Wednesday, March 30, 2011

pushpendra's village

pushpendra is the school's music teacher.  he's only around 20 years old and seems to have it going on.  he's handsome, a talented musician and singer, and very nice guy.  i think there's at least one female teacher visiting his classroom an hour with any excuse just to see him.  i may not be around to witness it (unfortunately), but i'm sure one of the girls here will break a nail or have some hair ripped out fighting over him.

he had mentioned to melanie that we should all visit his village, about 15 mins by motorbike and 45 mins by bicycle from here.  so we went one day by bike.  gautam (who knew the way), a boy named mori that lived nearby the school, anna, melanie and i left on a sunday morning together.  it was a nice stretch of road once we went outside the town a bit.  the best part was when we turned off the main road onto a smaller dirt road that bends and curves round the vast fields that surround the village.  my favorite part of course.

we arrived in his small village and to his house ringing our bike bells, a few kids running behind us of course, to pushpendra standing outside with a big smile on his face.  we received a warm welcome from him and his mother who was there making us some snacks and pakora (fried vegetable balls), followed by some sweets and coca-cola.  he showed us around after we ate and rested.  he took us to see his grandmother.. probably his great-grandmother since he said she was over a 100 yrs old.  we entered her house, she sat on a khat (indian cot made of wood and handwoven rope), fanning away futilely at the thousands of relentless flies.  he took us to his barn where we met his cows and ox.  we walked around, looked at the view from his roof.  a nice village with really welcoming and sweet people.  it was great for us all to really spend time together and see where he grew up.

heading back, the trip seemed shorter.  i think we all left really happy about the experience, and maybe even pleased with ourselves that we managed to have another one of those good sundays.

view from his roof

                                                    his grandmother
                                                  kids watching us on the roof
                                                all of us (minus gautam) on his roof
                                                                   his barn

                                                      heading back

Sunday, March 27, 2011

sympathy for the rickshaw man

i was feeling that itch to go somewhere.  it was an early day at school and i had the whole afternoon off.  the sun was beating down but i was welcoming the heat after string of cold and wet days.  i hopped on the bike, went down my usual path, camera on my back, and an orange in the bike basket.  as i passed the usual cows, goats, and blank stares of locals, i ventured down a narrow pathway heading straight into knitted jungle of sugar cane. it was my attempt to go a different route, but it seemed to go nowhere, dead-ending into tangles of cane.  so i turned around.  tired of biking nowhere, i anchored myself under a tree for a bit to eat my orange.  i loved watching all the people go by on various modes of transport, watching me as i watched them.  i took photos of people as they went by my tree.

i left to see what else i could find.  i crossed the river and headed towards a village that i'd always seen from afar but never felt it was the right time to venture in.  since that time was as good as any, i took my chances.  on the way, i met this woman who clearly saw my camera and wanted me to take her picture.  after a few awkward exchanges, mostly me gesturing and displaying no grasp of anything she was saying in hindi, i realized she was headed to the same village.  arriving in any village around here (as a foreigner) feels like you've just walked into another time period, only your still wearing the same clothes.  they looked on with big eyes in wonderment as if i had magic powers.  luckily, the woman i had met on the way invited me to her house, so i was safe.  i followed her as the entire village followed me.  she was changing clothes, getting ready to leave again, so in the meantime i was given a chair, some tea and biscuits, as the crowd surrounded me.  you would've thought that i had five heads the way they were all examining me, making comments to each other in whispers and giggles.  like melanie put it once, we are the tourists and the attractions all at the same time.  they were a harmless bunch, really sweet and just as curious of me of course as i was of them.  they spoke to me in hindi which i either said one of three words i knew.  Rajiala, my new friend, was ready to go, and so was i.  the village followed us out to the road.  just as i was getting on my bike, rajiala sits on the back of my bike with a big smile on her face.  ok, i thought, this should be interesting.  as i nearly threw her off the bike three times trying to get going, everyone including me, laughed.  i had never pulled someone else's weight on a bike before.  finally i got going, the village cheered and waved goodbye.  it was funny to see all of the confused glances as we cycled down the road.  who was this white lady and why was there an indian woman on the back of her bike?  the sun seemed to have gotten hotter, and suddenly unwelcome.  i was sweating profusely at this point and on the vegetarian diet i've been on here, it was not easy.  fortunately, i was going in a different direction than she planned and decided to get off and get a ride from another biker passing by.  i honestly don't know if i could have made it much longer.  i have a new found sympathy for the rickshaw man. i never had the chance to go back and visit her but i know that if i did, hopefully she won't need a ride anywhere.

under my tree:

bike ride and village:

                                                       sugar cane path

                                                first time i'd seen sheep here
                                                     Rajiala in her home

                                                             my bicycle

church in the forest

yes, i said church.. catholic church that is..  in the middle of the forest.  that is exactly the way gautam described the place to us.  anna was tired from a long morning bike ride, so with an itch to get out on a nice sunday afternoon, melanie and i jumped at the idea.  the church is in dajpur, a small village town about 30 mins from here (if you have your own means of transportation that is).  we took a friend's motorbike and the three of us darted past beautiful countryside.  at times (my most favorite parts), we found ourselves with miles of empty road in front of us.  no car, bike, cattle, or soul in sight.  there's just something about being on a motorbike that makes you feel cool.. like peter fonda in easy rider or gael garcia bernal in motorcycle diaries.  but this is india.. and gautam is no fonda or bernal.  the stares that almost caused wrecks weren't because we were cool.  two white girls straddling an indian guy.. could constitute as the most action people have seen around here in a while.  nevertheless, it was such a beautiful ride.  as we neared, we went down small roads through fields.. passing farmers who would stop their work to watch us go by.  when we arrived at the gate, it really was an enchanted forest in india (i will continue to stress this).. with an enormous catholic church the size of the Notre Dame.  so what was this place doing in the middle of this forest in the middle of nowhere.. in india?  well apparently during the time when the british were still here in the early 1900s, an indian man was in love with a british woman and the only way she would marry him was if he were to build her a church just like the ones in england.  so he did, and he and his high maintenance bride lived happily ever after i suppose.  it took something like ten years to build.  surreal as it seemed at first, it only became more so after meeting the resident priest.  he was from kerala (south india).  he showed us his little big farm that consisted of dogs, buffalo, chickens, quail, guinnea foul, guinnea pigs, rabbits... all of which he didn't eat of course, just kept as pets.  he even had a peacock named mouro that answered him by name. a really sweet man. and with true indian hospitality, he gave us tea and snacks and showed us around.

we headed out in the afternoon, back towards the beautiful stretch of winding roads that awaited us.  the sun had gone closer to the horizon, giving long shadows across the landscape.  this time i couldn't keep my camera in the bag.  on one of those dirt roads that only existed because we were on it, we drove over a bridge that crossed a river.  just as we crossed, about 20 large white birds flew elegantly and so closely above our heads.  as if in slow motion..  the only moment in a dream that you remember completely out of context.  it was the best day i'd had in a while. 

                                                      melanie and i with the priest
                                                    gautam really liked him ha
                                                              the river
                                                                the church

                                                   the farm and his peacock mouro
                                                            petting the quail

                                    Mouro with the chickens near a bed of marajuana