Friday, May 25, 2012

May 24th: Always learning about the culture

Since it is summer, the power has been going in and out. We slept on the roof last night because it's too hot when the fans don't work. Looking up at the stars and the expansive sky, I feel so small and insignificant.

But then I go to Banjara Basti and I feel like I can make a difference, a little blip on the timeline of some importance. I know Youth Touch, including the boarding house, will change the course of many kids' lives. We went to the village at 7:30 AM and brought spiced rice with veggies. Madan and some others have to go into the children's houses because they aren't self motivated to go to school on their own. They don't know discipline because their parents haven't taught them. Youth Touch wants to teach them hygiene (like washing hands) so they can be integrated into society.

Mission accomplished: we got invited to a wedding! I didn't catch her name, but she's twenty and her fiance is from Delhi. She said she chose him. I asked if she was nervous and she said no. I asked if she was happy and she said very. So I told her I was happy for her too. She introduced me to her other two friends; one who was already married. They were having the women's ceremony (kinda like the idea of a bachelorette party, but not at all). They all put creams on the bride. One has turmeric in it and it stains their skin yellow. Madan said we couldn't go for safety reasons because there could be up to two thousand people there and most would be drinking heavily. Madan is bringing a gift over tomorrow for her.

After some play time, the kids washed their hands and then we handed out the food. I found the girl who I helped write last time we were in Banjara. I'm so embarrassed that I don't remember/can't spell any of the children's names. I was so good at that in Guatemala. Anyway, she was with her little brother today and was fiercely protective of him. She gave him her food and would tell off the other kids who would take his chalk.

This little boy that I hung out with last time we were in the village would run off the edge of the school into my arms and then I would spin him around. Once other kids saw, I was doing it for everyone. Even bigger boys, maybe age eight or nine. So much fun.

I got to meet the two girls (Meher and Bapisha) whose parents wouldn't take care of them, so Youth Touch nursed them to health. I talked about them in previous posts. They can sit and feed themselves now! The two girls that Quinn and I helped write sought us out when school started. We were stoked that they not only remembered us, but wanted to hang out again. We copied some Hindi words, then numbers, and I got to teach the English alphabet!

The students do everything on small chalkboards. They don't get to keep notebooks overnight because they don't take care of them at home. Again, going back to the discipline and responsibility they haven't had the opportunity to learn as well as lacking a productive learning environment. We had to leave and all the kids follow us out to the tuk tuks and then chase us down the street waving.

We went to the supermarket and I finally got the hang of things. You pick out what you want and bring it to one counter and they give you a receipt and then go to the front to pay and then go outside to pick up your package.

I also learned about widowed women. If your husband ever was to die, you aren't allowed to make yourself beautiful (use henna, wear bangles, or colourful saris) because the purpose of this is to attract a man. Women are not allowed to have other relations with men after their husband passes away. It used to be that you had to dress in all white, but now pale colours are acceptable. It shows that the woman is still sad and grieving. I'm still trying to sort this out; it's so different from what I am used to. Wearing white would be a constant reminder of the one who passed away and everyone would treat you differently. Also, what if you find a second love? Or a companion that happens to be of the other sex? I obviously respect different cultures, but this tradition is hard for me to understand.

We came back for lunch, then tea. This happens everyday: not all people come for tea, it's now down to the usual seven (Quinn, Melissa, Shreya, me, Jerry, Jess, and Roni) so there are always a couple extras from the people who do not come. When everyone has had one, we all fight to the death, Hunger Games-style, for the last couple chais. It's embarrassing to hear us all bickering, but it's totally necessary. The tea is that delicious.

After that, we went to work! It goes by so fast. We came home and ate, showered, hung out then went to bed :)

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

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