Friday, February 13, 2009


It’s hard to believe I’ve been here for almost two weeks now; time has flown by. I’m just beginning to remember which of the six switches in my bedroom turn on the light. I still catch my salwaar in the car door every day. At lunch today, Lindsay had finished eating and the other volunteers weren’t back yet so the staff took advantage of the empty chairs and ate with me. For the first five minutes there was complete silence, even Bela (the program director) sat quiet. Finally Sunil cracked a joke in Hindi that got everyone into a light hearted conversation (even the solemn cook whose name I still don’t know smiled and joked). While they talked and laughed in Hindi, my mind wandered. Though so much is still new to me here, scenes from the daily drive to work and back replayed in my mind. There is no way to describe Delhi without experiencing it. I may never know or understand the significance or stories behind what I see yet every day I pass people and places that are becoming familiar to me. I think of them as snapshots of the city.
- On my way to the market, I pass a Mosque with red stones and a dirt courtyard. It’s over a hundred years old, Ekraj tells me as we head off to add minutes to my new Nokia cell phone.
- Stuck in traffic I look up at the green and white bus just feet from me. A woman in a bright pink and orange shawl rests her head on her hand as she leans on the window. Her face is somber as she sleeps.
- Police officers in tan uniforms reminiscent of the Imperial British of a bygone era sit by their guard stands and play cards or chat on corners.
- Children build tiny towers out of rubble while their mother’s carry bricks on their heads to build sidewalks.
-  Sikh men tie bandanas around their full beards and tuck them into the wrap of their pugaree (turban) while mounting motorcycles.
- Women in heels talk on cell phones as they wait for the bus and try not to catch the dust of passing cars.
- Blue and white ribbons, flowers, and fabric adorn the gate of a politician’s house on Parliament Street in preparation for a wedding.
- Girls sitting side-saddle watch passing traffic as they cling to men driving motorcycles that weave through the crowded streets.
- Our neighbor, Mr. Jafa, stands in the garden in his gray sweat suit every morning as I walk to the CCS office. He waves as I pass and then turns back to the flowers. Last night he invited Tom, Lindsay, Laiah, Shanta, and I over for dinner. When he opened the door in a suit and tie, I felt a bit under-dressed in my sweatshirt and jeans. He and his wife welcomed us with a delicious dinner and captivating conversation. Talk ran from oil, the Middle East, optimism, and America to the future and hope for my generation. I left with new friends and new perspectives.
- The same beggar girl walks along the cars that stop at a certain traffic light. She holds out her hand and points to her sleeve that hangs loose where an arm should be. Today she stood at Belah’s window (in the front seat) between our car and a school bus. I caught her glancing up at the children her own age, laughing and singing to each other in their clean sweaters on their way home from class. For a fleeting second as she turned back to the window, we made eye contact through the glass. We’ve seen each other several times before but just then it was different. For that one second, we understood each other and smiled.
India cannot be captured in pictures or even words. India is the joy of the guard when you thank him for finding your lost wallet (and yes, I lost my wallet but somehow it was found again- credit card intact, only $30 missing). India is the smile behind Jasi’s kind eyes as he looks in the review mirror of his taxi. India is the sound of honking and chanting and men singing while they cook.  India is a land, a people, and a way of life.

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