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Excerpts From India..March 21st- March 22nd

Posted Nov 29 2008 12:19pm

March 21st

I already have ***** Butt again..woohoo! AND in addition to the daily power cuts, we now have watercuts every with ***** Butt that left me scrambling to fill buckets with water all morning for the afternoon. But what is good is now I can shower, albiet with cold water, because it is now hot enough here I dont have to worry about catching pneumonia. When I left I was still sleeping in long underwear with pajamas and socks and a pashmina and 2 quilts, and last night I slept in a tank top and Aladdin pants under a sheet with the fan spinning overhead.

MJ cried when she saw me this morning, as did I, again. She asked me how things back home were, and that she'd kept praying to Shiva for me. Shiva, with his closed third eye. I told her and she hugged me and said that it is how God wills it. So the destructor wills destruction, sometimes. God here stands for the Generator, the Organizer, and the Destructor. She's going to keep praying. Because I am not Hindu, I don't think I get reincarnated. But she says because of god, in this life I still have times of rebirth. Kitchen spirituality is always the same. You find it in all who work with food. Maybe because cooking in and of itself is an act of creation. Generating the ingredients, organizing the recipe, and eating of and destruction of the final product? I don't know. I'm sleep deprived. We were drinking in the rec room until late at night and attacking each other with pillows. Or rather, N attacked me and I sat on him. I may be shrinking, but I can still exert some mighty force.

N has gone Hindu extreme while I've been gone. Pressured to marry by his family, my aspiring photographer, my chai drinking philosophizer, my camel excursion partner in crime has forgone his western love and some of his dreams to prepare himself for the inevitable for him, not his own love match, but an arranged marriage. He has a year to perhaps find his own bride before his parents really intervene. So he has given up eggs, and alcohol, and swearing, attends temple more regularly. I couldn't make him his midnight Toad in the Hole but I made them for 5 others. N and I talked about love and family. The devotion to family here is extreme. I think a lesson I can take back with me is that one, a bit. Wealth is measured by the family you build, not the income you earn. Stupid stupid biological clock. I would caution single women of my age against coming here, because the yearning for a family of your own can be overpowering.

MJ has lost weight since I've been gone, and we spent the morning in the kitchen patting each others faces and pinching tummies under saris and tank tops. I've been told again I have lost weight, my face is smaller, my shoulders less broad, my stomach flatter. MJ thinks it's because she hasn't been feeding me. I want to tell her it's because she has, as has the whole of India. She keeps zipping my jacket up over my tank top because you can see my tattoo. I forget that now again I need to be more conservative. I don't need to be..many volunteers run about the flat in shorts and tiny tank tops, but I'm oversensitive to others perceptions. So I accomidate when I can. Besides..all the kurtas I left here and dupattas are the only clean things left.

I found out Mohanlal has been sick. He has some injury to his leg, an infection on his arm, and a bruised chest. I am not happy about this. In a motherless home, I worry about what may have caused these injuries. We can arrange for rudimentary health care for the kids, when injuries and infections are severe but these, by India standards, are mild. I'm going to scrub him down but good with soap when I see him, though. told his new teachers to keep an eye on him and how to mouth to him so he understands better with his hearing loss. I told the fifth grade teachers to frisk Kailish for lighters. The kids have been asking about me. I cannot wait to see them and read them "Jao, Dog, Jao!". Apparently when the new teachers started my kidlets sat, cross legged, and when asked to form a circle for morning songs crossly told them " Jao, Didi, Jao!" and then cracked up. This pleases me to no end. I can teach people to buck authority in my own special way wherever I go. And my children have also been threatening the teachers with dinosaur bites to the back of the head when they get angry. Calling down a dinosaur to eat the back of your head so you have an operation on your brain just like Puglet Didi. That is so COOL.

March 22nd

I just woke up from a 4 hour sleep. It was a heavy nap, and I dreamt about coming home. I'm awake now and sticky with sweat and my face is stained bright pink.

Yesterday I spent the day in the kitchen with MJ, because since I am not teaching, she declared I am now her assistant. We sat n the ground and peeled garlic, crosslegged we mixed dough, and I helped her make and fill malai kofta, one my favorite food she makes, dumplings of potato filled with cheese and half a cashew and two golden raisins, fried and then simmered in a sweet tomato curry sauce, and peanut cutlets. I like to sit in there on the floor and peel vegetables with a paring knife and talk with her and D, the teenage girl who is her helper.

Last night we attended a neighborhood bonfire to celebrate the start of Holi, the only time during these two days we can mix with the public. Down by the bodega that sells masala flavored chips and mango juices was an unlit bonfire of straw and wood. the path to it was lined with white, red, and green tikka powders, and the fire was encircled and " WEL- COME" and "HAPPY HOLI" was spelled out in yellow and green and red. Pujas, offerings were made by the locals to the fire..women poured from small pitchers of water and sweets and whole coconuts were nestled among the dry straw. The sound system was started up and Indian music was blaring, accompanied by an old woman in a stained orange sari beating on a large drum.

Our foreheads were marked with kum kum, a vermillion powder used to make the thumbprint bindis and what married women wear in the front of their parted hair. Colored strings were tied around our wrists, which bring us luck and protection and we wear until they fall off. They last many months, sometimes. I wonder when I am done being protected.

The fire was lit and firecrackers started to go off, behind us, in front of us, a whole string in front of the fire, a whole string in the fire. Indians love noise, and the firecrackers are the loudest bangs, causing you to gasp and duck and lose control of your bladder, a bit. And then the coconuts in the fire started exploding, and I covered the back of my head and my scar as bits of shell came hurtling at me and prayed I wouldn't have a seizure. We ate sweets offered to us and headed home in the bonfire lit night.

Today we changed into disposable clothes..for me a tank top and a pair of pants that no longer stay up on my hips unassisted, and went to the roof. We filled bottles and buckets with water and soaked each other, screaming and slipping and ducking, coloring the water with red and pink and green and blue and yellow powders and making pastes in our hands and slapping behinds and faces, rubbing into hair and applying handprints on chests. N and G and K and R, our coordinators, got the worst of it, and NA and I, the lost children returning home, got special attention from them. At one point I was holding onto Gs leg so NA could dose him and N upended a huge bucket of water on my head. My ears and eyes and throat were filled and I screamed loudly until the water went down into my lungs, and would I could finally stop choking I sputtered ' I don't LIKE it..." to roars of laughter.

My hair was spiky with blue and red and yellow little dreadlocks by the end. We showered under open taps in one of the apartments we have, and showering solo I am still coated in color, with orange nails and pink toes and a green neck. We ate fried dough bits and drank chai on the puddled and stained roof and when clean came down for lunch, puri and chickpeas and potatoes. And I climbed into bed and finally fell fast asleep, my first easy sleep this week, tired from hours playing in the hot sun, from ducking and bobbing and squealing and screaming, tired from emotional fallout of relationships, tired from travelling and thinking and sickness and reunions, protected by my surrogate family, by the strings tied on my wrist, by the pujas I made to the fire, by the celebration of colors and new seasons.

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