Saturday, July 27, 2013

Just Fruit

     At 7:30 in the evening I sat in a cushy booth seat, chilled from the monsoon’s blanket of dampness and depressed from that day’s events.  Across from me sat my husband, whom I hadn’t spoken more than a few sentences to all day.  Around me, at Mama Ji’s North Indian style restaurant were a kaleidoscope of colors.  The walls were painted sunflower yellow, plastic chairs of vibrant apple reds, oranges, grass greens and yellows.  Posters on the walls displayed rather inelegantly captured photographs of some of the most famous of North Indian dishes and sweets, Jalebi, my favorite fattening sweet among them.  In the background played a variety of ethnic music, elaborately sung Hindu chants mostly, meant to sooth and inspire.  The atmosphere around me attested to the true colorful world of India, its vibrancy and celebration of life.  But tonight the colors only brought me further into my depression, reminding me of the memories I had lost earlier that day.

     On Monday morning, I had sat down at my haphazard desk to work on two computers: a PC I have, for all intents and purposes, been forced to work with, and my Macintosh laptop – the touchstone of my life.  Neatly organized within its mechanical layers – my art, my writing, and my connection to the world, otherwise essentially known as my existence.  Although outdated and technically obsolete according to this world of consumption where nothing is meant to last for more than a year, my Mac, at its impressive five years of age, has become an extension of myself, a love of mine that I never wanted to part from.  That day however, she crashed, leaving me crippled without her constant presence in my life. 

     As I stared at the screen attempting to get my Mac to respond to my requests, to do anything, I began to have an ominous feeling come over me – that my life within that computer may never be retrievable again.  Despite that I have an external hard drive carefully stored in my closet drawer, I cannot remember the last time that I used it.  The longer I thought about, the more I realized how careless with my precious documents I have been.  It has been three complete years since I have backed up my photographs.  My life since the summer of 2010, all of my memories, the documentation of the places I have been, and the experiences I had undergone were locked inside my computer, hanging onto to reality by a thread.
My system had gone corrupt and the only way to revive my computer was to completely replace the running system, effectively rendering my Mac in the state of its early life, when her and I were not so closely connected. 

     Like a family member anxiously awaiting news of a surgery, I paced the rooms of my apartment all day.  The next day I received the results, that my computer had survived her transition, all hardware intact and running efficiently, but she was no longer my own.  My photographs, the art I had slowly and painstakingly created, compiled, sorted, and edited over the last three and most exciting years of my life – were gone. 

     Later, lying in my bed staring at the ceiling, I began to slowly recall everything that I had just lost in vivid snapshots of memories.  I remembered, most recently, the photos I took of my dad on the one warm day we had during my May visit home, when we took the Harley out for a lazy cruise, and stopped at the park in Rogers City to see the river.  My visit to New York City, Times Square at night, the buildings and lights.  The Brooklyn Zoo and the hundreds upon hundreds of photos of animals that just didn’t make the cut to my photography website.  The two weeks in October that Kristie and I spent at home in Michigan, the last remnants of the glorious fall colors that I hadn’t been able to shoot in years.  The pictures of my Grandpa and my dad together that I hastily took during our goodbye visit.  The photographs of Little Pup when I first brought him home, so fragile and tiny.  The photos of all the animals in my life, pictures of my cat Weshe outside for the first time, of my precious dog Bubby and his many photo shoots,  Boo Boo and Tyra, Meeko, and Kody.  But what really hurt the most was the loss of my the documentation of my experiences and travels in India for the past three years.  My time in Delhi, sightseeing like a real tourist.  The two-week long train trip to the south, my visit to the Arabian Sea and travels in the rural areas through Goa and Maharashtra.  The jungle videos and mountain-scapes.  The last year of my life living as an expat here in Bangalore.  The hundreds of faces I thought I forever captured with my lens.  The links to my many memories in India that I never wanted to forget.

     As I sat at the table waiting for the massive plate of food that would be my only meal of the day, I attempted not to think of my loss, of the death of my memories.  Just as the sadness began to swallow me up again, a cook came from the kitchen sporting a hair net and a blue shirt with something written on it.  Struggling to read the stark white writing as he quickly passed me by, I realized that it may just be a message for me.  It read:
 “Life was much easier when Apple and Blackberry were just FRUIT.” 

     Like the mass majority of workers in India, this cook undoubtedly makes barely enough to feed and shelter himself.   He could never could afford the advanced gadgets that now make our lives so complex and superficial in the Western world and increasingly so in the East.  Despite this, his cheap t-shirt remains to be an essential reminder for all of us so dependent on electronic materialism – that life could be much simpler if we’d only let go of that obsession.

     Shortly thereafter, my surplus plate of food came.  As I ate, I remained depressed, but a little more conscious and aware of my present experience – taking in the variety of smells, tastes and textures of my food, the beat of the music, the vivid colors, the feeling of being alive at that moment.  It may be after all, the only documentation I can ever really rely on. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

