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.

Sadhu Land

India Jaipur, India  |  Nov 23, 2009
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 Monday, Nov. 9th:

Today we were supposed to have an oral practice exam in Hindi, so I prepared for it on Sunday and on my walk to school.  I was going to talk about my love of vegetables, but when I got to school I discovered that we in fact did not have our oral.  We did some lessons on “kuch” (some, any things) and “koe” (something, anything) and then filled out some practice sheets.  But, today was different because during the last half hour of class we attempted conversation.  I wish we could have done this everyday because conversations are really the only way to improve in speaking a language…

            I walked home and then ate some nice peanuts while studying the states and capitals of India.  We had a quiz on Tuesday, so I decided to go to “the bubble”, Anoki café, to study with Matt, Martha, Hannah, Lisa and Anna.  Today, there was a French group, a young man that had the potential to be attractive, two British girls that spoke loudly about their love lives, another British group that also spoke loudly… in fact, the people who spoke loudly in the café were pretty much the British.  I could hear every word that they say and sometimes I would have rather not.  I regress. So we studied our states and capitals…  Here is a list of the states and capitals of India from north to south:

 

 

Jammu & Kashmir (Srinagar): Kashmirir/Ladakhi (Tibetian dialogue)

Himachal Pradesh (Shimla): Pahari/Hindi

Uttaranchal(Dehra Dun): Pahari/Hindi

Punjab & Haryana (Chandigah): Punjabi, HindiUttar Pradesh (Lucknow): Hindi/Urdu

Bihar (Patna): Bihari

Jharkhand (Ranchi): Hindi

Rajasthan (Jaipur): Rajasthani

West Bengal (Kolkatta): Bengali script, literary trad

Sikkim (Gangtok): Lepcha

Assam (Guwhati): Assamese script

Megahaya (Shililong): Khasi & Garo

Arunchal Pradesh (Itanagar): Nissa/Deffla

Tripura (Agarthaga): Tribal languages

Manipur (Imphal): Manipuri

Nagaland (Kohima): Naga dialects

Chattiskhand (Raipur): Hindi/tribal

Orissa (Bhubaneswar): Oriya script

Madhya Pradesh (Bhopal): Hindi

Andhra Pradesh (Hyderabad): Telugu/Urdu

Gujarat (Gandhinagar): Gujarati

Maharastra (Mumbai): Marathi script

Goa (Panaji): Konkani

Kerala (Trivandrum): Malayalam

Karnataka (Bangalore): Kannada

Tamil Nadu (Chennai): Tamil

 

 

 

            I walked home with Anna because I really enjoy her and Kim’s company, especially since I am a little homesick this week—missing the family and such.  I had tea with their home stay mother, which was rather quite a bore because even though their mom is a sweet heart and has the best of intentions, she is a bit boring.  She spends her days around the house and is quite lonely.  She enjoys talking slowly about mundane things, like how she and her husband decided to have a party for their relatives at the house instead of at a restaurant because last time the restaurant had really bad food.  She also explained that Anna and Kim were only fed two types of food a meal because if she created more variety the food would not be as good.  We managed to slip away from the dining table after 45 minutes and hung out in their little abode telling interesting stories about deaths at our schools and about childhood highlights.  Because there was milk in the chai, I tainted Anna’s bed and the room in general.  Around 730pm Anna and Kim kindly walked me half way home and then I ventured the rest of the way.  It is quite difficult walking at night here because the vehicle lights are quite blinding.  It is traitorous trying to cross the street at night.

            Once I got home, the evening was quite enjoyable because everyone was relaxed and in a good mood.  We hung out with the family and Marissa even helped make chapattis (see video of how cool they are on the stove). 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNboaEWeGMI

 

Halloween:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_c7rS-OHvdU

 

Tues, Nov. 10th:

            Well, today started off uniquely.  The time was 913 and I needed to head off in order to get to school on time.  So, as I was getting my things together I received a few texts from Sheila:

“You may find autowallahs in your area ‘on strike’.  If so, be cautious and ask your host fam to drive you.  If you are unable, I will understand”

 

Ten minutes later:  “CLASS CANCELED—please report back to me, and please be cautious rest of day”

 

Ten minutes later: “all—in response to questions:  Not clear why or how widespread action.  Would be good not be out 10 to 2ish, when may be demonstration, but elsewise, just use good sense, if go out”

So, I had a little party and then I cleaned my room and organized.  That day I did not feel the “effects” of the strike, but apparently all deisel autos were not taking people and if the drivers on strike saw someone riding in the back of an autowala they would beat the driver and the vehicle.  The reason that the autowallahs were on strick was because:

Government wants the rickshaw drivers to change from diesel to petrol (more eco friendly)Government wants them to use the meters to calculate costs (which would make it much more expensive for passengers); more formal

Back to the day…So, Marissa and I lyed on our beds for a couple of hours.  It  felt nice to just lie.  We walked down the street to the brand new clothing store, Fab India, and explored their beautiful textiles.  That place has really nice stuff—almost reminds me of “Bed, Bath and Beyond”—but it is quite expensive for Indian standards.  Anna and Kim joined us at the store, bought some gifts for home, and then walked home with us.  While we ate lunch Kim and Anna enjoyed a thing they sorely lack in their own homestay: food.  They indulged themselves by eating delicious slices of toasted white bread smothered in peanutbutter… the taste of America.

