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Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve

Tired indeed...stayed awake to visit with family--another member newly arrived from the states for a visit-- and have chappatis--our usual evening fare, this time w creative veg curry by resident, younger bro-in-law!-- napped b4 watch night service at neighborhood church...heavenly, a capella sound of overflowing congregation's hymn-singing wafts over from church a few blocks hence, resounding around concrete neighborhood homes and compound walls...I half-awoke to ask Franklin if it was time yet, to find he had already gone and returned...2010's last hour revved up w groups of youth speeding by in cars or on motorcycles while hooting, screaming, exploding firecrackers, counterpoint to continuing strains of hymns. Early morning, from another side, a mullah raises his inimitable all-call to acknowledge, praise and pray to God, not only today, but throughout the new year. Let's!
The kitchen table is cluttered with cakes, sweets, and cookies sent by friends and neighbors, tokens of affection, affiliation and good will during festivals and holidays of all Indians, all year.
Blessings and peace to all in 2011. Lord willing (and He is), may it be a good year for all.

What a wonderful way, and why there's another gap!

What a wonderful way to end a wonder-full year!
Tired but happy after two weeks with our daughter, along with her husband, and children (4 and 8) visiting India for the first time to journal or blog between travel (Guntur to Hyderabad, Hyderabad to Guntur and one of 'our' villages, Guntur to Hyderabad, Hyderabad to Agra (via half day fog delay in Delhi), Agra to New Delhi, and Delhi-Hyd, Hyd-Gnt) by train, car, and taxi), visiting relatives (Hyd and Gnt), shopping (Hyd Bangle bazaar, Gnt handicraft mela--nada, Agra marble crafts, Delhi clothes and crafts--and of course a book, Shobha De's Indi-chick-lit SISTERS), sightseeing (Golconda Fort sound-and-light show w sleeping grand-kids, zoo w zoo train, and Charminar in Hyd, the Taj on foggy day in Agra, Red Fort, children's center and Lodi Gardens in Delhi) and staying and/or eating at wonderful hotels and restaurants. (Notably "Angeethi" in Hyderabad, styled as typical north Indian dhaba restaurant ala 'truck stop,' w. pottery-, clay bangle-, and henna demos thrown in) and "Lodi Garden Restaurant" in Delhi--fantastic Moroccan leg of lamb with garlic mashed potatoes and ratatouille--who would've thought?!)
Oh, and did I mention a children's playground (the Bal Bhavan was closed for a holiday) in Hyderabad, picnicking in a breezy kiosk overlooking the sunny beach...fine sand and waves being enjoyed by families and groups of friends as far as the eye can see in either direction on the Bay of Bengal in Surya Lanka (look it up--you know you want to!), dozens of dioramas depicting events in Indian history and mythology at the New Delhi Children's Museum, and Christmas Day among thousands of worshippers, dressed in their best and seated on red, white, or blue plastic chairs under vast shamianas all around our neighborhood Lutheran church?!
'And a good time was had by all' is a very great understatement. Loved it!
(Thanks Moriokas!!)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Note re gap in time...

The last double post about morning sounds was written over a week ago, while we have been without computer, at first, then without the net...the local company tells us the system corrupted because of repeated power outages...during a couple of days of torrential rains...have not heard of this before, , or from anyone else, but that's what co. said had happened. Happy to be back 'on,' in any case. I see folks in MN complaining about probs getting/staying on Y' what else is new... (maybe they're playing with new things?)

Had an interesting and beautiful day Saturday, training session with our evening school teachers and field staff. Satisfying to be able to lend a tiny bit of expertise, but even more gratifying to meet the bright young teachers who staff the evening schools in such spartan situations; only one or two are 'trained' teachers, but all are so earnest,apparently happy and tuning in to children and their needs.
Something between annoyance and a stitch, as three of the men attending in various capacities felt they needed to add their explanations/translations to my presentation, though my perception was that communication had been made and empathy established, LOL! Some things are slow to change!! 'Journaled sights along the way to and fro Rajupalem, the town where we had our meeting,...hope to be able to read and type notes into computer!!

