Aggressive Tourist Guides disturb Tourists’ Experience of India – 11 Oct 15

I already told you that the season started here and we thus have several guests at the Ashram. Of course they also go out, they enjoy seeing India but unfortunately they sometimes have unpleasant experiences as well – often because of the behavior of salesmen, guides and other Indians around them. Due to such experiences we have already stopped recommending certain sights and unfortunately two of our visitors had such an episode here in Vrindavan today, too!

Two ladies from Germany went out for some sightseeing in Vrindavan. When they arrived at Nidhi Van, close to Vrindavan’s Shah ji temple, they got out of the electric rickshaw. The moment they left the rickshaw, they were surrounded by religious tourist guides that wanted to take them to the temple and, most of all, through Nidhi Van, the garden in which believers say Krishna dances every night. There, guides get a good commission on every donation that a tourist or pilgrim makes while they lead them through. Obviously, they are all too eager to get a non-Indian tourist to guide through the garden.

That’s how our German friends were suddenly found themselves in the middle of these men, all wanting them to come with them for their visit of the garden. They were overwhelmed and even the rickshaw driver got out to help them until the gate. The men were practically shouting at them to take their services. Finally, the women gave in to the pressure and chose one of the guides which made all others back off. They vented their aggression on the rickshaw driver instead, slicing up his tires!

As expected, the guide in the garden told our guests stories of Hindu mythology, made them donate at various places in the garden and finally requested money for his services as well. They nearly got into a fight, he was angry for them not wanting to pay the horrendous price he quoted them. In the end, they settled – but of course, they paid a lot!

It was an adventure and in the end the ladies returned to the Ashram in good mood – but during this experience it was not at all times that comfortable for them, so they would not like to go there again. And we have had people return from other places disturbed, shaken and even close to tears due to such mob attacks!

That’s how we stopped recommending first Barsana, a pilgrimage place close-by that has beautiful temples but also very insisting beggars, guides and priests! After that, the next place we stopped suggesting to our guests was Fatehpur Sikri, after years that nearly every visitor who went from here to the Taj Mahal also had gone to see this ghost town with its beautiful architecture! The guides there stopped our taxi already before entering the parking place, refusing to back off until passengers would choose a guide to go with or got off the car early to walk through the crowd of guides and salesmen until the entrance!

Nobody was able to visit these places in peace! There was no joy anymore in seeing them, it was a constant fight to get other people off their back. Of course, everything is normally manageable – but if you only struggle, there is no space left to just enjoy!

That’s how we stopped recommending several places – and finally this means it hurts India’s tourism! It is bad for everyone: for the tourists who don’t enjoy or just don’t come anymore, for the salespeople who would have best business if the tourists are happy and even for nice people who would like to create such an atmosphere or want to protect foreigners from such attacks! Something needs to be done against those fake priests, guides and salesmen so that people can once again enjoy the treasures of this country in peace!

How we are different from regular Tour Guides – 22 Jul 15

I have told you in the past two days how a tour guide came to the Ashram and how he thought to give us a part of his commission. In the very beginning I had already mentioned that we are different from regular tour guides and find exactly this difference very important. I would like to take today’s diary to explain you exactly why.

Having read the blog entries of the past two days, I believe you already have an idea. I mentioned that we don’t ask people for tips, on the contrary, we ask them not to hand out tips to our staff. The reason is equality, fairness. We want people to feel good. This holds true for the people who work here as well as for the people who come here for a retreat, a training or a journey! A part of feeling good is that they pay a fair price for what they get and nobody takes any unfair advantage of them. We want to make more than customers, we want to make friends!

We have started offering tours and trips throughout India when friends asked us to. When we were asked by people who know us and who have been to our Ashram to help them with their planning. They were afraid of getting cheated or had made bad experiences before and trusted us to give them correct information and help.

