Category Archives: living in india

Unwritten part 2………………..

If you would like to read part 1, it is here.

We saw so much in India that we had never seen before. Some of it was absolutely amazing – the history, the people, and the beautiful children with charcoal lines painted around their dark eyes to keep evil from peering at them.

But a lot of what we saw sank in our gut like a meal riddled with hidden poison, so scrumptious in the consuming, so vile in the digesting and all of it leaving you sick for days. In some of the scarier moments, we saw a man beaten at the zoo, blind children begging in the middle of the night and the middle of the street, and children simply unattended. We saw a hoard of men lunging with lead pipes in hand toward the driver of a car sitting in line at a tool booth.

Once, when my friends came to visit, our car was stopped by a group of men on a dusty side road in the middle of truly nowhere. Our driver got out of the car and I feared for him and selfishly feared what would happen to us if something happened to him.

More than once, I saw a dead body strewn across the side of the road and completely ignored.

It’s hard to reconcile that. The very nonchalant way that someone can distract herself from a human being lying forgotten on the side of the road. Sometimes covered. Sometimes not. There are no reporters dreaming of headlines. No crowds of people gathering and gasping in disbelief. Mostly just people moving on – or moving around – busy with their own way, barely glancing over to see what happened other than to avoid the inconvenience of it all.

I always wondered who was at home waiting. Who did care that someone had stopped breathing through no fault of his own? What story would the family have to create with the absence of a caring witness?

Most of these memories simply dissipate into the haze. They fade and lose their sense of reality. In fact, unless you were armed with stacks of my own words right in front of me, it might be hard to convince even me that some of it truly happened. It couldn’t. It wouldn’t. But wait, maybe it did.

In most of those situations, I was eager to avoid danger and remove myself completely from acknowledging that anything dreadful was going on. Usually my kids were with me and I was trying to distract them so I would not have too much to explain later. I could busy myself with keeping them safe by keeping them unaware.

Words always failed me in those tenuous situations. I didn’t understand the “why” of what was happening any more than my children could and never found the strength to make sense of the different scenarios for my kids. So, if they could be preoccupied with counting people on a bus or looking for camels – so be it.

But there is always a moment when you can no longer pretend that you live in a world where suffering doesn’t fall like rain. There is always a memory you cannot escape or deny.

It happened to me right after a few of my friends and I decided to venture deep into Old Delhi. One of the best memories I have from my time in India was tainted and stained by one of the worst.

Many westerners are hesitant to travel into Old Delhi. But we were having none of that. Old Delhi is alive with all that India is about. It is a fascinating and wonderful corner that is best explored with open eyes, an adventurous spirit, and an old pair of shoes that can be thrown away later.

My friends and I donned colorful dupattas (scarves) and climbed the steps to the Jama Masjid mosque and removed our shoes and rang the bell at the Jain Temple letting the gods know we were there. We visited our favorite jeweler and his family and spoiled ourselves with shiny trinkets. We laughed that our new jewels were really for our kids and our grandkids and that we would just hold them in safe keeping until they were mature enough to have them.

We felt humbled by the seriousness of the students study and chants and prayers in the Fatepuri Mosque. We inhaled the dust and braved the stares of the male-dominated Spice Market, where we dined on delicious raw cashews and pistachios as we watched men bathe in buckets.

We enjoyed the Sikhs bowing in reverence as they entered their Gurdwara and admired their dedication to feed those who are hungry. We relished the fact that just up the street of Chandni Chowk was also the home to a Baptist Church and a Jain bird sanctuary. All of the world’s major religions had a presence on that street and we boasted how wonderful that was.

We moved on to the famed Karims restaurant and laughed as we asked for our sodas in cans and paper plates for our food, brave enough to eat the food but not brave enough to eat it off of their potentially uncleaned plates.

It was one of those days where everything clicked. We learned, we laughed, and we wore ourselves out. Our glow grew with every stop – the spirituality, the friendship, and the jewelry.

On the way to the car, we continued to marvel at the sights, sounds, and smells of Old Delhi. The alleys were alive with crazy electrical wires hanging from every single building serving as balance beams for the monkeys who danced across them over our heads. We did our own dance over unknown splats on the crackling walkway and tried to identify what each might be. Ultimately, we decided some mysteries were better left unsolved.

