Sunday, November 29, 2009

I forgot about the COWS!!

So, in Auroville, the most efficient way to get around is either by bicycle or two-wheelers. After Kahlil very insistently proved to me that renting a motorcycle would be the best idea, as we could see more and faster, and together, I decided why not. Our friends Evelina and James were also renting one so we could all go out together! After a few very uncomfortable moments on the road, I started to relax a bit and taking pictures while Kahlil drove. And suddenly, Holy Cow!! Here goes one crossing James path and we are right behind him!! Not pretty, what my heart did! But we lived to tell the tale!
More on Auroville and the whole week, slowly throughout the week.

This is James and Evelina in front of us. If you click on the picture you will see the cow they are approaching...

This is us now passing the cow!! I tell you not pretty!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Christmas Carols

This morning I woke up with a Christmas carol in my mind and was singing along happily until it dawned on me suddenly that the part of the holidays I liked the most, I was going to miss completely this year. Listening to Christmas carols on the radio! What a sad thought! Yes, I know I could just listen to the songs I have on my iPod, but just like watching “It’s a wonderful Life” at home on a DVD and watching it on TBS with millions of other Americans is a whole different experience, listening to the songs alone or on the radio is not the same!! My family doesn’t get it! Whenever they are showing it on TV, the Queen of England could be coming to town and invite me to tea, I would say, no thank you, Marm! And the kids would be annoyed with me and say, but Mom, you have the DVD you can watch it anytime you want! Not the same! There is a feeling of satisfaction to know that you are crying your eyes out with million others when James Stewart goes running through Bedford Falls, screaming, “Merry Christmas” to the world! Until next year!
Today, I visited the Junior School at Daly College. Embarrassed to say all these months I’ve been here, first time I went to this part of the campus. I visited a few classes. Was very impressed with the behavior of the students and the attitude of the teachers. In the pre-primary school, one teacher was painting a very elaborate flower scheme on an outside wall. I asked her, “Getting ready for Open House, he?” (in a couple of weeks), she said “No, just wanted to brighten up the place a bit.” “One teacher said about the kids “They’re full of mischief, but they’re so loving!” That’s the attitude, he? I visited a dance class. They were practicing an Indian dance for a presentation. I really enjoyed that. The expression on their faces, the hands gestures… and when the teacher joined them to demonstrate better, I was in heaven!
At the end of my visit I spent some time with the Headmaster of the Junior School. Very interesting character. Of course, first thing he did was to order a cup of tea for me, though I told him we had just had our tea in the senior School! You don’t sit with an Indian to have a conversation with him without the obligatory tea! I am learning! He has been at DC since 1970! First as a Math teacher, then Chemistry and since 12 years now as the Junior School Headmaster. He was due to retire this December but has asked for an extension. He doesn’t know yet in what position, but he’ll do anything he says as he has nothing else to do!! I could think of a few things I could do!! We talked about Bhagavad Gita. He read a few passages for me. He keeps it in his desk at all times, and refers to it often throughout his day! He has an interesting philosophy, which wouldn’t sit so well with a few parents I’ve had to deal with! He says if a parent comes to him, furious, complaining about another child hitting their child, his response is, “What do you mean, your child, they are both your children because they are both children of God. Therefore, what you need to do is scold them both and teach them that hitting is bad because tomorrow it might be the other one doing the hitting!” He told me the story of a man who is visiting Heaven and Hell. Two rooms, both with a huge pot of soup in the center with very long ladders attached to their hands to drink the soup with. In Hell, everyone is crossed with each other, they are hungry, they are angry. They cannot eat because the handles are too long and they can’t put them in their mouths. The other room, same situation, but everyone is happy, content, well fed. Because instead of trying unsuccessfully to feed themselves, they feed each other!! Isn’t that a great way of looking at life?!
So, to say, I had a nice chat with him.
A few weeks ago, I visited two other schools in Indore. One was another private school, but this one religious, Satya Sai Vidya Vihar. Satya Sai is a religious leader in India, who has built quite a few schools, hospitals in India and abroad. He is very much loved at the school. At the entrance of the main courtyard there is a statue of the goddess of knowledge. Interestingly, every child that walks in the school, stop to say a prayer in front of her. Mind boggling! We’re talking teenagers, here, rich teenagers! It is not compulsory, they just want her blessing as they enter this place of learning! Do you see the picture?! Fortunately, I went on a Thursday which is the day they have their one hour Morning Prayer assembly. They sang one verse after another, the whole lot of them, about one thousand teenagers and younger ones (from class 5 to 12) eyes closed, hands joined chanting! The group was led that morning by about ten students of Class 5! Really not to be fathomed!
At that school, the separation, boys/girls, is even greater. They have separate classes all together. Each class has 2 sessions, 12 A Girls, 12 A Boys, 12 B Girls, 12 B Boys… At DC, they only have morning assembly and tea separately! No wonder marriages need to be arranged!
Same philosophy as Mr. Chansoria at DC… While I was visiting the Vice Principal, two students came in her office. One is crying, the other is looking mi-figue mi-raisin. The crying fellow reports that the other one had hit him. With the most loving arm, she embraces him and humorously says to him: “Now you know how it hurts when you hit someone, and hopefully you will never do that!” She asked the other one to apologize, which he did quite willingly. I wish I could have a picture of a child apologizing in India. They hold their ear in a certain way a few times while saying it with a look on their face that is priceless! That is really to be seen. It can’t even be in picture, but on video, so you can see the whole movement!
The other school I visited was a KV school. They are schools which cater specifically to the Government workers’ or Service personnel’s children. It was funny how everyone sort of wanted to excuse whatever I saw there, because they all said in the same apologetic voice “They are from the middle class, you see. Don’t expect much!” I visited three chemistry classes. Lovely, lovely children!! Full of interest and curiosity about my culture, my school, my students! One boy has a coin collection. My goodness, he was so proud to show me his American quarter!! That was really touching! A beautiful experience.
No pictures today to accompany my talk! Sorry! I am holding my ears, cross my heart and hope to die!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Any entomologist in the house?!