My Puja Mala

    India is considered the mystical land, extraordinarily magical – the embodiment of spirituality.  It is said that those who visit India are touched by its ancient charm, forever entranced by its majesty.  My experience in India was no exception.  I was utterly vulnerable to its power, fully captivated by the energy flowing throughout that sacred land.  And it was through such captivation that I discovered that India is also a land of resiliency – people, animals, and culture prevailing despite the struggle to survive.  Raw and unadulterated, India is a place of ultimate wonderment and beauty, yet a place where the unspeakable occurs.  My connection to it evoked intense experiences: spiritual moments of profound energy, fleeting and powerful emotions, and physical encounters that ravaged my senses. 
There is no other place in the world quite as vibrant as India.  Even when inside the home, the energy that is the essence of India penetrates the concrete walls and beckons one to experience it.  Outside that door, every sense belonging to the human being is overwhelmed and stimulated beyond conception.  It is for this reason that people feel alive when in India.    Because every element that makes a being sentient – the physical, mental, emotional, and the spiritual – are awakened and moved to become part of the larger whole.  It is not millions of other beings living outside of our own existence, it is a single organism of energy from which each one of us connects with, feeds upon, and contributes to.  This collective energy encompasses the whole of India, yet its qualities vary so greatly that the feel of it is unique to each specific location. 
Bangalore, an urban development within the southern state of Karnataka, was my city.  To write about the deep and sometimes perplexing relationship I have with Bangalore, and India as a whole, would require an expansively detailed account of every single experience that formed that connection.  I cannot describe it in a summarized or shallow piece.  It would take me a book, maybe even several to fully get my perspective across.  Yet, as I sit and contemplate how I am to fit an elephant into a mouse hole, I being to think about puja malas (prayer garlands).  Constructed of exactly 108 beads, puja malas are used in daily prayers to the divine.  My story in India – the occurrence of my own entrancement – cannot be told in one bead, but many beads that make up the whole – my puja mala.  A single experience – one bead of the garland – will never tell my story, but it will provide a glimpse into a perspective that is my own.
My connection to India on a transcendent level was roused by the rich spiritual culture consisting of multiple religions, ancient philosophy, and the mystical.  The enigmatic religions within India have always drawn me like a moth to a flame.  I am a Pagan, my religion near extinction in the Western world.  Yet in India, I have seen reflections of it in spiritual practice.  Festivals celebrate the solstices and equinoxes – the cyclic alignment of the moon and the sun.  The divine is connected to nature – Earth goddesses and Sun gods revered and worshipped on auspicious days – all life, including animals and plants, valued as sacred. 
It was in the Hindu temples and the Buddhist monasteries that I found the strongest vibrations of the collective life energy of India and the essence of the divine.  Beautifully designed and adorned with colorful images of the deities, the outward appearance of any Hindu temple enticed me to come inside.  I would enter one with bare feet, weaving my way through the cumulative crowds, until I found my own place.  There, I would ground myself to the Earth below the temple’s structure, breathing in the positive energy conjured by the hundreds of daily visitors that released their energies through prayers to the divine.  The smell of burning sandalwood incense and fresh cut flowers, both given in observance of the Gods, permeated the air in and around the temple, and was accompanied by the sounds of sacred chants and prayers.  Through pujas, I obliged to run my right hand through the orange flame in prayer, offer flowers to the Gods represented in sculptured form, and sit in a meditative pose on the cold marble floors while reflecting on life.  During such visits I observed the divine, and such experiences became the spiritual beads of my mala.
Through my daily experiences to discover the real India, I had various encounters that gave birth to my physical and emotional connections with India.  On a physical level, my senses were constantly assaulted.  While eating Indian food, the variety of tastes – sweet, salty, and very spicy, enveloped me in an environment of worldly pleasures.  I said I hated mangoes until I tried one native to India.  Alphonsos they were called, small, but packed with a delicate sweetness so divine that I became obsessed with obtaining their juicy flesh.  My love for sweet and spicy coconut chutneys paired with the crispy wafer of a dosa served with spiced potato became my most desired meal.  Indian chai – the perfect blend of native northern teas and boiled milk and water became a fixation, the sweet smoothness of it served in ridiculously miniscule quantities and just the right amount of caffeine left me endlessly jonesing for its warm pick me up.  On my daily walks, I would visit a local restaurant, order two chai, and sit on the entrance stairs, my presence stationary among the bustle; my eyes forever straying to faces glancing my way as I sipped for a moment’s respite.
Like the asanas in yoga, movement of life within Bangalore is fluid, seamless throughout the day.  I used to stand on the rooftop of my four-story apartment building and watch the city.  Everywhere there is life, pulsing with that hidden energy of which we are instinctually attracted to.  Spotted eagles above me soared in the sky, crying their eagle calls.  Parakeets glided across the ever-present breeze in streaks of green color that only added to the array of hues painted upon the endless expanse of buildings below.  Above me, monsoon clouds gathered and slowly rolled across the sky.  They were foreboding, threatening at any moment to open up, while the sun continued to peak through in bursts of light that shed golden shafts of beauty upon the environment. 
When walking the streets, I experienced an array of smells so contrastive that I either wanted to vomit or breathe deeply and sigh.  Most often, the smells unveiled were of cow or dog shit, rotting garbage, and putrid smoke.  If lucky however, I’d come across the cultural fragrances: jasmine flowers, quality incense, steaming chai, or authentic Indian cuisine.  It was when I got to experience such exotic sensory stimulators that I felt the sacredness of India and the beat of its life all around me.
The collection of color presented throughout the whole of India is best described as a kaleidoscope of piquancy.  Experiencing such an endemic element of India was a daily occurrence, found in the bright saris the women wore, the billboard signs, and the contrastive buildings, trees, and soil of the environment surrounding me.  Wandering the streets, my sense of sight, along with my hearing, was assailed through the movement on the streets.  People, dogs, and cows walking every which way, and the flow of traffic too close for comfort created a dizzying display, while the noise that accompanied it incessantly incapacitated my hearing. 
Everywhere I went I carried my camera, eyes alert for scenes that might just capture the energy of India.  I would walk feeling as though I was moving through a sea of energy, a vacuum of which my presence was floating and existing among millions of others.  The farther outward I explored, the more people stared.  Facial expressions revealed curiosity, surprise, or distaste for the presence of a white skinned woman roaming their territory.  Poor children approached me, sheer curiosity overcoming their shyness to ask me to photograph them.  They would gather together, happily smiling as I arranged compositions.  Their delightful giggles drawing more to the crowd that encircled me to catch a glimpse of images produced. 
My emotional connection to India grew intense and compelling.  I respected India, feared it, loved it, and hated it.  The encounters with the people and animals stirred my emotions in ways that left me wondering who I was.  I fell in love with India through the experiences that were uplifting, inspiring, and transcendent.  My love for India grew because of the welcoming and kind-hearted people that invited me into their homes, introduced me to their culture and befriended me in lonely times.  That love was also found in the rich culture that drew me in through its promotion of peace, and in the life energy that encompasses all existence. 
I hated India because of my witness to raw and indescribable things that saddened me so severely I felt utterly helpless.  The emotions that brought pain to my heart included my encounters with the starving and suffering animals, the homeless beggars, the abandoned elders, and exploited children.  Poverty and resilience are everywhere in India, and I could not escape their impressions upon my life.  The poor gypsy children without education, food security, or positive futures unveiled their despair and their hope when I looked into their eyes.  Their dirty, tattered clothing, and frail, tiny bodies reminiscent of experiences no child should ever endure.  I encountered the malnourished and neglected animals fighting for survival in a cruel world, bodies ravaged, and rampant with disease, yet awareness and tenderness still presented for those who showed them the slightest bit of compassion.  I witnessed centuries old trees cut down for development, felt their Earth spirits dying, as I smelled the exhaust of the machines that took their lives.  Such an emotional attachment and empathy for all life within India provoked me, informed me, that I would one day return no matter how painful it would be.  The proverbial beads of emotion within my mala reflected all that was right and wrong within the world I lived.
My connection to India encompasses every element of life, the deepness of it surpassing my shallow existence in America.  India’s impression continues to evoke my awareness, connect me to the spiritual, and remind me that I am alive.  In all its majesty, tragedy, and mysticism, India is a sensory, emotional, and spiritual experience like no other.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

My Left / Right Hand Dilemma

    There’s a certain type of anxiety I get when I eat in public.  In India, people generally do not use silverware, and it is customary to eat with the right hand.  The use of the left-hand to perform certain actions like eating or giving money is considered taboo.  From an anthropological standpoint, this concept serves both religious and social norms in Indian society.  In relation to ancient Hindu belief, right-handedness is associated with the sahaj /dakshin marg, or the yogic way – essentially the light path.  While left-handedness is associated with the vaam marg, or the path of the Aghori – essentially the dark path.  (Think of Star Wars for a serious simplification).  Children are taught from an early age to write, eat, and perform every activity with the right hand.  It is rare in Indian society to find a left-hander. 

     But the left-hand taboo isn’t all about religion, at least according to my best attempt at understanding this behavior.  The need to eat right-handed is primarily influenced by the need to maintain proper hygiene.  Due to other factors I need not discuss here, Indians don’t use toilet paper when they go to the bathroom; they use water.  Now to an American, this act may be considered perplexing if not downright insane. (I just happen to know an Indian who will defend to the death the advantages of using water).  Judgments aside, wiping oneself is done with the left hand.  Thus, for sanitary reasons, it’s essential to eat with the right hand.

     As a left-hander myself, I find it difficult to abide by the right-hander rule in India.  I can adequately feed myself with my right hand, but using a cutlery is a lot easier that making spoons out of rotis (wheat bread) or using your thumb as a sort of food forklift.  Whenever I am at a special function like a puja, I will consciously eat only with my right hand, as a sign of my utmost respect and understanding of the taboo.  However, eating dosa at a stand-and-eat restaurant where the ultimate goal is to consume your food as fast as possible and move aside for the next dozen people to do the same is not where I want to practice my ambidexterity.  For the sake of avoiding any further bouts of food poisoning on my part, and the desire to actually enjoy a meal, my husband and I typically eat only in the enclosed, we-have-seats-for-you restaurants.  Even in these places though, I feel somewhat perturbed by the left / right hander dilemma.  I am after all, a proud leftie, and I do prefer to eat with some semblance of sophistication, even if I am eating with my hand.  But people don’t know that, nor do they care that I am one of the rare lefties.  As a white woman in India, my skin apparently screams “look at me!!” (Sounds vain but it's true).  Thus, my act of eating with my tabooed and dirty left hand is put on display for all to witness.  All I think that they are thinking is that I am eating with my ass-wiping hand, committing a social faux pas, and bypassing all rules of sanitary behavior.  It all reminds me of this stupid joke told to me long ago.  Someone asks you what hand you use to wipe your ass.  After you reply and return their question, they, so quick-witted, tell you neither, they use toilet paper.  