            I relaxed the rest of the afternoon and walked through the park with my two favorite gals, Anna and Kim.  Anna had wanted an ice cream before we entered the park, but the vendor wanted too much money for a small popsicle.  Looking back now it seems rediculious that she fussed over the cost of such a small thing, but it does not feel nice to be ripped off even if she could afford the artificially made sweet.   When I went back for dinner, which was magnificent, I was shocked at the feast prepared in front of me.  There was panir, rice (YES!), subzi (vegetables), and a potato-yogurt dish.  I was in heaven (I also wondered why the nice meal… I think it was because there were some relatives visiting…).  I spent the evening exchanging music with Deepoli.

 

Wed, Nov 11th:

I could not get out of bed this morning… so I didn’t.  I skipped Hindi classes and just relaxed.  I felt a little weak, so I mainly spent the day in my bed or in the bathroom.  I was supposed to have an oral presentation, which would have gone something like this (we never had to perform them):   

सब्जियों के लिए एक प्रेम कविता: सब्जियों सुंदर हैं.  वे मेरे दिल को हरा छोड़ कर, क्योंकि वे बहुत स्वादिष्ट हैं.  वे nutritious और स्वस्थ हैं. वे तुम्हें अंदर अच्छा लग रहा है.  मैं उन्हें खाने रोज़ का आनंद लें. अगर मैं नाश्ते के लिए सब्जियां खा सकता मैं होता. अमेरिका में, अपनी माँ से सब्जियां पकाने प्यार करती है, हमारे बगीचे से, और मैं उन्हें खाने के प्यार करता हूँ.  मैं विशेष रूप से गाजर, प्याज, parsnips पकाया पसंद है, और साथ बीट लहसुन और तेल.  मैं कोई पसंदीदा के बाद वे सब बहुत आनंदमय हो सब्जी है, तथापि, मैं क्या टमाटर और गाजर सबसे अधिक पसंद करते हैं. अपने पसंदीदा सब्जी क्या है?

Vegetables are beautiful.  They make my heart skip, because they are so tasty. They are nutritious and healthy.  They make you feel good inside.  They give me joy daily. If I could eat vegetables for breakfast I would.  In America, my mother loves to cook vegetables from our garden, and I love to eat them. I often like to eat cooked carrots, onions, parsnips, and beets, with oil and garlic.  I do not have a favorite vegetable, but I do like tomatoes and carrots very much.  What is your favorite vegetable?

            I felt very useless and I knew that IFP progress presentations were coming up, so I decided to schedule an interview with the colonel, who ran two hotels and two organic farms.  I had met him earlier at Pushkar (isn’t it weird that colonel is spelled the way it is and pronounced with an “r”… wow, the English language is confusing sometimes… unlike Hindi, where everything is read like it is spelled).  I walked to his hotel Meghiwas, which took about an hour.  There were many rickshaw drivers who offered to drive me, as usual.  They think any girl on the side of the road is a damsel in distress. 

            I entered the Meghiwas premise and could immediately smell the flowers in gardens.  It was like stepping into an oasis, since the street that I was stepping off of was busy and filled with garbage, bad smells, and cars.  I sat in the lounge and watched the hotel’s fat cats roam around the place.  I interviewed the colonel about his farm and what methods he uses that are organic.  He is a very nice man.  He seems to have a similar perspective on life since he is a knowledge seeker and tries to live a life of balance.  He is very interested in organic farming and has one five-acre farm in Pushkar and is in the process of creating one in Srinipar.  He was very nice in offering me tea and a millet roti with iron-filled sugar and fresh butter.  I organized to see his farm on Saturday. 

On my way back, I got harrassed by a very savy (and also pretty unattractive) rickshaw driver.  This guy has been around the block.  He spoke English well and knew how to pursuade, or should I say pursue, tourists to get into his rickshaw (he followed me three blocks).  He was like most of the aggressive, tourist rickshaw drivers in that he told me to pay whatever price I thought was fair, which really lays into your guilt conscious, and then he tried to take me to shops “along the way”.   I eventually got dropped off, after telling hims that I did not want to go see some stores, and walked the rest of the way home.  Interactions with men are very frustrating here.  They seem to think that they are very unique and are the only ones who have had the bright idea to talk to women and invite them on their motorcycle or rickshaw.  They think that they are God’s gift to women.  Men constantly walk by and cat call us or tell us Namaste hoping that we wil respond. 

I got back home after that long afternoon out and did some homework.  Marissa and I showed up in the family courtyard for dinner at our regular 830pm time.  The plates were not on the table and the place was deserted, so we jumped into action to make the table. While I relaxed on the couch,  Marissa tried herding family members together, so that we could eat (she was quite hungry). 

 

Thurs, Nov. 12th: 

Even though my alarm went off at 7am I didn’t get out of bed until 9am.  I had 20 minutes to get ready, so I prepared my peanut butter and toast, and some stale coffee, and then headed out the door.  It was raining today and was a bit cold out, as could be seen be the amount of people walking around with wool blankets wrapped around them.  It was a lecture day:

Women’s movement by Kavita Srivastava: During the freedom movement the issue of the women’s roles were debated.  There was continuous dialouge between strong congress women and Gandhi.  They raised many questions, yet when the freedom struggle took off, the women were silent.  Currently, the women’s movement is adament about documenting and analysizing the role of women in history.  They desire to recognize and identity what women were doing when men were making history.  For example, there are no voices of Hindu women in the property debate and so the women’s movement is trying to determine what role the women did play in history.  Thus far, it is understood that the 1955 development plans pushed the “fringe” women’s movement in the 1970s and permitted the establishment of the 1983 Committee for Status of women, which desired that 33% of the government must be women. 

