Friday, June 27, 2008

Leaving a Mark

My time is Chavadi Pudur is coming to an end. I have like eleven days left in th village. From there I go to Mysore for two days, Svenabellagola, Hyderabad, Bodhygya, Varanasi, Dehli, Armistar, Dharmsala, and Dehli again. Mysore will be the beginning of the religion tour that will last five weeks. The program ends at August 15th. My mother and brother are planning to come and spend a week with me here. Then I will spend a week with my brother and sister-in-law in California. I will be able to see most of your smiling in like two months. Where has the time gone?
As I evaluate my experience in the village I think about how the village was different at the beginning. When I first arrived I was approached by several villagers who had been good friends with members of the field study in years past. There has been a group coming for fifteen years, of course there are going to be people that know other members. And then there are the kids that come and ask you to dance. Sometimes one of the girls will show me how to swing dance. Or some of the children know how to do patty cake and others know 'head, shoulders, knees and toes.' And then you get th people that will ask you for money or sometimes you will get people asking you to take a picture and give you the copy of it afterwards. I have been to at least three homes where they have taken out a picture with Tausha and Courtney. They are everywhere. I realize that creating any sort of human relation will leave a mark on the people involved but what about creating a dependency that can't be filled. It is not like we are giving hand outs of candy and money. What about the idea of leaving a place better than you left it. What if we educated some of the people about proper hygiene and sanitation. This can only have a positive effect, right?
It would only be right to give back to the community because they have given so much to me and i imagine the same goes for my peers who are using this village for academic purposes. But who I am to say that I can leave the village better than when I found it. As always i feel like I have been impacted more from this experience than vis versa.
So the point is... the point I will probably help organize a woman's health class for some of th village woman. I will probably come to the conclusion that leaving a mark was inevidable. I didn't mean to, it wasn't part of the plan.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

An Indian Wedding

Hello Friends, yes, I am in India.
It has gotten really good. I am really loving my stay here in India. Every since I have gotten home from Kochin (see, now I am calling Chavadi Pudur home!) I have felt more comfortable here.
When I arrived back in Coimbatore after having taken a train from Kochin, my translator, Divya, was there to greet me. I separated from my group and went with Divya. Divya's cousin was getting married the next day at six thirty in the morning and I was going to spend the night at her uncle's house. Weddings in India are usually a two day affair, The wedding I had gone to the week before was an overnighter. We came in the evening for the engagement ceremony and then went to sleep on the cement floor for a couple of hours and then got up around five to get ready for the ceremony at six-thirty, That wedding had been at a wedding hall. This wedding of her cousin's was of a much smaller budget. The bride's mother and father had died when she was fifteen and so she had no budget for the wedding expenses just what her uncle was willing to spare. Instead of sleeping at a wedding hall the family gathered at the uncle's house and went to a temple in the morning.
I arrived at the uncle's house rather late, like nine-thirty or something. Her family was extremely nice. They fed me, even though I had already eaten. I am discovering that Indians love to fed their friends. Every time I go to someone's house in the village they ask me to eat something. At first I would refuse because I was uncomfortable with eating Indian food from people's homes, I mean what if they had some unsanitary way of cooking their food. Then I got honest with myself, the places I go to eat along the street cannot be better than these homes. The other night I was eating at one of the regular stalls when i saw, out of the corner of my eye, four rats jumping from the cabinet into a hole that lead to the kitchen. After I got over the sanitation and faced the facts, I was uncomfortable accepting food because I felt bad. I felt I was burdening them and their pocket book. Even though I refused they would insist until I had no choice but to accept. I have since started to ask families why they insist on feeding me. Now I have just accepted it. I am starting to understand Indian families. I think. Anyway the family feed me, it was great.
I met the bride. She was 26 years old. She had only met the groom once, one month ago when they were arranging the marriage. This was a true arranged marriage. It is not so surprising when you have been here awhile. Our definitions and expectations of marriage are different. Although, I am still trying to sort out the differences. And I am still trying to process these differences.
Later in the evening all the woman in the house put bangles on the bride's wrist after accepting the blessing of god. We went to bed around twelve am. There were about fifteen people sleeping in the small three room house. I don't mean three bedroom, I mean three room, kitchen, living room and bedroom. Everyone slept on the floor except they made me sleep on the steel cot. Little did they know that I sleep on a cement floor ever7 night. Within an hour of sleeping everybody was up. There was a wedding to get ready for and everyone needed to take a shower. I laid there for about an hour, feeling slightly uncomfortable because this wasn't my house and I had to figure out what to do with myself for the next four hours. After an hour I went in the front room and watched as they made th bride look like a true Indian bride. Eventually, around four am, the uncle informed me that it was my turn to take a shower. I go into the bathroom and find the water in the bucket had been boiled. I hadn't taken a hot shower in a month and a half. It was the most glorious bucket shower I have ever taken. Just glorious. After the shower, I was wrapped in my sari. With jasmine in my hair and a bindi on my forehead I looked like a real Indian. Or a least that is what people told me.
We got on a privately rented bus that took the whole family to a temple. There at the temple we waited for the groom to show up and more family showed up. Finally, the groom showed up. The groom and bride stood together as a priest gave them things to hold and take blessings from the god. The uncle of the bride put a toe ring on the grooms foot which is the symbol of marriage in tamil nadu. And the groom's mother place the toe ring on the bride's foot. The priest then blesses this gold string, which also indicates a woman is married. The groom places it around his bride's neck. When this happens all those attending throw rice on the couple. Mazaltof.
The pictures featured a from the wedding before. or the pictures that I will post