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Present 2013: My Return To Writing

It's hard to believe how fast time goes by, how you can feel as if you are the only steady thing in a world that never ceases to change.  Today marks my first day of return to my India blog, originally started in the summer of 2010 and left neglected for an indeterminable amount of time.  Much has happened in the time gaps, it's true.  There was a disastrous stunt in California in late 2010 and early 2011, a return home to Michigan with a four month separation from Sanjeev; a brief, but enlightening return to India in the fall of 2011, this time in Delhi; a train excursion from North to South India and back again; the return again to my home for seven months of separation; and a repeat return, quite surprisingly to Bangalore in the late spring of 2012 accompanying me this time was my beloved, and now world traveler chihuahua Bubby.  Since then I have been relatively rooted in one place, pardon two more trips to the U.S. and visits in Michigan and Long Island, New York.  We have successfully achieved a full year of living in our highrise apartment in an upscale (and quite snotty) location smack dab on Hosur Main Road in Electronic City - the Silicon Valley of India.  Quite accidentally we added another furry child to our life, an Indian street dog who has been thoughtlessly dubbed "Little Pup".  He's come a long way from his near death puppy-hood and is now a happy, healthy, and quite naughty one year old, even if he only has one and a half ears.  In February of 2013, after three full years of a roller-coaster life, and with a lot of help from our Rupee currency, Sanjeev Kumar Tyagi and I officially married.  Since then, it has been a smooth sailing, and a quite mundane Indian life.

This time around I am not a tourist, nor am I the wide-eyed girl that was so overwhelmed in the new experience of living abroad.  I have become quite Indianized you see, and this return to writing really isn't about documenting exciting experiences in India (though I hope some will rear their heads once in a while).  Instead this blog is all about my return to writing, an inner journey that seeks to again find some of that moving writing I believe I was once able to create.  A challenge created and presented by yours truly to push the limits and test the waters of a writing life.  My blog is bias, it is a purely subjective documentation of my experience and perspective of living life in Bangalore.  My perspective about the reality of life here only represents my own world-view, it cannot be assumed to be fact, nor can it represent any true sense of reality.  I state this disclaimer now so as to avoid persecution for my raw and perhaps insensitive, inaccurate, or overly dramatic writing.

With all of that said, let the writing (and hopefully reading) commence!
*crickets chirping*

The Later Years 2012: Fractured

Originally Posted on December 28th, 2012.

     What is identity?  What defines a person?  Is it the present moment, the way in which an individual lives in the now that defines who they are?  Or is it the collective moments, the past, full of experiences, that shapes the identity?

     Can a person have two identities?  Can they exist in balance with the other?  Can a person really choose their identity? What happens when an individual can no longer surround themselves with those comfortable things that they believe makes them who they are?  When an individual is taken out of their known environment, when they are separated from those things, all those things that they believe defines them, what happens to them?  What becomes of their identity?  Does it get remolded? Does it continue to be defined by the past, full of things? Or does it split, becoming fractured?
Perhaps that is what is happening to me.  My identity, my self, my individuality has become fractured.  I am no longer the me of the past, the reality I took so long to construct.  I am just in the now, floating, yet reminiscing about the past, wanting to cling, but without much to cling to.  I am now someone or something different, yet not easily defined.  This mesh between America and India, a neophyte of identity, belonging to nowhere.  I no longer belong to the society, the reality, the American identity I had.  Yet I will never belong to India, its culture or its people.  I am lost, uncomfortably foreign, unfitted, unreal.  Alive but not subscribing.  A stranger to myself, I no longer know who I am.

The White One

This poem was written in 2010 during my first stint in Bangalore.

The White One
I am drown in the life
of another place so strange and foreign.
A dance, I breathe between the shades
of white and brown.
Where there is no security in numbers
no comfort to be found.
I am on the outside – the Goree – the one to watch.
Constantly on display, performing.
This is a white woman.
This is how she looks.
This is how she talks, walks, laughs and smiles.
I am the one who cannot understand,
the world around me.
Everything is a mystery.
I am a sponge.
A dance I breathe.
Do you see me? The white one?

The Later Years 2012: Excuses Excuses

Originally Posted on July 23rd, 2012.

Several of my attempts at posts sound a little as if I am mentally tipping over the edge.  They reflect the deeper part of me – something I am not so comfortable with sharing.  But the whole point of this blog is to document my life in India, therefore, I cannot simply construct a blog that portrays the happy go-lucky me; because if you know me, you know that is not me, or at least not the real me.  I’m not sure why I am procrastinating on my blog; there are a thousand excuses.  The primary though, is this sort of zombie rut that I am in.  I feel like I am just going through the motions of every day life.  I want to be creative, I want to spin interesting thoughts into works of art, but I have not found my muse, (I will admit that even the ganj is not doing it). When I do write, it seems to be a pathetic attempt, fake in expressing my mind’s wit, and forced.  There is no fluidity in my writing, the wheels are not turning, and I am surprised.  Where has that zest gone?  Where have I veered away from the progress I’ve made?  I feel so closed in my mind. Not just in regard to writing, or any art for that matter, but generally.  I am mystified at how I live in one of the most insane cities in the world, and I am not getting inspiration in life.  Sanju tells me my lethargy and lameness is due to the monsoons.  He says they do this to everyone.  Certainly when the rains come, I feel like crawling into bed for eternity.  Yet, I still cannot blame the rains, they have only just arrived a week ago, and I have felt this way since I came here.  I feel sort of like I am in a maze, and sometimes, I think I know where I am going, and I am happy and energetic to get there, and then I hit a wall.  Frustration sets in and I feel like screaming at the world to fuck off, feel like finding a spot where there is only nature.  Is it culture shock? Is this what I am feeling?  Perhaps.  I do tell Sanju multiple times a week that I am homesick.  I am naturesick, I miss my country, my American food, and well spoken English.  Whatever the culprit, I wish it would leave me the fuck alone.  Zombies are no fun.

The Later Years 2012: Clip

The dogs without homes in Bangalore are in numbers into the thousands.  Since I've arrived in Bangalore, I had seen dogs on the streets with clipped ears.  Some look like they come from fights, and this explanation was the best that I could come up with.  This week I came across an opportunity to donate to Indian organizations that spay and neuter and vaccinate "street dogs." Apparently, to tag the street dogs that have been fixed and vaccinated, they simply clip the left ear of a dog for identification.  Hence, why a decent percentage of dogs in Bangalore have their ears clipped.  Noting this has become somewhat of an obsession of mine, and I am always observing the dogs I come across.

The Later Years 2012: No Longer A Neophyte

Originally Posted on June 13th, 2012.