Ironically, technology has increased the burden of women’s work, especially in the agricultural communities.  Tractors have aided, and replaced, men’s tasks, such as ploughing, while it does not help the female roles in the fields.  Third world women’s feminist are exploring the impact of technology.  In agricultural work and the rest of the informal sector, there is no equal wage for women.   In Kerala, CPM and the strong women’s movement there is somehting about not giving women equal wages. 

More facts:

-          Anti-rape Law (1981)— Illegalized custodial rape and statutory rape, but not martial rape; the idea of illegalizing martial rape cannot be grasped by government officials: “there is no way can we allow the law to enter the bedroom; how can it be violated by Indian law?”… Some believe that if the women do not scream then how can it be rape?

-          “Prevention of dowry” movement— The dowry is an extension of domestic violence.  With only the illegalization of the dowry, other values are not getting addressed.  Why only forbid dowry? More people must question the whole sphere of the family.  The values that rooted in this idea of dowry must be changed.

-          Law against Sati (1987)—This prevents the glorification of sati.  It recognizes that Sati is not just pushing of women into the husband’s pyre, but is also the societal view of women.  As soon as the husband dies, the women dies with him.  It is the idelogy that a woman’s entire identity is nothing without the husband.    In the state of Rajasthan more than 26 women have been pushed into the funeral pyre since independence.  The actual pushing has been stoppped because people realize they cannot do it anymore.  The women’s movement is continuously going to court for violation of law.

-          The women’s movement in India cannot be discussed without mentioning the Muslim women’s movement.  Article 25 & 26 gives everyone the right to have faith and practice; yet, Muslims felt that there was a legal interference happening and wanted the supreme court to alter the law so that muslim jurisprudence was approved.  Many Muslim women were against this, but at leas tin Islam marriage is a contract and so can be terminated (whereas in Hinduism there is no contract and so it is difficult to prove a Hindu marriage…)

-          After 1980s, Hindu BJP Party emerged.  The women’s movement slowed down, especially in the 1990s.  While politically the Hindu political parties face defeat, their Hindu ideology still spreads.  Their values have affected the mindset, essentially they have “posioned the mind”.  The eelctorate has thrown out this party, but the rule of law (police) is completely communal and their training is anti-Muslim.

-          Globalization: In the last 15 years, neoliberal policies that India adopted has ended up dividing the Indian population into 80% (poor) and 20% (wealthy).  The opening of the country has severely affected women (mandal= affirmative action to all backward castes).  Globalization consolidated the left and only serves specific issues.  Still more struggles and divisions.  Strong identities have emerged.

-          In terms of sexual harrassment, there is much more that must be done because, even though there is a law, 85% of economy is in the informal sector.  More likely than not, the sexual harrassment law is not abhered to by the informal sectors.

-          There are many fractured identitites in the women’s movement, so how can you mobolize the fractured identities? It is best to accept and then work to universitality…

 

Buddhism and Jainism  by Kusum Jain (it should be noted that the Buddhist facts we were taught are controversial):  Indian philosophical traditions can be divided into two main streams:  Vedic (astik, which means ‘belief in God’) and Non-Vedic (nastik, atheist).  Astiks believe in the traditional words of the Vedas, the ultimate source of knowledge and conduct.  In the Astik tradition, you can find six different schools: (1) Nyaya (2) Naisheshika (3) Sankya (4) Yoga (5) Mimansa (6) Vedanta.  These schools believe in the Vedas, but differ in the opinion on metaphysics (nature of reality), epistomoligy (sources of knowledge/ignorance) and ethics (right way, wrong versus good).  Quotes in the Vedas can be found to support many ranges of thoughts.  

            Later, the Bhakti tradition emerged and was influenced by Jainism and Buddhism.  They believe in the notion of equality, respect for women, and no division of classes.   Bhaktis believe, like Jains and Buddhists, that all are equally part of reality and the world is all Brahmin equally. 

 

Jainis and Buddhists believed  that the Vedas supported contradictory opinions.  Therfore, they held that was no final authority on life and the Vedas are not to be treated as sacred.  They are as good as any other book on knowledge.  In the Nastik tradition, there are three schools: Charvaka, Jainism, and Buddhism.  The ultimate sanctity is questioned by these three schools of thought. 

Charvaka is the only school that is materialist.  This school believes that matter is the one and only reality.  There is no atman, self, or consciouness.  Consciousness is a byproduct of matter.  Out of matter, the consciouness is not percibable.  Sense perception is the only source of knowledge and what is not percieveable does not exist.  Goal in life is to try to gain as much pleasure as possible in this life.  There is no life after this one and everything ends here.  There is no God, no heaven, nothing and only this life now.  This school contradicts all ethics and metaphysical philosophy of the Vedas.  “Even if you have to borrow to enjoy yourself, do it and don’t worry about repaying”.  This is the only life and so enjoy it at whatever cost.  There is nothing wrong with materialism.  Often condemned as a school which promotes immoral ideas, but most of us live our lives like this…

Jainism is considered the oldest tradition, existing earlier than the Vedas.  The claim for this antiquity lies in the Vedas because the founder, Rishabhadeva, is mentioned in the script.  There are 24 prophets (people who were the most important exponents of this tradition).  The last saint was Mahaveer (500 BC) and he contemplated with Buddha.  Jains do not belief in God, a personal god or creator God.  They do not believe in God because many times gods become scape-goats (other religions use God for profane things (blame, thankfulness, happiness, anger), but Jains believe God is not there).  They also upheld that the human and animals sacrifices that some religions did were misinterpretations of religion.  Jainism, as well as Buddhism, emphasized nonviolence and compassion. 