We kept pace with the men and animals pushing and pulling carts and women covered in veils. Children coming home from school and merchants delivering their wares. Spices that made us sneeze a little, then gag. Brides shopping for invitations. Incense burning right around the corner from the used auto parts shop rich with its own smells of rubber and grease.

Old Delhi was vibrant in a way that my neighborhood in the Unites States never could be.  And whenever I visited this part of Delhi, I always tempted time by staying for just one minute more. There was forever a window that had not been seen before or a corner that had not yet been turned.

As time dripped away, we realized we had better hurry and bustled to the car in a little bit of a panic that we might be late for school pickup. We got in the car and immediately started calling the different school offices to be sure they knew we were on the way – explaining that just this time, we would be just a smidge later than normal. “Traffic is horrible,” we said and winked at each other while holding our hands just right so that our new rings reflected the sun streaming in the window.

As I was putting my phone down and sinking into my seat, I looked around at the busyness on the street. It was chaotic and endless. It was hard to pick out a single scene and soak it in.

But then just over to my left, a man came into focus. There was no reason, really, that I should be drawn to him. He was defined in the same dusty, brown haze as the foggy air that surrounded him. He wore a simple and stale, used-to-be-white robe and was standing in the middle of the road. In between traffic and blinks, he could have easily disappeared. He looked drunk and obviously wanted something. Help.

But it was not immediately obvious just how truly desperate he was. You can unfortunately and intentionally become numb to the desperation in India a little too quickly. Even with the biggest most generous heart, the realization that you simply cannot help everyone graciously lends you an excuse to ignore someone who is clearly struggling.

My friends were still on their phones and I am pretty certain that they never even saw what happened next. I do not know how my driver could have possibly missed it but he showered me with the gift of never discussing it.

As traffic slowed, the man in the middle of the road slowly began lifting the skirt of his tattered robe.

At first, I only saw his bare and wrinkled feet. His toes seemed to be bent in half from holding on too tightly to the melting asphalt. Then he revealed his far too skinny ankles. Followed by his knotted and bent knees. His skin was ashen and taut, stretched tightly over bones that were very likely brittle and deteriorating. They were bones that had probably never tasted milk. Maybe they had never even had the chance to be strong enough to allow him to hold up his slight frame with pride and determination. With hope.

It took me a few seconds to fully comprehend what he was doing. To really understand. To allow myself to believe I wasn’t just imagining it. But not enough time to distract myself from it. To delve into conversation and disappear.

With his skirt fully lifted, I finally realized what he was doing. This man had taken straw-colored raffia, or maybe it was old rope, and tied it around one of his testicles. His testicle had swollen to nearly the size of a basketball. He would lift his robe to show the passerbys how profoundly he needed help. Their help.

How are you supposed to respond to that? How do you digest that? How do you explain it? What are you supposed to do?

How do you say, from an air conditioned car with a full belly and new rings on your fingers, that you are not going to stop?

We drove away but I can never forget his face. His destruction.

This time I think I was so stunned that I could not act. Even if I had thought to empty my purse at his feet, I could not have done it. I was frozen. I never even turned my head away. Our eyes met as we were rolling away and he just looked at me as if to say, “Yes, my dear, you are seeing exactly what you think you are seeing and what are you going to do with it?”

I sat in disbelief that I totally and completely ignored a man who had intentionally mangled part of himself beyond all recognition. His marketing plan was to be the most disfigured – the most in need. And even that was not working.

I still am not quite sure what I am supposed to do with his image. I am not sure how to handle this experience. What to do with it.

Who really cares what this man across an ocean did. How does it relate to life here and now? I am not really sure. But I know I don’t want to forget it. Well, that will be easy enough because I cannot forget him.

But what now?

Through the Glass…………….

As soon as we knew we were moving to India, we made plans to take our cats with us.

Unfortunately, our one cat is diabetic and it really didn’t make sense for her to be on a plane for over 24 hours without access to water. I wrote a very fun resume for her when we were trying to find a place for her to live. If you want a chuckle, you can read it here. A lovely family adopted her while we were gone and spoiled her rotten.