My blog is finally coming on its way, and soon it will be a functional site to bear my soul.  I will admit that I am rusty at writing.  Exposing my feelings to the virtual world is something I am not exactly keen on, and I am still struggling to reach out for that creative mindset that always seems to elude me.  Sometimes it visits me; fleetingly, I have an idea.  And then it is gone; something that practically never existed.  I have been in Bangalore for over a month, and I can’t quite pinpoint how I feel about life currently.  My experience now is neither that when I first came to Bangalore in 2010, nor is it anything like the experience I had in Delhi in the fall of 2011.  I look back on myself in Bangalore two years ago, and I see myself as an immensely intense person.  I was quite “out there” even compared to my normal eccentricity.  I came to India with an ignorant but open heart, and I was both torn and revived by the raw reality of India.  In Delhi, I was the opposite.  I was closed off, and refused to allow India back into my heart.  It hurt to be here, it hurt to leave.
Here and in the now, I am different, altered.  I feel as though I have become desensitized but in a rational way.  When I first came here in 2010, I was amazed at how seemingly apathetic people were to the world around them.  I cried when I saw things – wanted to retreat, and sometimes wanted to escape this world.  Others saw, but were able to carry on, so easily continue on their day.  I couldn’t wrap my mind around it, but now I understand.  Even I, after a longer exposure to India’s rawness, have begun to see it all differently.  I am not so perturbed; I have learned to accept things as they are.  Life still moves me, but now it takes a harder shove.  Whether or not this bodes well for my life philosophy or my writing, I am not so sure.  But I am trying.  My voice, however it is changing, is still there.  It is a new journey, and I am reintroducing myself.

The Later Years 2012: Let The Insanity Begin

  I’ve been in Bangalore for almost a week, and I still haven’t gone out by myself yet.  I keep trying to compare this experience to that of my first excursion in Bangalore.  When did I have the courage to step out on my own?  How long did it take me to venture out without anxiety? When did the stares stop bothering me?  I can’t remember any of this.  All I remember is doing as I pleased, with very little restraint.  In Delhi, in a haphazard experiment, I learned that when I wear traditional ethnic clothing, I don’t receive as many stares.  Sanjeev says I can pass off as a Punjabi girl simply because they have very light colored skin for Indians.  We joked the other night that in America, one wears drab and dark clothing to blend in; while in India, one must wear bright and gaudy clothing to blend in.  My eyes and my hair are a dead give away though, and I honestly contemplate dyeing my hair black as a sort of experiment to see how well I can fit in.  Yesterday, I wanted to go out.  I didn’t.  And today, it is on my mind, and I plan where I can go and what I can buy to make the trip worthwhile.  Yes, I will go, and I will visit the grocery store about a mile away and buy some dahi (Indian curd yogurt) because I am almost out.  I ponder, should I wear my American clothing, or should I opt for the ethnic wear for maximum blenditure?  I feel stupid in Indian attire.  I always wonder if I am wearing something wrong and I just can’t get comfortable with the dupattaa (basically a scarf worn backwards by our standards).  So far, I only have two Indian outfits, and I opt for the Rajastani style salwar and suit, a turquoise and purple concoction with white diamond dots and tiny round mirrors – real mirrors stitched onto the front.  I want to leave the dupattaa at home, its clumsy and the shells on the ends annoy me.  But I decide I will take it with.  I want to wrap it around my head as a shawl and cover my hair.
     I don’t want to go, but I’m here now, and I have to get used to the insanity again.  No rewards will be gained by hiding away but I am honestly anxious.  I’ve spent seven months in Michigan as a recluse.  I’m smack dab in the middle of it all again, and the area I am in now is massive in comparison to my old location in J.P. Nagar.  This is a small feat yes, but it isn’t at the same time.  I don’t like being the white rat among millions, and I don’t like being the new item at the freak show circus.  But, what to do? What to do? (Pronounced vhat to do? vhat to do? by Indians….)

The Early Years 2010: Two Weeks Notice

Originally Posted on September 21st, 2010.

Time is coming closer to my leaving India and I am feeling mixed emotions about leaving.  Beside leaving love behind for the moment I have a fear of adapting back to a life in a developed country.  I have become familiar with life here and many daily occurrences have become sentimental to me.  I want to cry when I think about not seeing Chinnuppa’s overly happy face everyday, or Swathi standing on her staircase waiting for me to come home.  I have grown used to drinking small servings of Indian tea throughout the day, and smelling jasmine everywhere.  I have become dependent on Ayurvedic products and Indian sweets.  I am fond of my daily walks that keep me in a steady state of concentration unlike anything else.  When I think about Michigan’s winters I cringe because I have become spoiled from Bangalore’s constantly beautiful weather, which amazingly never stays too hot nor too cold for too long.   Though life here has been unimaginably peculiar, I will miss the experiences very much.  I have been forever changed by India, in some ways that I am accepting of and in others that make me wonder who I have become.  I am no longer that person waiting for the experience, my has come and is going.  We can always look back in these situations and wish we had lived everyday to the fullest, yet what occurred was meant to be, and the traveling experience is never what we planned.  Regardless of my relations with a very proud Indian, I feel that India will continue to pull me in its direction for the rest of my life.  It is a country 1/3 the size of the United States, yet it is a country that even the most travelled of Indians can’t fully understand its rich and intense culture.
My writing on this site will conclude once I get back to America and settle myself back into the fantasy.  My writing will again become private, my personal thoughts locked away within the pages of my many journals.  I cannot help but feel like this a conclusion to a very exciting chapter of my life.

The Early Years 2010: Slow Ride.

Originally Posted on September 7th, 2010. 

So my website has been a ghost town.  I've had trouble writing these past two weeks.  It's not that the thoughts aren't there, they are growing more in number if anything.  I have one month left before I leave India, and I am filled with complex emotions and overwhelming thoughts.  It's difficult to explain how I have become attached to Bangalore or India in general.  I will leave and I might not ever see this place again.  Every time that I attempt write about the thoughts, feelings, and experiences I become overwhelmed.  I attempt to tune myself out from the constant thought processes by smoking pot.  Sometimes I am successful and I relax myself in a short state of pure enjoyment.  Other times, I get the inspiration to write; and then the thinking escalates.  My mind never stops thinking about everything I am experiencing.  My brain, this analysis machine is constantly on the lookout for a new victim to shred.  Perhaps my issue stems from my inability to stay forever busy and the concept that "Idle hands are the devil's playground."  Or maybe it is a spiritual issue on my pathway to gain a greater awareness about life and the world around me.  If such is the case, perhaps I have become addicted to searching for myself here and fear my return to reality in our perfect American world.  Either way or another, my thoughts are scattered and I have officially tipped my scale towards lunacy.

The Early Years 2010: Burn it Bitch

Originally Posted on August 12th, 2010.

Since I have arrived here, I have obtained an insatiable need to walk everyday.  At first it was a required 30 minutes to burn off excess energy, and later it developed into a daily quest of several hours.  Everyday I want to go a little bit further despite that walking the streets in Bangalore is not something one would deem pleasant.  There are no easily to tread streets here, you're lucky to have any walking spaces at all even it if is a sidewalk flanked with inurmera obstacles.  Often I am walking within a foots distance from the steady traffic, and many times have gotten close to contact with something.  The air pollution on the busy streets is horrible, chocking chemical ridden air permeates everything.  Those who sit in autos or ride bikes practically suffocate waiting at the lights.  There is no pedestrian right away here, you cross the streets like an animal on the highway.  Garbage is accumulated in many areas, the amount of walking hazards are ridiculous, the noise from traffic and incessant honking is deafening, poverty is everywhere, and I never cease to feel like the albino outsider.  The smells that accrue in most places contrast each other wildly.  It most often is the smell of cow or dog shit, rotting garbage, and putrid smoke.  If you are lucky, you find the cultural fragrances: jasmine flowers, quality incense, or home cooked Indian food.   Overwhelming best describes the experience, but I also find a certain obsession with having to trek my way from one point to another.  I have grown accustom to the constant assault on my senses, the sore feet, and the unrelieved headaches.  And don't get me wrong, it is an excellent workout to voyage through these merciless streets.
In India, the buzz of the city is ever present and that beat of America is forgotten.  Bangalore is unlike anything you would ever experience in America.  In fact, it is the opposite.

The Early Years 2010: Pee Pees

This is the little girl that I rescued last week.  I desperately wanted to keep her, but because of airline restrictions I had to give her up.  I took her to a local shelter called CUPA.  I pray that she finds a good home.  I called her PeePees.