Out of this, we decided to make our offer and it is until this day my own brothers, Yashendu and Purnendu, who go on these journeys. If they are not here, we don’t offer tours because until this date, we have not found a person whom we can trust enough with our guests. Whom we can entrust the trust of our guests. We actually see it as our duty to save our friends from the kind of commission business which the regular tour guides do all the time!

You cannot imagine how many times my brothers have been offered up to 80% commission of products that their non-Indian travel companions buy! We don’t do this! They will stand with you in a shop and, if you want them to, bargain with the shopkeeper so that you get the best price you can! If you ask them whether they believe a thing is worth the mentioned cost, you will get an honest answer! They will do everything they can to find whatever you are wishing to see or buy at a reasonable cost. It is, apart from others, a big benefit of taking a guided tour through India with us!

At the same time we have a trusted driver for our taxi, so that anybody who wants to go, can go without having to worry. No worries about accidents or not finding the car when coming out from famous sights, no getting lost or getting chauffeured to pre-decided shops where he gets a commission as well!

We do hope that we will one day find a guide whom we can trust as well but until this point, we will simply rely on ourselves. And I tell you, I won’t send any person with a man or a woman whom I don’t completely trust not to be cheating my friends in my country!

And that’s how, my friends, we are different from other people offering guided tours!

Hiring a Tour Guide in India who doesn’t expect Tips – Mission Impossible? – 20 Jul 15

Obviously, when people come from abroad to our Yoga and Ayurveda retreats, they are tourists. We even take them on guided tours or send our taxi with them to show them the beauty of this country. It is the definition of ‘tour guides’ and ‘tourists’ – but I still insist that we are different. Different from the usual ‘tour guides’ of India and with this experience, also our ‘tourists’ are much more than just that. Today I would like to explain you how this thought came up in my mind and why I think it is like this.

One day, a close friend of mine brought a person to the Ashram whom he wanted to introduce to us. As my friend knew that we often have guests who would like to see the Taj Mahal and other sights in nearby Agra, he thought of us when he met this man. He was a government-certified guide.

Being a certified guide, he seemed very professional at first: a fixed rate for a day in Agra, for a single person this much, for a group of ten people a certain amount for more people another amount. He could explain about history, figures, stories and simply everything you could wish to know.

I agreed and told him a fixed price was great but we have one condition for every trip with a guest from our Ashram: we will pay you and you should not ask the person who is going for sightseeing for any extra rupee.

The answer was: ‘Oh, I will not ask, that is fully fine, but you know, when you are out there with someone, explaining and doing your best, it is normal for them to give something! Everybody gives something and what can you do in such a situation?’ Yes, well, they practically stuff the money into your pockets, right?

It is absolutely not like this! A lot of our guests have done this day-trip and while some people may feel like giving a tip, most people don’t, as they have already paid a package price for the car and the guide! It just shows that you are expecting exactly this: that someone gives you a tip, otherwise you won’t do your job properly!

I told him that we don’t have the culture of giving tips in our Ashram. In fact, we ask our customers not to give money to our staff members! A lot of people contribute to the experience they have here and if they only tip the masseuse or the driver, the kitchen staff or the gardeners will not be considered. We are very much in favour of equality and that’s how we rather give them a bonus on their salary from time to time. Anybody can add to the amount which we save for them for such occasions!

I know however that normal tourist guides really do expect to get extra money – directly or indirectly! They will either straightforward ask for it or they take visitors to shops of friends where these charge a fortune for cheap souvenirs and then pay the guides a big commission for bringing customers into the shop.

Tomorrow I will tell you how this man was absolutely no difference here – and how exactly we make a point that we are actually very different!

3 Types of People that want to stay at our Ashram – 12 Feb 15

I told you yesterday that we get emails by people who have religious interests and want to come here but obviously with expectations that we would not be able to fulfill. I explained the way how we can already read such ideas out of the lines that we get. While we sometimes get such messages, it is however far more often that we get emails of people who have very different thoughts and feelings when they inquire about a stay at the Ashram.

