Thursday, September 28, 2006

At a loss

I have had a wonderful day today; full, engaging, educational, fun and long. But i'm sitting in this internet cafe almost in tears from missing everyone so much. I just read an email from my little sister and the comments my fam keeps leaving after each post and i miss you all so much.

Today Alex and i woke up super early (6:15 am to be exact) to get ready (even after sleeping horribly in this oppressive heat where the power goes out and any relief from the archaic ceiling fan ceases), have breakfast and meet the rest of the group at 7:45 to go do service at the Mother Theresa House for the Destitute (a hospice for the poor, old and dying). We were to meet at Haifa, a hotel and restuarant approved as safe and clean for foriegners who need food, chai or refuge from the heat. we got lost because all of varanasi (that i've seen so far, although i've been told the rest of it is like this too) is small, low to the ground and built with no sense of urban planning whatsoever. the roads, if you choose to call them that, are either dirt or long ago laid flagstones in dirt, surrounded by mounds and mounds of poop from the leagues of holy cows that always have right of way or the armies of goats that relax on the steps to the Ganges and look at me funny when i try and rest for a moment near them in the sun.

my ability to read hindi script is limited to recognizing letters and starting to string together blends; i'm basically reading at a preschool level right now. this does not help with me being able to distinguish just what part of the unnamed main road (whose only saving grace is that it runs parallel to the ganges and can always help orient you as a result) i happen to be lost on. i did see a snakes on a plane poster in hindi when we got here; it is one of the joys of my walks from my host family's house that i pass it numerous times a day.

there is an amazing children's home run by the man who cannot be named that is within walking distance where today we had our first yoga class and i had my second Kathak class, which is the classical north indian style of dance i am interested in. It is well run, for children who are either orphans or from poor, not so stable families, clean, friendly, and loving. there is a wonderful garden (probably about 1/6 of an acre of green space) that it surrounds which we have been told is the nicest green space in this old smelly city.

I have finally started getting my bearings, although i have not yet been outside of Assi ghat. There are some kick ass book stores down here, along with a silk shop that is so amazing and wonderful alex and i spent 2 hours this morning there, taking chai with the shop keepers and designing new clothes for ourselves. The book stores are chock full of such interesting books about india that i would never be able to find back home; they adress the intellectual vaccum towards india that i find at home. books about partition, feminism, pop culture, hindu mythology, current indian economic & political realities. they also have tons of great western classics and books that have been endlessly recommended to me that i fully intend on reading someday. i'm reading India: A Wounded Civilization by V.S. Naipaul right now and really wish i had someone to discuss it with. i've been taking feverish notes as i read, trying to capture the purest reactions i have to the text before i have the chance to analyze & dissect. when i'm done, mike said he'd read it so that we can discuss it and i'll start reading A Fine Balance, which is a book he recommended to me. I have to say that Siri & Mike are the best leaders i could have ever asked for. They are so caring and anticipate our needs very well. They truly care about our comfort, experiences and growth. They have travelled to India and through India enough where they have many answers to my many questions, but are totally wiling to admit when they don't and help me find those. The group as a whole has so many great and intersting books with them as well that i want to speed through the books i've brought and the ones on my must read list so that i can take advantage of so many at my disposal.

Our morning, though devoid of service, was relaxing and fun. We splurged and got fruit salads as a midmorning snack at Haifa (3rd time we've been there in 24 hours) before our silk escapades and bookstore adventure. Aside from actually being in India, it wasn't that different from the way we might spend a lazy summer morning in america. I cherish those moments, they remind me where i'm my grounding comes from and what i'm grounded in. India is a wonderful place that i can see myself spending a great deal of time in during the next few years, but home is home. I often think of the fall season i am missing, the color changing leaves, the smell of fireplaces first being lit, the crunch of dried leaves under my feet on an afternoon walk, fresh hot apple cider, pumpkins, driving down the Merritt and soaking up the mosiac of autumn colors that New England never fails to provide. These things often seem like dreams, fantastical imaginings i've conjured up while sitting on the stairs to the Ganges in the vicious Indian morning sun. It is as if i can only reach that world through words now, either the ones i write or the ones i read in responses to this blog. A world where running water is plentiful and safe to drink, where meat is readily available and safe to eat, where racial profiling is an inconvenient (but usually not deadly) truth, where electricity is available 24/ 7 and constantly wasted and taken for granted, where open sewers don't line the streets, where toilet paper is in every bathroom (except those unfortunate folks who have run out but fully intend on buying more), where poverty isnt life and death and staring you in the face with its fly covered one, where underwieght children and underweight abused stray animals dont fight for your compassion, where freedom in dress and ritual/religion doesnt mean anything more, where the indivual takes priority over everything, where consumerism is identity. I miss and despise this fantastic place, just as i relish and despair over the place i'm currently in.