The Early Years 2010: Get Ripped Off / Eat a Squid / Save a Puppy!

Originally Posted on July 29th, 2010.

If you've read my posts before, you've learned about the minor disadvantages whites have when in India.  Today was another one of those days.  Sanjeev calls me early today and asks me to meet him in downtown Bangalore with his passport.  By downtown Bangalore, I mean the cosmopolitan Bangalore, where the amount of sensory stimulation is enough to make you want to crawl in a hole.  I agreed to the task, though I knew I would have to hail an auto rickshaw.  Whenever I walk I get approached by auto drivers attempting give me a ride.  They see a white woman and they see dollar signs.  Sanju told me to expect to pay around 90 rupees, though I knew it would be much more.  Hailing an auto isn't as easy as I thought it would be, they are everywhere until you need one.  After several failed attempts I finally got a guy to stop on the opposite side of the road.  It takes me several minutes just to safely cross the street and I approached the middle aged man and asked him if he could take me to brigade road.  He says yes and as I hop in the backseat he turns around and I know he wants to "negotiate" the price.  I know he speaks English, yet he pretends to not be so fluent.  He says 200 rupees for the trip there.  I say fine whatever, I just want to get there.  There is no use in my attempt to fight over the price with him for two reasons: one, I do not like fighting over money, and two, he doesn't comprehend my accent and most of what I say will not get through.  He embarks on the roughly 7 mile trip and as we drive it begins to rain.  Autos are covered sort of like soft top Jeeps and rain is blowing in on either side of me, soaking the seat.  I sit dead in the middle and ignore the dampness.  Traffic at noon is beginning to pick up and the noise is deafening inside of an auto. Autos have literally no shocks and every speed bump, crack, and pot hole send shock waves up my back.  I could find riding a camel more comfortable.  We get downtown within a half hour and he apparently doesn't know where the Brigade towers are.  I begin to worry if he is just going to dump me off at some random street, tell me it's the towers and then leave.  I stand firm that I want him to take me to where I need to go and he asks several other autos for directions.  We haphazardly come across Sanju's Canon building so I yell at him to stop and give him the 200 without a fuss.
I meet Sanju and we have lunch at a place called "Cafe Masala."  It is a lunch buffet and Sanju describes the dishes to me as we pick and choose what we want.  He points to a noodle salad and says that it has mayonnaise with egg in it and asks me if I want it.  I obliged because it looks like American noodles and we continue to filled out plates.  I wold down each serving because I haven't had breakfast and as I eat the savory noodle salad, I put what I think is a mushroom into my mouth only to realize that it is too meaty to be a mushroom once I chew it.  I finish my plate and upon our second round I check out the sigh describing the noodle salad and see that it has Calamari (squid) in it.  I incessantly tease Sanju for being so idiotic as to serve me sea meat. I don't mind because the noodle salad was delicious, though I just feel like I've sinned.
On the way out Sanju grabs me an auto and tells the guy to use the meter and not to over charge.  He tells Sanju that he doesn't view people by color, and he holds true to his word.  It costs less than 90 rupees to get back home, and I give him a 100 and thank him for being honest.  I head down my street to my apartment and as I near my turn I see an SUV on the side of the road.  The man inside it is getting ready to drive off and underneath it is a tiny puppy.  I sprint to the truck and tell him not to leave yet, pointing underneath to the puppy.  I frantically try to get her to come out and luckily I am able to grab her before the man gets impatient.  She is alone without her mother and dirty with car grease.  I take her home, there is no way I can desert a baby to the brutal streets of Bangalore.  She is safely asleep in her makeshift bed, twitching as she dreams in her little world.
Another rainy day in Bangalore, another day gone.

I Wouldn't Sit There

Apparently not too long ago, India's theaters had a naughty trait to them, in the form of a blacked out box.  These boxes were enclosed seating areas in which couples could enter and have privacy during a movie.  They could see out the box, but nobody could see in.  I wouldn't sit in those seats, you might get stuck to them....

The Early Years 2010: Suffering

Originally Posted on July 26th, 2010.

Few understand the concept that for some, it can be more painful to see animals suffering than to see their fellow humans suffering. I do not know why I feel more emotion for animals and the earth than I do for humans, perhaps it is because they have no voice. They are helpless next to man.  Some people believe that we are on this earth to protect and take care of all other life.  Others believe that we are here to dominate and control all other life.  When did we lose the respect for the Earth that created and still nurtures us? When did the animals that are incredible in their own right become ours to exploit and murder?  When did the Earth become ours to destroy?  As I become more aware to what we have done to this earth, the pain of its reality grows inside me.
In India I witness this suffering everyday.  Every single homeless dog I see has its own spirit, its own mind, and its own heart. They have beauty within them, their spirits are sacred, and they receive little empathy.  They starve on the streets spending endless hours scavenging throughout the city, eating trash for survival.  Some have growths on them I believe are caused from eating garbage.  Some are so diseased and mangy, some are deformed from accidents and dog attacks, some cannot walk on all four legs, and almost all of struggle to survive in this concrete man's world.  They all carry the sheer hell they experience within their eyes.  This weekend, in one of the busiest areas within Bangalore, I watched a stray yellow lab stand in the middle of a shopping entrance.  It was night time and people were scattered throughout the opening.  This dog stood there in the middle of the entrance, watching people going about their social get-togethers.  He looked confused, hungry and scared, just standing and staring.  Nobody even looked at him, they all just went about their business.  It is such a common sight here to see a dog as such, it has become numb in the minds of Bangaloreans.

The Early Years 2010: No Food For Me

Originally Posted on July 22, 2010.

I have never been interested in cooking.  Though I learned some awesome dishes from my momma, those who know me, know that I only prepare my specialties once in a blue moon.  My lack of cooking abilities back home never caused a major problem as I was always able to conjure up something worthy of a meal.  Here it is another story.  While there are plenty of snacks to be had, India lacks the variety of small meals you can find in America simply because meal time is important here.  How anyone can keep up with the cooking is a mystery.  The typical Indian meal takes approximately an hour to make and another one to clean up the mess.  I successfully cooked my own specialty of American/Indian masala dosa.  Dosa is a crisp patty roughly the size of a pancake but it tastes buttery and spicy.  Masala dosa is prepared with potatoes, onions, chilies, and various spices.  My neighbor Rashmi taught me how to make it, and it is definitely a major work in progress where the dosa batter takes over a day to prepare. I managed to pull off the dosa and ate it with ketchup as a chetney (the side dip.)  It reminded me of the potatoes we make at home with farm eggs.
Yesterday I attempted to make aloo prathas, and when I say "attempt" I mean that it went horribly awry.  Aloo means potatoes, and prathas are wheat flour tortillas for the most part.  In prathas, the center is filled with a mixture of vegetables, in this case aloo, with onion and spices.  Prathas need to be flattened with a rolling pin to as thin as pie crust and then fried in a pan.  It sounds easy enough, but not if the aloo proceeds to ooze through every pratha lending it absolutely un-cookable.  One ended up thrown against the wall, half the aloo batter ended up smeared on the floor, and the wheat flour dough ended up everywhere else. I spent roughly and hour and a half in the kitchen conjuring up the abomination and cleaning up the aftermath.  Kudos to anyone who can cook good Indian food.  It's definitely one talent I do not possess.

The Early Years 2010: Passing Time

Originally Posted on July 21st, 2010.

