Twelve days have passed since I last wrote. Yes, I know, I owe you some details, and have been tardy. But I’ve been on a rampage of sorts, and have only today found the strength to run screaming like a coward into this internet cafe. There’s a battle going on, one of Alfred Hitchcock sized proportions, in our adopted Indian home.
I’m worried that if I tell you about the wildlife I’m finding in my dried goods you might never dare to visit this most amazing country. For those of you who have experienced India in all of it’s monsoon glory (and have attempted to cook real Indian food in their kitchens) I would be open to any advice you could give on what to do when you keep finding tiny stones, beetles, weavels, grubs and other non-vegetarian items in the food stuffs. Let me move on to some other stories for a while. Right now, any thoughts about my kitchen are depressing me.
On the way home from a market trip, Chris and I were caught in a monsoon shower. I’m holding some bamboo poles we just bought (to hang mosquito netting over our bed.) There’s a real trick to riding side-saddle on the back of a bicycle. Especially when there’s so much other traffic (bullock carts, Tata trucks, pedestrians, goats, cattle, cars, bicycle rickshaws, motorcycles carrying entire families) missing your knee caps by mere inches (or less). An important phrase to emphatically project is “juga do!” (make space!)
The 1st of Sept. feels so far away that I don’t know where to start. There’s a happiness that wells up in me when I play back the scene of how my adopted Indian dad, Rajiv, met us at the train station. It always makes me laugh. Our eyes, blurry from a restless sleep on the overnight train, saw him walking down the train platform towards us, twirling jasmine flowers in the place where his eyes should be…crazy pin-wheels. Beside him was Jai, (another dear friend of ours)full of enthusiasm and mirth. Of the twelve or so Indian train stations I’ve spent time in, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more happy.
The place that we are subleting for the month of Sept. is a ground level “cement-like” building located in a compound owned by the descendents of a certain prince whose kingdom used to be in West Bengal (which is now a communist state.) Sadly, I’m missing details on the full history of this family. My Hindi is too poor, so I’ll have to get another briefing from Chris. The greatgrandfather of the current owner added to some of the preexisting structures here, located right on the banks of the Ganga(Ganges River.) Some friends of ours are renovating the building directly opposite us which they are using as a school, and on the other side of the wall, the landlord has his residence, next to the Kali temple which his family maintains. Thirty seconds away, along a dirt path, other friends have been living for about ten years, so advice is never far away. I have found a lot of comfort in these very good people. They have softened the sting of my own ignorance that follows me like a stray ghostdog, everywhere I go.
One of the unexpected joys of our stay here has been the garden in front of the house. One of the unexpected frustrations of the garden has been the gardener (which we didn’t know came with the house.) The German lady who is the actual tenant of the residence has been away in the hills of India for the last four months, and it’s strange to suddenly have an “employee” who has a real lack of work ethic. I’m sure you’ll hear more about this in future letters.
I spent a lot of time that month in the garden, clearing the soil of bricks and stones. It felt good to throw myself into some physical labor, even though the temperatures hit over 100 degrees Fahrenheit by 10 a.m. When the rains came, I would continue, and it was wonderful.
I’m nervous about the constant power cuts here in Varanasi, so I’ll be posting this right now, and continuing immediately after, with another blog. Back in a minute.
P.S. The music here at this cafe is now pumping Indian dance music. This is a nice change from the Bollywood film song they’ve been playing on repeat here for the last 2 hours.