Adventures in India

This is an open journal of some of the things I see and think about while trying to find a place to live in India. It may or may not be interesting. I make no promises.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Instant Karmic Debt Reduction Plan

I am back at my favorite haunt here in Mamallapuram, the Luna Magica Restaurant and guesthouse. Sitting up on the large deck in front of my room, watching the ocean and enjoying the cool breeze. The last time I was here was seven years ago for six wonderful months.

There are many changes. The road from Chennai is much improved, and now there are cyber cafes everywhere, but the biggest change has been the impact of the tsunami. The beach is trashed. Fishermen loiter among the new, brightly colored boats the government has provided, but seem to eye the sea with suspicion. Tourists look like aliens in their clean white pants, large cameras dangling from their necks, gingerly stepping amongst the broken detritus of other's lives, as they make their way down to the dubious water.

My friend Kumaran tells me that people are still too afraid to venture out onto the ocean. His house sits right on the beach. The day of the tsunami Kumaran was sitting in the front, feeding his nephew. He said the sea withdrew abruptly from the shore and the fishermen started running. He grabbed up his infant nephew and called to his sister (she has a twisted foot) and they ran up to higher ground as the giant wave crashed in behind them. His mother is still too scared to return to the house. Kumaran said he knew something was wrong that morning because all the animals had fled the beach earlier for higher ground. Animals usually know what is going on.

The place has certainly been kicked around. People seem lost and dazed. The usually placid sea rose with terrifying force, and now people can't seem to trust her again. Kumaran and his family received 75 dollars and a big bag of rice from the government, but financial aid has been slow in coming. The biggest need amongst the fishermen are new nets (a large net costs $100), and the villagers need basic household goods and personal items. The Indian government is notorious for its corruption and inefficiency, and it seems as if it is living up to its reputation. Funds are trickling down to desperate folks very slowly. But the people are stoic, and carry on the best they can. Why haven't the major news networks done follow up stories on how the relief funds are being dispersed? A close-up examination of the disbursement process of money by government officials here would be interesting.

Tourists are helping out a little, but there are not many of these. My funds are very limited, and I am between jobs. But I remember reading in the news about a woman who raised 50,000 dollars on the internet in order to pay off her Visa card. She basically set out a cyber begging bowl. So I wonder if it might not be possible to do the same for the people here?

With this in mind, I am starting the Instant Karmic Debt Reduction Plan. If people feel the need of acquiring a little karmic merit (perhaps to offset previous actions of dubious virtue) they can send twenty dollars, and Kumaran and I will purchase requested items and give them to families that need them. The person sending the twenty dollars (almost a thousand rupees, which is quite a lot of money here) will be sent a scanned photo of the items purchased, and a photo of the people getting them. They will also get a copy of a receipt with the thumb print of the head of the household, saying the items were indeed received. I'll also post copies of the photos on the blog.

A friend has said there is an internet service called "Paypal" which allows people to send and receive money via the internet. So I have to look into that. Anyone with suggestions as to how to make this project work, please send them to me.

The large charities are doing good work, but small gifts of money given for specific needs can make all the difference. I am taking photos of the camps and of Mamallapuram, and will be posting them soon.

Those who know me will probably sigh and chalk this up to yet another crazy scheme to come out of my cracked noggin. But when for the price of a large pizza one can make an entire Indian family happy, it seems crazy not to try.

I would like to contact that woman who paid off her Visa card debt on the net and get some advice.


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