Bring on the Slumdog

Last NightThe final days of my Himalayan Medical journey are coming to an end. The only people left from the original ten are Tracy, Sarah, Amanda, and me. The rest have already returned to the US.

I spent some time playing tour guide to Tracy and Sarah and showed them around Delhi. Taking them to the sights and bringing them to restaurants I had visited in the past; ones that were special to me.

We also took a day to marvel at the Taj Mahal in the city of Agra. It is one of those buildings that absolutely lives up to its billing; maybe even surpasses it.

Evenings have been spent playing cards; the television is on but primarily as background noise. The mood of the last few days, for everyone, has been somber. We missed the camaraderie and for the first time in a month our group was no longer.

It has been a special time for us all.

We all had different reasons for doing the trip and more often than not the reason was much more about something at home, a personal trouble, rather than a burning desire to save the world. This applied to me as much as anyone. 

The few of us that remain are never going to be close friends in the future but we are friends at this moment. I have made a close friend on the trip but unfortunately she already left. The group was comprised of mostly “she’s” and a couple of “he’s”. Unfortunately it was one of the “he’s” that had been the reason behind much of the tension.

The group definitely bonded in the way many groups do; with a united dislike for one member bringing all the others that much closer. I have seen this happen over and over on trips I have run through Europe. 

The key is to not be that guy.

Other tensions had erupted between some of the group members and some of the organizational staff.  I am not sure of the exact details but would feel confident that temperature sapped attitudes and borderline exhaustion contributed to these near meltdowns. 

Now, here we are in Delhi, in a hotel room, playing cards, feeling somber and missing friends; we joked around. Distraction was the name of the game. It is always difficult to move past a time where emotions were left raw for an extended period.

I believe 500 was being dealt and as jokers were evacuated from hands and queens in triplicate were laid down on the bed, the TV came to life with the Indian film crew covering the Academy Awards in Hollywood.

All the famous American interviewers were there grabbing the attention of stars and asking the typical questions. “Who are you wearing”?…”oh its [insert an Italian name], I just love the way she makes me look so glamorous! Sigh”. 

The camera then pans to the Indian correspondent.  

As beautiful as she was, and as persistent, she struggled at every turn to garner any notice what-so-ever from any red carpet attendee. I began to feel a pang of embarrassment for her and sadness towards those who bade her no time. It also made me realize that every country in the world must have a representative present; therefore it’s no wonder it takes hours for the invited to walk the red carpet.

We watched her struggle for attention for some time; not once receiving anything more than a cursory glance as someone mistook her for the keeper of a more important podium. Kudos to the Indian network for still airing the awards even though, by all accounts, their representative on location had been snubbed.

Slumdog Millionaire would be along in a couple of years and then the tide would change…until then.

To find out how this all came about; click Beckoned Skyward by an Earthquake.

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35 thoughts on “Bring on the Slumdog

  1. I’ve been in situations where there has been that one bad apple in the group. It makes the dynamics very interesting to see. I’m glad your group was able to get past that person.

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  2. It must have been very different watching the academy awards from India. I live down the street from where they are taped so I have to deal with road closures. Those in India have to deal with being snubbed. No wonder people in the movie business think they are so important. Their big night affects the entire world.

    I have had one bad apple influence in a group before. And yes, the dislike of one person can really help everyone else bond. You almost want to thank them for being so hateful.

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  3. Tim — the last group tour I took was a wonderful experience. The first evening we all had dinner and randomly sat at different tables. There were about 8 of us at our table. We bonded that first evening and laughed our way through London, Paris and Rome. The group got together for a reunion not long after and shared our photos. But, as you said, you rarely remain friends and we never saw each other again. I still have fond memories of that trip. We were so lucky.

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  4. The group dynamics of working in Yellowstone is one of the things I liked most about it. It’s somewhat thrilling and challenging to spend copious amounts of time with people you would normally never associate it. And it’s one of the most rewarding feelings I’ve comes across.

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  5. You mentioned seeing the Taj Mahal, again I am jealous of your travels. This is one place I wanted to visit my entire life. The Crown of All Palaces. It used inspiration from different buildings before it, including the Gur-e Amir (the tomb of the great Timur himself). Thanks for sharing.

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  6. The psychology of group dynamics is interesting. What amazes me is the accuracy of it’s theories. There’s a phenomenon in social psychology called, “groupthink”. Groupthink occurs within a group of people, when the desire for harmony in the group outweighs what an individual might feel if not in the group. Typically, groupthink occurs within a cohesive group that’s been together for sometime working on a targeted project. If someone emerges as, “that guy” the other members unconsciously form similar opinions about them to preserve the unity of the group. So people’s behavior effects us differently depending on how many people are involved. Whatever happened it sounds as if you’re taken away a rich experience in spite of a few bumps in the road. Remarkable story, Tim.

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  7. As always your photos are a highlight Tim. It is too about the tension in the group but as you pointed out that’s fairly normal – there’s always one. While I tend to prefer solo travel, there have been many times I’ve traveled through Pacific/Asia on behalf of the Hawaii Travel Bureau on business along with 20 or 30 other representatives and a host of dancers and musicians. Even with the ever preset ‘thorn’ for the most part our junkets were always a delight – but then we traveled under far different circumstances than those you experienced – particularly in this trip. Look forward to your next adventure!

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  8. I’m often a bit embarrassed when I witness certain American events or interactions from the perspective of a non-American. I think this is one of the best reasons to travel. You would never know that the world thinks differently than you, if you never got out into it.

