Exploring Chennai

Day 2 – Saturday 28 February 2009
Yet another day of unstructured freedom to explore Chennai

All the Learning Journey Group participants will start to arrive on flights over night or tomorrow morning. I am grateful for coming a couple of day earlier to allow for a reasonable period of time to settle into my new environment. The temperature is in the mid 30s and I am pleasantly surprised how I am coping with the heat so well. I have had no gastro-type problems whatsoever – despite enjoying the day to day wonders of South Indian vegetarian food.

I have agreed to meet with BB – my new found friend from Chennai. She has invited me to her home – a very smart three bed-roomed house about 6 km from our hotel. I appreciate her kind and warm hospitality. After coffee, we drive to her Charity Headquarters Buildings which house a drug and alcohol treatment centre. It is small in size and I meet her colleagues and residents who are in receipt of treatment. We discuss our respective work and challenges – in a way that was constructive and very positive. We have much to learn from each other. BB used to work at a large Addiction Agency elsewhere in Chennai. The Director of this agency has invited us to visit. By contrast this Centre was massive – even by UK standards. The Hospital had over 100 beds and additional projects looked after relapse prevention, training, workshops and training. The numbers of people were massive – there were probably over 300 people in the buildings during our visit. I purchased two shopping bags from one of the training workshops and we thanked the staff for their kindness and openness. In some ways I would have struggled being an inpatient of that hospital – though I suppose if I wanted to find recovery then I would have agreed to be treated there… I liked their integrated approach and diverse methodologies. They clearly worked. I was really grateful and appreciative for the management’s kind hospitality and kindness.

BB and I returned to the Hotel for a lengthy session of discussions about our drug and alcohol work – before we left for my second Al-Anon / AA meeting. It was here that I realised that India’s entire AA structure is predominantly male in India and Al-Anon meetings are female. Equal opposite gender participation is not permitted in India at these types of meetings. This cultural aspect deeply affects recovery for many people; albeit I have to remember that in the USA and the UK fifty years ago there was a total denial about the needs of women alcoholics – many of whom remained well hidden! I was to hear a Social Work Lecturer proclaim that women in India could not be alcoholic -due to the family responsibilities they must perform – can this be possible?

The Al-Anon meeting was amazing – once again there were over twenty people in attendance and the shares were totally in line with my experience of Al-Anon in the UK and other countries. We visited the nearby AA meeting, to celebrate an Al-Anon member’s husband celebrate his first AA birthday. The site of 150 AA members singing “Happy Birthday” was a moving experience. The hospitality and warmth of welcome was just amazing. I was grateful for being allowed to attend and to share the strength, hope and experience of the Indian members in attendance.

After the meetings, our driver was kind enough to take B home and to safely deposit me back to the hotel. It was late – and I had enjoyed very little sleep. I was just so high on energy being inspired by BB – and her project – and all that was around me here in India. These “Learning Journey” teachers are very crafty. I am feeling myself start to find great affection for the people of Tamil Nadu.

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