We really get more frequently mails by other kind of people. Apart from the overly religious believer about whom I wrote yesterday, I would like to introduce you to three other types of people from whom we get inquiries:

1. Your average guy/girl looking for stress-relief

The first of these ‘types’ is simply the quite typically ‘mainstream’ person who is fed up with the stress and hectic in corporate life, the anonymity of his work, apartment and life in general. Who may be lonely and suffer from depression, looking for relaxation and stress-relief, or even in physical pain, searching for detoxification, pain-release and exercises that help them soothe current and prevent further pain.

Of course our doors are open for this ‘kind’ of person because we know that Yoga and Ayurveda are sciences that can not only help a lot with physical issues but also provide mental relaxation. A stay at our Ashram can help – and we love getting to know new friends of all stages of life, areas of work and locations of the world!

2. The Health-Conscious with Thirst for more Knowledge

Another kind of person who writes to us is someone who is interested in an alternative lifestyle which doesn’t harm our bodies and our planet. They are vegetarians, vegans, raw food eaters, therapists, masseuses and alternative practitioners – and of course many more. Just someone who knows that Yoga and Ayurveda can give him another point of view, more knowledge, many useful tips and ideas and inspiration to change life further.

We open our arms to those people and enjoy sharing what we know and also hearing what they have learned and experienced. Exchange and providing support – wonderful!

3. The esoteric Hippie on the Dream-Trip to India

This last ‘type’ is the esoterically interested person, the one who would call himself spiritual but not religious. Men and women who are interested in philosophy and different ways of living, who find themselves to be ‘different’ and don’t seem to fit in. They are often about to embark on a long journey to find themselves. To figure out what they really want, who they really are and what it is that makes them happy. They are looking for a deeper sense and want to try in the country of Yoga and Ayurveda.

While I am using the word ‘hippie’, many of the people who fall in this category would not call themselves by this name and I don’t mind or care. I know that our hearts are open to these people as well and we enjoy that we can often be the first haven, the first place that they go to in India, as this country often turns out to be different than they thought. Of course they get with our Ashram, as I explained yesterday, a place without religious dogmas. We love giving them a soft start into this crazy culture and by letting them take part in our life and surrounding them with love and liveliness, we hope that we are able to support them in their quest, their search for themselves!

Apra having Fun on Gran Canaria – 26 Jun 14

After telling you yesterday about our touristic experiences on Gran Canaria and Tenerife, I today want to just write about our little Apra and all the fun she is having on this trip!

We knew that she would love one thing: the beach. It is the biggest sandbox you can get and you even have water to double the fun! As expected, the moment when we reach the beach, what we try to do every day, she sits down in the sand and starts playing! She digs holes to put her feet in, buries the water bottle to keep it cool, cooks dishes out of sand and laughs while putting sand on our clothes, legs or towels! When I do exercises in the sand for my knee, she joins me and even goes for a walk in the sand together with me.

Together with Ramona, she has also been in the water. She is obviously a bit scared of the high waves but when they go in slowly, she enjoys the thrill – when will the wave come so high that I get wet on my face? She squeaks and screams of delight when it does!

More than in the ocean, she enjoyed in the small pool in Tenerife, without waves and at just the right height for her. She really explored the water there – and even came into the big pool with me to swim on my back!

With all these activities outside in the sun, Apra got tanned. Very much. Yesterday we laughed while comparing: her mother's skin, the brightest of all of us, only got a tiny bit darker, in my and Yashendu's face you can see a difference but when you look at Apra, her arms and legs are now even darker than ours!

The beach is not the only thing Apra enjoyed here though! From the flight to the ship, from meeting our friend Betty again to playing with her dog, from taking part in the dance parties to watching whale and dolphin shows in a huge zoo – Apra enjoyed every activity to the fullest!

