katrinasadventures' Travel Journals

katrinasadventures

  • From Massachusetts, United States
  • Currently in Jakarta, Indonesia

Fall 2009: Northwest India

Join Katrina as she shares her adventures, stories and feelings throughout her journey across India's spiritual land. Traveling with a consortium of New York Schools (Hamilton, St. Lawrence, Hobart and William Smith, and Colgate), Katrina will spend time in various locations, such as Musoorie, Delhi, Jaipur, and Varanasi.

Diwali Hangover

India Jaipur, India  |  Oct 28, 2009
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Mon, Oct. 19th: Case of the Mondays

I dragged my feet out of bed today.  I needed to get my body back on a normal schedule, so I headed out for a park walk.  There was one challenge that stood in my way: Willie, the family’s 6-month-old Doberman.  This dog is not very well-trained, and in that sense reminds me a bit of Loki.  He likes to scratch his nails down your back when he jumps up on your shoulders (he is a very long dog).  It hurts when he jumps on you and tries to violently play with you.  He also is narotic about barking at the cows and trying to nip their tails.  So, when I started walking out of the family compound he happily followed me.  I was getting annoyed because he would not listen to me when I said “WILLIE, GO HOME”.  (Later I found out his name was actually Wolfie… not Willie… he he)  He followed me  quite far and when I was about the cross the busy intersection to get into the park, a teat dog who roamed the garbage infested street saw Willie and wanted him out of her territory.  The ferrel dog chased Willie back home.  Thank goodness! 

I enjoyed my little park walk, but was a little overwhlemed by the amount of other speed walkers and runners on the paths (mostly men).   There were groups of men running pass me wearing a variety of outfits, from tiny shorts to sweatsuits to khaki shorts.  Was everyone burning off all the sweets they consumed on Diwali?

Today was Hindi classes and after spending the morning reviewing our habitual tense, I wandered with Kim, Anna, Cynthia, Martha and Marissa to find some internet cafes and shopping places… I wasn’t really feeling the shopping, so l headed back home and did some internet research and some reading… in my cave.

 

Tues, October 20th:

Woken up by Willie barking at the cows, I decided to do a little streching.. was going to go to the park but laziness took over… I streched a little more and attempted to take a shower, but we did not have water in the home.  This happens often because water is rationed in Rajasthan and once you go through your ration you have to wait until the tank is filled again.  Two lectures were given today.  The first was by Jasbir Jain, the Jaipur coordinator of the program, who shared her take on:

 

Indian literature: In the 1930s, literature began to be produced for Indian readers, rather than Western scholars.  Three writers pop out as leaders during this time:  Mulk Raj Anand (Untouchable, 1935), Raja Rao (Kamthapura, 1937) & R.K. Narayan (1938).  Lessons learned from Untouchable is that (1) poetry can allow one to lose themselves in their imagination, (2) converstion was a basic threat from untouchables, (3) technology improved the situation (4) Gandhi’s impact and social reform.  The protagonist choses technology.  Kamthapura attacts the purity of the English language and pushes Indians to use their own form of English (which is more of rambling and commas in literature).  Rao argued that Indians did not talk like the British so they should not write like them. Lastly, Narayan tells a story of an old grandmother who recalls a story about a village that has been burned down to ashes.  The protagonist, who is a young man named Murthy, acts as the “local Gandhi” and fights against caste discrinimation, educating women, and self-reliance.   

Indians have been critised for writing in English because (1) it is not possible to convery culture in another language (2) folk tales, fairy tales, and stories are not effective when traditional words must always be translated… it also calls into question who your audience is? (3) not completely accurate (4) simplifaication, misses point, doesn’t carry natural flavor of work.  Because of all of these flaws, Indians started to use a mix of English and Hindi.  This style gave Indian writers more confidence in their writing and culture. From the 19th century, the translation industry has been a very important part of Indian literature.  The history of each language is different and there are so many languages, so translation is crucial for not only foreigners to understand culture but also for Indians to understand their country’s various cultures. 