We decided it would be very helpful for the kids to have their other two beloved furry siblings with them – and, not for nothing, someone else was going to be cleaning out the litter and wiping up the inevitable furball throw-up. Yeah. In case it’s not painfully obvious why that was awesome, you can catch up here.

Our first attempt to get the cats to India was a colossal fail. I do not heart United Airlines and if you want to be mad at them too, you can read about that here.

Now that you are all caught up on the history, let’s get back to the story.

Eventually, the cats made it all the way across that big ocean. Alive and well and very confused – kind of like the rest of us.

They settled in quickly and were very well cared for.

But our staffs initial reaction to them was hysterical. They could not believe that we had cats as pets. I should explain that cats aren’t really kept as pets in India. There are tons of stray cats on the streets but it is very rare for someone to actually bring them into their home, feed them, care for them, and make them a part of the family. To love them.

I guess it’s hard to worry about stray animals too much when there are so many stray humans without food and shelter.

Someone also told me that Indians consider cats to be bad luck. I cannot verify that, but it might be true.

Cats are so rare as pets that India does not even have a manufacturer of cat food – at least not one that delivers Indian cat food to any of the pet stores in Delhi –  there may not be an Indian dog food manufacturer either because most dogs are simply given table scraps. The only cat food I could find was imported and ridiculously expensive.

Good thing we brought, not one but two, very large cats who really like to eat.

When we first moved to India and lived in an apartment, the cats very rarely saw the light of day. But then number one hubby found us a house and the cats had access to glass doors at ground level. (We did not feel comfortable letting them actually go outside because there were hawks in the area and tons of stray dogs and cats.) Our cats seemed happy enough to just look outside and they immediately discovered that they were not alone in the world. That other cats lived just beyond that glass horizon.

The difference between our American house cats and the Indian stray cats was nothing short of amazing.

Ours – big and fat and shiny – not a scratch on them. Loved and cuddled. Not afraid of humans in the least. Not particularly fond of every single human, but not one tinsy tiny bit afraid of them. No front claws.

The strays – little bitty – boney – ears ripped – dusty and dull fur with patches missing – never touched by humans hands and terrified of people.  Their faces looked more alien than feline – too wide at the eyes and too narrow at the lips. And their bones nearly poked through their fur. They would never survive without their claws.

They did love our patio though. Largely because it always had a bowl of fresh water and some very expensive cat food on it. The shade from the scorching sun didn’t hurt either. And it was enclosed by a gate, so the dogs could not get in. I wonder if they felt safer in it. But I believe they must have been curious about our cats too.

They would sit and watch each other through the glass.

Part of our morning routine as humans was to put food in the bowls for the cats outside and watch them slink in and get breakfast. It was always fun to see who came first and we worried when one of them didn’t show up for a few days. We noticed who had new scratches and delighted when kittens arrived one morning. We counted them and named them and wondered if we could catch even one and bring it inside.

The pet store that carried the cat food and the cat litter I liked best was not very close to our house. So, I would often send our driver to pick up several packages of each.

This means that the cook, housekeeper, guard, gardener, driver, and the man on the moon all knew just how much money I was spending on these ridiculous creatures that pooped and threw up in the house. And I am sure they compared that to their own salaries and calculated in their own minds what they could do with that kind of money. To us, it wasn’t a hardship – but to them it could have been all the difference in a nicer house or better schools for their kids.

I am not sure why I am stuck on the thought of all of this. How anorexic the stray cats looked compared to our literal fat cats. How the staff must have been fascinated and miffed by the resources we dedicated to them.

One day, our cook was finally able to say out loud what he must have been thinking for months….

Francis: Ma’am, why do you feed the outside cats such expensive food
Me: They look so hungry
Francis: They will eat your leftover rice
Me: I guess that never occurred to me. Let’s try it.
Francis: Duh.

We did try it. And those cats had grown too accustomed to the the tastiness of the meat flavored cat food. They merely picked at the rice.

Francis was not about to be outsmarted by a street cat. He started adding leftover gravy to the rice. They were happy once again.

One of the things that struck me was that those stray cats never got any fatter. They knew what “full” meant and never seemed to gorge themselves.

I guess that is what was hardest about helping others in India. It was easy to feel taken advantage of. To feel like generosity was expected. Those cats came and took only what they needed and left the rest for the next cat who might pass by.

