Archive for the ‘From India’ Category

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Saying Goodbye: Part 3

April 11, 2007

Our final goodbye on that last day at Mother Teresa’s was with Auntie, who had been waiting by her sewing closet auntie-gifts.jpgin a pose that was somehow at once both formal and twitchy. When we broke free of the crowd and approached her, she hurriedly unlocked the small room and motioned us inside. There, she handed us several small wrapped parcels and tried to find bits and pieces of English to wish us both a long, happy marriage and all the blessings of God. The metallic paper later revealed a small marble jewelry box, with a little beaded necklace and a Mother Teresa medal for me, and a wooden flute for Damon; she had remembered from our pantomimed conversations that my “husband” liked to play musical instruments. Auntie didn’t have the money for the things she herself needed, and here she was, showering us with gifts. Still — she had one more thing up her sleeve.

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Saying Goodbye: Part 2

April 8, 2007

shanthisly.jpgWhen Damon visited Mother Teresa’s with me to say my last goodbyes, I couldn’t wait for him to meet Shanthi, the girl I’ve written so much about here. I had told him of her progress, of her laughter and of the way she tugged on my soul. She would be the hardest to leave.

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Chai with Auntie

April 7, 2007

We first met the stern “Auntie” on our second day as volunteers at Mother Teresa’s, when the ritual of a mid-morning break for chai and biscuits was established. We were in the middle of tending a gruesome amputation-worthy wound in ways that are too unlovely to even describe here, when we were anxiously summoned by a resident. We hurriedly passed along a half-Hindi-half-English explanation that we couldn’t possibly come now, but thank you so much. Our lack of attendance was not well-received that day and our subsequent tardiness the following was greeted with icy silence. The assertion that important medically-necessary work couldn’t be interrupted was ignored — even when we had it perfectly translated in Hindi. It took us several days to understand that Auntie had been given the task of extending this hospitality to us and our seeming indifference to the chai ritual was an overt insult.

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Saying Goodbye: Part 1

March 18, 2007

On my final official day of work at Mother Teresa’s, I said goodbye to everyone without too much thought or intention, as Iindia-055.jpg knew I’d be back. When Damon arrived in India, there was some crossover and the ladies insisted on meeting “Didi Pati,” or “big sister’s husband.” The very idea that there was a man in my life, and I’d soon be a wife sent them into fits of giggles. Arranged marriages are still going strong in India, so for even the older women, my situation filled them with anxious excitement and mystery. I had said my half-hearted goodbyes to everyone, with the understanding that I’d to return with Pati on the given day.

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Have you seen the Taj?

March 14, 2007

When you’re in India, that’s one of the first things that everyone asks you. Itindia-441.jpg made me feel a bit self-conscious at first, and a kind of like a big, giant tourist. I probably rolled my eyes a bit and feigned a touch of indifference, like, “Yeah. I know I’ll get there, cuz I have to check it off the list, but in the meantime I want to live like a local, go where they go, eat what they eat, do what they do.” (All the while, I was dutifully planning a day trip for when Damon arrived.)

indiadamon-137.jpgWe left Delhi at 4am in hopes of enjoying the sunrise over the tomb. We arrived a bit late to see the pink and orange tinged marble resolve to white, but no matter. The Taj really couldn’t disappoint even if it wanted to. It’s flawless. And turns out, Indians can’t resist the lure of this obscenely beautiful place either — so we were either all tourists that day, or all Indians. Maybe a bit of both.

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Utter disregard?

March 14, 2007

Soon after I arrived in India and resumed posting again, a contrarian (and beloved) friend offered the following nugget in the comment section: “India is the world’s largest Controlled Chaos experiment. Their utter disregard for each other’s poverty/starvation/cleanliness/lack of shelter is awe inspiring.” Being used to, (and generally pleased by) his blunt provocation, I wanted to argue the point, but wasn’t really ready for the debate. Instead, I shook my head knowingly, rolled my eyes and moved on. With some time and distance, however, I’m ready to take it on.

Here’s some stuff you should know:

More than 93% of India’s population is either a) unemployed, b) self-employed, or c) off-the-books, and there is barely a system for collecting taxes from these workers. There is even less of an ability to pay. These are the men selling raw spices off a small towel spread on a traffic median, or the woman who carry the raw sugar cane on their heads from the fields to the fire and they make pennies a week, if that. These are not tax cheats — even if these workers could or wanted to pay taxes, they’re so disconnected from the system by geography, literacy, administration, and registration, that the idea of collecting from them is almost silly.

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Damon takes an Indian bride

March 9, 2007

Over the course of my month here in India, friends who’ve learned that D & I are about to get married, and that he was coming to visit at the end of my stay have pushed, half-seriously, for an Indian wedding. Last week, I was visiting the extraordinary archeological park at the Qutb Minar, and my flatmate Karen suggested we have a Hindu ceremony amidst these ruins. I conceded that the ancient pillars and carvings made for a dreamy setting, but that we couldn’t begin to make something like that work in such short time and with our travel plans. Fast forward to raucous Holi celebrations with CCS friends and staff, free-flowing Kingfisher and whiskey, and a jet-lagged Damon nodding in happy confused agreement, and a plan was hatched.img_0769.jpg

In three days, our friends pulled together the most beautiful wedding ceremony on a rooftop in Hauz Khas, leaving their placements early to decorate the place with marigolds and set up the traditional implements for the Hindu priest. Our “western” wedding in April is still very much on, but how could we resist the mystical ritual, evocative setting, the sensual beauty… and of course, the red saree and turban…?

More photos of me and my husband after the jump…

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