            Writing is determined by location.  Jhumpha Lahire,  Amritar Ghosh, Rohunton Mistry, and Anita Rau Badami  use memory and personal experiences of India to appeal to the Western readers.  People eat up these novels, even if the authors pick up only sections of factual history.  Overall, the writing done from writers abroad is very different from the Indian writer who is surrounded by raw reality of poverty, political terrorism, and violence.   Currently, the present challenge of Indian literature is to get out of postcolonial mindest, whic erases cultural differences.  Postcolonialism It is a historical/political  classification, but it should not be a literature term.  The difficulty is that home patriots located abroad find it convient to use and young academics still do not know how to publish their own non-postcolonial voices.

History of Women’s Movement in Rajasthan :  Women problems include parda (wearing veils) and dowry (which makes a daughter a burden on a family because money and goods are lost in the exchange of marriage).  The protest movements have been strong in Rajasthan.  Focus has been on female education, jobs, and individual home relationships.  Yet, women have never had  a strong role in politics in Rajasthan. 

The feminism approach in rural areas was that if you gave support to the head of the household, it would trickle down and help women.  This approach worked for a bit and helped provide welfare to women; but, it did not change the way women were treated in the home.  Another approach was to train women in skills, such as sowing, painting, etc, that woud allow them to make money, but the women had difficulty in finding competitive markets to sell their goods.  Men were also approached to help train women, but this did not work as planned.  Even if women were in charge of cattle breeding, all of their housework and chores were considered second grade work (and not as important as the male first grade work). 

There was no democracy structure or equality in the family.  So, in order to achieve equality the family structure and politics needed to be changed.  The movement to change the mindset of Indians was found in the classroom and family at the grassroots level.   Women’s organizations challenged each and every patriarchical structure as a collective action (by men and women, in villages and towns, in colleges). 

In the 1970s, women’s development Program (NGOs, Rajasthan government, and research institutions) focused on women subordination and tried to make them participate in the mainstreamdevelopmental processes through empowerment and confidence building.  It was a bottom-up apprach.  Women were trained to be responsible for other women—they shared personal problems and tried to change the mindset that their situation was God-made and not human-made. Women were given communication skills and  information to tackle their domestic problems.  At this time, doctors also gave female autonomy lessons in order to change the perception of being a female.  This allowed women to be aware of their own bodies and not feel like objects that were used just for sex.  Even high class women did not know much about their bodies, since it was considered taboo. 

In the 1980s, changes began to occur.  The DWDA (Women Development Association) decided took action to change the mindset of the men and women and to create equality in society.  However, at the state level, sterilization programs and some women empowerment programs made the government feel uncomfortable.  The government began to oppose some female programs.  Furthermore, the criminal jury system did/does not help women in violent situations.  When women face domestic violence or rape, there is no support or institution to help.  Today, the movement has begun to study cases and to create support, but there is still a lot of work to be done.  In 1982, the Asha Rani murder case, in which the inlaws burnt her in the house (by kitchen gas) because she did not pay her dowry debt, brought in another wave of opposition to domestic violence.  This movement was more effective since proper documentation, street protests, research and policy changes were all needed and used.  Furthermore, in 1987, the second women’s movement emerged when an 18 year old young girl was burned alive with husband’s pyre, also known as sati.  Women protested, especially since the newspapers only published two lines about a women being burned.  A law against sati was created, which was started from Rajasthan. 