Heavy rains again for a few days here...while you in MN faced heavy snow. Same but different...mosquitoes and perspiration are back in full force...looking fwd to
cooler days...and visit of daughter and expect another gap of several days...Keep warm! (As Red Green says, "Keep your stick on the ice!")

Selling Out(side) and Hallelujah!

Selling Out(side) Indians and foreigners alike continue to be charmed --and supplied --by the country's colorful open air vegetable markets and strategically placed wayside fruit stands, as well as by the soundscape of street sellers calling out wares which they ply from bundles or baskets borne atop their heads, bulging bags hung on all bars of a bicycle, or temptingly displayed upon flat-topped, waist-high push cart, teetering along on four fat cycle tires.
One of the first vendors of the day, a woman bearing a damp bundle, leaves sticking out of spaces around the corners tied together at the top, declaims, "Aaaakuuralu,patsaakulu--gongorra,batsakura,menthikura,thothakura,aak-kuraluuuu........" [Leaves for curries, leafy greens--followed by rapidfire recitation of today's stock.] It's a clear cry, brightening along the compound walls as she continues steadily on her way unless a cook or housewife on a balcony or patio calls from the family or apartment courtyard. The pair exchange business-like comments or banter while our vendress unties her bundle, empties it on a garden bench, and advertises the freshness and quality of its contents. The housewife requests a particular variety or two, while the vendor urges more bunches and additional choices. Gongorra, a regional specialty best-seller, is usually sold-out early in the day.
One of the women greens-vendors, brash and agressive, adopts an insider stance with our cook, maintaining the banter while eyeing the karivaypaku chettu [tree] in our back yard, the robust and distinctive flavor of karivaypaku leaves being essential to South Indian vegetarian cooking. Cook subtly deflects the woman's inquiries about our household, and their conversation slows as the sale is completed. Veggie seller silently busies herself re-tying her bundle as cook gathers her purchases and carries them up the back steps to the kitchen. The screen door bangs behind her as the seller conveys the bundle to her head in an easy, well practiced movement, departs along the side of the house, and lets herself soundlessly out the driveway gate. Leaving the branches of the karivaypaku chettu bare.
The bicycle-plying vegetable vendor has a dedicated customer base, calls more gently from the gates of his regulars: "Amma, ii vella aym kavaali?" What'd you like today, ma'am? Our neighbor, still in her nightie-cum-housecoat, has been sitting on her verandah railing, reading the newspaper and working the daily crossword puzzle, for an hour. She rises, a wordless signal for the vendor to wheel his bicycle through the gate to her front door. Fully visible, on a patio higher than and overlooking our kitchen, where I am eating my breakfast upma [mildly spiced cream of wheat-like Bombay rava], the pair murmur and prolong their conversation until she has chosen and bargained the final price of items for a day or two's cooking. Each one turns to his or her next task without a further word. She looks over her selection one more time as she takes them into the house. He re-hangs and re-ties his bags and bundles.
There's a lull around eight. Doting mothers urge their school going children to eat something for breakfast, wear their uniforms, and double-check that schoolbags and children are ready before the bus, autorickshaw, or dad's vehicle picks them up for the day.. Fathers take a last look at the last newspaper and check their watches before getting out their motorcycles. A single bicycle-rickshaw passes steadily along the middle of the street in the morning sunlight, a desk-sized, wire-sided box, instead of a seat, affixed atop the rickshaw's rear wheels. The young man driving it occasionally glances this side and that, his hopes for filling the box behind him intoned at an even pitch:: "Ol-boxes, paper, whatever...."
One of the male vendors draws out his advertisement in a unique, loud twang like a highly amplified zing of an old fashioned telegraph wire. Later in the morning, a woman's voice is a higher echo of his prolonged, nasal zing. I have yet to decipher either one.
By mid-morning, a red and white-shaded cart's initial foray through the neighborhood is announced by the unmistakably happy ringing of a brass bell, punctuated by the seller's amplified English call in English, "I-yiss kree-yum-? O-o-o-e-e, I-yiss cree-yummmm!" at first two words ascending, hinting of excitement and query, then again descending, as though answering his own cry. He will return again and again and again, throughout the day.
Other vendors' voices recall, to my ear, coaches and spectators at a soccer game. Sugar cane juice. Re-cyclers ready to purchase old notebooks, clothes, or newspapers. Mid-to-late afternoon, just before tea time, a favorite snack, is emphatically announced as though 'half time,' or 'game:' "O-o-o-o, Sa-MO-saaaa!"
Every few days, a continuous bell, without a call, would be the old bangle seller, jovial and graying, his glass and glittering wares in boxes or dangling from bars behind the windows of his cart, a big, black, open umbrella fixed to the handle. Even though there are larger and more varied bangle and 'fancy' stores in the town, this itinerent vendor still supplies an endless market of women and girls who regularly purchase and wear his colorful eye candy. Are the glass bangles on your arm worn and few? Never mind, he will break them off in a trice, assess your size with a gentle squeeze of thumb and knuckles on one hand, and share familiar pleasantries, all the while smoothly suggesting other colors and styles of bangles for you and other women and children in your house and beyond. Should you object, saying that you need no more, "Just a look, see these..." is his reply. Before you are done, you'll have more than you bargained for--that too, at a fixed price.
Our favorite call, however, is that of the Krishnanagar neighborhood salt seller. The earliest of the morning criers, the salt seller's call resounds throughout the lane with an implication of entitlement. Indispensable, and an Indian icon, salt was the goal of Gandhi and other *satyagrahis' 1947 march to the Arabian Sea, the twentieth century parallel of the American revolutionary 'tea party.' The Indian version of salt is cruder, damper than our refined American salt. My first year in India, I was amazed to behold cooks and diners alike heap salt on by the large pinch in the kitchen or the tiny spoonful from mini-dishes set around the tabletop. Nowadays it's just another 'relative' thing to which my husband, now an American citizen, and I re-orient ourselves, each annual India trip. But when the salt vendor's singular voice is heard, we can only roll our eyes and shake our heads at his unfailing, "Oop-poooooh!" sounding for all the world like the onset of sudden vomiting. Is it ncongruously distinctive, or counterproductive?! Do we so urgently need some salt today, or will laughter do?? The spice of life! Who would have thought!!

