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Stuff I want to tell you

March 1, 2007

img_02941.jpgI’m crazy about Hindu mythology, icons, imagery, temples, etc. The stories are so colourful, the devotion so pure, and the way religions blend rather than clash in this country is something to behold and emulate. All are welcome, and love is the word. Dig.

The weather in India has been a rare wonderful — cool in the mornings and at night, rising into the high 60’s or early 70’s with a breeze in the afternoon. Only two days of rain thus far. Heaven.

The cockroaches in our flat are approaching the size of hamsters. The women in the other flat play keep-away with their food and a resident shrew. Whee.

img_02711.jpgIt’s hard to visit a public place without a group of teens, kids or even a family asking to take their photo with you and for you to take photos of you and them all together. You find yourself suspicious for the first couple of days, until you start to realize that the enthusiasm and hospitality is genuine and sweet as pie.

The huge numbers of stray dogs in India are a heartbreak by western standards, but they seem to exist happily on the street as a part of society’s fabric. They sleep in the middle of cityindia-187.jpg intersections, secure in the knowledge that we’ll go around them, forage in the piles of trash that are raked into large mounds on every corner, and roam the neighborhoods at two or three weeks old. Many are dragging one or two legs or even their entire back half, most have terrible flea problems and are awfully thin, and you can’t help but want to take five home. On the flipside, in the posh areas, dogs are wearing Burberry slickers.

img_02991.jpgMarketing in India is an art. It’s exciting, overwhelming, and like everything else, it overloads the senses. Aggressive, but good-natured haggling is the order of the day, and the range of fabrics, clothing, jewelry, artwork, kitchen goods, religious icons, and trinkets is extraordinary. At first, you feel you must buy everything in sight, because it’s so well priced, (even though the price settled on with a western is probably double what an Indian would pay.) Then you calm down some, and start to get practical. I’m not here to shop and my budget is tighter than it might otherwise be. Still — if you really want to be here, I mean really settle in like a resident, the markets are part of the daily routine. $12 can last the whole afternoon, but there’s only so much room in the small suitcase I brought. /sigh

Traffic in Delhi isn’t the horror I’d heard but it’s funny as hell. I imagined horrific jams worse than NY, which just haven’t materialized — but the absolute lack of conformity to any rules is priceless. It’s skillful, controlled chaos, with cars, buses, trucks, rickshaws, scooters, bikes, dogs, cows, monkeys, food carts and pedestrians just taking the shortest route to wherever they need to go, regardless of lane, direction, pavement, etc. You could be whizzing along on a two lane, one-way highway in the right direction, and find yourself zipping right between an oncoming bus, and an oncoming truck, overladen with 40,000 wilted cabbages. Check it out:

It has become a crime to beg in India. You see less of it than you used to, but it’s still pervasive. At intersections, mothers holding babies, children, and even toddlers knock onto your windows, or reach into your rickshaw and ask for money or food. The little ones perform unsupervised at the busiest cross roads, doing acrobatics and playing instruments between the speeding cars hoping for some change or a bite to eat. You’re instructed as a foreigner to ignore their efforts and you can understand why. Still, it’s always difficult, and particularly so, when faced with seriously maimed or severely handicapped children and adults pulling themselves along the sidewalks. It’s soul crushing to see, and worse when you realize you’ve started to become immune to it. It’s kind of hard to talk about without getting into an endless discussion of the thing, so I’ll just leave it at that for now.

img_03241.jpgNo easy transition from that, so I’ll just say that I was dressed up like an Indian bride earlier this week by the wife of a CCS staff member, with the 16 rituals, including the body scrub, the mendhi, the make-up, bindis, hair plaiting, cinching, petticoating, sari, jewels, etc. It was great fun. Felt pretty but a bit confined, and like a bride without a groom.

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2 comments

  1. …you look so beautiful! – indian princess pride kara.
    whom, might i add, has a fiance hoping a plane enroute to his love tomorrow evening. yippeeee!
    all is under control with the wedding invites – see you soon my dear for ironing, trimming and sewing, oh my!
    we love (and miss) you and we love you some more!
    (big hug) a+b


  2. You look lovely, Kara. So, is that your wedding outfit taken care of? It sounds as if Damon should take an extra suitcase!

    I’m glad you’re getting a taste of India (literally and figuratively)while you’re there and not just the home.

    Did you have a good time on your trip last weekend? Thanks again for letting us all share in your adventure, with all the little details that bring the city alive to those of us sharing your life vicariously.



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