Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tales of India Part One: A day in Dehradun

I am back my dear friends

I missed you and am slowly catching up on everyone's blogs

India was amazing and exhausting as it always is

The travel is long and  a very fussy eater creates a lot of complication. I will not bore you with details of that

I was wondering how to share India - India is so complex

We were in four places in India. But the majority of our time was in Purulia ( where my mum and dad live ) and in Dehradun ( where DH's mum, sister and uncle live )

So I thought I would do a portrait of a day in each of these place to give you a flavor of my experience.

 Its a long post but I always love reading posts from people when they describe their day in detail.

I always wish my international friends ( and my american ones ) would write about  the little bits of their day    - what they eat, when do they wake up,  what their living room looks like etc

So I thought I would write the kind of post I would like to read

Portrait of a Day in Dehradun 

I and R wake up at 9 am

When my  MIL hears me wake up - she sends her  2 maids up .

As I and R get ready for the day - my MIL has given instructions like a drill sergeant. Her servants have made the bed, swept the floor,  folded all the clothes that were strewn around after last night's long  drive to get here from Delhi !


I finally get ready

I go downstairs to make tea for everyone.

But its very different than the tea-bag tea I have back in the States .

This tea has ginger( fresh from my MIL's garden !!)  and cardamom and cloves and is supposed to be great for the immune system 

We eat peanut butter and toast for breakfast.

Everybody eats their breakfast while they are on the phones - its amazing how much time people in India spend on their cellphones ( called mobiles ). 

People get upset with  with you if you dont answer the phone. They call you again and again if you don't pick up .

 When they finally get a hold of you - the first question is an aggrieved "where were you ?!!!!!" . 

You have to apologetically explain that you were taking a bath or sleeping  ( Then your friends will be quite interested in your reason and will ask you - Why that late ? who takes a bath at 10 am? you should wake up earlier?.).

If a phone rings it must be answered ! Slowly you  get used to the disconcerting habit of people answering their mobile halfway through a conversation with you !

In the States- at least in the South people will almost apologize for calling you .

 They will start a conversation with "I hope I am not calling at a bad time .... "

My SIL leaves for her school  . My SIL has a seizure disorder and an intellectual disability . In spite of her health issues - she is high functioning and very sweet 

 Her school is called ASEEMIT ( limitless ) and it has a staff of three .She waves me good bye with her lunchbox and bag - I think I will burst with pride !

The school has  given her such a sense of purpose.I really think, everyone, including special needs folks need a purpose and a social outlet. 

I ask Uncle what the purpose of the school is? He answers  that "its an escape from the prison of home". 

This is very true 

This is a school that parents have combined together to create. India has very few resources for special needs folks. Parents and charitable institutions often find creative ways to get help for kiddos 

I am so moved by this place.There are many sad stories of the young adults who are here - ( one that particularly moves me is of a computer programmer who was attacked by a gang of hoodlums and lost all his skills and abilities  - his parents are trying to get him around computers in the hope that it will revive lost memories in him ) 

Nothing is perfect and there are plenty of problems for the school ( they had a great teacher in charge who has left for higher studies  )  

Still, its a lovely positive place and my SIL is proud and happy to be there !!'

Her picture is on their brochure!

DH and my MIL leave for a whole bunch of errands 

I am sitting outside in the sun alone on the roof  and there is only me and R in the house!

How often does this happen ? 

One of the best parts about Dehradun is its gorgeous sunny days - the temperature will reach in the late 60's and early 70's and its a mild beautiful sun 

 Sunbathing is a fine art in India

 Even the dogs do it  all day 

My MIL has 2 little dogs who curl around each other like the ying and yang symbol every night, but in the day their litte beds are set out in the sun and they sleep separately

I  think of how universal mother hood is 

There is a small complex behind my MIL's house where her maids and their families  live . 

 ( I can hear you saying la di da. Please don't think we are high and mighty or anything like that  - this is a very normal practice in India for well-off families  and  my MIL is a good employer.  In India - electricity and water are precious commodities. For instance, one never takes a bath in India. One uses a bucket of hot water and a mug to pour water over oneself as it would be sacrilegious to waste water in a bath tub. But services are very affordable )

From those apartments,  comes  the voice of my MIL's maid 

" beta kha le ( son eat please

Her  2 year old son's wails .."nahi " ( no ) 

She cajoles  "mera accha beta hai na " ( aren't you my good son? )

How is it that  mothers and children all over the world speak in the same way?

 Who tells us what to say?