In 1991, a woman was at the police station to report a rape and was gang raped by the police men there.  This event gave police motive to spoil women empowerment programs, since they believed that the women had lied about the rape.  The two faces of the government emerged:  the police believed that she was lying and politicians believed that she had not.  Women were outraged because they believed that if they were raped they should not be ashamed.  They were not the ones who commited the act and therefore it was not their fault to be punished. The stigma should not be attached to the women.  Their right to life and dignity should be protected and these guidelines have been passed for the nation.  The power of questioning and media has changed the morality of society.  The laws are there, the structures are there, but the act of violence has increased still.  The women now understand their rights and are fighting for them, which causes the men to become more violent.  Especially in rural areas, police push women to withdraw violence cases and classify their complaints as false cases.  In Rajasthan, there are 12 women’s police station, which is run by men, but the movement desires that all police stations are women friendly.  There are a women’s desk that specilize in women’s complaints.  Counseling and protection of women have been started in Jaipur and these counselars are not directed by the police.  Currently, prevention of sexual harrassment in workplace is pending in the court.  In 1996, a strong network of the women’s movement (MAVJA) was created and joint protests were organized.  The minimum wage for women and protection of women from domestic violence has protected women further from inequality.  Thus, the women’s movement in India has shifted from welfare to development to empowerment.  Changes in social roles, values and structures (NCW: National Commission for Women) have emerged, as well as family courts for women and counciling for women in police stations.   The fundamental change is that women’s rights have been declared as human rights, and are equal citizens and partners. 

Interesting fact: The proactive women who are in charge of the women’s movement are called bhakti, which means short hair and short sleeves

 

Post lectures, a few of us went to the post office to send some postcards.  While there, we ran into three other “white” girls who were here on the Davidson abroad program.  They all seemed unenthisiastic to be in the post office… I found out though that one girl had a sister and dad that had gone to Colgate.  Small world!  Next, Anna and Kim came to visit our humble adobe.  We showed them around the kitchen and bathroom and let them make some peanut butter toast and use my internet.  It was like taking a baby to a candy shop.  The afternoon consisted of the usual activities… laziness and “studying”. 

            That evening we had dinner with Pushan (F), a Human Resource lecturer at a graduate school, and Sono (M, nickname that means gold and is popular in all Indian familes), who was a chemical engineer that worked as a pharmacutical company manager.  I had a jolly time asking the couple how they had met and what their first impressions were of each other.  Pushan said that they both had profiles online at www.shadi.com and she went to call one of the men she was interested in and misdialled the number.  She ended up calling Sono.  He told her that he also had a profile on shadi.com (it is the most popular matrimonial networking site after all) and t

            Deepoli’s family from Madhra Pradesh and Delhi also came this evening.  Deepoli’s sister has the ultimate Indian family since she and her husband are a software quality tester and a software engineer, respectively.  They have one cute son who was wearing a fancy yellow get-up when we met.  He was shy.    

            Before we headed to bed that night, Deepoli came over to chat to grab the henna that was chilling in our fridge.  As she left our humble abode she saw a pair of underwear lying on the ground next to willie.  The underwear had been hanging to dry on the line (which is often taboo to do as most female intimate clothing should be hung to dry in a personal space) and Willie had grabbed it and played with it in the dirt.  Deepoli held it up and said ““whose panties is this?  Ah… you need to wash these again!”  They were Marissa’s… he he.  This is also the minute when we learned that Willie’s name is actually Wolfie.  I’m still going to call him Willie.

 

Wed, Oct 21st:

More hindi classes.  We are not progressing very fast, but at least I know how to say torre (little, as for when people asking if I speak hindi), garm (hot, to describe the chay) and sundar (beautiful, to suck up to people).  After class, Lisa and I rushed to the university campus to meet with our project advisor, the botanist.  We always forget his name so we just call him the botanist.  He didn’t show.  He didn’t even call to say that he was not there (and he made it even more awkward when he apologized to us the next day).  So, we frustratedly scoofed our lunches and then decided to go visit an organic business that I had found through the WWOOFing organization.  Little did we know that this place was 30 km away, so after having called the place and bargaining with the rickshaw driver, we decided to make the journey to Morarka Organic Organization.  We passed desert and camels on the roads, and eventually arrived in a desolate spot with a nice building.  We were treated quite well… given coffee and asked if we wanted lunch.  We then went and talked to the head houncho, who I had been in touch with through email, about our IFPs (independent field projects).  He was a large man that sat in a plain, but big office.  There were many cubicles around him, but no one was sitting in them.  His desk was in the back corner.  There wasn’t much furniture or items on his desk.  He seemed a little grumpy, but we sat down anyways.  We began explaining ourselves when someone walked in and gave the head guy a paper and chatted with him.  Then the phone rang and Verdhman Bapna started yelling at the person on the line.  Then someone else walked in.  and handed him paper work.  So, in the next 20 minutes we tried asking him some questions in between in interuptions.  In the end, we ended up learning that there are no organic farms in the proximity of Jaipur city and that the organization emphasizes science in their distribution of knowledge.  The organizaton works so that a representative comes into a village and asks all the farmers who wants to learn how to grow organically and farmers, who are fed up with increased input of resources from agrotechnology, sign up.  We then explored the little organic food shop that the organizaiton had and as soon as we walked in we were aooroached by a man that felt obliged to show us every package that was in the store and how it was grow with natural fertilizers.  When people do that I really get turned off to buying anything, even though, I proabably wasn’t thinking of buying anything anyways…

