Saturday, July 23, 2011

Moscas En Vrindavan

Last week I had the privilege of interviewing a number of widows living in Vrindavan. Much of what I read in articles focused on their struggles but no attention was given to what they were doing to overcome them. This inspired me to develop a research project aimed at uncovering what they did (coping mechanisms) to overcome struggles throughout their lives.

The number of interviews totaled 6 and each ranged from 45 minutes to an hour. The age of the women also ranged from 55 to 96 years of age. With the help of a translator, my dost (friend) Anita, each woman was asked to speak on struggles and coping mechanisms employed during her childhood, adolescence, marriage, and widowhood. Rightfully, they were reticent to share their stories, but I was not discouraged. Instead, their silence pushed me to listen with more than my ears.

Sachi (Truly), a simple blog post could not do justice to their stories; so instead, permit me to share a personal reflection. If would like a copy of the finished report, I will kindly share it with you. The following was taken directly from my journal and has not and will not be edited.

Stand still.
Notice the nuances, las moscas (the flies), the despair.
The eagerness to be heard masked by silence.

forced me to abandon the plan.
I tried to have my way, but she stood firm.
"Be flexible" she said.
Stand still.

Your fight has not place here.
Disarm yourself.

Stand still.
Listen to the silence.

Thank you to my lovely friend Anita-ji for supporting me through this journey...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Amritsari Whiplash

Amritsar is located in the northern most part of India along the Pakistani border. In total, we spent 21 hours in Amritsar, of which 13 or so were spent awake and exploring.

Upon arrival to the Amritsar Station, we were greeted by Mr. Bubbles --a tall and regal white-haired man-- who happens to be the General’s older brother.
He transported us to the Tourist Guest House, where he and his wife live in semi-retirement. There we meet Mrs. Bubbles. Like myself, she is fair-skinned and dark-haired. She noted that many northern Indian women (Punjabi women) look like us. We held a brief conversation over a cup of chai, and then we were escorted to our room. “Okay, see you at 5:30am!” Said Mrs. Bubbles.

As instructed, Meli and I were up and ready to go by 5:30am. Accompanied by the Bubbles and their adopted grandchildren, Arti and Sahrov, we set out to the Golden Temple. While we missed the sunrise ceremony, I was incredibly moved by the beauty of the temple and the fervor with which people prayed. It was a lovely break from the hustle and bustle of the city that at times muffles the sounds of chants and the sense of spirituality that is characteristic of India.

“Amritsari food is unlike any other cuisine in Ind
ia.” We heard this repeatedly from our coworkers. The Bubbles agreed and promised to give us a Gastronomic Tour of Amritsar during our flash visit. To start, we had a traditional Indian breakfast composed of puris (a puffed-up, fried tortilla of sorts), chaana (chickpeas), mango chutney, sweet lassi, and an Indian pancake... I can happily report that the rumors were true. Much of it was deep fried, but delicious. This meal alone induced a food coma. Contrary to what my physician would suggest, I took a short nap once we returned to the guesthouse.

After awaking from my food coma, Mr. Bubbles helped us organize a cab that would tran
sport us to the India-Pakistani Border where they perform Wagah Border Ceremony. This tradition started in 1959 and consists of a celebration of patriotism and the lowering of the flags. It was unreal to think we were so close to Pakistan. At one point in the ceremony, the gates are opened momentarily; only long enough for a handshake between an Indian and Pakistani solder. In addition to the many thoughts that crossed my mind related to patriotism, gendered segregation (men were seated in one area and women in another), and unequal treatment (tourist were given their own section where we enjoyed of wiggle room), I was captivated by the cheerleader, or the master of ceremonies. With the lift of a finger he would command the attention of the Indian public and inspire them to cheer ever so loudly... our cheerleaders could learn a thing or two from him. lol

The ceremony ended at sundown and we head back to the guest house for dinner.
I wish I had photographed my meals, but I was too busy eating them- so I apologize. For dinner I had the most exquisite deep fried fish, with chaana, paneer pakoras, roti, and a mango fruit salad. My chubbies were so happy, but they were feeling sooooo fatty-fat (as Anita says lol).

Our trip concluded with a late night talk with the Bubbles, and an early train ride back the next morning. I am still recovering from the whiplash. Thank you Mr. & Mrs. Bubbles for the hospitality! :)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Happy Birthday Geeta!

We had the pleasure of attending Geeta's 7th birthday celebration (Laxmi's daughter).
This is the lovely and curious Geeta. She periodically accompanies Laxmi during the evenings while she prepares dinner. Our apartment then becomes her hunting ground. She likes to inspect the rooms, play with our computers, draw and take pictures, get into Meli's pencil box and my make-up bag, and she loves to speak to us in Hindi as if we understood.

Auntie picked us up around 8:30pm and walked us over to Laxmi's home. Before then, we had no idea where or how close Laxmi lived to us. We soon found out that she lives in a slum neighborhood tucked behind some apartments just across the street. It was dark outside, but we managed to slither through some narrow/unpaved pathway without harm. Laxmi, her husband, two children and sister in law share a room the size of a standard US laundry room. They didn't have much, but Laxmi said they are "very happy" as she proudly noted that her union was a "love marriage." We were humbled to take part in the celebration. <3

I will spare you the details on the celebration, and let the pictures do the talking.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Eva's Journey to Speaking Hindi PART II

Good morning/good evening class! lol

I am happy to announce that I have moved from single words to small phrases... On the flip side, I am embarrassed to share that my Hindi is still BROKEN and in dire need of a linguistic mechanic. Here is what I have learned since my last post:
  • dadaji- paternal grandfather
  • dadiji- paternal grandmother
  • naniji- maternal grandmother
  • nanaji- maternal grandfather
  • chalo!- You go!
  • ou!- Come!
  • kripya- please
  • ghitdi (jeetdee)- demanding... this is often how Laxmi refers to her daughter Geeta lol
  • me apse pyiar bohot car du- I love you very much
  • tom paghal ho- you are mad/crazy!
  • apkaise pasan karte ho _____?- do you like _____?
  • paghal- crazy
  • gussa- angry
  • agla- next
  • mera favorite - my favorite
  • apka favorite _____ kya he?- What is your favorite _______?
  • tora, tora- little little (I say "tora tora Hindi. English me")
  • mera nehi- not me
  • chaldhi, chaldhi- hurry, hurry!
  • mujhe nehi patah- I don't know
  • mujhe bhook lag rahi hai- I am hungry!
For the next phrases and words I need to give you some context. Today during class, Poonam and Varsha insisted that I take pictures. My first response was:
  • last me- at the end (of class)
Then, they began to pout, slid their thumb forward from their chin, and said:
  • katti- I am 'breaking friendship with you'
I immediately cracked up remembering the Mexican cortala ritual. For those of you unfamiliar with the tradition, it's a 'breaking friendship' ritual wherein your index fingers face each other and the person who is being 'cut', proceeds to sever the connecting fingers with her index finger, and thereby agrees to end the friendship. This is very common among children, although I have known some adults to engage in such behavior. haha

Lastly, they said:
  • baat nehi carengue- I am not speaking to you!
After some tickling and cheek pinching, this is how the argument ended...

by giving in and taking pictures. lol

That concludes today's lesson... Sorry that my progress has been as slow as atole.