* satyagrahi, truth seeker, name adopted by activists during India's 'Quit India' freedom movement in the 1940's._____________________________

Hallelujah (Still trying to distill the morning sounds topic into mere words...)
If there's never a dull moment in India, once the rooster crows and the first broom is heard in the morning, there's never a silent one, either. The birds awaken, cawing, peeping, occasionally throbbing, individually or in flocks. Hush, hush, a neighbor's household helper sweeps debris from the dirt right-of-way just outside their gate. All over the country, housewives, servants, and daughters-in-law daily bend to the task of sweeping away litter--tossed papers and fallen leaves--at the start of the day. Housewife or servant, each bows over the task, wielding an arm's length, loosely tied handful of stiff dry (reeds?) which is still the Indian broom of choice. Sh, sh, sh, sh! Our housekeeper sweeps leaves and dust from a sidewalk of grey, native flagstone.
Before or after she washes supper dishes (to the sound of steel on stone) and prepares breakfast (with a snap or two of the gas stove lighter), tea - Indian chai - is to be offered to each member of the household in turn. One by one, itinerant street sellers are heard touting their wares. But repeated attempts to serve head-of-house Tata (grandfather) his morning tea produce a soundscape unlike any other. Once the disciplinarian of a family of ten, now by turns reminiscent, anxious, querelous, consumptive, imperious, and peevish, Tata, at a hundred years, remains a force to be reckoned with. In both English and Telugu, he exclaims,
"Don't want. Let me sleep. It's still dark. Can't you understand?! Let me sleep! Brainless! Po!--[get out]!! Didn't you hear me? Get out! Who the heck are you, why did you have to disturb me? Get out, get out!"
One of the sons lends his voice to the task. "It's not dark. It's morning. Time to get up. Don't you want to drink your tea while it's hot?"
Housekeeper receives another tirade. Tata hacks and spits.
Son tries again, louder, insisting, in vain.
"You are not wanted here. Haven't I said? Get out, get out. Get! Out!"
Housekeeper again, "All right, well, here it is, and it's getting cold." as she leaves the cup nearby.
Muttering, less angrily now, Tata takes a sip. "Mm, right, right..." He finishes the tea in a few long sips, stretches up his arms, proclaiming, "Maho-o-nattuwanti Dayvooniki, [To Great God], stothram, stothram, stothram. [praise, praise, praise]" Then, in English, "Come to Jesus! All right! Hallelujah!"