There are three ways in which Buddhism and Jainism differed from Hinduism:

Back in the day, Mahaveer and Buddha believed that there were problems in the Vedic tradition, namely the caste system, the varna.  The Vedas upheld that according to the quality, nature and aptitude of a person, that person should be assigned a class.  Yet, often class was not assigned by one’s nature, but rather by where one was born.  One’s life was determined by their birth.  This was considered injust by Mahaveer and Buddha.  They rejected the caste system.  This rejection aroused a revolution since no establishment had ever supported this rejection of caste.  These two religions opposed caste (even though this is still a reality in India today since it is so ingrained in the society).  Secondly, they announced equality of all beings (men and women).  Mahaveer allowed women to become monks and invited womenfolk to join his system.  Thirdly, in the vedic tradition people from lower castes were not allowed to read, let alone listen, to anything in Sanskrit.  It was the sacred language that could only be used by the Brahmins.  In this way, religion was a monopoly of the upper caste, since the wealthy were responsible for interpreting the Vedas.  This created problems because Brahmins interpreted Vedas to suit their interests.  Religion became monopoly of Brahmin caste.  Mahaveer and Buddha opposed this and they started preaching in the local languages since they believed that religion should be acceptable to all people.  Any ordinary men could understand what religion was about and what reality there was.  In summary, these two religions opposed the Vedas, caste system and believed that religion should be available to the common man in his/her own language.

Jainism is known for its very strong faith in nonviolence, ahimsa.  It is a realist school and believes that both matter and consciousness are real (versus the Vedas that does not believe that matter is real, only consiouness is real and material is a dream, maya, an illusion).  Conscious beings are not only human beings, but also include animals.   There are five sensed animals, four sensed, three sensed, and one sensed.  Any conscious being which has one sense is any equally conscious being.  Plants are conscious beings because they have one sense (touch).  According to Jains, on the level of consciousness you cannot discrimminate between animals, plants, or humans.  You must be nonviolent towards animal and vegetation kingdoms. 

This created a whole new awareness to the environment.  Anything that hurts, harms or kills a conscious being is immoral.  If you kill or hurt someone you are committing a crime. Non-violence is not only killing, but there are three levels:  physical, verbal, and mental.   You are guilty of violence if you think, say or do violence.  Therefore, Jains are vegetarian (cannot kill beings for their own purpose and sometime do not even eat root vegetables because they do not want to harm the bugs living in the ground).  They are very careful when they consume anything from nature (and consume only that is necessary since most of the problems arise when humans consume more than what they need to).   Ahimsa Parmo Dharma (Nonviolence is the ultimate duty).

Theory of relativity (Anekantavada Syadava) states that there are no absolute truths.  All statements are relatively true.  Reality is a complex thing and every little thing, even an atom, has infinite qualities with it.  We can not know totality and whenever we say anything about anything in this world it is true or false.  It is a theory of perspectives.  Therefore, whenever we make a statement about something it is only true from a specific statement.  There are contraidctory predicts on a subject.  It depends from where you are looking at the reality.  (Six Blind Men of Rajathan story)  When you give absolute truth to partial truth, you have a problem.  The problem of the Vedas is that they try to insist that reality is the ultimate reality.  All statements which are mad ein lanugage arew only relatively true, to the perspectives in which they are made.  Mahaveer was the first one to question Aristotle logic, multi-value logic.  Most problems are there because we are unable to transcend our perspective and look at the other perspective.  Once you do this, you become more otlerant, more friendly and more respectful to the people. 

Jainism was practiced mainly by the merchant class, the traders.  They compromised on certain things and Jainism survived as a religion and philosophy in India.  There are many Jain charities and bird hospitals.  The Jains are also known for their distribution of free artificial limbs to the disabled.

Buddhism questioned the authority of Vedas in search of truth and enlightenment.  Buddha visited different teachers and realized that there are four noble truths: (1) there is suffering and suffering is the basic truth of life; giving birth is suffering and ever where around us you will find suffering; we should not ignore it and should pay attention and accept it  (2) there is a cause of suffering and once you know the cause, you will be able to get rid of it (3) Find the cause of suffering through the chain of 12 points; trishna, unlimited desires and ignorance (4) nirvana is attained when you to liberate yourself and remove sufferings; ashtand.

The ultimate reality is dynamic and everything is constantly changing (theory of movmentry). THere is nothing permanent excpe tchange.  Nothing exists except in a moment.  (Parman insists that there is no change, that everything is stationary).  In Buddha stupas, a Buddhist monk is meant to rotate every circul spook in order to remind everyone that this is the wheel of suffering.  You move from one to the other and you must come out of this chain.  Go to the root of the suffering and remove it.  There is nothing in this world that is uncaused.  There is necessary relation between a cause and effect.  There are some philsopohers who belief in a metter of chance and not in this causla theory.

