Travelling around India, I have come across all types of people; hippies, spiritual seekers, cultural aficionados and just those who are interested in seeing India. In Puri, I was lucky to meet the most inspirational couple I have met in my travels., a Canadian couple who have spent a lot of time in India over many years. She is a ball of energy and ideas and he is a writer and has Parkinson’s Disease. His head falls to the right, he can walk albeit slowly and has speech but it is challenging to hear him and engage in conversation, yet he is cognisant of everything that is going on.
Parkinson’s Disease is a degenerative disease that affects the central nervous system. It is not fatal, but it affects the physical body first and can in some cases lead to dementia.
Of all the places in the world to spend a few months a year, India certainly isn’t the first place I would think of bringing someone who has a disease that challenges their ability to maintain balance and be comfortable. India is full of broken (or non-existent) footpaths, most amenities don’t work as easily as they do in the west and travelling can be challenging for the most able persons…yet here was this couple living and enjoying their time here.
It wasn’t all roses, I could definitely see they had their challenges such as the need to find reliable transport and wide spaces so that he could walk without impediment, not to mention that he was entirely reliant on his wife and she his sole carer. However never once did I hear either of them complain or whinge, quite a feat given every traveler I have met in India has at least one grievance to speak of.
To the contrary, this couple seemed happy and content to be here. Talking to them I was enlightened a little about their rationale for coming to India. Where they live, in Canada, it is currently snowing and freezing. In that weather, he is unable to leave the house because of the imbalance that comes with Parkinson’s and the danger of him slipping and breaking bones is high. Instead, he would be housebound and immobile. In India, they walk everyday, which has the added advantage of actually improving his balance and movement, and are in a warm and comfortable climate.
To keep the mind nimble they practise learning Hindi each morning and are also able to try it out on the locals. Its a great thing to do, I imagine its very easy to assume that someone’s mind has gone if you can see their body has started to deteriorate. I can’t imagine how frustrating and demoralising that would be for the person experiencing it. For this couple, they were engaged, involved and continuing to learn and grow together. It truly was inspirational.
For me it was also an eye-opener. Through adversity the human spirit can take so many different directions. I know through my own personal challenges I have at times just wanted to throw my hands in the air and succumb to depression and misery. India has taught me that so much can be achieved in even the worst situations. This couple has shown me that you don’t need to be born into adversity to learn to just get on with it and overcome it, you just need to have a positive outlook and find a path that works for you.
*Thank you to this special couple for allowing me to share a part of their story.