome home,


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