Southwestern College and India–Trance-Breaking Experiences
At Southwestern College, we talk a fair amount about “Breaking Trances”—cultural, familial and intra-psychic trances. We get to seeing things a certain way, but we did not intentionally or consciously create those perspectives ourselves. Part of our job in “Transforming Consciousness through Education” is to help our students (and ourselves) maintain an awareness of our idiosyncratic ways of constructing, interpreting and understanding reality, and to make sure we are involved in their creation. So, we often break trances, encourage students to examine and reflect on their experiences, consult their own Inner Knower, and come out on the other side with a more intentionally constructed paradigm, or viewpoint on the matter, on life.
For me personally, perhaps the best Trance Breaking Class I have ever taken was called “Traveling in India.” Like a Vision Quest, India stays with you forever, and the lessons keep coming long after you’ve returned home to your familiar settings.
From time to time I will offer a glimpse into the experience in India, as a way of not only providing some entertainment, but of sharing some trance-breaking experiences I had there—sometimes more dramatic (the Taj Mahal), and sometimes little seemingly mundane scenes, like this one…
Internet Service in Agra: No Problem
In an almost back-alley of Agra, where our hotel is located, there is the usual scuffling and shuffling energy and garbled clamor that seems to be a signature of Indian afternoons. The pungent, but not altogether unpleasant, aroma of burning cow poo, a constant in Indian cities and towns, drifts past like a nearly palpable entity, an old friend. You half want to say hello.
A guy is guiding little white donkeys that are carrying gigantic loads of bricks—what seems like 300 pounds, from the visual. The donkeys do not appear to be particularly distressed over the matter, but I am distressed for them.
We need to use an internet service somewhere, and are delighted to note that there is an “internet café” across the alley. It doesn’t really look like a café—more like a cave-y thing with crumbling wall stuff going on all around it. It’s shaky, but it is what is available. (We all thought India must have internet cafes at every corner, given that they hold every phone-answering and computer service job in America, but that’s just not the case.)
We head in, not at all clear that this almost literal hole-in-the-wall can actually get reception of any kind. There’s a little kid there, probably 6 years old. Maybe 5. A couple other kids drift in and around–smaller, younger. Four, five years old maybe.
The Elder among them struts up and announces “You Need Internet—no problem.”
“Yes, we do—who runs this place?”
“I do. One hundred rupees.”
Wow. The six year old is the IT guy. The four and five year old are his tech support staff.
They get on the rickety old jalopy computers and jump start a couple of them. I thought they might need jumper cables.
“Oh, come on, now, twenty rupees maximum. “
“Fifty rupees!” He is bargaining. Wow.
“Twenty five rupees.”
“Thirty rupees. Best price.”
“OK, thirty rupees.”
We know we are getting hosed by this little guy, but it’s 30 rupees. It’s practically free. And we like him a lot.
Business guys, entrepreneurs, hard bargainers, and IT Guys. For the thousandth time in a matter of days, our ideas of how things are supposed to work in the world are shown for what they are—just one very limited notion of how the world can work.
Four, five and six year olds running an internet café.
But it’s India. No Problem.