But now that I am once again an ocean away from the struggles of so many, I am left to wonder why I didn’t do more. How I might better define the lines of graciousness that I was willing to tiptoe around but never fully cross over. I am not sure there is an answer but I am sure I will always question why those of us with too much (including myself) aren’t more generous to those with much too little.

The used-to-be me……

This whole blog started off as a way of journaling our move to India so we would capture – and never forget – the details of our adventure. I wanted to remember the monuments and the memories but had no real way of knowing that, while those were fun, they were insignificant in what we should remember from our experience. The memories came from traveling – but the lessons came from everyday life. The routine that never actually became routine.

We have been home for over a year now and I still have not written about everything. And I have (finally) accepted that I will never write about everything. You just cannot remember it all – and even if you could remember every detail – there is simply no way to explain it all. Partly because India hits everyone a little differently and partly because there are just not enough words.

Unfortunately, I drop little pieces of our India experiences like sand falling off my shoe.  Some of them are hard reminders and I eagerly (and unfortunately) toss them out like I would a rock cradled under my toe. Others just drift away all on their own. And this blog was supposed to be like a big broom and sweep up everything. It turns out there is not a blog or broom big enough for that task.

One by one, you barely miss a piece of sand – but together they can form a beach. It is not good to lose a beach of experience. It’s really not.

Alas.

But what is making me really frustrated and sad is that I changed in India and I am losing some of that. India taught me to be more patient and to have a bigger world perspective. To remember the reality of it all. And, damnit, I am letting myself get caught up in some of the nonsense again. My perspective is shrinking and re-framing.

In many ways, India brings non-Indians to their knees. It’s hard to live in an “all-about-me” bubble when you are constantly bombarded with people suffering and struggling and still surviving – and surviving happily. The people who have the most to legitimately complain about actually complain about nothing. I am not sure if they don’t complain because they don’t think it will do any good or if they just find it unnecessary. But complain they do not.

Please know that this is not an “India is so dirty, the people are so poor” story. If you are a big lover of India, please do not take this as insulting. But the reality is that there are people in India who survive on very little and it is hard to be selfish and self-absorbed when you are reminded of that every single time you step outside. Not everyone owns an ipod – or an outlet to plug it into.

Even when you are inside. It is inescapable.

When you have to give your cook and his wife water when they go home at night because they don’t have access to water, you suddenly remember to turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth. You realize that what you absolutely take for granted as ever-flowing and abundant and even safe is non-existent for someone else – really, most everyone else. It puts you in your place a little bit.

And you have a lot less energy to worry about what other people are doing and what other people aren’t doing. You are busy getting through a day that is just exhausting to get through. And you are often even more busy getting your children through a day in a world that doesn’t make a lot of sense to them. You try to let them experience the reality of it, while protecting them from the reality of it.

I remember one day in India that we got in the car to go to school. The kids were fighting about who was going to sit where. My head almost spun off my neck. My tirade went something like this………..

Holy Hell. You are really going to sit in an air conditioned car with a full belly which is covered by clean clothes and with a head that slept on a pillow on a bed in a room that you do not have to share and drive by all of “this” and complain about anything. Seriously. What are we doing here? Have you really not learned anything? You ate breakfast made by someone else, put the leftovers on a side plate for Ravi to eat at lunch (he would literally eat the crusts they left on their plates), and left your dishes in a sink for someone else to wash. In fact, I should have stopped with “you ate breakfast“. Turn to the left, look out the window and turn to the right, look out that window and shut the hell up.

It was not one of my stellar mommy moments. But that morning had an impact on all of us. The kids didn’t complain (that morning or the next and maybe not even the next). And I wondered how we could walk and live and breathe in India and not lose more of our selfishness.

How could we drive by children without clothes or a roof over their heads or even morsels of food on a plate – dear God, who am I kidding? A plate. No, you are right, they didn’t own need plates – and complain about which comfy cozy seat our bigger than necessary arses were going to snuggle into so that the air conditioning could hit our faces just right.

For Pete’s sake, our driver rode his motor scooter in traffic and dust for an hour to come and clean our car and wait for us to be ready to go somewhere, anywhere  – at any time. He held the door for us and swept up our messes and ran our errands. And at night he took our leftovers to a home with no air conditioning whenever we declared ourselves done for the day. He just waited for us to decide when we were finished so that he could see his family at some point before they laid on a threadborne mattress all in the same room together and went to sleep. Just to wake up early to do it all again.

