It’s been two years since I was last in India & Ladakh (in many ways, they are different worlds, even though Ladakh is a part of India). It’s a surreal experience. I spent three and a half months in India in 2009, of which 5 weeks were spent in Ladakh. Other than New York, there’s no place on Earth I’ve spent more time. It’s something I never would have imagined, even as I was preparing for my first trip here. When I returned home, it was obvious Ladakh & the rest of India left an undeniable mark on who I am as a person. It was upon arriving in India again that it became so apparent.
Upon landing in Delhi, I borrowed the phone of the gentleman sitting next to me, still on the tarmac, and called a friend to see if I could stay over for the evening. It was no problem, as I suspected. That pattern has continued thoughout. My plans have consistently been last minute, yet always worked out as I intended. With so much to do, I’ve scheduled very little, knowing that it will all play out as it should, as long as I follow up with the right people the right way. When people have asked me what my plans are tomorrow, next week, or next month, all I can do is shrug and say “I don’t know”, even though my agenda of tasks to complete is long and under way. Everything progresses as it must. In response, Americans, Ladakhis and Indians have all said the same thing: “that’s very Indian/Ladakhi of you”. All I can do is agree. Twenty months wasn’t going to diminish that characteristic. If anything, returning hightened the desire to operate in a state of controlled chaos.
I spent a long time upset that I couldn’t return to India last year, as I promised upon departure in 2009. For simplicity’s sake: it wasn’t feasible for me to return to India, financially and emotionally. The previous trip went much longer than expected, and the road to recovery was also longer than expected. At the same time, there were factors that held the organization back and other factors in India that made it less enticing to return. That’s the short of it. For a while, that was it.
But things started to change in life, for The Hockey Foundation, and regarding ice hockey in India. Finances stabilized, the organization got a new identity thanks to Kevin Sterling working with me to develop a new logo, and I got news that the arena in Dehra Dun was finally completed. From there, all it took was the support of the companies I work for, and the businesses I work with, and 8 weeks after making a decision and 5 weeks after making that decision public, I departed for India on the same date in 2011 that I did in 2009, only this time with support.
Alex Harney has joined me for the first leg of this trip, recording pictures and video of our work here. Alex played hockey throughout his childhood, has a background in photo/video, and is a great guy that is as passionate about this project as I am. He’s already in love with Ladakh! I’ve been delighted to introduce him to my friends in Delhi and Leh, and he’s been able to record what has made this experience so surreal for me.
In so many ways, it’s like I never left, and everything feels like home. The excitement of going somewhere new has been replaced by the familiarity of Delhi and Leh. At the same time, there’s a much greater sense of purpose and confidence that focuses my intent and allows me to enjoy things in a whole new light. The familiar is raw. And that’s India…raw. Everything flows as it should, and people and situations thrive where others never could.
The situation is a bit different this time. Last time, I came without an understanding of hockey in India & Ladakh. Now that I have immersed myself in it, there’s a lot more to do and a lot more to tell you about. Future posts will give you an understanding of what we are here to do, what has been going on from our side of things, and what others are doing to support hockey in Ladakh/India. There’s a lot, so I’ll save it for now.