We desire things because we believe things are permanent and so if you believe things are dynamic you will not get attached.  Attachment is the cause of suffering.  Once you realize that nothing is permanent you will not be in the state of suffering.  Buddha was a proponent of compassion, karna.  Buddha never answered philosophical questions because he believed that there was no end to these questions.  All these questions are related to things that cannot be verified and should not be talked about or debated.  The pratical need is to relieve people of suffering and show the path of relief.  Later on, Buddha had two schools:  Heenayana and Mahayan.  Mahayan is a later development of Buddhism and Buddha is worshipped as God.  Buddha is supposed to take rebirth as a relief of suffering.  Religion which takes away this notion of God is a difficult religion to follow and so when Buddhism went to other countries it could not popularize it self when it stayed in this godless form.  Therefore, local elements were incorporated into the Buddhism and Buddha became a god.  There is a story that when Buddha was offered nirvana, he denied it, and now there is a concept of reincarnation in some schools of Buddha.  This happens to most institutionalized religions—the things that the religion opposed are incorporated back in. 

Most kings and scholars were Buddhists; but, in the 7th century, Buddhism was wiped out in this country when Shankaracharya challenged all Buddhist scholars on their philosophy.  His philosophy was absolute non-dualism, a Vedanta philosophist.  These scholarly debates defeated many Buddhist followers.  Out of shame, most Buddhists converted or fleed India. 

 

Next, the group did some miny presentations on their personal projects and what they have found so far (they are notes, so I apologize if they are incomprehensible. 

 

Advertising contradiction in the Indian market by Jeremy:  Addressing the western myth of India’s “large” middle class; Consuming class is much smalller (150 million households); exploring what the consumer values and their monetay decisions; “dual passport generation” teenagers and mid20s and now introduced to modern lifestyle, passport to both traditions and modern lifestyle; success oriented, hard working; realized there are many paradoxes in Indian market; 2nd largest pool of trained engineers and scinetists; richest billionaires, but more impoverished nations; individual versus group; modern versus tradition; brand versus equity; uses advetising as lens into contradictory world; pepsi “my life, my way” ad campaign; family values make up the core of advertising; difficult for large companies to come into india because they do not know how to pitch their product; indians shop in different manner; they do not make linear decisions, they are willing to live with clustered sections; widening the rural poor and middle class gap; television and technology has made its way to villages but these people do not have access or resouces to it; cannot assume rural indians are 15 years behind urban in consumer ideology;  shampoo sales have boosted; targeting youth market is ideal, but tapping into the bottom of the pyramid is more essential for sustainable development; influencing consumer trends and what they are buying will be more effective

 

Bollywood and Women By Jori:  The portrayal of women in more current bollywood film is contradictory;  “men act, women appear, men look at women, women look at themselves”; bollywood is everywhere and bollywood stars equal gods in india; largest film industry in world; urban middle class is a large market for bollywood; post independence= social equality films, improve level of social knowledge; as BJP took power films got more conservative, now woman are more likely to go home, get arranged marriage (reserved politics); mainstream versus parellel cinema India (artsy, more positive portrayal, lesbian); parallel cinema should be looked at more as a social indicator; in bollywood films, women cannot exist on their own, women are rarely on their own; the women is aware of how men are looking at her and use that to her advantage; mother goddess figure= powerful in india, but secondary to men; current portrayals of women are horrible whereas in the ‘60s the films portray strong women; yet current portrayals reveal an ability of women to do what they want;  as long as one is beautiful they should be admired;  beauty is very important, as long as pretty you can be in film; men are the soul seekers, while women are the aiders and superficial figures

 

Contemporary Puja by Kim:  Why and what similarities and differences exist in home and in temple puja?  Puja structures peoples lives and their values; how they live day to day; everyone has home shrine, both family and personal deities; often more than one present in home shrine; Ganesh is common, perform puja first to him; personal deities emulate qualities that they wish to see in themselves; Hanuman is popular; saints are also worshipped; women live puja; everything they do is sacred and holy; live out puja in housework, say mantras in mind as cleaning and cooking; advata vahdantra tradition (purana of the Vedic tradition, non-dual, everything is holy, atman is brahman, everything is the self); interviewees have been doing puja since young and so it is natural part of life; important to face a particular way—not face the west; priests survey house; location is very important; large part of their lives, level of devotion; puja packets sold in stores for those that do not understand how to properly do puja (nuclear families); what is lost in translation?

 

Masculinity and Nonviolence by Marissa: women’s movement focused on access; however, it has left out men and bigger issues of gender equality; nonviolent men focuses on awareness and needs to response;restrictions on women come from power-control empowerment of men; they are entitled to marriage and child bringing choices; three traditional roles: (1) provider (2) protector (3) procreator; wife beating was not considered violence because it was “marriage”; non-volent men have a different level of awareness; through interviews hope to make more men aware; it is considered a waste of time for men to work together with women in the women’s movement; aware of family rights, wife’s rights;  do not completely diregard the three roles, but it is just more broad; 64% of women think that wife beating is okay, normal; experiences are important to redefining masculinity and observing how it well it works;  muslim men are usually talked about differently

 

I walked home with Anna, Kim and Marissa, but before we reached our humble abodes we all needed to stop and get some choloate and Indian nut sweets.  Anna got some stale chocolate, while I pushed the group to backtrack in order to go to an amazing nut sweet store.  It was worth it when we got there because the worker there let us try all the different sweets.  Anna and I bought 1 kg of seasame cracker sweets (I have already eaten most of it).  I stopped off at Kim and Anna’s house, where they are light less because their light broke the night before and their mom has yet to get a replacement. 