OK, where I come from, which has more or less the same weather pattern as here, one waits for "winter" not because we are wanting to see snow or pull out the fur coats, but because the pesky little mosquitoes are gone!! More than the slight drop in temperature that we get, we wish for November to March for the lack of buzzing sounds that can drive someone trying to sleep, absolutely bunkers!! Well, here we are in Indore, beautiful cool weather (I've seen very interesting ways of wearing a sweater over a saree these past few days!), no more sweating so profusely that one looks like one has just gone under a fire hydrant, clothes that are put out to dry do so in just about a day because no more extreme humidity. But I tell you it is as if we had moved to the heart of the Everglades in the middle of July when it comes to "God's mistake" ("Oh! God" Georges Burns -God- said the seed of the avocado was His one mistake, I say "mosquitoes are His mistake!) I have always thought that the cooler temperature, the eggs of the mosquito would not "hatch" (I am only pretending to be a science teacher!!) and that's why they disappear during our winter. So can a REAL :-) science teacher explain to me why the inverse occurs here. I am told actually that in May-June when the temperature soars in the 3 digits here that's when they get a break from mosquitoes!!!
A world upside down!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Bollywood evening!

Last night we were invited by the Moydes, a couple who teach chemistry also at DC, to go to the movies and then dinner at a beautiful hotel in Indore. It was the Moydes, their two children, Madhri and Anou, Madhouri's mother, Kahlil and I. What an evening! We first saw a Bollywood movie! Though it was in Hindi, it was so filled with beautiful and powerful music and dances, that we could follow the story line somewhat. Anyway we sure enjoyed the music! The name of the movie was "London Dreams". I will be looking out for it when it comes out on DVD, hopefully they'll have English subtitles! Then after the movie dinner at the Hotel Sayaji (very "White Tiger" like!) The food was to die for, both in taste and quantity!! :-)

But what made the evening so magical was not only the movie or the dinner, it was the company! I saw a side of the Moydes that was very endearing. A great couple and loving parents. They are very generous and loving. He is, in a very subtle way, a very strong character. When we got to the restaurant, first they told us without a reservation, they can't sit us. So he said OK, we are going to visit the hotel and see a painting exhibition that was going on there. Beautiful hotel and humongous! A little city! When we came back, they told us the wait would be an hour and a half. Well, folks, I don't know what Mr. Moyde told them but 10 minutes later we were sited and eating the most succulent shrimps ever! And all that with a smile on his face! And she didn't look at all surprised. She knew once we had decided we wanted to eat there, he would make it happen!

On the way home we stopped at a Temple of the God Galesh (spelling?). Very interesting! A Catholic church in the open air with the main altar and all the saints around it. The main temple was in the center and about 10 smaller ones to different gods, Saturn (who has another name in Hindi), Sai Baba, Vishnu and many others all around it in a huge yard paved in white marble. Their 9 year old daughter knew everything about each temple! It was really very impressive. When I asked Madhouri who teaches the kids about their religion, since there are so many gods, she very simply said "We do, and our way of life teaches them." Isn't that interesting? It is not left to a catechism class to teach them about their religion.

One enchanted evening to remember always.

Kahlil's Barly experience

This post is from Kahlil. Tomorrow at the Barly Institute a group of the girls are graduating and the Director of the Institute has asked him to write a few words for the occasion. and this is what he is going to say.

Two months into my volunteer work at the Barly Institute and I am having the experience of a lifetime. I have learned so much at this institute including why these young women are here, how the solar cookers work, working in the garden, and I have learned how most Americans are completely ignorant thinking that their life is so hard when they don’t even know half of it. I must admit I was one.
With much love from Janak and Jimmy McGilligan, these girls, who had nothing, have found a place that they can call home, get an education, and learn a work trade. I am almost certain that you girls will go on now with a different perspective on life and have more discipline, which is a key note for success in life.
I, for myself, have learned a lot about the solar panels. Before I came to India, I had no idea how they worked, that there were mirror made solar cookers. I actually thought they worked on electricity! I enjoyed assembling a solar cooker, helping the workers fix the clocks for the panels, and enjoying the food and chai made from them. I’ve also had a good time working in the gardens. I had never seen the way people dried corn before I came to Barly. Before here, I hadn’t seen the preparation that you must do before you drop the seeds in the ground.