And we did learn those lessons and we do embrace letting go of some very unnecessary involvement in things. But sometimes I slip and those slips are coming more often. I am getting caught up in minutiae and it is making me nuts. I have an opinion about too many things.

Anyway, this little rant is almost over. Pinky swear.

The bottom line is that I am going to start praying harder for (and working harder toward) patience and perspective. And, yes, a winning lottery ticket would certainly be nice – but if perspective kicks in properly, I won’t push my luck. 😎

One year ago…..

One year ago today…..on the Friday before Memorial Day….we boarded a plane and left India…..to come home for good.

We left India in the middle of the night – simply because that’s what you do – but it felt a little bit like we were sneaking away.

On our drive to the airport, we saw a young blind girl selling balloons in the middle of the road. She was unattended and trying to make money for someone else. Someone who very likely did not have her best interests at heart. The night air was thick with smoke and smells that had never seen the inside of an air freshner. Our driver weaved the car through traffic and ran a few red lights and honked the horn…..probably just for ole time’s sake.

I sunk lower in my seat, held my breath, and thought “good riddens”.

We arrived home to crisp air and a sky so blue that it looked like God himself had just put down the paintbrush. Our friends and family filled our home with food and love. All of our favorites were in the house when we arrived – Diet Dr. Pepper, snacks, cereals, hamburger meat in the fridge, fresh fruit that didn’t have to be bleached. And then friends trickled in to say hi and welcome back. Soon our house was alive again. We ended up sitting around the breakfast table laughing and talking….the kids ran around outside…as if we never left.

I breathed in deeply and wondered momentarily why we had ever left this place called home. That just might have been the best night’s sleep I have ever gotten.

We jumped pretty quickly back into the mix – found soccer teams, rejoined swim teams, bought the required reading books for summer, registered for school, re-opened my stationery business, drove with the windows down and the radio on, reconnected with neighbors, gardened, shopped, and just enjoyed being home.

And yet, somehow, there isn’t a day that goes by though that I don’t think of India. And every step away from India truly brings the experience closer to my heart. We changed there. And we are different now. Not in monumental ways. Maybe I should say not in noticeable ways. But we step back now and ponder more. We certainly appreciate more than we ever did before. We are not in such a hurry as we used to be.

Repatriation (returning home) has been an interesting process. There are people who write entire blogs about it – I won’t do that do you, but I will explore it.

I went to India kicking and screaming and couldn’t get back home fast enough. That’s not to say I hated living there. If you have read this blog or have had the misfortune to sit next to me for any extended period of time, you know, I enjoyed our journey and I am extremely thankful for the experience. Much of it I do not miss. But on that smokey street in the middle of the night, I left a piece of me in India and picked up a piece of India to bring home.

Twisted Sister………

This morning when I was getting dressed, I was really missing India.

Yep, you read that right. I miss living in India this morning.

I have this bra that drives me nuts. The strap is twisted and I cannot get it straightened out.

Are you really confused now? Are you wondering why that would make me miss India?

Well, if I was still in India one of these things would happen….

The lady who did my laundry (yes, I miss that too) would notice the strap before I did and she would know a professional bra strap fixer who would fix it for about fifty cents.

My laundress would spend about 25 minutes explaining to me that she did not twist the strap. In fact, she has absolutely no idea how the strap got twisted. Maybe the housekeeper did it. But it’s okay because she knows somebody. A professional bra strap fixer.

If that professional could not fix it, she would know another professional bra strap replacer who specialized in just replacing straps. The old strap would be replaced with a new strap that is a little off color but it would be good enough. And that old strap would be turned into a shoelace by a professional “turning bra straps into shoe laces” specialist.

If those two tacts failed miserably, then I would simply abandon the perfectly-good-except-for-the-strap bra in the trash. And the lady who did my laundry would take it home and love it like no bra has been loved before. It would likely become a family heirloom and get passed down through generations.

There’d be no wasting and everyone would be happy and three people would have gotten paid something for their efforts.

On Track…………….