July is quickly coming to a close, and it won't be much longer before I leave Bangalore and embark on our driving excursion to Northern India.  Frankly, I am over living in Bangalore.  Survival here takes ultimate patience as well as a greater indifference toward life, people, animals, and nature all of which I do not possess.  There are times where the sights before me break my strength and I feel desperate.  I can do nothing to truly change the circumstances, nor do I have the right to.  My current college course in Environmental Policies has done nothing to take the discomfort away.   All day I read about air, water, and land pollution and the fundamental basics of how we are destroying the earth.  Studying it and witnessing firsthand, the very visible environmental degradation occurring in India puts me on a perplexing roller coaster of emotions that I cannot clearly identify.
While all of these issues are taking place in America in similar amounts, our pollution is masked by our apparent peachy lives.  It's out of sight out of mind.  Here, you suffer a constant reminder of the devastation we have caused.  There is no comfort here, India is raw.
Anyone reading this may be confused by my apparent love hate relationship with India.  All that I can say is that you have to experience it and understand the complexities of living here.  India is a beautiful land with amazing people and culture, yet it is also a place where the unspeakable occurs.
At times, I have had enough of Bangalore, and I long for the simplistic comfort of home.  Then at other times, I know how heart broken I will be when I return home and realize what I've left behind.  My arrival here made me feel as though I had time to do anything I wanted.  And now that I have 79 days left, I feel like time is slipping through my fingers.

The Early Years 2010: Customer Service Still Exists!

Originally Posted on July 8, 2010.

Seinfeld's episode "The Cafe" came to mind to me today.  It's a season three episode in which Jerry attempts to aid a Pakistani restaurant owner in his business.  Babu Bhatt has incredible service, and he's so happy to get a customer that he waits for Jerry to take a sip of water before immediately filling the glass again.  This is something like the service you find at the restaurants in India. We ate at a local restaurant this evening called "24th Main."  It is an upscale restaurant where they wait on you like royalty. Everything is neat and tidy, the waiters act like butlers, and they sincerely serve you as if their lives depend on it. Whenever we attend these types of restaurants I am flattered by the amazing service I receive, yet I also feel like a rich bitch in letting them serve me so well.  They pull out my chair for me and lay the cloth napkin in my lap.  They bring out their serving dishes and fill our plates.  And once we get done with the first round, the waiter, (Ganesh in this case,) is there to immediately serve us again.  The meal cost us roughly $21.00 and considering the amazing food and service, it truly is a steal.  Every time we eat at a restaurant like this I comment on how you can never receive such fantastic customer service in the states.  Really, can anyone remember the last time they ate at a restaurant where they treated you as such?  I don't think so.  In the states I am happy if they manage to get the order right and toss it on the table for me to scarf down like the disgusting pig they believe me to be. Whatever happened to customer service in the states?  Apparently, it's still alive in the East.
(Per request of Mr. Big Boy, I will explain that the food was excellent at this restaurant.  They perfectly prepared the dishes with just the right amount of spice for us white people.  I would tell you what I had but I can never remember the names of the food.  Too easy to forget.)

The Early Years 2010: Camel Ride Wednesday

Originally Posted on June 30th, 2010.

Today I met up with my friend Bala, who also lives in 7th phase of JP Nagar in Bangalore.  Like me, he enjoys walking and tends to walk at least an hour a day.  I wanted to further delve into the streets of Bangalore and it's perfect to do so when you have a native to guide you.  We took a road perpendicular to the main road I normally walk and we began weaving in and out of the streets of Bangalore.  There is never a boring walk had in this city, there are too many things to see and so many souls to come across.  Bala pointed out specific structures and types of crops.  Every road was different.  Some were quaint and filled with small, old India buildings.  Others were dirty with heavier traffic and shops.  We stopped on one road in which women were making strings of jasmine for garlands.  Many women in Bangalore make their money doing this.  Most often strings of Jasmine are made with rose buds, or other types of fragrant flowers. They are designed for women to wear in their hair.  These women were making garlands for a wedding, and I stopped to watch them do so.  They told me to sit and spoke to Bala about my interest. Each tiny bud of jasmine is tied to one primary string by another, and it is a long and tedious job to do.  They sat in a empty vendor shed in the shade, the three of them, tying their flowers.  I asked them if I could come back for them to teach me how to make the garland.  They happily obliged.
We watched school children run around their playgrounds and play volleyball and cricket.  We passed women washing clothes in their buckets outside their homes. I watched two men and a woman make bamboo shades through simple techniques of weaving strings around the bamboo strips.  We talked about India and America, about the culture here, and about the perils within India.
We came upon a settlement with numerous camels.  I stopped to take pictures and a resident saw me.  He asked me if Iwanted to ride one, and I happily accepted.  Once we crossed the street and into the boundaries of the settlement I realized the numbers of camels around us.  Dogs were barking and people became curious about the uproar.  The young man quickly saddled a camel, and it unhappily allowed him to do so.  He told me in broken english to come around to the left side of her and hop on the saddle.  He repeated "hold on" "hold on" and I did so obediently.  With that he ordered her to stand up and the jolt wasn't an understatement. He led her around the settlement were I saw dozens more makeshift tents, camels, dogs, and people.  Everyone stared and most happily yelled in Kannada to me.  Bala took pictures of me as we walked and after a 5 minute ride, he brought me back.  I held on for life again as he brought the camel down to kneel.  I shook the man's hand and he told me he wanted 200 rupees ($4.33 U.S.) Bala immediately protested the request and after they fought in Kannada we paid the amount and walked away.  Indians do not like being ripped off.  It was no deal for me, I am used to being charged forenjoying India.
After walking for two and a half hours we realized we were lost and had to back track to find our way back to our street.  JP Nagar is a huge section within Bangalore, and we wandered beyond that even.  Bala works nights and we decided to take a auto rickshaw to get us back where to the main road because we didn't have the time to walk another two miles.  The rickshaw driver dropped us off on the main road and charged us 40 rupees for the ride.
By the time I arrived home I had been gone for a total of 4 hours. Again another day goes by where Bangalore blows my mind

The Early Years 2010: Only Four...

 Originally Posted on June 29th, 2010.

Here is a complimentary example of the misinterpretations endured in a foreign country.....

(Note: Many vendors that sell products the old Indian way try to rip off tourists by telling them something costs more than it really does. Nobody has price tags so they can sell it how they want.  I had this problem buying rolling papers from a cigarette vendor.  I asked him how much for a small pack of papers that wouldn't cost more than 50 cents in America.  The guy told me 65 rupees which equals to $1.39 in America. They normally sell for 25 rupees.)

Today I went walking my normal route.  I walked for a good hour and decided on my way back to stop and get a chai from a vendor.  "Chai" is the Hindi word for tea, and I am addicted to it.  Servings of tea come in cup the size of a decent sized shot glass.  This is how people drink their tea, in midget sized amounts.  I can make tea at home but it is a sad excuse for chai.  So with the combined small sized amounts, and the rarity of enjoyment, I crave it daily and get some almost every time I am out.
Some food vendors sell chai out of their booths, but it's not always easy to spot a vendor that sells tea.  There are no signs and no picture descriptions.  I'm walking down the road and craving the pick me up I get with Indian tea, and I see a vendor that has a thermos of tea set on top his counter.  I approach and wait behind others to ask for my chai.  When it is my turn I ask the old man for chai and he turns around to grab the plastic cup he will pour it in.  I ask him how much as I pull out my cash and he says "Twenty-four."  (Chai on average costs 5 rupees for a serving, and 8 at the most in the tourist areas.)  "Twenty-four!" I say.... "I have been here long enough to know that chai doesn't cost 24 rupees."  "Twenty-four," he repeats to me.  He fills the cup and sets it on the counter for me to take, and I continue on telling him that I think he really shouldn't charge me 24 rupees, I know chai doesn't cost that much, and that I'm not coming here again. (All in that sarcastic tone of my Dad's half serious half joking.)  I gather together the rupees anyway and I reach to hand him 30 in 10 and 20 rupee bills. The man behind the counter looks confused and the young guy next to me says, "No, He's saying only four." Oh, it's only four rupees, not twenty four.  I feel like an asshole, and I say, "Well then if it's four rupees, I will come back."  I feel stupid, but I also wonder why he says "only four" instead of "four."  As if he is selling is 1 rupee less advantage.  I apologized though for the misunderstanding and took my tea.  I bought another, these servings are not enough for me. And another day goes by in the craziness of Bangalore.