            Lisa and I took a rickshaw back to her house in the “suburbs” of Jaipur.  The area she lived in was colored blue and it was a gated community.  It was clean and nice, but there seemed to be so much cement around for a “gated” community.  She has a really cute dog that would lie right in front of the door, so you could not easily open it without... as soon as we sneaked through the door we were in the boys’ room: essentially a Pokeman covered room.  The next room was the kitchen, which was colorful decorates with jungle scenes.  Their mom had just woken from a nap and invited me in offering me some almond treats (yum).  Their mom was much younger than mine since she was in her 30s and so was very “hip” with her English lingo.  As Lisa and I were talking with her, Chelsea came tumbling down from the stairs looking a little dazed from the nap she just took.  I was given a quick tour of their room and was shocked to see a nice, blue room (I had expected the room to be of lower quality from their descriptions, but it was pretty quaint).  It was approaching five and I needed to go home because there was a blessing ceremony tonight for the baby. 

I walked part of the way home, but I have been feeling intense pain on the bottom of my right foot, so it was more like a hobble rather than a walk.  I took a rickshaw the rest of the way and when I arrived home the front yard was decked-out with chairs and tables set up for a buffet dinner.  I changed and conversed with the guests that had arrived.  Then Annan and Deepoli were called over to do puja for their son.  They were praying to Vishnu through the Katha.  Another part of the ceremony involves a sister putting something in front of a box (Jalwa).  Overall there was some awkwardness of being at a party with people that were not related to me… and don’t speak their language.  So, Marissa and I would bond with people over our lack of Hindi skills (aka making up sentances that were horribly incorrect)and then talk about marriage and how people were related.

 

Thurs, Oct. 22nd:  Social Activitsm

Today, the social activist Aruna Roy (an upper caste woman who abandoned her past identity to help improve the situation for villagers in India) came and lectured to us.  She lives in a village herself and theefore she does not experience the “romanticisation” of village life and instead personally lives through the hardships,   She says that social status allows people to come out of their homes and fight, and so she embraces her high class past.

Influenced by Gandhi, who fought for civil and social rights, Aruna Roy fights for the underpriveleged and untouchables.  She and her organization is not specifically aligned with a political party, but she leans toward some than others.  Roy is involved with rectifying the flaws of the government system, so that money is properly used.  Real change only comes with basic social change and without this you cannot create change.  Culture is a very important part of the campaign and this is what binds people together more than theoretical understanding.  This culture is what threatens the government that may have other agendas.

Right to Information Movement: This movement fights for transperency and information access.  It is linked to livelihood, life, and human rights.  In some rural areas, if someone inquires about welfare, food, displacement right they are considered Moaist and are jailed.  Thus, this movement questions accountability and transperancy to create a democracy that works for the marginalized, poor, and underpriveleged.  Sharing information is power.   Who do you blame for the generations of kids who are genetically altered from the GMO seeds that are being grown in Uttar Pradesh?  We need to know the negative impacts of particlar seeds.  By end of 18 months, the documentation and files of test results on GM seeds were published.  Going back and forth from adminsitration bodies, it took 18 months just to access the facts.  The large public interest pushed the access.  This is the first step towards gaining right to information.