I want to do everything here. There are so many amazing internship opportunities, silver smithing, dancing (Kathak, Bollywood/filmi, poy or fire dancing) hindi, tablas, sitar... i want to do and learn it all. I started Kathak classes with a gurl my age who is a senior at BHU (Benaras Hindu Univ) in their 3 year Kathak dance program (which they call a bachelor's of music instead of Fine arts) at a local dance academy called Deeka Music & dance Academy. (At least i think that is what it is called!) She speak alot of english and is explaining Kathak to me as one dancer to another. I love it so far, ive been walking down the street with my hands in the proper position (thumb & index finger of each hand touching while the other three fingers are together and stiff, parallel to the ground) and my feet touching out the rhythms (instead of a typical 8 count, the steps are counted in syllables: Ta, Thi, Thi, Thut, Aa, Thi, Thi, Thut, repeat) while i mouth the rhythmic counts. Next lesson is tomorrow at noon. Hopefully tomorrow i will make it ot the Mother Teresa house and then follow with lunch and Kathak. Today i was so beat because our yoga teacher said we shouldnt eat 3 hours before class, and class was supposed to be at 3pm, so i ended up only having some Hide & Seek tea biscuits (small square crispy cookies with choclate chips...AWESOME), a baby bannana and water to take me through the middle of the day, 2 Kathak class and a yoga class. Not doing that again. I had two classes today b/c i wanted to try out both teachers available to me. The gurl my age is great, i really enjoy her style and her presence. The other teacher is an older man who teaches Kathak at BHU who doesnt speak any english. He was nice enough but rushed me through a bunch of steps and drilled me over and over, it wasnt that helpful.
i also dont feel that comfortable having him re-adjust my arms or have to regulate my movement. A gurl is better for that for me. I'm getting low on funds, i have to change money ASAP so that i can pay for my hindi tutor and buy the books i find. not sure how i'll carry them or keep them...but i'll work that out.

It is oppressively hot here. Did i mention that? Bugs have been attacking me like it is their sole evolutionary purpose and i hate them for it. On the other hand, i heart geckos!!! there are tons here, and watching them stalk giant grasshoppers, crickets and even flies is one of my favorite things to do. i wonder where our collective language and expressions would be without nature to steal metaphors and analogies from? we'd have to ceaselessly explain behavior without having a wonderful, easily graspable idea like "stalking its prey" or "being a chameleon". Anywho. Totally random. Please keep the comments coming, i need them! i will do my best to take some pictures tomorrow and upload them in some form or fashion to the blog.
Love, light and growth~
Bilbo

4 comments:

mujtabag said...

Hang in there, Yazi!

Frick said...

How exciting! You are dancing :) I can't wait to see you translate what you learned into dancing to American music. Reading your blog is so great cus it's totally a window into a place I've never been and could never imagine. It just goes to show how ignorant most Americans are, we can just change the channel and pretend like everywhere has the luxuries we have.

mom said...

Salaams Yazi,

What a train ride, I'm proud of you, you managed to keep your cool when confronted with those desi fools! Allhamdullah. I look forward to checking your blog for any updates. Farhana antie said will print out your blog for ummy juan:) Can't wait for the pictures. I want to see some of you in shilwar kamese. I miss you sooo much...
Ramadan Mubarak. May Allah SWT bless you and keep you safe in His care.

love always
oxoxox
mom

Shreen said...

dear yazi,
this comment will be the first that is actually worthy of your blog. i apologize for every1's brief comments, we never give your blog the justice it deserves by commenting on the last thing we've read and saying (yet again) how much we miss you.
here goes: today i'm fasting bin-saher and the only thing that i've been able to focus on is watching the movie Munich and reading your words. This blog brought me to tears, words are quite powerful when they're mastered my grasshopper/ guru! :) the oppressive heat u face slipped my mind, think of us back at Newtown, in our sports bras and cotton shorts with glasses of ice water that is perspiring on the side of the glass more than we are, wen we used to go outside on the swing or roof or just stroll the street for the smell of the wet grass, the sound of the crickets, and of course, respite from the accumulated heat inside, like Haifa gives you now. Service at the Mother Theresa House must be hard, just reading the sentence made my heart hurt.
My earliest most salient memory of the word Varanasi is from American Desi. Remember that?! When we found acceptance from the first brown film that spoke to ABCDs like us, we would have never predicted your journey now from then. Life is great like that. In the movie the desi girl who "likes ketchup on her home fries" is from a small town outside Varanasi, and look where my yazi is :)
I miss Mommy's chai, and I'm sure the chai you have there is even better. Can you bring me back Lamsa?! And different types of authentic chai :) That's what I'd like, so when I go to India I know which brand I like best :) In Indo I drank chai with reduced fat milk and 3 tsp. brown sugar :) I MISS YOU!
I know exactly what u felt when u saw the snakes on the plane poster- in Indo I was in the middle of a market and heard REGGAETON! It was Rompe by Daddy Yankee or something, i wanted to drink up the moment and savor it forever, it was the best reminder of home I could ask for. The bookstores sound amazing :) I'll ask mom how to send money to you so we can indulge on books :)
im so glad you have leaders like Siri and Mike, they sound like great leaders and inshallah I'll get to meet them one day.
your memories of home are beautiful :) lets get some less glamorous ones in there! like lioness hair first thing in the morning when me you and chip are all wearing glasses, sitting on one of our beds cackling and gasping for breath because we are just that funny ;)
i love what you said about reaching your former world through words, words are the paint we use to color our world :) thank you for cultivating that in me..
i wish all my comments could be this detailed, lucky for me, Yazi's tales are my new weekend ritual. I hafta go pray before I break fast in 32 minutes (at 6:53PM today) I MISS YOU SO MUCH! YOU are the most amazing intelligent and beautiful woman :) Those Khans.. Take care and inshallah talk (vicariously) to you soon!