Faith & Ecology: A Primer for Practitioners and Pundits

All Things Meaningless Under the Sun
by Dave Grace -- August 17th, 2015

My nearly 4 hour commute to visit Shiv Nadar University from sector 86 in Faridabad was a lot like Mad Max, except it wasn’t the mad man sucking up exhaust and straddling on to the back of a vehicle — a scooter for the first means of transportation in the case of my epic journey — it was me: the 6’1″, 145lb, sensitive subject that I am. Oh yes, one more important difference: I didn’t end up traveling with a bunch of sirens and old wise women for the last leg of my journey… I ended up with Raju… and it was actually better that way.

First of all, if you [masculine you] haven’t had the thrill of straddling another man from behind, I recommend a two-person commute via scooter in India. It will be free because of the generosity that proceeds from the NCR-resident’s heart, but it will cost you Rs 40 in bottled water to regain the precious fluids you lost while sweating in the sweltering Delhi heat. Actually, the open-air breeze is fairly nice, if it weren’t for…

Second, if you have already tasted the delicacies of North India, I recommend you try a mouthful of particulate matter that is served fresh all day on the crowded roadways, and I’m not talking about PM2.5 –  this stuff is at least 5 mircometers in diameter. Actually, I didn’t notice any unwanted matter flowing into my lungs early that day, but by the time I reached my destination approximately 4 hours later, my phlegm was colored with a mixture of Picassoan surrealism and Rembrandt’s penchant for imaging dark and stormy scenes…

So, I arrived to the bus which would take me near Dadri. This was fine. I was at least familiar with the sardines concept based on my experience in youth ministry settings. I got off the bus and had to navigate through a court complex. Someone from the bus helped guide me part of the way, but as he reached his destination his directions were something like right left straight left right… these were actually exact and easy to follow.

At this point, I figured — though I am exceedingly miserly and cheap — I would book a mini via Ola. In India, it was my first time using the taxi app concept, but I think it works great…. except for the coordination that is inevitably required to make the taxi driver show up to the gps location you have indicated without a call to clear these things up. That would be fine, but I have zero capacity for any lingua franca devoid of cornerstone phrases such as “freedom fries” or “Git Er Done”. This language problem isn’t actually much of a problem in this case as Ola has a readily English-speaking support center… but my phone’s balance was exactly 0. I was helpless. I was like a prawn at the restaurant buffet I visited earlier.

I sought help immediately. Actually, I was taken in by a kind shopkeeper who agreed to speak with my Ola driver for me. He said the Ola driver cannot come and he will arrange an auto for me. One problem: after he spoke to the driver, I got a text message from Ola saying my driver will be late but is coming… then I get another call from the driver and a subsequent message asking me to confirm that I had in fact cancelled the cab. I am indeed paranoid, but this seemed like a red flag. Additionally alarming was the shopkeepers plea for me to not call Ola, which was repeated offering a refrain to my paranoia. Though I couldn’t call back if I wanted to, this request led me to leave the shop and continue down the way.

It turned out that I was able to easily reach the main part of Tehsil Dadri via two shared autos for a total cost of Rs 13. This was even a pleasant experience.

After going as far as the second auto goes, I decided to walk the final couple of kilometers or catch an auto on the way. It was just after failing to stop one passing auto, that I met Raju.

Raju came on horse… well on a horse-drawn buggy, sitting on top of the bags it was fully loaded with. He offered to give me a ride to Shiv Nadar University, and I gladly accepted. Not only was Raju’s small talk pleasant, I was greeted by area homeowners as we passed by. I was even stopped and invited into someone’s home at one point. I could tell that area residents were interested in what I was doing, as Raju would respond that he is taking me to Shiv Nadar University. I will remember Raju and his white stallion.

I was dropped off at the gates of Shiv Nadar University like a King. That was the end of my long commute and the beginning of a very pleasant visit at Shiv Nadar University… a very impressive new institution, by the way. This university is quite innovative in India in its offering of a liberal arts type experience, tailored to support the particular qualities of its students. I hope to be back soon… maybe I will even meet Raju again along the way.

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