 

She spoke of two negative streams that make government impractical: corruption (reduces capabilities, justice and equality) and arbitrary use of power (human monopoly in media, only one part of truth, conditioned to accept one truth).  There is a spreading of Moaist power because of corruption, neotism, and failure of development.  The Indian state is saying that they want to use the army to bomb the places out of existance.  They would kill all peacful villagers.  Roy holds this violence solution as unacceptable.  The government needs to understand why the people are protesting… the real truth is that these tribal “Moaists” are sitting on mineral beds that big companies walk.  There are laws that no one can take the land away without sufficient reason, but large companies have come in and created mayhem.  If you take away land of the tribal people then they have nothing left.  The poor tribals are not allowed to be attacked and taken advantage of in a democracy that promisies equality and equal oppurtunity.  BUT, the media in India is sold to the other side already.  They show the dead bodies of police men being killed and not the thousands of “Moaists” that have been murdered.  It is a fundamental injustice for any media house to not report ethically and correctly both sides.  There is a gap of information and lack of correct information.  Any state that uses violence will fail and this is what the current situation is.

Next, she elaborated on the reservation quota for certain rights of dalits and untouchables.  Harijan is no longer accepted as an identifying name and so the term dalit has become an identifying name, and a name to be proud of, for the “backward communities”.  Dalit is a politcal word that allows people to group together to fight for rights.  Overall, there is still a stigma that the scheduled castes are fighting against.  It has changed but it is still there.  In some rural areas, a dalit today cannot sit on a cot outside his house because he is on higher ground, a lower caste women cannot wear shoes in the village (they must carry their shoes in the central part), cannot drink from certain pumps, and touch most people.  In areas, tribe groups sit on horses to get married, but a dalit cannot sit on a horse because he will be thrown off and beaten if he does so.  In a  school in rural Rajasthan you can still find two water pumps:  one for the upper caste and one for untouchables.  Yet, if they assert their rites there is a police case, which can get messy.  Thus, dalits are still fighting for basic rights.

There is still caste influence in determing the lives of people born in those community.  They are restricted by name, clothes they wear, type of work, access to work, and marriage.  Indians always go back to their roots, much like New Englanders, and desire to know where they came from.  Today, India is caught in a bind where you speak about liberal economics and religious fundamentalists, and still so not represent the minorities. 

 

Social development comes in many forms.  Roy speaks about justice through the Right to Information and the Labor Employment Act.  On the other hand, Edward Luce, author of “God of Small things”, believes that in order to address India’s development, India must look at: (1) Modernization of agriculture  (2) Providing industrial/ manufacturing employment for India’s underemployed peasantry (addresses rural underemployment, men do not have access to employment secure enough or affordable enough to give up their land in the villages). 

Luce says India must hurdle with the Indian elites’ love affair of village.  There is an attitude that is quite common in upper class individuals  that romanticise the village life.  Luce believes that Gandhi’s vision of villages is mainstream, but this attitude is useless in progress.  This leads to an attitude that enobles a lifestyle of impovershiment and holds back cultureal and social devlopment.  Instead of Gandhi’s rural development, Luce emphasizes urban development.  Yet, I disagree with this method because it willl lead to massive urbanisation, a miss match between education qualifications and kind of employment, social dislocation, consolidation of land holding, and degradation of the environment.

His vision parallels the Chinese development program since it emphasizes a high level of manufacturing and rapid urbanisation.  Currently, India’s development plan differs from China because China does not have the hereditay caste to deal with and instead has more central control, especially through their education system.  By design, China has created a system that feeds and fits CENTRAL control.  Therefore, China’s approach to the same problem of impoverishment and poverty is to create massive industry and not counryside development…So, is this an effective model for india? Choices are not simple, but the rhetoric of empowerment within the country side is powerful and has accomplished a lot. 

