Monday, December 29, 2008

Haridwar 14 December 08, Second Anniversary of Mike's Death

We arrived in Delhi around midnight Friday night 12 December. On 13 December we planned a trip to Haridwar so I could put some of Mike's ashes in the Ganges River there, on the second anniversary of his death. It meant a lot to me, needless to say, and everyone there, Krishna, Raju, and our friend Sushil, were all for it and made it happen.

We did not get very good pictures of this experience. It was an emotional day. Gopal and I were able to have a good discussion about Mike and how I can hold him in my heart and look at his death.
En route to Haridwar
Haridwar is located where the Ganges leaves the Himalaya and is one of the holiest Hindu cities.
(The woman in the distance is me, dressed in a saree appropriate for the occasion and blue for Mike. I'd like to think he would like that.)
Raju is standing next to the van. The van was a terrible ride.

Haridwar ghat

It is said that if you completely immerse yourself in the Ganges, all your sins are washed away.
Here Sushil and Krishna are helping me submerse myself. (The water was extremely cold and moving frighteningly fast. It was shocking and overwhelming.)
There was a young swami there to walk me through the ritual. Here we are saying mantras over handfuls of flowers as we release them to the river.
There is no picture of Mike's ashes going into the river. They had to remind me that this is a joyous celebration and not heartbreaking.

This one was for Carlos Nasol, my daughter Suzie's father-in-law, who died a year ago.
The flowers for Mike and Carlos came in a "boat" of banana leaf filled with marigolds and a few roses, as well as a small clay saucer holding a burning wick.
Sushil, Carolyn, Krishna, and Raju, having dried off.

Ganga statue, the river mother


Raju, as our flat tire was being fixed on the way home.
Our return trip was long and hard. The roads are horrible, and I honestly don't think this little van had any suspension. To make a very long story shorter, we had two flat tires on the way home and ran out of gas twice!! Every time I sit somewhere where my butt hurts, I refer to it as "Haridwar butt."
Love this guy, Raju, but hate this vehicle.
The entire day was memorable, and I am so grateful I had the chance to put Mike's ashes in the Ganges River. I would like to do it again, maybe at Rishikesh.

Orchha, Utter Pradesh 9-12 December 08

Late the evening of 6 December, TARAgram called to let me know the training (Managing Micro Enterprise: Interventions, Development and Programmes) I had registered for had been cancelled. This was a training I really wanted, so I was terribly disappointed. Since we had train tickets and were scheduled to leave the following day and since the Jhansi/Orchha area was historically significant, we decided to spend the 3-4 days sightseeing there en route to Delhi. We spent a while late at night doing some Jhansi and Orchha homework and booked a room (chancy business). Well, take a look at the pictures and see what we experienced.

A view from the train

Our hotel, Sheesh Mahal, a palace built in 1873 onto 15th century Islamic palaces, although you can't tell by this picture.
Sheesh Mahal lobby
Sheesh Mahal manager, Niraj Tiwari, who provided us with wonderful service
Our tiny little room (but the only one available with a view)
View from our room

View from just above front entrance - to the right, Raj Mahal
View from the front entrance - to the left, Jehangir Mahal
That's our window

Views from the roof of Sheesh Mahal

Front door of Jehangir Mahal ,

built in preparation for Emperor Jehangir's visit to Orchha in 1606. It is beautiful Islamic architecture with a combination of Islamic and Hindu carvings and lattice work. Apparently, later generations of Mughal emperors were not as inclusive.
Bridal suite

Jehangir Mahal
Courtyard inside the Jehangir Mahal
I was not able to show you anything that shows you the scale of this gorgeous place.(Our guide, the head of the government archaeological office on site, said the emperor only spent one night in this palace, and it was never inhabited by anyone else.)

Beautiful carving work.

Gopal's second haircut

There were beautiful temples, chatris, and other homes, ancient camel stables, etc. It was wonderful. It was hard to leave.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

We have been having terrible problems with the computer, but things are now slowly coming around. Our computer is in bad shape, so we bought a new hard drive on which we can be on the internet, etc. Skype is coming soon! But my photos are all on the old computer so there's a lot of work to do.

ALL of the women, young and old, wear sarees here, so I have tidied up the few I had and have had blouses made for them. I also bought two cotton ones because I thought it would be easier to wear one that wasn't so slippery. I am having a terrible time trying to wear a saree properly. I can't put it on right. Tomorrow, I'm going to put one on again and go to Mariama's who will again restructure the saree for me. I don't feel comfortable wearing one outside the colony yet, but Gopal thinks I could practice at Krishna's in Delhi. (Note: The sarees always look good to me when I put them on, but all the women here either laugh or are so uncomfortable until someone fixes it! Sigh.)