She also knows that we are on Gran Canaria now and that it is different than India and Germany. Obviously, she noticed that the language is different, too! While she tried talking to Betty in German in the beginning, she soon noticed that she didn't understand her. Clever as she is, she started asking us to translate saying 'Tell Betty that I am wearing my new dress!' and similar requests. Then however, she had some time playing alone with her, too, and began testing with some English words, quickly understanding and repeating what Betty asks or tells. Anyway, she always listens to English, so that is nothing new!

She did notice however that Spanish is again different! When some of Betty's friends had dinner with us, Apra heard that they talked differently than anything she was used to – and so she just started talking anything, a random combination of letters. Maybe she thought this was how to speak in another language? We all laughed a lot! By now she has picked up some words though: hola, vale, venga and gracias – and yesterday told me in a mixture of Hindi and German: 'I also speak Spanish!'

It doesn't matter how much we are enjoying, seeing Apra having fun makes our joy a thousand times more – and that's why it is so beautiful to travel with her and showing her the world!

See Apra's photos from her Europe trip

Watch Apra's videos from this journy

India in Pictures – more than only Garbage, Dirt and Poverty! – 29 Oct 12

We sometimes exchange pictures with some of our guests at the Ashram. When there is a big celebration and we take a group picture with everyone in their nice clothes for example, we prefer not taking the picture from ten different cameras but with one and then copy it to other people's computers, cards or memory sticks. In that process, people sometimes offer us their pictures, too, and copy them for us. This is a very interesting way of seeing the world through someone else's eyes. Sometimes however I am shocked about what I get to see.

It is India, often starting in Delhi. There are the pictures of the road, many of them out of focus, taken out of a driving and shaking taxi or auto-rickshaw. Clicking through pictures you see how fascinated the photographer was with the world around him or her. Numerous photos of the animals on the road, monkeys on the houses, dogs lying on the footpath, cows lying on the street and a camel pulling a loaded wagon. You see the colours of the markets, the spices, the vegetables, some signs with Hindi words. It reads 'Gopal Singh Drugstore' or maybe 'Do not spit' but with its colours, it gives an impression, you take it home and show it to your family.

Then there is Agra, the Taj Mahal. Posing in front of the building, sometimes holding the tip of the tomb with the fingers, as though lifting it up – sometimes the hand hovers in the air just next to the building. Excited faces tell your thoughts: 'Wow, I never thought that I would do something this silly when I am at one of the most impressive buildings of the world!' Photos of mosques, temples, palaces and museums, full of people, tourists from all over the world and all over India. Again posing, this time together with Indian families, a school class or Indian students, eager to have a picture with you. On your own camera, you wonder, they will never get to see it, but well, you have it on your camera now. It is India, it is an adventure, it is fun!

Coming to Vrindavan, the scenes calm down. There are the colours, still, but there are less people, especially less tourists. The roads are more narrow, the markets smaller. The pictures display ox-wagons full of hay and women carrying bundles of long twigs on their heads. It looks more rural to you – although Vrindavan is still a town, not a small village, as you realize when you get to see Nutella and Kellogs Cornflakes on the market. Of course you take a picture to show it to your friends and family.

It is not this all that shocks me, no, not at all. That is what you do on a journey and this is how everyone takes pictures. To take them home and show them to their loved ones. Show what you have seen and how different this country on the other side of the world is.

It is the other photos that make me sad. The pictures that you take when you don't walk on the main road, those photos on which one does not see impressive buildings or well maintained and clean gardens. It is the dirt. It is the garbage. It is the stink that you thought you could not take a picture of but which now seems to come out of the photos of the side of the road, where sewage water is standing in the heat of the sun.

And the poverty. Pictures of small children, wearing only torn shirts, their legs crusted with dirt, sitting with their bare bottoms on that same road that you walk on with your shoes, on the same road where those animals, that look so cute on other pictures, eat, sleep and defecate. Photos of pigs, digging their noses through mountains of plastic, waste and garbage in an empty plot.