 

Rain really changes the city.  It was really dark when I headed home and the wind was blowing hard.  I actually had to be aware of stepping in puddles!  Usually, it is pee that I am worried about, but today the rain diluted all of that.  There were people huddled under tarps on the side of the road.  Everyone wrapped in shawls, wool and cotton, not many rainjackets or sweaters.

 

I ate my seasame snack for desert.  They really fill you right up… I think of have a slight nut allergy because whenever I eat them I get a tightness feeling in my chest, almost like someone is tighteneing my bra.  I wonder if that is a nut allergy?  Hmmm

 

Fri, Nov. 13th: Da da da doom…

            Today was our last Friday of Hindi  class before our exam next week.  This class was a little rough since it had been a long week.  Two native students, a boy (who was studying to be an engineer) and a girl (who was in graduate school studying literature) visited the class to have “conversation” with us.  It was a little ineffective since there were twelve American students and two Indian ones, but we attempted to have a conversation about ourselves and them.  I found out that the two students both liked dogs, After class, Cynthia, Matt, Milly, Lisa and I headed off to the pink district to pick up a bus to Sharapur

There was a fruit cart on our way to the bus station and so our group bought some fruit snacks.   I  bought some apples and bananas for some of the begging children, but they actually did not want the apples and bananas.  They were asking for money and gauvas.  Essentially, they were not grateful at all and some of them would not accept anything but guava.  When Milly was buying fruit she was quite close to getting pick-pocketed since she was wearing a backpack and the zippers were easily accessible for one kid. 

We loaded the bus and were squashed in with the locals.  Some of us were doing our Hindi homework on the bus and the guys standing in the aisles were very adament about looking over our shoulders and trying to read what we were reading and writing.  They were very curious about our lives and when we did not answer their questions they turned to their friends and make up stories about us.  Matt was sitting on the outside of the seat and the Indian guys loved talking to him and tried to get his name and number (he was also asked if we were his friends… or wives… or sisters?).

There was a traffic jam on the main road, so the bus took a short cut into the town we were getting off in.  Cynthia got in contact with the sadhus we were meeting and once they both discovered where to meet, he whizzed over in his Tata car.  The car was tiny and there were seven of us.  With the sadhus driving and his friend in the front seat, Lisa, Milly, Cynthia and I piled in the back of the car with our bags hanging out the rear and on our laps.  Matt naughtingly got onto the back of a motorcycle and enjoyed the ride of his life with two other men.  It is a good thing that Indian men enjoy touching and being close to each other more than Americans because they were jam packed on that motorcycle.

After getting off the highway, we were driven up a dirt road through the Nijjan village.  We managed to get the little car up a small hill with sharp rocks and finally to the sadhu “palace”.  The old, red building had been built 1,000 years ago and was recently reinhabited by this sadhu, Ren Puri, nine years ago.  His lineage owned it and owned much of the farm land surrounding it (they rented the land out to the villagers).  The palace had two courtyards (an inner and outer) and Ren Puri’s room connected the two courtyards.  That was where we slept.  His room was decorated warmly with cartoon deity posters, pictures of his guru, and little religious knick-knacks.  The

bathroom was recently made and consisted of two open squatters (a wall separated them for the female visitors).

In his room, we sat on the floor (because you are not supposed to sit level or above a sadhus) and watched some TV At one point, we were watching 7th heaven (Brings me back to childhood) and Eureka (Elora’s favorite sci fi show).  Lisa had a moment with Ren Puri when he changed the channel to find a Katy Perry music video, “Hot or cold”.  They were both watching it and then Lisa looked up at the great sadhu man, who was bumping his shoulders along to it, and they giggled together. 

He gave us a quick tour of the palace and showed us the second floor and balcony, which was dominated by aggressive monkeys.  Apparently, the monkeys had gotten so bad one year that they caught and caged 200 of them and shipped them off to a park.  When we were on the balcony, the views were amazing because we could look into villager’s homes and see all of their animals in their yards.  The only thing that brought me down from my amazement of the rolling hills, fields, and village homes was the mushy monkey poop I stepped in.  On the second floor there were small holes drilled above the room that joined the courtyards so that people could fit their guns in and shoot invaders if need be.  The palace also had many holes in the walls from thieves who had come into the palace when no one was living in it.  The thieves were looking for treasures that had been hidden in the walls from the original owners.  They would knock on the walls to listen to the hollow spots and then bash their tools in the walls looking for little clay pots of treasure.

A little bit about sadhus: Sadhus have been around of thousands of years.  Usually they live by themselves, on the fringes of society, and spend their days in devotion to their chosen deity.  Historically, sadhus have been known for their naked runs in sacred rivers during the Khumba Melas (festivals that occur every four years in four different locations).  They are organized by various sects and they pass on the ancient spiritual wisdom, such as yoga, that joins the atman together with the Brahman.  Some perform magical rituals to make contact with the gods, while others practice intense forms of yoga and meditation to increase their spiritual powers and acquire mystical knowledge.  Today, though, since nakedness is looked down, they can be seen adorning orange shirts and skirts with cute little handbags.  Today, there are about 4-5 million sadhus in India, constituting about half a percent of the total population. 

