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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Expect the Unexpected, a Tuesday list of random happenings

This week's Tuesday list challenge is "Whatever you like," so I'll share a couple of random unexpected events experienced since I came to India in mid January.

One night, after the others have gone to bed, I am still on the computer.  I fail to notice a soft voice calling, "Madam..." until about the third time, when I realize the voice is at the living room window just opposite me  (there's an iron grid, but the glass window is ajar).  'Evaru?" (who?) I call.  "Chendu," the voice replies.  Not recognizing the name, I call to my husband in the next room.  "Just tell him to go away," he says.  Hm, someone just coming to visit too late, I think, and ask the voice to leave, because everyone is asleep.  Silence.  Then,  even quieter: "I love you, Madam..."  Startled, I tell him in sterner terms to leave, while sister-in-law and husband, hearing my voice raise, emerge from their respective rooms to assure me that it's just the neighbor's husband, who occasionally comes around a bit inebriated.  Not to worry.  I am annoyed. They laugh. I am not amused.

There are plenty of women's beauty salons in Guntur, with a full range of salon services.  I opt for a haircut, and climb the stairs and round the L-shaped balcony to The Little Princess Beauty Salon.  Three young women, perhaps teenagers, welcome me.  I ask for the 'Madame" (common name for woman proprietor as well as respected woman here), whom one of the girls calls on the cell phone, and Madame says she'll be right there.  The gals surround me to conduct a rather typical foreigner-interview.  What do you want (done)??.  What country are you from?  How do you know how to speak Telugu?  Where do you stay in Guntur? Do you like India?  They tell me their names, and withdraw to look and think of more questions.  One of the girls comes close and quietly asks me which church I attend, and tells me she attends the Believers' Church near the Baptist Church, that she and her sisters became Christians after their mother came to be a believer, but that their father has not...he drinks...Madame arrives and everyone busies herself, as we discuss what kind of cut I want.  "Boy Cut" seems the closest, and I describe the modified effect I would like.  Madame places the scissor near my ear as she asks how long I would like it, and before I know it, she clips it close to my head all around the ear. Alas, "Boy Cut" is what she hears, and boy cut is what I get.  Oh well, at least under what's left, it's still me.  

Franklin and I pay a visit to Ganapavaram, where we have had a PUSHPA evening school the longest, and a beaming little girl thrusts a fistful of rosy pink hibiscus blossoms into my hand.  We are shown to chairs under the open-sided building's  corrugated metal canopy, and chat with a handful of early-arriving children as more children and adults congregate after their day at field work or public school.  Other little girls get into the spirit of giving flowers, and soon I have a lapful.  As we begin our meeting a little more formally, one more child, whom I remember as a wide-eyed, chubby-cheeked baby in her father's arms when we first began, several years ago, shyly slips me one more flower...and then presses a small coin, worth perhaps two cents, into my hand.  I look at the coin and at her:  each of us apparently considering the appropriateness of the latter gift, which I hesitantly offer back to the child.  I smile, suggesting that she save it.  She does not hesitate, but takes the coin carefully back to her school bag. Did I do the right thing?  Did she?  Lord knows.  What would you have done?

I've been happy to find that we can buy pre-mixed batter for a fermented lentil crepe dish that I like, right in Minneapolis, recently.  It's only one of several common breakfast foods in India, but one that requires a bit of prep-work.  Lo and behold, the pre-mixed batter is being used here too, and we have dosais, clearly one of my favorite breakfasts, almost every day.  A pleasant surprise.

This morning I visit a tiny hospital, being developed by friends, Dr. wife and husband, to serve an inner city neighborhood, in an old mission bungalow.  Hoping to share more information about it with you, I take several photos. I ask my tour guide, the Dr.'s teen-aged daughter, to lie on a bed, pretending she is having a test.  She does, and I take my picture.  But suggesting photo participation here is like offering honey to bees; one or another chuckling staff member eagerly volunteers to lie on every bed in every department after that.  I demur at posing patients in every picture, and the group desists, dropping back to simply observe my reaction to, and suggest photographs to be taken in, the rest of the facility.  As I am leaving, a number of patients and patients' families are checking in, and the good Dr. wants me to take a picture of folks now crowding around the admissions desk.  I agree, provided that they all agree to be photographed, and Dr. has no trouble in informing them that I want to take a picture.  'Want to take one un-posed, but announcing is tantamount to posing, and I finally have to settle for taking several shots of a random group of people resolutely facing the camera.  Many are still smiling as I 'take leave.'  Most Indian people have an innate  propensity for 'presence of mind,' and are able to seize all kinds of opportunities on the spur of the moment. But allowing a photographer to take a spontaneous photograph is not one of them.  I keep hoping.

One more 'surprise' -- At our 'old' house, we used to hear the neighborhood night watchman several times during the night, the clank of his rod on the ground and soft 'twee' of his whistle reassuring us that all was well.  But this year I hear the same whistle in broad daylight, in the late afternoon.  Two saree-clad women, their hair and faces tied with a protective covering, come by, pushing a low-platform, light-weight cart equipped with several large garbage cans, and calling at homes to take out the days' garbage, which they eventually empty at a neighborhood dumpster around the corner. Discarding of trash and indiscriminate dumping continue to be problematic in the Indian environment, but these enterprising ladies, with very little investment, are making the most of the opportunity (and the increasing number of paved streets) to create a much needed business.  I salute them.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great collection of musings. We were also very happy to find dosai batter on Central Avenue. Makes life easier and tastier! I love hearing about your neighborhood and the visits to rural communities near Guntur. Look forward to more of these. Thanks for sharing! - Deborah McLaren