Laurie’s New Groove

This week has been the coldest yet in Jaipur. My flat is cold. The office is cold. The outside air is cold and sadly it is usually warmer than my flat or office. Every day I wear long pants and leg warmers (not the kind from the US in the eighties), at least three shirts, a thick wool sweater, a coat, a hat, a scarf, and sometimes my ski gloves. I sleep in about the same number of layers. I have also taken to boiling water, putting it in my Nalgene bottle and sleeping with it for extra warmth, which makes me feel very nineteenth century. I was talking about the weather with my landlord, and he said that what we are experiencing is not normal for Jaipur; usually by this time in the year it has begun to get warmer again. Oh well, I should appreciate the cold while I can, before I start writing and complaining of the 45-50oC heat, which is about 113-122oF for those of you not intimately familiar with the Celsius temperature scale.

This week has been a big turning point for me. I feel like I have finally adapted to living in India. Things that concerned me before no longer bother me as much, and, yes, the change was pretty abrupt. Maybe it is because I got up every morning this week and exercised. Or maybe my ability to finally exercise on a daily basis is a result from my mental shift. I don’t know. What came first the chicken or the egg? At any rate, I hope it is a permanent change. It has also allowed me to engage on a deeper level with my students. I think I have been emotionally holding back from them, because I was wrapped up in not being able to work to the best of my abilities due to lack of resources and organizational support at my NGO. Anyway, I have much more energy and feel more like true self than I have since arriving here. Yippee!!

This week India celebrated Republic Day on the 26th. Bodh had several celebrations. On the 25th, students from several of the different bastis came to the Kukas campus (Bodh’s main office, which is located outside of Jaipur) and performed and displayed their artwork. At the end of the program everyone sang “We Shall Overcome” in Hindi, which was very moving. The whole event was actually pretty emotional. I also had mehendi (heena) done on my hand for the first time. On the 26th Bodh staff got to choose one of the bastis in which there is a Bodh school to celebrate Republic Day with the community. I went to the Guru Teg slum (a predominantly Sikh community) and watched more student performances and got some great photos of the kids there. I continued the celebrations by coming home and doing laundry for four hours, which means I scrubbed clothes in a bucket for a long time. Can you say prune hands? Yes, my life is the picture of excitement. Try not to be jealous.

On a more sober note, I found out that one of my class ten students got married this week. I had not seen her in class and so asked about her. Her classmates told me her family was having some troubles, and one of their solutions was to marry off their daughter. She did not want to get married. I know that Rajasthan has more serious issues with child marriage than other states, but one of my sweet students being forced into marriage made it a reality. She’s fifteen. She should still be in school with her friends, being silly, being a kid. I also know that handful of my students were married when they were five or six, as is pretty common in villages here, but none of them have actually gone to live with their husbands. (FYI, the average age of marriage in India is just above 17 years of age, but the average age in the state of Rajasthan is three years younger than that. Rajasthan also has some of the worst nutritional problems in India.)

To completely shift gears and talk about something shallow, I got to ride in a car last night. It is only the fifth time I have ridden in a car since being in India. The other four times were all very brief, maybe five minutes each. But last night I was in a car for a solid hour. It actually made me giddy. I think it was so exciting because the car was actually warm and very comfortable. The seats were probably the most comfortable things I have sat on since being here, and I cannot describe how refreshing it was to be in a vehicle with shocks.

This upcoming week also marks a big symbolic step in my time in India. When January ends I will have officially been here five months; half of my fellowship will be over. This will be commemorated by a very special event, the changing of the toothbrushes. (Before coming to India, I used a mechanical toothbrush on which I would change the head whenever it looked like it needed a new one. Thus, I did not have a good idea of when one should normally change toothbrucshes.) When packing to come here, I brought two new toothbrushes with me and decided I would start using the second one when half my time in India was over. I would have changed my toothbrush earlier if I had not had it fixed in my mind as an event that could only take place once I had been here five months. Thus, Thursday night my old, orange toothbrush will be retired after a final brushing and be replaced by a new, Oral-B, light blue toothbrush. All are invited to make the journey to Jaipur to attend the ceremony. It should definitely be worth the time, effort and/or money it takes you to get here.

Anyway, enough of this meandering message. I am signing off until next week when I will hopefully have all sorts of wonderful and exciting things to share about my trip with Gia (another AIF fellow) to Jaisalmer and Jodhpur.

Lots of love,
Laurie Mason

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One thought on “Laurie’s New Groove

  1. Oh, how I wish I’d been there for the changing of the toothbrushes! I was at the changing of the guards at the Pakistani border in Amritsar, instead, though I’m sure yours was a much more uplifting experience.

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