Many of the differences of living in India hit you hard and fast. But some of them emerge slowly over time and creep into your everyday life.

One such change was the availability of sports teams for my kids. Now I promise this is not a post about how my kids are rock stars and how they were cheated by not having adequate sports opportunities in India. It is not an “if only” post. India us taught a lot of things including how to adjust. And in many, many ways stepping back was a tremendous gift.

Before we left the U.S., my kids played soccer year round and swam year round. In between they played basketball. They were busy every day, every night, and every weekend. That came to a screeching halt with the plane when we landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi. Sports seasons are only eight weeks long at best and we missed the swimming season totally and got on the wait list for soccer. But, you guessed it, we never got called to teams.

The first real season my son could participate in was track. Eager to get moving again, Bear signed right up. He had done a tiny bit of track in the U.S. – maybe three or four practices and one mini meet – but he was by no means accomplished.

One of the things that makes me the most proud of my kids is not when they succeed but how they handle new challenges. They are not intimidated by trying new things and they are not intimidated by not being the best at something. It is really awesome to watch.  If you are someone who is mainly concerned with your child winning, step back and watch how they lose or what they won’t try because they are afraid of losing. It really is a more important skill. To be graceful in defeat. I would argue it will get you much further in life than always winning.

But I digress.

Bear went to practices and got better and worked really, really hard. It was not easy and he didn’t particularly enjoy all of it. But he never gave up. He showed up everyday in the 100 plus degree heat and he ran and jumped and threw the discus. He was way out of his comfort zones.

The team was narrowed down to seven athletes. And would once more be narrowed to the final five official members of the team with an alternate. Bear was one of the seven.

He continued to go to practices and gave it all he had. When the final five were chosen, Bear was number six. And he was justifiably disappointed. He had done his best and it was not enough to compete. He was not used to that at all.

That night there was a party for the 6th graders at one of the kid’s houses. I was thrilled that he wanted to go because he was already starting to separate from his disappointment.

But this was a new experience for me. I did not know the parents who were hosting the party or the kids or the neighborhood or what to expect.

I told Bear he could go but that I would take him and I had to meet the parents to know that adults would be home. This wasn’t his day at all. Not only did he not make the final team, now his mother had to accompany him to a middle school party in the land of everyone else is driven by their drivers and dropped off. It turns out that out of 100 kids in 6th grade, only two parents went in to make sure parents were there. It was truly a whole new world for me.

Poor Bear.

But he knows me well and did not fight it.

What a gift that ride to the party was.

Because I was not driving, I had the chance to talk to Bear without any distractions. We both sat in the back seat in the dark and talked. Even the dark was a gift because he did not have to really look at me, just listen and periodically mumble, “I know Mom”.

I told him how proud I was of him for trying something new and that I was amazed by how he handled this whole move to India. I bored him with my thoughts on how he should still be so proud of himself because it is the journey that counts and that I completely understood why he was disappointed. I even said that he had a right to be disappointed but that he had to understand that the coach was picking the best team he could. It wasn’t personal. And it did not mean he didn’t do an amazing job.

Then we heard…tap…tap….tap.

We both knew what it was. It had already become a too familiar sound. Someone was knocking on our window to ask for food or money. We were becoming a little immune to it, sadly. Immune is not the right word – maybe we were allowing ourselves some distance from it.

This is one of the hardest things to admit about poverty. When you are living in the middle of it everyday, you allow yourself to ignore it. You feel helpless and there are times when you will actually be irritated by the fact that someone is struggling. At times, you will become dismissive and even rude to a person who is starving and homeless. Even a young child.

Gulp. You will actually resent that someone needs help. And you resent it not because you don’t care but because you feel so overwhelmed by it. That is the hard reality of living comfortably in a poor country. You cannot pretend real poverty does not exist because you slide through it every single day but you have absolutely no impact on it. Helping doesn’t change it and ignoring it makes you sick to your stomach.

We both turned to the window and could not see anyone there.

Bear looked down to find a man on a small, wheeled wooden box. He had no legs. He was unnaturally thin and dirty and had an empty look in his eyes. He had to brush his hands along the hot asphalt to move himself forward.

This is another thing that is incomprehensible. Even when someone who is living it is tapping on your window. You have to make a quick decision. Ignore it or help. I am not proud of how many times I chose “ignore”.

