Much of my research while I will be in India will be about the Adivasi Christians living in Jharkhand. Here is a little background.
The Adivasi people are 8.6% of India's population, over 100 million. These are tribal people, the indigenous people, the original peoples of India. There are many tribes, and the Indian Constitution recognises the Scheduled Tribes, though they continue to struggle to hold on to their land and culture.
My anrscestors worked directly with the Oraon tribe, as well as the Munda tribe. These two tribes are very different in language and origins, but they lived together in the jungles of Chotanagpur. Now they are scattered in various Jharkhand, Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Chhaatisghar and as far as Assam.
About half of the Adivasi today are Christian. In 1868 when my anscestors first arrived in India there were a few thousand Christians in the region. Now the Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chotanagpur and Assam alone has over 500,000 members. There are others who are members of the CNI and Catholic church and various other Protestant and Pentecostal churches. This church that my ancestors helped establish remains predominantly Adivasi and was one of the first native churches to receive autonomy (1919).
See video above of a Oraon Christian celebration of Thanksgiving.
So there is another nine weeks before our grand adventure. I've made my list and I'm checking it twice:
Visa application: DONE. It's a tedious process, but the applications were shipped out and we should get our visas back in a couple of weeks. Likely after Thanksgiving. Gratefully only ten year visa are issued now, so IF I plan to go again (and I do) I don't have to go through this process again. India is making it easier for tourist to come to India. I think they particularly are happy to see those of Indian descent return to Mother India. While never having been an Indian citizen I kind of fall in the category since I have a parent, grandparent and great grandparent born in India.
International Air Flight: DONE So apparently people are still spending more than $1000 on round trip tickets between India and the USA. So maybe I can help out anyone interested in going to India. There are cheaper ways to go! My second cousin just bought a ticket from California for $650, our tickets from Chicago were in the $800-$850 range. In the past six months since I started looking into this, I saw tickets as low as $500. There are so many people traveling to India that prices for tickets are getting cheaper and cheaper! Still for most people this is a hefty investment. I highly recommend www.onetravel.com They always seem to offer good rates. You can always go to the airline and see if they have even a cheaper deal for the flights you find on onetravel website.
Domestic Flights in India: It seems that India has invested more in its air travel than rail. I hope to get a train trip in somewhere along the way. But mostly we will be flying around India. I haven't purchased the tickets yet. It is amazing to me that to fly across India it can cost between $35 - $75.I plan to purchase them in December. Here again, it's made very easy, or so it seems, with websites such as makemytrip.com or easemytrip.com. The proverbial saying is the taste is in the pudding....so we shall see how it is in the end.
Guest Houses: In all the place we are visiting we have found very reasonable (for US rates) guest houses. In most of them the rate is Rupees 2500/day or $37/day. You'll be hearing more about what I experience at each accommodation. Actually in one place our guest house is only $15/day. How I found these various guest houses is through recommendations from friends.o Still not too confident about finding something on line, though hotels are posted on line.
So what else is on the check list?
Learning Hindi: Progress is being made!
मैं हिंदी बोलना सीख रहा हूँ। यह हर दिन बेहतर होते जाता है|
Research Preparation: Now here lies my greatest challenge. I don't know what I don't know. I'm making a list of places and peoples to visit. My research so far has been very serendipitous,following leads that have brought me to some very interesting discoveries (primarily on line). I truly cannot imagine my self ever breaking out of this mold of the accidental researcher. However, when it comes to visiting places and people I may need to be more intentional and systematic.
Spiritual Preparation: perhaps more than any other time in my life I believe that I have been lead to this very time, by a power much greater than myself, for a purpose that reaches beyond just writing a book. This does not mean that I anticipate anything dramatic. What I anticipate is that every encounter, every location, every experience be full of meaning. I am preparing myself and quieting myself in hopes of enhancing my perceptions so that I won't miss out on the full experience. Honestly, it is a challenge. It is challenging to be attentive when there is sensory over load in a cross cultural environment. It's a challenge to keep attentive when one is perpetually on the move. On the other hand the senses can be made alive by the newness of experience. But beyond my personal receptivity, I also believe, it is necessary to be spiritually prepared to be generous with one's self. Can I leave every place or person better than when we met? I don't want to be guilty of being the consumate consumerist tourist. I hope that I am able to share any part of myself and enhance the lives of those I meet on this journey. Partly, I do this, with a clear sense of reciprocity. We all have something to share with each other.
In everything there is love, faith and hope, may the greatest always be love. With God this is possible.
The itinerary for the trip to India is taking shape. John Steinbeck once wrote, “we think we take a trip, but a trip really takes us.” I have to say that is how it has been and continues to be for this Heritage Trip to India. Doors have opened, support flows in from all sides, interests spark, and expectations mount. There are so many places of interest in India that it is hard to exclude some places. However, we are settling on an itinerary that is full of very specific intentions and promising purpose.
Please join in the journey by following on this blog. There are ten weeks till our departure, during which I will share some background information. For now I share a sketch of where the trip will take us.
Mumbai: This is one of India’s largest cities. A dear friend lives there and it is the best way to see the city, through the eyes of a Mumbaikar. It typically has been the place of arrival and departure for me, but I always leave it enchanted, hoping to return and wanting to learn more.
Reading: City Adrift, Beyond the Beautiful Forevers, Em and the Big Hoom.
Movies: The Lunchbox, Life in a Metro, Salaam Bombay, Slumdog Millionaire, Ye He Mumbai Mera Jaan.
Ranchi, Jharkand: we will be spending a little over three weeks there. From there we will visit other places where my ancestors lived: Chaibassa and Lohardaga (in Jharkhand) and Purulia (in West Bengal).
Books about Adivasi: Chota Munda’s Arrow, Harma’s Village (harder to find copies)
Movies of Ranchi today: https://youtu.be/VVDLfM03YHo
Kolkata: There are various museums and archives that I would like to visit, and it remains to be seen still what all I may find there. To my great delight the timing perfectly coincides with a friend’s son’s wedding. This is like icing on the cake, to attend a traditional Hindu wedding.
Movie: a random video on youtube to show what a wedding is like: https://youtu.be/-S9LjkI-KBs
Darjeeling: This is where my father went to school. It is a spectacular mountain hill station.
Movie: Darjeeling Limited is not the right movie to tell you about Darjeeling.
This youtube is quite lovely https://youtu.be/P5Vo_nK5qvU
New Delhi: This is one of India’s large cities that I am most familiar with. Unfortunately the pollution has made it one of the less favorable places for me, but some dear friends and colleagues will be the highlight of my stay there. I hope to get in a visit to the Taj Mahal which is south of Delhi.
Movie: Here is a basic tourist video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=093hf63pM24
Mussoorie: Another of India’s lovely mountain towns. My friend and I are making this a regular retreat for writing. It is the place where I went to school and is the closest place to “home” for me in this world.
Photos: a classmate’s brother has published a wonderful book about Mussoorie Then and Now
Dehra Dun: At the base of the Himalaya foothills is a city where I will visit friends.
I will be traveling and visiting India, with my Father. Our primary destination in India is Ranchi, Jharkhand. We will also visit other towns and cities in that north-eastern region as well as other places in India.