Tuesday, October 25, 2005

the last day

these pics were taken out on the busy street running past our hotel. as we got out of our auto, we heard drums and chanting and raced up to the street to see what was going on. a few tour buses and trucks bearing festival devotees had pulled off to the side, a handful of people had jumped out and started an impromptu drum-dancing circle. we gladly snapped up some pictures and just as quickly as they had arrived, they rounded everyone back up and into their caravan (at the behest of local law enforcement) and were on their way.

a few more images from the last couple of hours spent in delhi before our flight home...

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

intense longing...

it's been 119 hours since we got back to california and i can safely say that i have spent at least 100 of them missing india. even in my sleep. i've dreampt of exploding lotus fireworks in pinks, purples and greens. when i close my eyes before bed, bursts of memory flash in front of my lids reminding me of the food vendors, animals, peeling paint and bright saris.

gate to private residence, kailash colony, new delhi

shoppers at dilli haat, new delhi

transportation of choice, new delhi

village women, east of fatepuhr sikri

19 year old silk vendor at dilli haat, new delhi

lime soda vendor outside of chadni chowk, new delhi

pedicab, new delhi

goat, fatepuhr sikri

sweet potatoes at jonpath, new delhi

paddle boats at delhi gate, new delhi

last night as i walked del through my almost unbearably quiet neighborhood, a distinct fragrance enveloped me, and mixed with the exhaust of a very late school bus, emulated the ubiquitous scent of delhi...spice and pollution.

i went back to work on monday and was faced with a challenge: teaching 90 high school students about restorative justice and the juvenile justice system when really all i wanted to do was set up my slideshow of photos, settle into my comfy armchair and drink chai. luckily the students were freshman and i always appreciate their naivete and enthusiasm. they wanted to know about india, how different it is from the US and whether i liked it. i told them of the poverty, the animals, the pollution, the rich history and architecture. i told them that you can't drink the water unless it comes from a sealed water bottle, that excursions are often planned around finding a bathroom, and that ordering food is an adventure when you only know that 'aloo' means potato and 'matar' green peas. i told them that not only did i like india, i fell in love with all its complexities. i told them that the experience had profoundly changed my concept of privelege...that even the most destitute people in our community have no idea what it's like to be poor in india. i told them that even though they might not have the coolest tshirts from hot topic, that they have more clothes than some children in india could ever dream of having. before my trip, i may have looked at some of those very students and thought, 'these kids live below the poverty level'. but after india, all i could see were incredibly healthy and fortunate people who will eat today.

it was hard to teach and stay on task when really all i wanted to say was, 'who cares about these issues...people are DYING on the sides of the road from starvation...children are begging in traffic with bloody stumps for hands and huge scars marring their faces!' in contrast, improving the justice system doesn't seem nearly as urgent anymore.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

whoa...culture shock...

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
back at the singapore airport...total culture shock. everything is clean and sanitary, bright flashing lights beckoning me to shop in all the duty free stores. everything my little ol' heart desires and more. only this time my entire concept of money has changed and the prices are enough to give me a heart attack! but little did i know that they have a mac counter. lord help me! only 20 more hours until i'm stateside!!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

a fond farewell...

with a somewhat heavy heart i bid farewell to india...while i'm very much looking forward to the conveniences of home (FRESH fruits and vegetables by the ton...clean/safe running water...a HOT shower for the first time in 3 weeks...no raw sewage running along the roadside...not feeling like a total alien with three heads, etc.) i'm also a bit reluctant to leave.

everyday has been different...some trying and difficult at best. some frustrating and downright miserable for various reasons (mostly physical discomfort). but others have been absolutely amazing and beautiful, rich and magical...full of color and detail that will stay with me for a long, long time.

i'll miss the cacophony of traffic, the green parakeets flying wildly through the neighborhood, chai 4 times a day, the great food, terrific shopping, the vibrant colors everywhere, neemrana's fort palace, the children, music, and cows wandering lazily through intersections and marketplace. in short...just about everything. even the things that drive me crazy one day seem endearing the next.