But there are also differences

Indian mums are a slap-happy lot

Later I find the same maid giving her toddler two sharp slaps for some infringement

She forgets her anger quickly and oils his hair and chubby little body lovingly in the sun

One of the dog whines to get in 

I let him in and he joins us on the roof 

Later on the dog gets scolded as she  gets into the kitchen and eats up all the meat that my MIL has bought specially from the butcher for lunch 

 I tell R about what she has done 

R loves when others are in trouble and takes pleasure in pointing out the bad dog and the good dog  

R and I spend the morning doing silly things like making faces in the mirror ( him ) and reading books ( me) 

 We practice writing a couple of essays 

I will do a post on Reading Comprehension as this is what we are working on and R needs a lot of help with this 
The idea is that he suggests a topic and then gives me some words relating to the topic 

Then I turn the words into sentences 

So he suggests" India " and gives me some words - I turn them into sentences with help from him 

Here is our essay 

Grandma and aunt live in dwarka ( a neighborhood in Delhi where my MIL has an apartment ) 

Women in India wear Sari 

We came to India at theAirport 

 Our plane was a United plane 

R went to sleep in the plane.

Another time at the   airport we took airtran and Delta
 last year this time  we stayed at the Hilton double tree.
Granma and aunt and Granpa live in India 

Golu kuku ( my sister's kids) also live in India. 

But golu kuku don't live in dwarka 

Golu kuku also live in a house 

There are no bathtubs in India 

In India I don't go to school

( I wish i had continues with working with R more but the rest of the trip is very hectic and I am very distracted) 

 In the afternoon, everyone returns and I and our uncle go to pick up my SIL at her special needs school -

I buy some spices- which is part of the project work that the school does !

We eat lunch out in the sun that my MIL prepared with some assistance from her maids early in the morning 

DH and I go out for a quick shopping trip

All shops are specialty store what you would call "mom and pop stores " here in the US

R and I look for Coke and Sprite in a sweet shop

Fresh produce is sold in stalls like this

Though the wal-mart-esque stores are coming up - these specialty stores  are what are most common

DH stops at his tailor shop ( the one he has been going to from when he was a small boy at the Doon Boarding School based here in Dehradun  )

The name of the shop always makes me smile .

Evidently its meant to connote a gentlemanly countenance for its clientele

As soon as the sun sets it becomes terribly cold ( all Indian houses are designed to withstand the terrible summers ) 
 My MIL's house is all marble (which  feels lovely when you walk barefoot in the summer on it but now is like being in a refrigerator) 

In the evening DH and I go off to his friend's house to eat dinner 

They are planning out their Doon School 25th year reunion ( for this DH will come back in October alone- I am already missing him in anticipation  ) 

His friend has made a fireplace outside and we all sit around it 

In many ways, its like any barbecue we would have here in the west 

However, there are a few differences .

First, there is an unwritten rule in the west that only one man - the host-"mans" the grill

 On this fire however , all the men and women are busy adjusting logs and wood chips.

They are constantly chiding each other's efforts as "smoke-raising" while praising their own contribution.

There is a man - servant who runs around serving everything and so the host and hostess are free to chat !

The food in different ( no salsa- chips , chip and dip, no hummus.. Instead there are raw veggies served with lime and salt, peanuts in their shells and Spicy chips - which they call wafers ) 

We move inside the house for dinner. The dinner is fully vegetarian and has also been prepared by their cook .

One of my friends moved back to India from the states and was surprised to find how much she liked hosting parties once she started living in India ( no surprise to me though- what's not to like about being a gracious host when other people are doing everything for you ? )

The conversation too - I bet you would find eclectic -Our host and hostess are very very charming and gracious 

The hostess's son had health issues  and she describes all the efforts they took to help him.

Besides going to a regular doctor  -she also went to  a reiki master, and a homeopathic doctor.

She  considered doing  a past life regression 

( a little note on this last thing-   Hindus believe in reincarnation. That means that each soul is born many times etc till you attain nirvana and become one with God.
In the way that psychologists believe that you cannot move on without resolving issues that have happened in your past . 
In the same way people who do PAST LIFE REGRESSION believe that you need to resolve the issues in your past life before you can move on )

 Its midnite by the time we leave and I am really worried that R will be upset

 ( I have been hinting with eyes at DH for the past hour that we should leave.

In the car,  I berate him for ignore my silents pleas- he claims that every time he looked at me I was busy stuffing my face and gave him no hints at all !!) 

My fears ( that I will find R weeping in waiting ) are unfounded 

 R has had a great time with MIL and SIL who have given him the royal treatment .Everybody has gone to sleep and we have to spend quite a bit of time outside while MIL wakes up and lets us in !

He has been allowed to do all sorts of forbidden things ( such as eat and drink in bed ) and is snuggled up with them fast asleep 

I bathe( not in a bathtub but with a bucket of hot water )  and change. Then I go  and pick up his warm body up from their bed and marvel as to how a skinny runt  like R is so immeasurablly cuddly 

He opens his eyes when I put him on our bed as the sheets are cool to the touch.