It upsets me to think that this is what you saw when you came to my country. It makes me sad to think that this is what you will show your family and friends. It shocks me – but then again, I know about it. I don't feel like going out myself in my own town because I know about the dirt and bad smell. We run a school for the children of such families whom you are taking pictures of. Those who don't have anything. But still, those pictures shake my heart and make me wish that we could do much more.

The only consolation I have when I am in the middle of these feelings is that you have stayed with us and saw our children. I click further on and I see that you took photos while they were playing, laughing, studying in school, dancing on an Ashram celebration or waving to you when you met them out on the road. It is like a little dot of light in the darkness when I see that you caught the poor ones with a big smile in their eyes and on their faces, be that in our Ashram or anywhere outside. That makes me feel that it can be alright that you took the other pictures and maybe good if you show them to others. You might not only tell of sights and tourism on one hand and dirt and poverty on the other but also about happiness and love.

About help and compassion.

About what we can change and what we can give.

About love.

A Westerner’s Perception of India – Are they poor or are you? – 26 Oct 12

One of the participants of our Ayurveda Yoga Holiday described her experience here in India to Ramona and when I heard about the way how she described the people here and her own attitude towards them, I thought it quite interesting and wanted to write some lines about it.

When you walk through the streets of in India as a westerner, you will see a lot of people and you might think that they are poor. You see that they wear old clothes, some of them only wrapping a towel around their hips. There are hand pumps by the side of the roads where people wash their clothes, drink and fetch water to take it home. You see houses that only have brick walls, no plaster and sometimes not even bricks, only straw and some metal sheets or plastic. The life of those who live there is out on the road. That is where they cook, eat, sit to talk and also work. You see how workers pave the street with simple tools. Also in the markets you won’t find electric scales for weighing the food customers buy – shopkeepers manually balance the scale pans with weights, determining the prize. Everything is simple, people are poor.

It seems so clear to you, coming from the clean, tarred roads of your country that those whom you see in India are mostly poor. You see the dirt everywhere and you think ‘We could teach them ways to handle waste and show them how to do recycling!’ You watch how children and adults alike sit at the side of the road or in the fields to empty their bowels and you are prepared for the bad smell when you turn the corners of the town, thinking ‘We have so good sewage systems, we should bring them here!’

Our guest, having described this all, said something that I appreciate very much and that has caused a big flow of thoughts: ‘I realized that this all are very arrogant thoughts! I cannot really call these people poor! After all, I came here, to their country, because I am searching for something they have! They don’t want anything from me, I want something from them!’

It is so true! Thousands, no, millions of tourists visit India every year. Most of them are not only here to lie on the beach or to visit the Taj Mahal. They are here because they are on a search, they have an inner longing, a void that they believe can be filled in India. It is spiritual, religious, a search for peace and balance, for a calm mind and quiet emotions. For happiness. For love.

They often go on a longer journey without any concrete destination, just wanting to get to know country and people, convinced that they will find what they are looking for. They go in Ashrams, take retreats, do yoga and meditation. And they leave India, feeling richer, relaxed, taking something home with them from this country in which they first walked and thought people to be ‘poor’.

Maybe the people in India really have something to give you, why else would you be here? They can show you how to make the best of what you have. To be satisfied. To be happy. Not to compare yourself with everyone else and feel bad about it. To realize how rich you really are, not only materially but emotionally, in your heart. You learn to value the small things again and you find back to an inner happiness that cannot be shaken easily anymore.

India may seem poor to you but you came because you want to take part in their emotional wealth.

Vrindavan’s Temples – old ones for Prayers, new ones for Tourism – 4 Jul 12

When coming home from Delhi on Monday, we entered Vrindavan when it was already dark, maybe around 8 o’clock. Entering Vrindavan, we saw the colourful lights of the ‘Prem Mandir’ that Kripalu and Prakashananda have built and the crowds in front of it as well as in front of the ISKCON temple. Looking a bit more closely however, you could see clearly that it was tourists going there.

Vrindavan is known as the town of 5000 temples. Obviously not all of these temples are big buildings into which dozens of people can go. There are a lot of small temples, tiny shrines and the truth is that every house has its own temple, too.