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Jain Temple

I know my blog is more popular when I have pictures to add but it is hard to get my thumb drive to work on the computers. I guess I will just have to try to write well enough so I can paint a picture with my words.
I have been away from my village for about four days. We decided to take a mid-research retreat. Research is taxing and living the life of a local is difficult. We took a train into the tourist town of Fort Cochin in Kerala. First of all, trains in India are so fascinating. I will have to do an entry on just train rides. We stayed at this wicked nice hotel. There were actual beds. And in comparison it wasn't actually very nice but compared to sleeping on a cement floor it was amazing. Fort Cochin is a city that rest on the coast on the Arabian sea. There are huge Chinese finishing nets that rest on the beach catching delicious fish and making for beautiful photos.
I had read about a Jain temple in my handy guide book. With Heidi, I took off for the Jain Temple. It should have been a twenty minute walk but it turned out to be an hour walk. We got there and there a couple of Indian families and some devotees. We took of our shoes and walked around. After five minutes of being there we see a man holding a bucket walk into the courtyard. He sets down his bucket and yells something. Thousands of pigeons fly off of the tops of the temples into the courtyard. I am taken back. I was scared but I was also amazed. This man takes a scoop full of rice from his buckets and starts to pray. At the end of his prayer we are invited to feed the pigeons. I gather a handful and lower myself to the pigeon's eye level. Eventually I have a few pigeons eating from my palm. It was a sweet experience. All the while I had pigeons flying around my head. It was one of those raw experiences that caught me off guard. I can't wait until I can show pictures of my adventures.
Until next time...

Friday, June 6, 2008

Two Coins

Hello Friends,
Ok. I feel I need to clarify. Lately, I have been getting alot of comment consoling me or giving their sympathy. Listen, I don't need your sympathy. I am in freaking India. I don't need anyone to feel sorry for me. I don't mean to use any force. India is a hard country to live in but I don't regret coming, not once. Sometimes, I even love it. How do you like them apples?
The other day Heidi and I were at the bus stop waiting for our bus to arrive. We had been seated. Earlier a little boy had been tugging at my leg asking for money. I gave him a rupee. The little boy returned while I was sitting. He was leaning against my legs waiving his cup in front of my eyes. I began to talk to him in english. Asking him questions, like why is he doing this and why are parents making you do this, don't you have a childhood to live, ya know, just questions. Within less than a minute he had run away. He was screaming 'english,english.' He had gotten his older sister to come and talk to me. Before she reached me some other people told her to leave. Not less than twenty seconds later a man in a blue button up shirt and slacks is presenting a coin in front of my eyes. He says ' for you, ma'am, a rupee.'
I was dumbfounded. 'Why'
'It is a gift.' He then drops the one rupee into my open hand. He turned to Heidi and said the same thing. She refused. He dropped the other rupee in my open hand making two coins in my open hand. I asked again, 'why!'
'A gift.' He walked away.
We were so shocked. I came up with several reasons for this strange happening.
A. He stole the coin from the little boy and the other one was for the interest.
B. He had been starring at me so he thought it would be fit to pay for the time that I sat there as a model for his starring pleasure (not a good option and a gross one)
C. I had dropped two rupees and he didn't know how to say 'you dropped these' so instead he said 'a gift.'
E. I had been in the city all day standing for hours on crowded buses, I truly looked homeless.
I know, I know. all options are not very good. Sorry I am not more creative. It seemed like a crazy juxtaposition to give me two rupees when I have clothes on my back and food to eat and there are starving children at my feet. I don't feel justified in receiving such a gift. I still have the two coins to give to someone who needs more than me.
Speaking of interesting juxtapositions... the other night Liann and I were walking home from dinner. We heard drumming so we followed it. We stumbled upon a Hindu funeral. Eventually we were invited to come in and join the family that was attending. At the time there were several men constructing a piar made bamboo and flowers. Once they finished this construction they were take the body out to be burned. We made friends with a girl that spoke english and for the rest of the night she acted as our cultural informants. Inside the compound many woman and men were sitting in plastic lawn chairs. Inside a room were woman in saris gathered around the dead body. The body was exposed to the air. She said with her head exposed and the rest of her body covered in cloth. When we walked into the room three women came to us crying and sharing with us their great sorrow. All I could do was take their hand and rub their arm. The woman dead was 85 years old and had had nine children. The woman crying on me were her daughters. Soon men came into the room and lifted the body outside and put her on a table. While the body was on the table they performed several rituals. I kept asking my friend for the meaning in these actions, sometimes she knew other times she did not. At one point she told me 'as of these are formalities but I do not believe in them.' I asked if she went to temple and other religious functions. 'I go but I do not believe.' I have run into that several times when talking to young girls that they keep their parents traditions but they have no faith in it. On the other side a man was saying to me that these ceremonies were of the most importance to his family. His nieces words versus his own words. Eventually the youth will be the parents and what will happen to these cultural traditions?
Today I went to a Hindu wedding. I will shared picture of these events soon.