 "all done bye bye mama" he says settling  on my shoulder.

"That's right sweet angel" he adds ( This is my usual reply to him when I agree with what he says.  If I  am a minute late in replying - he supplies my answer himself )

"That's right sweet angel "  I confirm

"You are the best part of our day" I tell him

 And the day is done 


Anonymous said...

(I have to start my comment before I read the whole post - so I don't forget what I want to say!)

"This is a school that parents have combined together to create."

I am always surprised when I see public schools (as in here in America) juxtaposed against philanthropic organizations. I see them both as in the same category.

"This is a school that parents have combined together to create." - This is true of public schools, too, I think. The money takes a different path between the parents and the children, but I see them as the same.


Anonymous said...

Sometimes, reading a post from you is the best part of MY day!

Thank you!


Floortime Lite Mama said...

oh Dr Barb what a lovely thing to say

Also totally agree on the point you made about the schools

BabyWeightMyFatAss said...

I loved this. thank you for sharing. I'm always curious about special needs in other countries.

Bright Side of Life said...

I have a *HUGE* grin on my face, I so loved this post, although felt very sad for the computer programmer!
I was totally enthralled by your description. I have a few Indian friends here and I enjoy learning their customs. You might think I am la di da ~ but I am not! South Africans also employ staff to help out in the home.
I look forward to Day Two! :)

robin said...

Ah...I have been patiently waiting for these... :) It's awesome that you take the time to post so much about your wonderful trip! Thank you very much! I find so many things so different and amazing like the cellphone customs, bathing, even multiple grillers, lol! So glad that your MIL and SIL were so helpful and hospitable to you guys and that you had a great time! I was also curious about the 'special needs' places and it's so great that SIL has a safe and useful place to go! Can't wait until the next installation!

Yuji said...

I was looking forward to reading about your trip, and I wasn't disappointed. Thank you for sharing! It was fascinating to read.

ggop said...

I'm new to your blog - liked this travel essay a lot. Winter is a great time to visit India!

Þorgerður said...

Look forward to your next post.... :)
happy new year

Deb said...

So interesting! Thank you for sharing...

JAMR said...

I have been lax in reading your blog for a bit, and am so glad to have come to read about part of your recent trip. So glad you are able to get back to India and R will have had such wonderful experiences there. What wonderful memories you are creating.

jazzygal said...

I enjoyed a day in your Indian (holiday) life! oved the ending. I say sweet things to my guy last thing at night and first thing in the morning too. Children love that I think:-)

We call them mobiles in Ireland too but we don't expect people to answer when they ring!

xx Jazzy

Anonymous said...

I LOVE these portraits of your days! It's especially interesting to hear about the differences between things here and in India. Thank you for sharing! :) (And welcome home!!!)

Floortime Lite Mama said...

robin, michelle,yuji,Porgerour,Julie, Di deb, Hotmama and Jazzy
Thanks so much for reading and enjoying this slice of India
There is more to come !

Brenda Rothman (Mama Be Good) said...

Oh, how much I love this. As much as I love traveling, it is not to be right now. So I get to do it through you. THANK You! And yes I ask if I'm disturbing whenever I call someone on their cell - even my husband - I think it's a lovely, gentle thing to do.

AutismWonderland said...

What a wonderful post! I feel like I learned so much. And it's so nice to have you back.

I especially love your lines about motherhood being universal and how every mother has to beg their child to eat.

You've also given me something to think about. I've wanted to write "a day in the life of" post :) maybe I will soon.

the slims said...

It was a great read K.... I mention it as I too had great fun with my sister in the holidays It is so great we get to meet them after so many days that I am fearful the kids will never get to know each other really well

Lizbeth said...

OMG, that last sentence is heaven right there. Heaven.

I am glad you are back but do know how hard it is to leave family and close friends. Sometimes the hardest time is right after you come home! Who knew?

What a beautiful day. It has given me something to think about--writing about what we do in a day. I fear my life is far too mundane.

Looking for Blue Sky said...

Love the fact that you'd like all your readers to write similar posts to this. Would they be so interesting though? As you hint, India is such a complex fascinating place, glad the trip went so well x

Floortime Lite Mama said...

brenda totally hear you
slims - I fear the same thing too
lisa lisbeth and looking for blue sky - I would LOVE to read a detailed version of your day
Please do it
I adore the everyday - it is never mundane

Mr. Daddy said...

"we eat peanut butter and toast for breakfast"

sounds very American to me...LOL that's what Itty Bit and I had this morning...:o)

so good to have you back and blogging again K...it's always refreshing looking through your eyes, at your experiences...

the slims said...

when is the next installment coming

Kim said...

catching up! I loved reading this! Can't wait to scroll up and read the next one.

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