The Early Years 2010: Grocery Time

Originally Posted on June 25th, 2010.

Shopping here is like going on a treasure hunt.  It is almost impossible to plan what to buy when going grocery shopping.  My most basic groceries come from a combined 6 shops.  I remember a few months ago when I was annoyed with the "poor selection" of Wal-mart.  When I get back to the states, I'm getting "I love Wal-mart" tattooed on me because I have eaten those words a thousand times. Good fruit is easy to come by here, and a large portion of my diet consists of mangoes, apples, pineapples, and oranges.  In the states, I had a difficult time making unique meals and eating something other than groups of snacks.  Here, I am lucky if I can boil food in a pot because I have no idea how to cook anything.  Making meals here takes a lot of time, ingredients, and skill, none of which I have.

Sanjeev and I walk from out apartment building to the numerous stores several times a week.  We buy what we can find, or if we are lucky, what we can carry.  We often stop at the Mango Bazaar where easily, ten varieties of mangoes can be found.  It's just a simple tent with straw on the ground and piles of mangoes on top of that.  My favorite are the Alphonsos, they are small and their flesh is superbly sweet.  Every time we go to the bazaar, Sanjeev and the guys talk in Hindi, which sounds like they are arguing to me.  I stand by and watch them lean over the piles squeezing mangoes and commenting.

At the shopping centers, we never cease to have to argue with the security guard that our reusable bags are for shopping and we need to take them inside with us.  You never know what you will find in these stores.  Sometimes  I luck out and find things I've been searching for, other times, I have difficultly finding the simplest of things.

In the end, we are lucky to come home with four good sized bags full of groceries.  We trudge a good mile, managing not to get hit by cars, or to trip over various obstacles on the streets.  Some weeks the treasure hunt ends in a beautiful bounty, others, not so much.  In my opinion, Wal-mart has become the treasure where X marks the spot.

The Early Years 2010: Amulia Amulia!

Originally Posted on June 25th, 2010

     Amulia is the closest friend I've made in Bangalore. Though she's not human, if you know me then you shouldn't be surprised.  Amulia is an adorable puppy that was kindly adopted by our security guard Chinuppa.  I named her, her name means "precious" in Hindi.  Bangalore has a overwhelming amount of homeless and feral dogs. I'm guessing well into the hundreds of thousands. I'm not quite sure how Chinuppa came across Amulia, but when I first saw her running around the garage my heart melted.  She is about four months old, and she's a beautiful white with brown spots, though her coat takes a beating with her crawling around on the dirty concrete all the time.  I have sort of taken her under my wing.

      Chinuppa gives her a surprisingly good amount of food though it consists of rice and vegetables.  I bought a small bag of pedigree dog food for her, and she now turns her nose up at the rice.  Dog food is hard to come by in Bangalore and I have only ever seen the Pedigree brand.  It's ridiculously priced too, 400 rupees ($8.61 U.S.) for a decent sized bag.  Despite the poor quality, dog food is royalty compared to what most of the city dogs get to eat here.
It's amazing to see how a dog acts when it has finally received love and affection.  Amulia didn't know how to react when I first cared for her, but now she is spoiled and expects it of me everyday. She is supremely smart as well.  I taught her to sit and shake in a matter of ten minutes.  Last night we worked on the rollover trick and she understands it but refuses to obey me completely.  People who witness my trick training laugh when they see her obedience.  She loves dog food so much she would do nearly anything for it.  Imagine how happy it makes a puppy to get a chew bone and know that I see that look on her face everyday when I give her the simplest of attention.
In the few weeks that I've cared for her, she has begun to come out of her shell.  Sometimes it is more than for her own good, but my motto is that she is a puppy and she is supposed to be crazy.  She has learned to climb the stairs throughout the apartment building and at night she sneaks up and steals people's shoes that are left outside their doors.  I've seen numerous pairs with her needle teeth marks. A few nights ago, after I fed and played with her in my apartment, she was restless and wouldn't sleep.  She continued to whine after I put her back in the garage, and I heard her come to my door shortly after.  When I opened the door to see where she was, I could see her on the floor below with a shoe in her mouth and a pile of shit next to my neighbor's door.  LOL Needless to say, she is getting into puppy trouble.

     Chinuppa isn't quiet sure how to take care of Amulia, and I try to help him understand the basics.  He doesn't understand English and speaks Telugu, not Kannada even though we live in Karnataka.  I mostly communicate to him through body language and facial expressions.  When Sanjeev is near, he is my translator, and we explain to him what Amulia needs.

     It breaks my heart to think of the hard life this dog will experience.  Chinuppa struggles himself and may not always be able to care for her and she may end up on the street like all of the other dogs. Thankfully though, she has been spayed.  I am amazed that she has because most people here don't even know what spaying and neutering is.  Spaying here can mean survival because dogs are constantly breeding.  It's practically impossible to find enough food for themselves let alone puppies.  Amulia is very intelligent and I have no doubt that she will learn the skills she needs to survive here. My only hope though is that she continues to receive some sort of affection because I never want to imagine her eyes turning into cold, feral eyes like the ones I so often see on the faces of dogs here.

The Early Years 2010: Rooftops

Originally Posted on June 25th, 2010.

     I never can truly escape the feeling I get from Bangalore.  I can never walk outside my door without feeling that awe and wonderment that I am actually in another country, so far away from home.  I've always liked watching people go about their daily lives.  I've especially enjoyed doing this when I could watch without them knowing.  Sometimes I climb the stairs and stand out on my rooftop. I can see for miles on top this building, even though it's only 4 stories.  The view is stretches of city life, building after building after building.  Some look like they could be in America, but only a few.  The rest look like a completely different place.  I see tropical tress here and there, the small places that have managed to not be developed.  There are streets but they aren't busy.  Most of the area I can see is residential, and the busy roads are only viewed in the small spaces between apartment buildings.  I look around me and I can't identify the buildings, there are so many.  I feel like I am lost in a maze, (and I still only walk the busiest street for fear of getting lost.  The smaller streets are less populated, but I feel unsafe in those areas.)

From my rooftop I can see people go about their business.  I can see inside their homes through the open windows and doors. (Everyone here opens up windows and doors throughout the day to capture the amazing breeze that always flows through Bangalore).  I watch people in the streets, I watch the Indian spotted eagles that soar through the air.  They are brown and they make the most amazing eagle call.  I hear them during the day, and they fly close enough to my building that I can get a good look at them.  I watch the rain clouds that are so often moving through Bangalore. The contrast in the dark blue color of the storm clouds to the light color of buildings is amazing.  I watch the beat of the home life here.  It is simple and quiet.  Nobody's really in a rush, and the most noise I hear from the buildings is the temper tantrums of children, the sounds of sweeping the floors or washing clothes in buckets, and cultural music.  Sometimes I hear the prayer mantras recited every morning.  One I hear almost every morning.

I've never watched people in this way before, for the most part of my life I have seen only the trees outside my doors.   When I watch them at night, it calms me to see their content.  Bangalore gets very quiet at night.  Usually the only thing that wakes me up in my sleep is the distant barking of the city dogs.  They run in packs like coyotes and their howls are much different from the dogs back home. A neighbor across the courtyard has a dog they leave out on the balcony at night.  His incessant howls are the only annoyance in the night. Compared to the noises I've encountered in America's cities, I'd take the barking any day.  How could a city so populated and ridiculously loud during the day, become so quiet in the night?  This is the peace I observe on the rooftop.  Bangalore is a city with so many sights and sounds the word "overwhelming" is an understatement.  When one can observe from the quietude of a rooftop, the air of Bangalore changes.  Instead of being trapped in the beat of the city, one can step back and watch it all happen in front of them.