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  9. Tim, I could feel your reluctance to let go of this amazing experience. That must be one of the most difficult parts of traveling. too bad there was one in the group that detracted from the whole experience but who did serve to make the rest of the group bond more. I was intrigued by your statement that you will not be friends back home – after sharing such an experience I would have thought the bond would last.
    I did feel really bad about the Indian actress – that must have been so awkward for her. Understandable yes, who is going to interview an unknown but still rather sad.

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    1. Sometimes you bond with people on the trip but know it won’t transfer to real life. Fortunately there was one with whom I have kept in contact and we are good friends.

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  10. When we last left you, you were being helped through a snow storm back to your hotel and needed medication. So this is indeed a relaxing post. Makes you wonder how many other correspondents get the cold shoulder on the red carpet. Many of them probably have less shallow questions to ask than what we usually here.

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    1. The stories take a big shift Ken but there is only so much I can dwell on needing help because of my health issues, even though immensely grateful 🙂

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  11. People definitely rub each other up the wrong way. Being thrown together with someone you would not otherwise choose to spend time with can be challenging.

    I like your honesty;
    ” The few of us that remain are never going to be close friends in the future”.

    It seems you all learnt something about yourself on this trip.

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  12. Nice post. Group dynamics are always interesting, to say the least, and your Himalayan Medical journey had some additional stresses (altitude, exhaustion, and watching others suffer) to complicate things. I also found it interesting that you commented about the reasons for most people doing the trip having more to do with a situation at home.

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    1. The part about everyone’s reasons came out near the end and it was very interesting. Seems like we all needed to get something out of the trip for ourselves.

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  13. I hadn’t thought of that before, that the really annoying guy brings the rest of the group closer together. Now I think of lots of instances of that. When my husband and I were first dating – the second time, not when we were in high school – he told me that any couple should try taking a trip together as a real test of how they would get along. It’s true that you don’t really know how you will interact with others until you travel with them.

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  14. Sometimes groups can be tough. Cliches emerge, there always seem to be “that” guy or girl who has a gift for annoying everyone:) But always so much to take away…so much more good than bad, people to remember even though they won’t remain in your life and experience whose memories never fade! What a crazy juxtaposition to be sitting in India watching a red carpet filled with gowns and jewels!

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  15. Very interesting post. Now I want to read the rest of your posts on India to know more about the Medical journey. Sounds like an amazing experience despite that guy. Cheers!

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  16. I think the observations and epiphanies you’ve experienced happen to all of us while traveling. We quickly realize that we are very lucky and that the contrasts we see on the ground are just heart-breaking.

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  17. Interesting post. I used to work as a tour leader, and know all too well the issues of group dynamics, either within a group or even with the leader or guide!

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  18. I will have to go back and read your other posts! I lived in India for 9 years so it’s very close to my heart.

    It’s so difficult to travel in a group, I can’t believe you have done it for so long now. And always there is that one person… what a nightmare! Hope you continue finding the positive on your journey.

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  19. I admire you for you ability to travel in group, I think it is a very hard thing. When I was younger I didn’t have any problems to do that, but now is something I avoid. I prefer to be free to make every little choice by myself. But if you have a nice group, you’ll have a great time for sure! I noticed that having a common ‘enemy’ is something that brings you to build a strong group, both in working life and in our relationships with friends. When this ‘enemy’ disappears, the balance upsets and you tend to find a new common enemy. Isn’t it?
    The situation of the Indian correspondant was embarassing! I agree with Arleen, in my opinion it was this way because she was unknown.

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  20. It’s so interesting how one person can create tension (and inadvertently create a stronger bond among the others). We sure are an interesting species. I applaud you for being able to travel in groups. When I was younger, it was so easy for me to travel with all types of people and in groups large and small, but once I got a little older (and a little more picky and dare I say it, stuck in my old ways), it’s become something I avoid. But that being said, I think doing the things we don’t like doing are exactly the things that help us grow, so perhaps I should take to group traveling once again! Thanks, as usual, for a super interesting read!
    Michele

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  21. Yeah, you really get to know someone when you’re travelling with them. I imagine much more so when you’re in a place like India, where the culture is so vastly different from the west! But it sounds like you bonded with a few in your group. It’s ironic, isn’t it, that India has its own spectacular film industry for quite some time – and yet, at those Academy awards, it didn’t make an iota of difference. Slumdog Millionaire may have put India on the map in Hollywood, but it was on the film industry map long before then.

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  22. Love this story! You turned watching television in India to a raw, authentic, cultural experience. How does the world react to American pop culture, one of our primary exports? Your observations illustrate the truth and let us as readers come to our own conclusions. So simple, yet it’s made me think so much!

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  23. I would be interested in hearing more about how groups bond at the sake of the member that gets singled out as the misfit. That happened a lot when I was working in national parks. Restaurant crews get so close, but then there would always be the one oddball we united against. In a way, it was sad, but does always seem to happen in such situations.

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    1. From what I have read Jeri it is a necessary component to having a really strong group bond. It is sad but it is one of those human nature pieces that hides away in the darkness until called on.

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  24. Tim- Would have really made a difference where the interviewer was from if the celebrities didn’t know who they were. Names sell advertising which is what is behind all televised tv stations. I would not look at as a snub for the Indian Interviewer. Trust me I would have been given the same reaction if I was an unknown.

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    1. Oh I completely agree and the fact that the interviewer is from India is not my point. My perspective is that I was in India and therefore rooting for the Indian interviewer to get the job done.

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  25. Most people we meet in life are like ships passing in the night. Some, however, remain friends for life.

    It’s interesting isn’t it that wherever we are in the world American culture is with us. Even in a country like India where you come across extremely poor people everywhere on the streets. The negative aspect of Western television is that a lot of people from the developing world pay people smugglers to take them to the West believing they will lead a life in luxury. Unfortunately what they mainly get is a huge debt to the criminals.

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