I grew up in Vrindavan, playing on the streets and in front of all these temples. In our childhood my brothers and I saw how many new temples were being built, including the enourmous palace-like temple of ISKCON. When we had guests at home, we then took them to go sightseeing at that temple and told them how much money had been invested to build it.

The Prem Mandir, which was opened to the public only recently, was built in the last few years, too. I wrote about it in 2009 when it was under construction and mentioned it when it was being opened.

Last year, when we heard that Kumar Swami wants to build his own huge temple in Vrindavan, I talked with friends and more people and many of them asked what we need another big temple for. So I did some research and wrote my article.

It is true, why would local people want another religious monstrosity in front of their door? It would just be another cause for hundreds of religious tourists flooding the town who just want to see a big golden temple into which a lot of money was put. I anyway don’t believe in the number that he mentioned – five lakh crore! That would be a 5 with 12 zeros. It is just a figure that Kumar Swami used to impress people, just like he used the names of Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth or just like he says he has healed more than 500 million people.

All these figures are just there to get more people, more popularity and in the end more money. Those big temples are not being built in order to help and support people and put money into society for good but in order to take money out of society! And this is not right.

Instead of all those big temples people should have started schools or hospitals and run them for poor people who need it or, if not that, establish an industry so that the unemployed can get work and earn their living to support themselves. If Kumar Swami had taken his money and had really supported the poor, he would not have any problem now and people would not be against him – I had definitely not written my article had I not seen such claims in the newspaper advertisement. It is not only me, a lot of people are against this.

Local people use those new, big temples only as an attraction that they show to visitors. Tourists go there. Already in my childhood, we, my family and friends and the people around went to the old temples for worship. Bihari ji, in the heart of Vrindavan, for example, Radha Vallabh ji, Madan Mohan ji or Radha Raman ji. There is where people had and still today have their real belief. The center of people’s love and belief is old temples. They don’t go to pray in the ISKCON temple or in the Prem Mandir. They go because there are colourful lights, they can buy snacks in front of them and they can take pictures and say ‘I was in a temple which was built with so much money!’

Experiences of a Tourist in Vrindavan – 11 Apr 12

When our friends were here, they of course also visited the sights of Vrindavan. We went down to the Yamuna, as I already told you, they climbed the stairs to the top of the Pagal Baba Temple from where they could get a view over the whole town, they took several trips to the colourful market, they walked through Nidhivan garden and they saw the evening ceremony at Kesi Ghat. They enjoyed their time here and loved visiting all those places. There is however always something that could have made the experience even nicer.

I already told of our short walk down to the Yamuna. We walked down the newly-tarred Parikrama Marg and then turned to a sandy road. I really enjoyed seeing the sand, just as it was everywhere in Vrindavan in my childhood. There were parrots and peacocks and everyone was enchanted by the beauty of nature – until we reached the dirty waters of the Yamuna with dead cows lying in there, everything stinking badly.

Our friends went up the nine floors of the Pagal Baba temple and enjoyed the view from up there, trying to find the Ashram, looking at the Yamuna in the distance and getting a better idea of the geographical situation of Vrindavan. Ramona, who had been with them, told me that on the walls of the complete staircase people had written their names, the dates when they were there, phrases that were supposed to be funny or insults. It is a temple, a holy place, pilgrims are going there – who writes on those walls and why?

When they came home from Nidhivan, the garden in which Krishna is said to dance every night with his loved one, they told of the beautiful trees there. It was nice to walk in their shadow and they marveled at their knotty branches. It is without doubt one of the most pleasant places in Vrindavan. For getting to the peace of the garden however you have to fight off several guides at the entrance who offer to take you through the garden and tell you the story of Krishna there. They insist and can be quite annoying to a first-time visitor. This visitor then walks by the many donation boxes in the garden. My friends commented that a Hindu pilgrim has to really spend a lot of money if he has to donate at each and every of those boxes and temples.