Sadhus have renounced their profane lives for a life of ascetics and intense spiritual devotion.  Many of them leave their family and friends for a life of spirituality.  Not all sadhus are enlightened, but believers, such as the two women who visited Ren Puri in order to renounce the sins they had committed, regard them as holy anyway, if only because of their radical commitment.  Some successful sadhus are even worshipped as ‘gods on earth'.  These believers 'behold' a sadhu—as a kind of living idol (murthi)—to receive a spark of his spiritual energy.  Devotees give donations to the sadhus, which are regarded as offerings to the gods, and they receive blessing in return.  Sadhus have historically always been supported by donations, since they are not supposed to work.  Indian society supports them. 

Back to the story: Some sadhus are also notorious for their love of smoking and Ren Puri was one of those smokers.  Ren Puri, his apprentice, and some other men from the village asked us if we wanted to smoke and being the young college kids that we are, we said yes.  So, they whipped out some of their best stuff and mixed it with tobacco.  The assistant sadhu took a HUGE first hit.  In fact, it was so large and there was so much smoke emerging from that his eyeball suddenly fell out.  He stumbled out of the room and came back after a few minutes with his eye ball staring straight ahead… I thought he was a goner, but he just had a fake eyeball.  Well, after that interesting incident we all tried to smoke their little gift with a chilm.  They had distributed a gauze pad so that we would not pollute the chilm.  That is skill I have not mastered. 

We then headed off to explore the village.  Our trip around the village consisted of visiting the neighboring family down the road.  We walked into the extended family compound just as one of the daughers was milking the water buffalo.  Those water buffalos produce so much milk (Though their milk is much more fatty than cow’s milk and it aids in digestion after a big meal.  Camel milk is high Vitamin C, but it is diffcult to keep because parasites grow in the milk as soon as it get cool). 

The family was very excited to see us and made sure that we had some chai while we were there.  They spoke a Rajasthani dialect (apparently there is no “Rajasthani” language, but rather Rajathani is made up of various dialects around the region) and so it was difficult to understand what they wanted.  Eventually, we peiced together that the family, which consisted of about twenty-two members, wanted us to stay for dinner.  After an initial refusal, we finally gave in and decided that we would join them for the evening meal.  So, after chai, we watched the two young girls do puja in their home shrine (they sang mantras and waved incense sticks circularly around the pictures and statues of their deities, such as Krishna and Hanuman) and then to their ancestors, which were represented by pictures in someone else’s bedroom.  The last part of this puja consisted of going to a tulsi tree in a pot in the garden.  We placed the incense sticks there and warmed our heads and hearts with the glow of the stick’s flames.  When we completely puja, we decided to go back to the palace for their daily aarti ritual.  On our 1:06 minute walk back up to the palace for aarti, two villagers passed by us with a bag of warm barley and slopped it in our hands.  We gobbled it up. 

For the aarti ceremony, we stood outside the palace at an open temple that had a Shiva linga, Ganesh statue and large bell.  The assistant sadhu come speed walking to the temple from the palace entrance holding a long handle with a gold container at the end that had flames coming out of it.  He walked around the outside of the temple structure and rang a small bell in his hand as he did this.  He walked a specific path and knew exactly where to put his feet when he went up and down the stairs because he had done it som many times.  I closed my eyes during the ceremony and it felt magical just listening to the intense bell ringing and every once in a while feeling the flame warm my face. 

After that part of the aarti we went back to the palace and sat in the middle of the first courtyard facing the fireplace shrine.  Some other men had joined us and sang Ganesh aarti, Shiva bajan, datta treya, and Shiva shotra with the sadhus.  

During the second song, we lost electricity and so we all sat in the dark while the prayers were mystic… Right after the electricity came back on (from the generator they had), Ren Puri received a phone call from his mobile,“ALLO!”  In the middle of aarti he picked up his phone and started gabbing away.   

Post evening puja, we went back to the neighbor’s house for dinner.  We had “Rajasthani” cuisine, which was carrot greens cooked in fermenting yogurt.  The family had set up five dinner plates for us in their living room and we all sat down cross legged on their nice rug.  From sitting without chairs at school, it seems that Indians are quite used to sitting in cross-legged form on the floor.  However, I have not quite mastered that position since it really hurts my back and hips.  So, while the five of us ate the smokey food that they had so kindly cooked for us, the whole family squished into the entrance ways of the room to wash us.  The whole family watched our every move.  I think that they were making sure that we would not tear a chappatis with our left hand (the bathroom hand).  Speaking of tearing chappatis, I think that Indian culture promotes righthandedness, since you are forced to always eat with your right hand.  What if you are left handed?  What can you do?  They were very quick in replacing any food that we consumed so that we never had an empty part on our plate.  I think I managed to eat seven chappatis and two millet chappatis (which are VERY thick chappatis that are consumed in the winter to keep you feeling like a “furnance”).

After the smokey meal, we came back and had buffalo milk with lots of sugar (Cynthia didn’t let me have any because she had seen how much chai I had drunken that day and knew that I was lactose intolerant and would regret it later—in fact, later that night I let out a really stinky one and we all regreted my consumption of dairy). 