On Sunday, the 7th, Gopal and I will take a taxi down the hill to Coimbatore where we will board a train to Jhansi, Utter Pradesh (about 40 hours) where we will get a ride (10 miles?) to Orchha, Madhya Pradesh. We will arrive on the 9th, the day before a training starts that I have signed up for: Managing Micro Enterprise: Interventions, Development and Programmes. Gopal decided not to attend the training but will stay with me. It should be very helpful as our non-profit Joint Assistance Centre changes and evolves. After the training, we will take a train Friday, the 12th, to Delhi. On Monday, the 15th, we'll be back at the Home Ministry enquiring about the replacement of my Person of Indian Origin (PIO) status. The PIO card includes my visa, so we need to get some concrete information (an incredibly difficult thing to achieve in India) from the government. Wish us luck!

In the meantime, we'll be seeing Krishna and Raju again which we really look forward to! R.K. has been hosting our friend Mani from California; we'll be able to see both of them there too. It will be good to see them again. If I get my PIO status reinstated, Gopal and I will be able to visit Nepal while we're nearby. I would really love to do that.

Wilderness in my bathroom

On Monday, I was in the kitchen cleaning the oil lamp on our home shrine when I heard this loud crashing noise coming from the bathroom which is right next to the kitchen. I thought our landlord was doing some work either on the corrugated tin roof of the bathroom or threading plastic plumbing through one of the two small (12" x 5") openings in the concrete up by the roof that serve as windows (open to the outside), because I thought I saw some rather dirty, dark tubing lowering down the wall in there. Well, all of a sudden I realized I was looking at a four-foot snake in my bathroom! The poor thing. I screamed; I was a little hysterical. I closed the bathroom door so he wouldn't come into the house. God! Gopal came down, saw the snake and went to round up re-enforcements among the neighbors. All the men came in with long stakes (every time I saw one of those big sticks, I screamed), but fortunately the snake was gone. I kept saying "Gopal, tell them not to kill the snake!"

The longer story is that the poor snake was being chased by a dog. It was a water snake that probably came from the creek right by our house. The snake must have jumped from the hillside that is about even with our roof, about 4 feet. From there, she threw herself willy-nilly through the hole in the wall (which put her right in my bathroom). With me screaming and men descending on my bathroom, she must have high-tailed it out one of those windows and leaped across to the hillside again. It wasn't long before one of the neighbors found her being eaten by the dogs.

Needless to say, I don't feel very good about that experience. I feel somewhat responsible for the snake's demise but am not sure what I could have done. The dog I saw by the house then was a female who looked like she was either pregnant or nursing puppies, so she needed that nutrition. The dogs don't eat well here. One of the neighbor ladies (before we knew the snake was dead) said it was good luck to be visited by a snake. I would like to think I have curbed by terror with reminders that most snakes are harmless and hope I won't panic quite so badly the next time I am confronted unexpectedly with a snake like that. I also want to keep snakes in my consciousness as special creatures. I did a kolam of a snake on Tuesday. Maybe I'll do that every week, or every day.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Healthcare notes

Gopal and I are trying to get up earlier to walk. Yesterday, we got up early and took a walk along a path in our village. Because it'a been so rainy, the stone and concrete stairs and pathways were slippery. I fell, scraping myself minorly on both hands and my knee. I am so grateful I did not injure the knee itself. The cut on my right hand looked too inflamed later in the day. I was concerned about the filthy mud that was in the cut after my fall. (I say filthy because the sewage system consists of trenches that carry all waste downhill, probably to a creek or river. The trench ran along this walkway, and the smell of shit there was strong. And I'm sure the various animals that roam loose walk through that trench, ya know?) So Gopal and I walked into Boys Company to see the doctor there. He wasn't in, but our friend the pharmacist was. He sold me an antibiotic, an antiinflammatory, and Betadine cream for $2. Earlier that day I had renewed 4 prescriptions for two months for $48.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Coonoor Apartment

Our apartment is on the left end.
Lingama Colony (6 homes)
Our living room (with Atul and Shriya)
Shemi , Janaki, Carolyn in the kitchen

We have an upstairs bedroom, which we decided not to use as a bedroom because the stairs going up and down are so steep we were afraid we'd kill ourselves getting up to go to the bathroom in the night! But we have the computer there and hang our clothes up there. We're thinking about creating a cozy private space up there. Life in India is very sociable, ya know?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Misc. re living in The Nilgiris

Gopal and Shriya (6-yr.-old next door neighbor)
Gopal and I on a tour of The Nilgiri mountains
Misty mountains

I hope you can read this. It's very Indian.
Kolam in front of my door.
Kolam is a design in rice flour laid out in front of a doorway, traditional in South India
Gopal and Mariama, neighbors.
Mariama is my kolam mentor, having won first prize in her village for her kolam art.
Mariama, Shemi (Shriya's mother), Carolyn
Fruit plate for afternoon snack.
Wanted to feature it because it's so beautiful.
Clockwise: Sweet lemon (orange), persimmon, sitaphal, koyya (green guava)
A woman comes with a big basket of fruit to our door.
We get photocopies and passport photos in this little alley in Upper Coonoor.
The mosque is right behind it. Isn't it pretty?

Just a quick note on healthcare. Here, they do not do preventative care, so getting a flu shot was sort of cumbersome. That cost me $30, including the medicine. So, I have to tell them what I need, requiring me to be pretty well-informed. People do not have primary-care physicians. I have one because I asked for one, and Dr. Prince understood the concept.