People who are really poor with absolutely nothing are willing to maim themselves because it makes them more competitive in the begging world. The more pathetic you seem, the more help you are likely to get.

We do not know if this man hurt himself or if he had an accident or if he was just born this way. But sometimes people really believe that their best option is to become as desperate-looking as possible and will damage their bodies to achieve that.

That is about as hopeless as it gets.

Bear and I looked down at the man and looked at each other and I simply said, “how much would that man love to be an alternate on the American Embassy School track team?”

That quickly became one of the many lessons we learned.

 

How did you decide who to help……….

Talking to my youngest child is like having a conversation with a racketball – in the middle of an olympic match with gold medal implications. She comes at you from all different angles at one hundred and ten miles an hour. It’s really too bad that Johnny Cochran is no longer with us because she could have given him a run for his money.

The other day we are riding in the car – just me and her – on the way to swim practice. Her mind is racing about anything and everything and we have this conversation…

Angel: Mom, remember the other day when we were riding in the car and we saw that lady in the middle of the road?
Me: Yes.
Angel: Why was she there?
Me: She was asking for help.
Angel: Why was she doing it there?
Me: Don’t you want to give me your Christmas list? Seriously, now is a good time to ask for just about anything because I will promise the moon if we can talk about regular old 9-year-old stuff.

We saw this woman in Silver Spring, Maryland. She was begging in between cars at an exit ramp right off of 495 – one of the busiest roads in this area. She had a severe limp and was bundled up not so warmly on a pretty cold and very windy day. I asked the kids if they had any snacks. They didn’t. So we drove by carefully and quickly, leaving her standing still empty handed right in the middle of the road.

Apparently she made an impression.

Angel: How did you decide who to help?
Me: You mean that lady? We didn’t have any food to give her.
Angel: No, in India.
Me: It just depends, honey.
Angel: But sometimes you gave them money. And sometimes you gave them food. And sometimes nothing.
Me: (humming All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.) Any progress on that Christmas list sweetie?
Angel: No, really. Remember, there was the one guy you gave money to. The one on the corner on the way to school. And then you stopped giving him money. How did you decide who to help.

That conversation made me realize that I still have a lot to reconcile and digest about living in India.

My husband suggested the other day that maybe we should stop talking so much about it with other people. It always seems to creep into the conversation and he thinks maybe people are tired of hearing about it.

Maybe.

But it is part of who we are now. It will come up.

And I hope to spend the next few weeks reconciling the effect that seeing so much poverty had on me. Some of the posts will surely be tough to read – believe me they will be tougher to write. And I will write them comfy and cozy from my office knowing that it is harder to exist in poverty than write about it from a distance.

But I do hope that we can stick through it together. I hope that I can articulate with clarity and compassion what we experienced in a way that captures your attention. Because simply clicking away from these posts will not diminish the existence and impact of poverty.

This should be fun, right?

What I am missing…………

Living in India had huge highs and lows.

Meeting the President would have been a big fat tick on the upside. He’s in Delhi right now. And guess who is not. 🙁

Yep, b.u.m.m.e.r.

 

P.S. Thanks Kushal for the photo – that’s her with her eyes closed. 😉

Lots of Lotus………….

One of the things that I really wanted to do before we left Delhi for good was to go see the Lotus Temple. The inside of the Lotus Temple. I had driven by it a few times and marveled at its beauty and its architecture. It is a lovely, lovely building.

The Lotus Temple is a Bahá’í House of Worship. The Lotus Temple is open to anyone of any religion. No sermons are given but readings can occur and, although a readings can be accompanied by a choir, no musical instruments can be played inside Bahá’í Houses of Worship. Bahá’ís believe in three main principles – unity of God, unity of religion, and unity of humankind. They believe that God has sent messengers through the ages including Abraham, the Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, and recently the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. They believe that humanity is in a process “of collective evolution, and the need of the present time is for the gradual establishment of peace, justice and unity on a global scale.” (thanks Wiki)

I didn’t know all that until I started writing this post and now I am super bummed that we did not make it over there.

Obviously, the temple is designed after the lotus flower which is also lovely.

