Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Quick Update!!

Well, it is December 4th and I haven't written since October. Yes, I deserve to be beaten with a wet noodle but I've have been busy. Here is the update...

For two weeks at the end of October and beginning of November we were the leaders for Syracuse's Rajasthan Traveling Seminar. We had four students--three from Syracuse and one from Emory. We toured Delhi, went to the Taj Mahal, stayed in Bharatpur for Diwali (the Hindu "festival of lights"), stayed in Jaipur for a few days and then returned to Delhi via Nawalgarh. It was a whirlwind tour but I think the students really enjoyed it. They were great kids...SO different from last year's Syracuse students!

After we wrapped that up, I had surgery on that pesky tooth. It turns out that the root canal didn't get everything that it needed to get and there was a huge infection raging in my tooth/bone. So they performed an apiectomy (sp?) which laid me up in Delhi for ANOTHER week! I was so anxious to get back to Bharatpur....

Finally around the 15th of November I arrived back in Bharatpur and then last week I got a really bad cold which laid me up in bed for three days. So in the last two months I really haven't been able to do much work. I'm getting really nervous about it too but hopefully the next few months will be uneventful health-wise so I can make some head way.

Now that things are back on track I hope to be better about posting updates...So check back soon!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Guilt...the Indian way

You have probably heard about Catholic guilt or Jewish guilt, but have you ever heard about Indian guilt? It is the lesser known but still annoying form of guilt that at least anthropologists have to deal with...maybe Indians themselves don't recongize it as guilt itself. I am by nature a people-pleaser so when I first came to Bharatpur, I was really upset when people said things like, "I've been waiting for you for the whole day!!!" I thought, "Wow! I'm a real schmuck" But soon I realized it is just a form of Indian passive-aggressiveness.

Let me give you an example...Last night I attended a wedding reception. I was driven to the wedding reception by a park RW that I am not very close to but who has been asking me to his house for awhile now. I told him that I couldn't come then because the reception wouldn't get out early enough. Then when I came out of the dinner, he was waiting for me. He said, "Come to my house for tea. I called my daughter to come to meet you." I said, "Why did you do that? I told you I could't come. You should have ASKED" "But she will be soooooo disappointed." For awhile, I thought maybe it was because I didn't know Hindi well enough but then I realized that it is a combination of people not listening to me (not not understanding my Hindi but actively not listening) and the hope that their guilt trip might be successful. And I hate to be rude but eventually I had to say "NO!!! I won't come to your house tonight!!!!"

If that interaction wasn't painful enough, it happened again this morning. I was about to leave the house when my landlady stopped me. She said that a beauty parlor down the street was having a mendhi contest and she told them that I would come. When I told her I couldn't, she implied that I don't do any work anyway so why couldn't I come. And then her last ditch effort was..."But I told them that you would come!!"

This guilt-tripping system is also intricately linked with the Indian sense of time, particularly the fact that Indians seem to think that Ian and I have nothing but time, that we don't have any other obligations or plans. In additon to that, they think their functions should come before anything else. The same RW who drove me to the wedding brought up the fact that I had missed his daughter's engagement. He said to the person standing with us, "I gave her a card and everything but she didn't come" at which point I said angrily (this was after the conversation about the visit to the house), "You never gave me a card!" "Well I was going to give you a card," he answered, "but you said you were too busy to come." "Nooo," I said, trying to clear my name (in vain, course), "You asked me the day of the engagement and I told you I already had plans. That is diferent than me telling you I was 'too busy'."

I wish these conversations could happen in English or that my Hindi was better because there are definitely things I want to say that I just can't. I am now more quick to say, "Why didn't you ASK!?! Mujhse puchna chaihye!!! You should ASK!"

Well I should go start cleaning my apartment...The holiday of Diwali is coming up and it is customary for people to clean their houses from top to bottom in order to properly welcome the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, and Ganesh, the god of overcoming obsticles as Diwali marks the fiscal New Year. I just know that Auntie is itching to offer to help but I'm not letting that woman into my house anymore. She has sticky fingers and doesn't ASK where things should go, etc. She just does as she pleases.