 

Ganesh Aarti:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qg88CknV1zY

 

Sat, Nov. 14th: Sadhu Land

            Since we were lying on the floor next to the Sadhu’s bed, we were very perceptive to every movement that he made.  His sadhu buddy woke him up at 430am and as he woke up he yawned a few times like a big lion.  After leaving his room for a bit, he sat on his bed and burped.  These were not normal burps because he would form them into “Omms”.  Half-awake, half-asleep, I noticed the Milly woke up and chatted with Ren Puri in her impressive Hindi.  I eventually emerged from my cocoon around 730am, which seemed so late compared to the others and spend the next hour trying to wake up.  I bathed (aka sponged myself with a bucket of water) and brushed my teeth as was necessary to do while living with the sadhu.  Cythnia is very good at telling us what is proper (and hygenic) to do and what is polluting while in the presence of sadhus. 

When Lisa and I were in the bathroom changing, we went outside to get some hot water and there was a langur moneky drinking the hot water that we wanted.  The rhesus monkeys are so friking scary here, so we made sure to keep our distance. 

 The Sadhus were adamant about teaching us the “Om Namo Narayanaya”, which is a greeting from one god to another.  Ren Puri was a very interesting character in that he was a warm human being and reminded me of Santa a little bit.  Santa with a purse.  He was very hospitable and made sure that we were well-fed.  That morning he fed us delicious cashews, guava, namak snacks, and amazing lados (similar to doughnuts). 

Cynthia, Milly, and I were given a tour of the village by a 40 year old male villager.  We walked through many mud huts and brick houses with goats, water buffalo, camels, and cows in the front yards.  I would say that a majority of the villagers in this village had water buffalos and we passed by many water pumps with women washing the buffalos ( since they get dehydrated and their skin get dry if they do not get washed).  It is fascinating that many villagers are so dependent on water buffalos in Rajasthan because they essentially live in a desert and therefore there is not much water to spare. 

We roamed around the fields, barren and fertile ones, and stopped by one family’s house to see their wheat thrasher.  Like many of the villagers that I had and would encounter, the mother of the family was adamant on giving us chai.  We politely refused, but were able to watch her make some chapattis from the mud stove.  What an art!  This family had fields and a nice, colored house.  They kept their floors clean since they did not wear shoes on the porch of the house.  They also used the straw brooms that everyone in India used, even the sweepers on the streets of Delhi.  The brooms usually do not have a distinct handle, but rather are just pieces of straw tied together with string.  The door of the house also was made from metal and it was locked by a small metal bar handle.  Most doors in India use this type of lock (it is hard to explain, but you have a handle that slides a metal bar back and forth across the doors to close them). 

We made our way around some more fields and at one point we crossed the path of a small grey bird.  The villager that was touring us told us to stop and back up.  He said that it was very good luck to cross the path of the bird, but it was even better luck if you crossed the bird on your right shoulder.  So, in order to do that we had to go around a few more fields.  This was good because along the way we saw a neem tree that had a linga and orange colors on it.  The tree had been worshipped in order to bring good fortunes to the well that was being dug up.  Whenever someone in the village wants to bore or dig a well, they must worship the nearest neem tree for good luck.  We continued on the walk and passed by the man’s wife doing laundry at one of their wells.  The wife was washing laundry aggressively with soap and the rock platform that she was on.  Every once in a while she would beat the dirty clothes with a stick.  She used water freely without any thought of conserving it and it made me realize how much water equates to wealth in this desert environment.  Passing a few more shy women (who kept their heads covered, either for modesty or for the elders in the area) and their  water buffalo.  We made it back to the palace, where Lisa and I met up with the colonel to go see his farm. 

By coincedence, the colonel was starting up an “organic” farm in the small village that we had spent the night.  So, around 11ish the colonel drove up to the Sadhu’s palace and had some chai with the gang.  After some small talk, Lisa and I headed to his farm on the other side of the Najjar village near the town of Sharapur.  His farm was moderately sized with about 8 large cows and 5 calves.  All of his cows were female because those were considered the only useful ones, since they produced milk.  The men were origninally used for ploughing, but now that he has a tractor there is not much use for them; however, the colonel would like to create a tractor-like device where the cows could be reused and where their dung could act a fertilizer.   His farm uses a dober pit, which creates methane gas from cow dung.  He believes that we need to “strike a balance between man and machine” with the increase of tractors. 

The Colonel considers his organic farming as “traditional farming with modification” with science to back up the methods.  When asked if he believed in the astrological calendar, the colonel said that he needed to see proof that it is not the changing humidity, moisture, temperature, heat, and the general seasonal changes that make the calendar effective.  He does believe in the concepts of the Hindu gods, but emphasizes a life filled with balance.  He believes that the motivations to become an organic farmer have been: (1) expenses, there is a market for organic goods now (Health) (2) consciousness, a greater connection with nature and the products that she produces. 

We saw a bus on the way that had been bashed in the back.  I would have hated to be in that back row when that accident occurred.  Overall, though I feel as if I have not seen as many car accidents as I had anticipated with the way that some Indians drive. 

After a slow rickshaw ride, there was lots of traffic on the road today, I got back home. All that chai from the village really did a number on my system… so, I got to refamilarize myself with our pink bathroom.  The rest of the evening was filled with studying and relaxing.  I needed to recover from that exhausting trip. 

 

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