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The children today, Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Children Today

The scene has changed so much since I first teased Most Precious out of her prolonged parallel play period of development, to interest her in studying, upstairs in a pair of large room shared with a dozen less able children, less interested in studies than in moaning, moving, and what’s for lunch.
A pack of colored pens and several oral and drawing/writing challenges relating to herself and our experiences together motivated her in the beginning. Little forays into my purse, singing songs to one another, a very occasional treat, simple story-telling (The Three Bears) led to reviewing Telugu letters, and counting to one hundred. That was last year, twice a week over a two month period, followed by eight months of silence when we were away, in the USA.

This year I’ve seen more progress that indicates MP’s willing-nay, eager-ness to learn.
For two days, she and John have reveled in the manipulation of a handful of pebbles to solve subtraction problems shown on flashcards.  For each simple problem, they celebrate the verification of their work, delightedly reading an equation on the reverse side of each card.  Yesterday it was just myself and MP, who reverted to the coyness that’s always lurking beneath the surface of her every move, and playing virtual hide-and-seek, in her joy.

          Today our little ‘class’ has grown to an unwieldy five:  John and his sister Ramya (a sixth grader, who tells me she stands first in her class at school), MP, frequent onlooker Sowjanya, and an older gal whose name eluded me.  Awkward, because Ramya plants herself in front of me, and pre-empts all my descriptions, questions, and the other children’s answers in cheerful, competitive tones, punctuated by slaps and mild name-calling when the others fail to measure up.  My labored Telugu falters even further as I attempt to share with her what I am trying to do for Most Precious, and how awkward her (Ramya’s) interpolations are making the situation.   

          Halfway through the hour, which includes a Telugu letter review and an interactive picture book about the life cycle of baby animals,  we begin to click.  Praise the Lord!   Today’s session ends up being an hour and a half, rather than the usual fifty minutes.  The children are nonplussed but happy, waving and good-bying as I head to the gate to call an auto rickshaw.  They fall silent when I blow a kiss through the air.  I think.  Hopefully the kids are thinking, too…Ever alert, may they be more aware of their lives, friends, and environment in general.  Amen..

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Note re Nov. 23

Today I finished expanding the essay "Water, Water Everywhere," which is still located, as amplified, on the November 23 blog post.
Thanks for reading, audience helps!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December First, Advent Thoughts

       The nearest Lutheran church is holding worship services every night this advent, one hour services, in contrast with the two-three hour ones on Sunday morning.  As we drive along the busy, hazy thoroughfare near the neighborhood church, small groups of people, Bibles and hymnals in hand, make their way, walking comfortably between evening rush traffic and bustling shops, to the church.
        Raghava, our driver, is putting up the Christmas star just now.  Indian Christians display one or two lighted stars of varied designs on their homes, churches, and sometimes village or neighborhood entrances, during Advent.  In days gone by, it was the task of young boys in the family to construct them of sticks and tissue paper.  Nowadays the stars are plastic, displayed, with lighting, in front of many stores in the markets.
       Someone in the neighborhood is getting married, judging from the sounds of a procession with horns and drums, coming this way.just's 7:30 p.m.
       Little kids at Nirmal Hriday were fascinated by solving addition/subtraction problems using pebbles, instead of the common Indian method of just reciting, today....They evidently never did math in such a practical way, never knew numbers really 'meant' anything, before...Looks like they really got 'into' it.
       Have a look at the "Advent Conspiracy" video I just shared on Facebook (also available on YouTube).. It's a thought provoking one, worth sharing. Truly a way to get into the holiday spirit.  I hope/think you'll agree, processing toward your own holidays with all-the-more appropriate love and joy.
      p.s.  I think this is a link:

23 Nov 2009 ... YouTube- Advent Conspiracy Promo Video 12/04/
2009. send to a friend; Facebook; Twitter; subscribe ...