Roy’s approach attempts to provide physical and psychological empowerment to those who are in need.  It is a bottom up approach that creates organization resources, networks, technical cooperation and therefore tangible empowerment.  Communities do not need to be taught how to organize, but rather how to figure out and identify the barriers that deter them from figuring out how to succeed.  Roy focuses on creating cooperative barriers that prevent communities from realizing their own innate capacity.  One way to do this is through the rural Employment Guarentee Act.  This provides 100 days of manual labor in country sides to those who are desperate to make money.  It is an approach to deal with underemployment, social deprevation, and nutritional deprevation, but holds people in country side.

 

            After the lecture, Anna walked home with me so that she could interview the working women in the family.  There were lots of family members at home and so it was a bit hectic.  Everyone gathered inside Poona’s room to watch some family videos, which was quite cute.  Marissa and I chatted with Kush about his education and his interests in health management and gender studies.  Currently, he works as a lecturerer of organizational methods in Guyarat.  We ate some grub and then headed to bed as usual. 

 

Fri ,Oct. 23rd:

Hindu classes today and then I wandered around the park and studying the perfect tense in Hindi.  I went home and did some research on the Pushkar fair.  Around chai time (5ish) Marissa and I hung out with the older women of the family.  They speak pigeon English, so our conversations mainly revolved around basic words; though, we did learn that female dog (khutti) has the same connotations in Hindi as it does in English. One of the older sisters found out a few years ago that she has diabeties and so she takes pills for that.  It is interesting that pills are a common solution to diabetes here. 

Kush came into our home for an interview with Marissa.  Marissa is doing her project on men’s perspectives of masculinity in order to discover why some men hits their wives and why other do not.  Kush had interesting things to say about masculinity, such that they are expected to make money, provide for the family, be a superior figure in the relationship.  Kush said that he had believed that a man should do all these, but then after he received a higher education, he realized that men needed to respect their partner’s needs and desires, as well as interact on a more equal level. 

We had a really late dinner, aroundf 930pm, because Mridula had run out to the market to get some paint for the kitchen.  The family wanted to brighten up the room by painting the color from blue to white.  Since it was a Friday night, the gang went out to a sports bar, but Marissa and I stayed in being the homebodies that we are…

 

Sat, Oct. 24th:

            My one appointment today was to meet with my advisor and Lisa to go over out Wednesday plans (we are going to interview farmers in Chaksu).   I got up early to write my outline that he wanted and headed out the door.  I enjoy walking the 35 minutes to the uNiveristy, but my foot was still bothering me.  The meeting was fairly productive and the professor was nice enough to reserve some books for me at the library.  When I wandered over to the “central library” I was surprised at the informality of the building (which looked like an old British building) and the dust that coverred the cabinents.  The place was pretty big, but the book shlelves were quite bare.  As soon as I walked up the steps to the entrace room I was greeted by two things:  A box that said “fill out your sexual harassement complaints here—women’s studies” and a man who had anticipated my arrival.  He recognized me as the American looking for Pushkar information and then told me to wait “just wait”.  So, I stood around for a few minutes while he chatted with his buddies.  I thought that I was waiting for another man to take me up to the reserve section.  I was wrong, we were waiting for betel nut packets that a guard delievered to the man I talked to and then he lead me up to the reserve section. 

            It was in an old dusty backroom and he told me to sit at an employee desk to look at through the book.  So, I sat down and began writing notes from the book.  Apparently, I was only supposed to glimpse through the book because after twenty minutes of him starting at me he told me to go to the “reading room” to finish my note taking.  So, I headed to the larger room filled with broken chairs and large tables.  The library here ws very different in that there are guards and ancient books all around, but not different in that groups of guys were passed out on the tables, while the girls are tidily reading.  Like most libraries it was hard to find a spot to sit, but I found a nice wooden chair and somewhat cleared area to type and relax.  I had to go to the bathroom, but I couldn’t leave my stuff around, unlike the Colgate library…

            After I had my fix of the library, I hobbled back home (my foot was bothering me) and had a late lunch.  More paper writing went down and then we had dinner with one of the nephews, who was a physical therapist.  He suggested that I rest my foot and then later he would help me with some stretches.  He thinks that my foot pain is due to my sciatica. 