we spent the day yesterday at a photoshoot for cigarettes in a posh club here in new delhi. the ads were running in africa where actual cigarettes are not allowed to be shown in the advertisement. we holed up in the club all day. and the models smoked. all day. and danced somewhat reluctantly as will smith's 'gettin jiggy with it' played on repeat for 6 hours. but it reminded me of what jake really came here to do...work. it was an interesting experience, especially to watch tarun. he is so full of energy and passion. it illustrated what an amazing time this has been...our experiences have been so diverse and at times complicated.

afterwards we set out to get some last minute shopping taken care of, and stopped by india gate...we were beseiged by monkey handlers, children trying to sell us all manner of things, and curious delhiites. two of the particularly rambunctious boys hijacked one of the paddle boats and much to the dismay of the protesting onlookers, sailed off laughing hysterically.

as jake put it last night..."i kinda looked at this in the beginning like, 'great...after this, india will be taken care of...i can cross that off my list of places in the world to go'...but now i know that i want to come back again and again". we saw and experienced a great deal, but there is still so much to be explored. i'm looking forward to the next time.

(but i'm also looking forward to sleeping in my own bed in about 48 hours and giving my dog a big fat kiss!)


peace of mind...

here are some pictures of the bahai temple that we visited before the ram leela grounds...it is a nondenominational temple that was completed in the late '80s as a common ground for people of any religion to convene and meditate, pray or simply observe the amazing silence allowed by the expansive architecture. it is another sanctuary within the controlled chaos of new delhi.

when we arrived, hundreds of people proceeded slowly toward the temple, removed their shoes and filed in silently to sit on the many wooden carved benches and do as they pleased, so long as they didn't disturb the peace within. the only sounds we heard were the soft jinglings of anklets worn by many of the women. photography was not allowed inside so you'll just have to use your imagination! this was one of my favorite places...

Monday, October 10, 2005

festival of lights...

october is a fantastic time to be in north india as it is the beginning of festival season. we saw the first inklings of the season a few days ago during our excursion to agra when we started seeing (what looked to us to be christmas) lights strung up along fences, roadside tobacco huts, restaurants and homes. the altars of ganesh and the various dieties are decorated with garlands of marigolds and fragrant strands of leaves. colorful streamers adorn the doorways of homes and temples and the stands lining the streets that usually sell normal fare are replaced with festival supplies...ceremonial rices, nuts, fruits and the glittering red-gold-and-silver fabrics that are used as the base for alter offerings.
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
all this in preparation for the 9 day festival of Navratri...the most important hindu festival. it is described as a celebration 'devoted to the mother goddess or Shakti, also known as Durga...the nine days are full of joy and devoutness'.

last night we struck out to the ram leela grounds at the red fort in old delhi to visit the Dussehra fair where costumed actors reinact the struggle between and triumph of good over evil, personified as Lord Rama (good) and Ravana (evil). as we neared the area, we shifted nervously in our bumpy autorickshaw seats. it's one thing to visit old delhi during the 'safety' of broad daylight; it's another thing entirely to go as a westerner at night. i'd be lying if i denied the fact that old delhi seemed to be malevolent by night. trying not to look terrified, we emerged from our cab and wandered slowly toward the festival gates. we were definitely the only westerners anywhere for miles. being used to the constant attention we garner on the streets, the staring at the festival was taken to all new heights. i felt more alien at the festival than i have at any other point on this trip.

we're fairly certain entrance required a ticket of some kind, but i think we look so confused and in awe that the officials waved us through security. we were such a novelty that we were allowed to mount a rickety platform at the back of the festival's viewing grounds to get a closer look at the effigy of Ravana which will be set ablaze on the last festival evening.

the play was colorful and lively, bringing the hilariously dubbed dialogue to the hundreds of entranced spectators via huge horn speakers.

there were rides for the children and a plethora of brightly lit food vendors dishing up every kind of indian cuisine imaginable and some new treats we had never seen before (including a confounding stone drum on which popsicles were made).

the revelers did not know what to make of us as we wandered around wide-eyed, snapping photos and admiring the craftsmanship required to execute such a fete.