The Early Years 2010: Borderline Homosexual

Originally Posted on June 18th, 2010.

The personal space one has in India is very small.  Someone is always too close for comfort, according to an American's standards. Friends have even smaller spaces.  Girls will walk down the road hand in hand, and guys? ---- A little different than guys back home.  The first time I saw a guy walking with this arm over some other guy's shoulder I thought they were gay.  Little did I know, it's no big deal for guys to walk with their arms over each other, and the same with holding hands.  They ride two or three to their motorcycles and no biggie touching another guy's thigh.  I laugh sometimes when I see guys here do this.  Especially the guys my age who are very many, who think they are all so cool.   They all have no idea that this is viewed as homosexual behavior in America.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.

The Early Years 2010: The Dark Side

Originally Posted on June 18th, 2010.

Every day my feelings about Bangalore change.  Some days I love it and I want nothing more than to be here.  And then other days, I see things so beyond repulsion I just want to run.  I want to run down the block and find my home, my real home, the off yellow one hidden behind the maple.  Sometimes I have to think I am there to numb myself to what I see.

Today I went walking.  I have had a completely unprogressive day.  One of those days that I feel like I’ve wasted and wish I could change.  So I went walking, hoping to have lunch at my favorite restaurant near home.  No, they are closed.  It’s after 4 pm and the restaurant is closed. There are no regulatory hours here.  People open their shops or bring out their “trollies” to sell their goods when they feel like it.  Or if weather permits.  Nobody wants to keep their shops open if they get drowned in the process.  The restaurant is close, and I am hungry.  I have no energy, and I feel like crawling in hole to finish sleeping.  I don’t want to go back now.  I’ve ruined the day already, the least I could do is walk my ass down to the end of the road.
Everyday I walk a little farther than before, and everyday I continue to tear open the wound a little bit more after I see what I see.  I can’t stop and observe what the hell I see, or drop my jaw in amazement.  About a mile from my home there is a field, somewhat of an open area, where development of apartment buildings hasn’t taken over.  It’s about three acres in expanse, and about one acre of the land is covered with makeshift tents.  Tents made out of collected scrap plastic.  There are so many, and all I see around them is children running.  From the road, they are small, but they see me and they run to watch me.  Some start to wave, and as soon as I wave back they all start to do the same.  I can hear them yell, “hi auntie!” “auntie!” I do not stop as I see them.  I do not want to see the look in their eyes.  I keep walking instead, I may stop on the way back.  Along the way to the end of the road, I see hundreds of people, and a huge percentage of them look directly at me.  Some look me right in the eye and are not at all intimidated.  Most men smile at me, this type of admiration towards me.  I laugh sometimes the looks they give me, because they are just so different.  So I walk, wear my sunglasses so people can’t see my eyes, and listen to my Ipod because I need a little bit of home.  Something to drown out the energy of Bangalore, always in attempt of crawling in with my breath.  I stare ahead and keep to myself, I cannot muster energy to speak to someone.  I cannot help but smile at the school children walking home from school.  They all have their uniforms and the girls have their hair braided in pigtails.  I also cannot help but smile at the women, dressed in their saris who are so curious they shyly smile at me when I show them mine.
By the end of the road, I am a little anxious, I just want the staring to stop, and I just want to walk invisibly. The main road gives way to a left and a right turn.  There are no more shops here, it is all residential.  If you can call India’s settlements “residential.”  What it really is is lots of shacks, and smaller brick buildings.  There are some decent apartments too.  Unlike America, India’s decently making it people live alongside the poor.   I walk past theses places, so many people are outside still.  I am starting to feel like I am roaming too far, the shift away from people brings uneasiness.  So I turn around and head back.
On the way, I see babies, literally a half naked 15 month old walking with another baby, a little older.  They walk along the edge of the walkway, where there is a drop into the ditch about 4 feet deep.  There is no one watching them, and they roam too far to get the photographs I want.  Across the street is the start of the field with the tents.  The children see me and they start to call. I have to stop to see them, I know they want a photo.  So I cross the street and walk into the entrance of the field.  The children slowly come up, in pairs of two or more.  They run from their “front yards” and up the incline to me.  Ten or more come to see me.  I take their pictures and then show them on the screen.  There is no child that will not smile when I show them.  They are dirty, they have on what clothes they own, and all are malnourished.  A baby, barely of walking age comes too.  An older boy walks with him.  He has tears in his eyes, and food on his mouth, rice is what he gets to eat.  My heart is sad seeing him, and after I take a few more pictures I am done.  I tell them I am walking back, and I wave. The shops near the tents are dirty and the people are poor the farther I am away from home this way, the poorer the people get. I do not like the stares I get there because most are serious.  There are two men that are on the streets all day.  One is older most likely in his 70s, the other decades younger.  Both of them are disabled.  They cannot walk, so they drag themselves across the streets, there are no wheelchairs to be had.  The old man looks like he’s gone insane from the life he’s lived, he’s half naked.  Both of them scare me.  I walk a little faster to get through this part of town, and once I get to a better area, I stop at some shops.  I buy soil and a pot for my plant “Sodka.”  It costs me 40 rupees, 87 U.S. cents.  I continue down the road and I find handmade rugs to buy Amula so she can sleep on something other than concrete. Each is 10 rupees , 43 cents.  My restaurant still isn’t open when I get back to 7th phase, and I don’t want to stop anywhere else, so I head back home.  Some days I love Bangalore and I am so happy to be here.  Today wasn’t one of them.  Another day I’ve see the streets in Bangalore, another day I experience its charm.

The Early Years 2010: Swallow This

Originally Posted on June 9th, 2010.

1.1 billion people in the world lack access to clean drinking water.
Contaminated water causes the deaths of 1.7 million people in developing countries each year. Children account for 90% of these deaths.
A developing-nation family living where water must be carried several miles from a well finds that one gallon per person per day is sufficient to provide for all of its essential needs, including cooking and washing. Yet, a typical household in the United States consumes an average of 100 gallons per person per day. If all indirect uses are added (especially irrigation), this figure increases to 1,300 gallons per person per day.
(Wright, 2008)

The Early Years 2010: Some Things You Won't Find in India

Originally posted on June 4th, 2010

Some things you won't find in India:
dryers (unless you're rich, everyone else uses clothes line.)
regular brooms, (they use a jharu which is twigs from a particular tree.)
normal coffee (theirs is boiled and mixed with milk)
large size portions (everything is miniature)
a BATHTUB!!! (the showers are literally showers in the bathroom, that's the best I can explain them.)
street signs (haven't seen a street name yet)

The Early Years 2010: White Skin Is In

Originally posted on June 4th, 2010

It's vogue here to have light colored skin. Almost every Bollywood actor I've seen is light skinned. Some can even pass for being white. Something is added to face wash and lotion to lighten complexion, it's so popular here I see adds for it everyday. Apparently, white skin is in.


There is a saying here. "In America, you can kiss in public but you can't piss in public. In India you can piss in public but you can't kiss in pubic."
It's true, you can get arrested for kissing in public. It's not unusual to see guys standing on the side of the road taking a piss.

The Early Years 2010: Are Your Sarcastic?

Indians use a different type of acknowledgment in their body language. They bob their heads to the side, kind of like Night at the Roxbury. At first I assumed it was a sarcastic notion, but everyone does it. It's kind of their way of explaining that they understand. This is my research so far, it's puzzling. Sanjeev didn't even recognize it when I asked him.