 

Sun, Oct 26th:

Sunday… the day of rest… or not… I finished up my paper that was due on Wednesday today.  I had to  finish it today, because I anticipated not having printing access.  I am lucky, though, because having this computer that has saved my butt many times.  I do not think that I am saving money with the computer,  because I am paying for this internet sim card, but in the long run it is SOOOO much more convienent.  Technology does have its benefits.  Speaking of technology, Marissa found some speakers in the room so I have been rocking out to Indian techno music from the radio… lots of jai ho remixes.

            The afternoon of mine was spent at the zoo with Anna, Martha, Rebecca, and Kim.   I think that I am so used to seeing gross thing and smelling bad things for the last few months that the animals trapped in cages did not faze me.  The zoo costs Rs. 100 for foreigners (as supposed to Rs.10 for Indians).  It was a pretty small zoo and the animals lived in really poor conditions.   A good half of the animals were crocodiles, too.  My favorite was the overweight baboon who was binge eating in his cave while showing everyone his plumber’s crack.  Honorable mentions include the hyena that looked like he was going to poop when he walked and the passed out Indian bear (Kim’s theory is that all the money from admission tickets are spent on medications to knock out the animals so they do not act up).   The zoo was really crowded on Sunday and there were more people taking pictures of us than the animals.  There was one guy in particular that was adamant about following us with his cell phone in front of his face taking video/pictures of us. 

 

I had a really late lunch snack, which looked really good but it tasted like paint thinner.  The kitchen is being painted white and so all the food had been contaminated with the painting products.  The chapattis were especially bad, but I ate most of it because I was really hungry.  I fed the rest to the cows… my new hobby.

The family was preparing for another party.  This time it is the father/uncle Suresh’s medical school reunion.  The reunion is not very special because they meet monthly, but they have their traditions, such as Housey (Indian BINGO) and karaoke.

When I arrived in the front yard there were a bunch of chairs lined up in front of a TV.  All the women sat on one side and the men on another.  We were divided by gender, a reminiscence of middle school dances. Men were on one half, all wearing white uniforms drinking soup and the women were on the other half talking among themselves or looking down at their feet.  The men, who had been medical school mates and had been gathering for 124 months, did not seem to be very enthusiastic and seemed quite reserved even though they were with their school buddies.   The karaoke was the best part of the night because I had anticipated that the guests would get up there and make fools of themselves singing some Bollywood songs or Indian hits; however, I overestimated the energy of the group.  Rather, karaoke was a serious thing where singers got up there and sang old Indian songs somberly.  Marissa and I sat in our chairs awkwardly in the female section.  We were fascinated by a young mother who seemed to be living in England and her 10 year old son did not speak any Hindi and would say “NA-mast-AH” with a British accent.  Throughout the evening, appetizers were passed around, since we did not eat until 1030pm.  One of our aunts asked Marissa if she wanted “soup, soup?” she replied with “na he”, and so our aunt told the caterer “She’ll have soup”….O, the Indian way.   (At dinner, I asked the head server, who spoke English pretty well, what type of food a dish was and he immediately scooped up the dish and slapped it on my plate).   In the background, we could of course hear and see fireworks. 

After the karaoke, the group played their traditional game of Housey.  This game resembled gambling Bingo.  You receive a card with fifteen numbers on it and when the number is called you push back the tab.  Once you have either a line, breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a full house, you stand up, read your numbers, and win money.  I think that I did the worst in the whole party because by the time some people were getting full houses I only had five or six numbers pulled back.  After that activity, we finally ate some dinner, at 1030pm.  Dinner was filling with some oily cooked grub (the only fresh vegetables that Indians eat are tomatoes, cucumbers, and Indian parsnips). 

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