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India Elite Has Chance To Aid Own

Glendora Press January 11, 1970

India Elite Has Chance To Aid Own


It was during the first monsoon that I would take on an­other extra-curricular activity which would introduce me to another life style in India.

Dave, one of  our UCD23 basketball players, who was in the unsuccessful UCD land development attempt, was a founding manager and captain of Fordham’s revived Rugby program of l964-65. Thus he had become interested in playing the sport and accepted when he was asked by some British chaps to play for the Bombay Gymkhana Club.

Lynus, another PCV, but one who did very little work and devoted most of his time to partying, drinking, and girls, also played. Dave introduced me to a few of the Rugby play­ers and they invited me to play, as I did. Rugby, a combina­tion of the skills of football and basketball without the pads, was fun. But a major part of the game was the drinking and partying after the game. On a PCVs’salary, we could not go that route often, but the hospitality of the British helped us to do so.

Their parties were a welcome diversion, for they had good food and sometimes some pretty girls. The young Bri­tish chaps were obviously interested in the latter attraction of those parties. We were too. However, the pretty girls ran a poor second to the attraction the food they put on the table held over us. The British, at first, were amazed at how repeatedly we’d return to the serving table and how long into the party we’d eat.

Educationally, rugby was a good window into British thought concerning the Indians. Many of them were embarrassed for us because of the conditions we lived under and felt we were foolish to try to teach the Indians by working from their level.

John Fuller Sessions, a British teacher at Cathedral School and rugby captain, saw this ruler-shah philosophy among both whites and Indians at the club, social, and edu­cational level. I realized it by working and living with the lower echelon, being part of the rugby club, and through at­tending rich Indians’ parties.  Not wanting to believe this was a natural trait of the upper classes, I decided, following John’s suggestion, to do some teaching at Cathedral School.

I was interested in entering teaching as a profession aft­er returning to the states and thought this might he a unique teaching experience. But that was not my main motive for teaching at Cathedral School (CS). CS did not seem to need good teachers as much as good workers were needed in social action programs.

I realized this. I also realized my language deficiency and that I would not be here forever. I felt, though not without a retort from my Christian-bred conscience, that it was not my, or America’s, prime responsibility to rectify inequities in a nation that was not mine by birth or citizenship.

I felt, with support from my conscience, that if I could, in some way, make Indians who possess the native and economic tools to see and feel and work against the inequities, then I would have done my, and America’s, part.

 Cathedral School was one of the three best schools in Bombay. It had the likes of the son of the Chief Minister of Bombay and the niece of the Prime Minister Gandhi. It also had the sons and daughters of those struggling middle class-families who knew the value of a good school’s name in get­ting their kid a little further ahead.

I started teaching part way through their first semester. I taught, and in some cases first had to learn, subjects such as British and Indian history, Indian geography, moral sci­ence, physical education, journalism, world history, and an honors course.  In all of them I found a setting to express my philosophy that they, the well-to-do, must get involved with their nation’s problems, which they so easily ignore or over­look.

How hundreds of well-dressed and well-fed kids could he chauffeured daily past the beggars, pass them walking to lunch at the local restaurants, and when asked in class to de­scribe what they noticed on the back street — say nothing about the baby who lived on the sidewalk, or the others, was beyond me.

I continued to take my bike into the main street, grab onto a speeding truck, and whiz to the orphanage from Cathe­dral School. Worli was also still on my visit list. But with se­mester break I also found the other work situations condu­cive to a month break for personal travel. I threw a leather bag over my shoulder and with some money from home and what I had been able to save, I was soon flying to Thailand to visit a PCV buddy from the Pakistan group we had both trained in before switching to our present country programs.

Thailand was hosting the Asian games, Dave was hosting me and his Thai friends felt they must host us. What a con­trast Thailand offered. The people were healthy, strong, and proud. Bangkok, in parts, looked like street corner shopping centers back home. Stores had window displays, streets were clean and officers directed traffic, nights were clear, quiet and romantic.

Dave mixed very little with Americans other than PCVs. He was down on the military and the influence they had in Thailand and found his Thai friends much more entertaining.

Even the trains were a joy to ride and the rich, verdant scenery was part of the eason. The green land and healthy brown people were helping me unwind from the grimness of India.

I took a ferry to Penang Island, found a cheap, little room, and walked in the drizzling rain to attend Mass on Christmas Eve in Malaysia. It was a lonely, pensive, and happy, though not merry, Christmas. I thought the typical thoughts — home, family, old girl, the past year’s rich and different experiences.

Later I laid in bed trying to assess just what all those influences were doing to form me, the man I would be.

The next day I found the PCVs who had been in Bangkok the week before and accepted their then extended hospitality. They lived in a pleasant little suburban house, exemplifying the fact which the PCV no longer hides, that not all PCVs ­are living in gutters. I stayed for three or our days, and dug their food too. I also dug the island and its deserted beaches, rolling hills, and neat secluded huts, all of which I saw first hand during my one-day, 52 mile bike trip around the island.

In Ipoh I visited with the family of a Malaysian whom I played rugby with in Bombay. They treated me like an honored guest. Yet, it took me a day to realize just how far their hospitality was extending.

My arrival at the Deen’s home coincided with Ramadan, which meant that all Muslims were fasting and praying Koran from dawn ‘til dusk. The Deen family, being especially religious, was eating at 4 p.m. (sunset) only, while they were feeding me gigantic and scrumptuous portions three times a day.

It was comfortable being in a family setting again and nice being treated as an honored guest. It was more than nice to know that this was happening to a stranger from a land 7,000 miles away.

I left the Deen family knowing a bit more about one devoted Muslim’s interpretation of his religion. Watching Mr. Deen spend hours in front of his TV listening to the chants of the Koran reader, talking with him about his beliefs and mine, and reading a Muslim book he gave to me made me feel how insignificant any comparative  religious learning I had been exposed to was. I left the Deen home with gratitude, love, and another little inkling of what brotherhood was about. I left for the road, and I stuck out my thumb. A few days later, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and their people were just pleasant memories. I was back in Bombay to work for nine months.