My time at Barly has opened my eyes so much and has taught me that not much is impossible. If I had never come to India and someone back in the US brought me to an open grass-field and told me to squat down and cut the grass using only a knife and my bare hands, I would look at him straight in the eyes and tell him that he is absolutely crazy, it is impossible to do. Well, my time at Barly has not only taught me that it is very much possible, and I have done it myself now quite a few times.
So to Janak and Jimmy, I think what you are doing here is amazing and I thank you so much for letting me help out at this Institute.
I will end this speech by saying that what I enjoyed most at the Barly Institute was the friendship that I made with 3 great workers, Rajendar, Sacaram, and Bharat. We worked together, talked about our lives, talked about money, and laughed so much! That describes a great friend to me. I thank them and everyone at the Barly Institute for teaching me new things and letting me have a once in a lifetime experience.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Les Americains sont des gens tristes!

"Americans are sad." This is the conclusion my mother came to one day that she was visiting us in Miami. See, mom is a "haitien dan lame!" (Kev, correction please! This is embarrassing! You know more written Creole than I do!) That day we were going home but I had a few stops to make on the way. First Eckerd, the sales girls after our purchase "Thank you very much, have a nice evening!" Then Publix, again "Thank you for coming, have a nice evening" Then the gas station, same response "Thank you. Come again soon. Have a nice evening." That's when she made the comment to me in a very pensive way, "Les Americains sont des gens tristes!" What she saw was this need to make conversation as a sign of a sad life and therefore let's talk to all those strangers and pretend they are friends! In India, I find myself being a "sad American"! It took me some time to understand my attitude and the attitude of Indians here. Again, let me say, this is based on MY observations of only 3 months of a nation that is very complicated and therefore might be not so correct. When I walk on campus, there are a lot of construction workers and their families, who live here in the shacks you see in the picture, and there are the Class 4 workers, which are the servants. From the beginning, as I pass by them I always said “Good morning” to them. At first, they wouldn’t even answer, just gave me a stranger look than they would anyway! But then, they got used to it and they would answer me with an amused look on their faces. That’s when I started realizing that the other teachers did not greet them at all. In my American thinking, at first I thought, they did not because they’re looking down on them, and think they are not worth the acknowledgement. Now after close to three months in this country, I am realizing I was totally wrong. They don’t greet them not out of disrespect or prejudice but simply because in India everything and everyone has their place. These people are there for a purpose, they have a role to play that does not include interaction among caste. They value them greatly for what they are doing. They realize how fortunate they are to have those “bhai” (it’s either that or “bahai”! One is brother the other one is maid! I mean the latter, Boris! Though I am fortunate to have you too!) I do admit, I have had limited exposure to the interaction between the caste but from what I’ve seen, the interaction is to the point, without any personal contact. But not abusive or verbally disrespectful as I’ve seen in Haiti for example or many places where there are servants (what was the name of this movie with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, where he played an English butler who was treated with such disrespect by his master?! “Howard’s Ends” or “The Remains of the Day”?) Anyway, the condescendence and the open “you are beneath me” attitude just isn’t found here. It’s just everyone has their place and no one tries to cross the line in any way at all.

Another example of this place that everyone has here. The other day there was a cricket game at school. There is a pavilion where teachers and guests were to sit. Plastic chairs were placed for everyone but right up front were a couple of sofas for the Principal and dignitaries to sit. Of course on one side the women and the other the men! When we ran out of chairs, a couple of teachers who came in later stood in the back but did not go sit in the front row, though it was empty. I mean if it were a formal function, I would say OK. But just a friendly game of cricket between Old Dalian and the present students! Very interesting! Everyone has a place in India and no one crosses to the other side.
So the amused look on the workers’ faces is simply them looking at me like my mother looked at the cashiers in America “Here is the sad American woman who doesn’t know her place in life”! …what is my place in life?!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Fall Back!

It was with a saddened heart this year I missed my "Fall Back" hour! I still pretended by changing my little clock that I have kept on home time this morning as soon as I woke up! I did not miss Halloween though last night! As the kids were growing up, and with the years of difference between our first batch and the second, that was many years, Pantal was the one who made the rounds with the kids and I stayed home to be the candy giver! Well, I enjoyed, not having to get up a hundred times to make sure our house was not egged or papered!!! But Severine, you'll miss out on the Starbust!

A totally unrelated thought!! Just completed a wonderful book "Eat Pray Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. Loved it! Loved it! She talks about deciding what your name stand for. I've decided mine is "Seek". India is not giving away much, though! So I have a serious dilemma here! :-) I am not giving up!