Lotus flowers are often incorporated into the drawings of many of the Hindu gods – particularly Vishnu and Lakshmi and Ganesha.

And lotus seeds and stems can be eaten. I saw them in the spice market of Old Delhi.

And then, at the very last place I went to eat before we left Delhi, lotus stems were on the menu. You might have gathered that I am not the most adventurous eater out there but how can flowers deemed worthy of designing a temple after be too bad? Plus, my friend had tried them and said they were yummy. 😉

They were d.e.l.i.c.i.o.u.s. Yummy Yummy. They are sweet and crunchy and I liked them even better with a little bit of steamed white rice.

Wrong Question…………

When I start talking about having staff in India, I know some of you are thinking – oh jeez, here she goes again. But please bear with me because today I figured out the number one reason that having staff was bad for my family – or any family who is not going to have staff working in its home forever. You get a little too used to it. Our reality does not include a driver, a cook, a guard, a housekeeper, a gardener, and a laundress. Well, it does – but funny enough, they are all the same person – me. And the pay ain’t quite the same.

So, for those children who actually read this blog – both of you – are you listening? Here are some of the wrong conversations/situations to find yourselves in….

Scenario 1
Mom has done the laundry (including your smelly gym clothes and soccer socks) and has washed the all the breakfast dishes (after making you breakfast) and now has brownies in the oven (because she knows you love them – she even went to two stores to find the exact ones that you like – because God forbid you have your second favorite kind of brownie warm from the oven right when you walk in the door from school). She has just finished wiping off the counter and sweeping the floor. She turned off the news when you walked in the door (even though it was the story she had been waiting all day to hear) so she could listen (with focus) to how your day went. After you chat and have a yummy chocolately treat, Mom goes to sweep the floor again because there are now mysteriously brownie crumbs all over it.

It is here that the real potential for danger exists. If she then asks you to take out the trash or vacuum the basement or even lick the litter box clean – the exact wrong question is……do I have to? I will help you here because I know most of you are treading on new ground. The right answer is …..O!M!G! Mom, I would so love to do all of those things for you. And, by the by, you actually then have to do them (because sometimes it is more than the thought that counts) and then say ….. and Mom, did you get your hair cut because it looks marvelous. Do you see the difference?

Scenario 2:
You have decided that it is in your best interest to join a practice group that practices very early on Saturday mornings. This causes your mother – who sleeps through tornadoes – to have to get out of bed at 5:15A.M. on a Saturday morning. The roosters have not even learned to crow at this point and your mother is up and driving you to practice. And, yes, she is very proud of you for getting up and getting out the door – that is not the problem. Read on.

When you get back home, your very tired mother makes (okay, warms up) waffles because that is what you asked for (and no it does not matter if they are frozen v. homemade). She also makes eggs and biscuits because that is what your brother asked for. And she also makes bacon because apparently your sister would like that. You are distracted by the goings on of SpongeBob so I can understand why you don’t realize that was a lot to accomplish before 8:30am. But you push it a tad too far when you ask …… Mom, can you pour syrup in to a small bowl and bring it over here? Really?

Here’s the problem – at some point you are going to want to drive a car. If you cannot handle pouring syrup into a bowl (even a small bowl) all by your lonesome, I am pretty sure that operating heavy machinery is off the can-do list. The right answer is…….Mom, these are the most delicious waffles I have ever had. They don’t even need syrup. And by the way, did you get your hair cut because it looks amazing. Or maybe you lost weight. See how that is different?

Scenario 3
You love to ride your scooter. You have ridden it and fallen off of it a million and one times. So, your mom knows that you are one tough cookie even if you scream like a banchee. Sooooo, if you fall off said scooter the exact moment that your mom calls a friend to vent over another mom who is making her c.r.a.z.y. and she sees you fall, she might not panic and hang up immediately because she knows you are okay. And she knows that you had a 14-minute delay in crying. So, she really might not hang up the phone right away. No matter how big those crocodile tears are – because if you can stop and have a snack on the way to tell her how hurt you are, the reality of it is – you are probably going to be just fine. Operating heavy machinery may also not be in your future but you most likely don’t need to be rushed to Children’s Hospital. You might need therapy later – but right now, it’s all good.

Please forgive the parenting rant – but seriously. I don’t know how single parents do it – God love you!