Finally, the best experience: watching the Yamuna Aarti, a fire ceremony, at Kesi Ghat. That is something we recommend to all our visitors and they love sitting there, watching the sun go down and maybe buying a candle and flowers in a little bowl to send it floating down the river. In earlier times everyone came back and told how peaceful the atmosphere there was. They still come back happily and they still enjoy the place there – but the word peaceful is now hardly ever a part of their description. The first people they encounter there are boat drivers who compete with each other to be the first ones to offer a boat ride. Having stopped their advances by simply sitting down and ignoring them, they look out towards the sun – and get irritated by the ugly remains of a bridge that was supposed to be built there but was stopped midway. Luckily now an artificial island in front of that will hide the ugly view. The most disturbing thing at the Ghat however is the sound of several loudspeakers shouting out spiritual songs. If someone was simply singing there, it would be fine but the speaker noise from both sides is too much to feel the peace of that place. People are happiest when there is a power cut – then we hear the word ‘peaceful’ from them again!

All these stories show that people enjoy seeing Vrindavan and going to these places but that they could enjoy it even more were there not those disturbing factors. And those factors are created by human and could be avoided. I know that rivers are dirty in other countries, too, that tourists write on walls of sights all over the world and that there are annoying guides at every tourist attraction, not only here. Why don’t we make our earth a nicer place and stop all this? Imagine you are the one going there, wouldn’t you appreciate more peace and cleanliness? Contribute your part and behave the way you would like others to. I am waiting for the day when our town is a place that I can show to my friends without the feeling that it was so much nicer in former times.

Experiencing Indian Culture and Traditions in Trinidad – 25 Dec 11

Apart from giving lectures in Trinidad in 2002, I also got to see the country a little bit. My organizer and his family showed me around. Of course, the language was still a kind of a barrier and when my Hindi-speaking friend was not with me or others were talking to me, people had to repeat what they said many times. They had the accent of their country and it was different from the English I had heard in London. Their names were Indian but they pronounced them differently, with the accent of the country. But somehow it worked out and I enjoyed my time there.

The country was very beautiful. I loved the nature of this tropical island. We went to see the island of Tobago, too, for which we took a short flight of about 15 or 20 minutes in a small plane for only six people. It was amazing to see the transparent, blue sea there with wonderfully clean water. It was amazing and I took pictures and even filmed with a video camera that my German friend, the doctor, had lent me.

The people whom I met were all very welcoming, loving and hospitable. They, just like the Indians whom I had met in London, had made effort to preserve the culture of their forefathers and so I found many aspects in their lives which were similar to life in India. My new friend, who had invited me there, told me that he himself had never been to India but that he had found out that his ancestors had come from U.P., our state, and he would like to come there some day, too. I got to know that most people wanted to visit the old home country India at least once in their lives.

People in Trinidad tried to connect with their roots and traditions not only by attending programs like my lectures but they also invited me for ceremonies and rituals in their homes. Along with the knowledge about such religious rituals, their forefathers had also brought along a lot of superstitious belief.

I heard a lot of stories among the people there which showed how much they feared black magic and such. They believed that others could harm them in some way through bad rituals and bad wishes. I visited one family and was told that they and another part of the family were not on good terms. They claimed the others were jealous and had gone to India to perform black magic rituals on them.

I had the impression that here these believes were stuck in people’s minds even more than in London. Maybe it was the difference of the big metropolitan of London or an even stronger separation of the Indian community but I encountered a lot of superstition.

Indian culture was prevailing more than in England in other areas of life, too. Here in the Caribbean I also met a woman about whom I had the feeling that she liked me. During my whole stay there, she was always somewhere around, happy to show me the country and to help in any way possible. Although I could feel her affection through her looks and how she told that she liked my program and would love to come to India to visit some time, we never had any physical contact. We did not even shake hands. It was just as it could have been in India. I also appreciated her affection and it was a beautiful experience.