Hope all is well with everyone! Send emails when you can!!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Gopal's...Where everybody knows your name

Across the street from the main gate of the Park is a little chai stall. There is not much to it...a small wooden shack raised up on bricks with a stone and brick counter in front of it, on which all the implements needed to make chai are kept. It is run by a man named Gopal who lives down the street from Ian and I. Gopal's chai stand is much like Cheers from TV. Everyday the same people congregate for tea (and to drink much harder stuff too). There are the rickshaw wallas who are both customers and helpers. Half the time Gopal doesn't actually make the chai himself; whoever wants tea walks over, turns on the gas and makes it himself. There are also a collection of men from Bharatpur and the closest village, Jatoli, who pass their time there. There is the Pandit (an Indian term for priest that is often used for any Brahmin) and the Lecturer, who never seems to go to the university to teach but is always wasted out of his mind and Guru, a man who used to work at the Park. He is now retired but he doesn't like to stay at home, so he comes to Gopal's in the morning to drink his gin. And then there are guides and water buffalo herders and others who make their guest appearances. I guess I too am a character in this daily show as well--the white woman who talks with the RWs. Does that mean I'm like Shelly Long? :) There is always a bottle of gin or whisky or beer being drunk somewhere and always a game of cards going on. Though sometimes there are arguments, most of the time people are pretty happy-go-lucky. It is definitely one place I will miss when I get back to the United States. Starbucks can't really compare...:)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Jesus has left the building...

For those of you who were concerned about the tone of my last blog, let me assure you that I am in a much better mood now. These things come and go...and I am sure I will miss seeing men peeing on the side of the street after living in the US for a year. :)

Here is a much more light hearted story...

Down the street from our house in Bharatpur is a Catholic school named St. Peter's. When we arrived in Bharatpur in January, they had erected a paper-mache like globe on the top of their building. It is quite large, maybe 10 meters across. Sometimes it rotates and is lit up though there doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason for when this happens. Shortly before Easter, perhaps it was at the beginning of Lent, they installed a 15 foot tall Jesus on top of the world. Ian and I found this funny, if not a bit ironic. The city's Christian population is small, maybe a couple hundred people and the only Catholics in town are the nuns who run a small convent on the school ground. But here in wonderful, multicultural India, we had a huge Jesus murti (religious statue) outside our door. Jesus just joined the crowd of other dieties that inhabit daily life here. We said we should take pictures of it to send to one of the women in our department who is working on Catholicism in South India but we never got around to it...

When we returned from Delhi, Jesus was GONE! We don't know whether they took him down or whether he fell but Jesus is no longer on top of the world. Now everytime I look at the school or drive past it in a rickshaw, I look up and miss Jesus. This highlights what a bad Christian I am but I have thought about Jesus more in the last two weeks than I probably have in the last 10 years and all because his murti is no longer there. I am hoping that he returns around Christmas...mabye they'll put a nativity scene on top of the world. Anything is possible! :)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Can I go home now?

I have been in India for over a year now (minus the 10 day trip home at Christmas) and I have definitely grown to love Bharatpur and some of the people who live there, but I want to go home. If I thought I could write my thesis on the data I have collect up to now, I would be on the first plane home. Let me share with you some of the things I miss...

In the United States, I am a competent adult. In India, I might as well be a "slow" child (read: slow in the short bus sort of way. I can't clean correctly. My landlady seems to think I have never swept a floor, handwashed a piece of clothing, or made a bed before. I can't make roti and the fact that Ian fixes most of the vegetables proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am an awful wife and incomplete woman. And the fact that I can't speak Hindi fluently leads some people to think that I must not be able to speak English fluently either. And I can't dress (see below).

I want to dress in clothes of my choice without people feeling that they need to share their opinions with me. I am sure I wear outfits in the US that my friends and family might not like, but no one is EVER going to be as honest as an Indian. I think there should be an Indian version of What Not to Wear on which Indians torture Westerners about their clothes. The clothes that I had sewn are too loose; they should be tighter (and preferably made out of polyester). If I wear a salwar kameez (a long shirt with baggy pants), I should be wearing a sari (said by my Hindu RW and guides; the Sikhs are happy that I wear salwar kameez). They just don't understand how we function in America where unmarried women and married women wear the same clothes and don't wear sindur, bangles, ankle braclets, and toe rings. How can anyone tell whose who? And no one keeps purdah? Not even in front of your father-in-law? Shocking![Now of course, there are many places in India, especially cities like Delhi, where women don't keep purdah or wear other symbols of a married woman; my informants also think that this is equally as shocking]

I REALLY want to walk down a street and have everyone ignore me. I want to be able to sit on a park bench eating a roast beef sandwich and not have one single person stop to stare. I want to be a place where I don't have to answer questions from passers-by like: Where are you from? What is your job? How much do you make? How much is your rent? Do you speak English or American? Are you married? How many kids do you have? You don't have kids? Why don't you have kids? All Americans get divorced don't they? How long have you been married? And you don't have kids yet?

I want a Western toilet with toilet paper. I want to be able to go to the grocery store and buy toilet paper and not be stared at or feel guilty. I want to be able to go over to friend's house and know with out a doublt that they in fact have a bathroom. I am also looking foward to not seeing anyone else going to the bathroom.

I think that about covers it. I am officially an awful anthropologist. But I think living in another country and living by the rules of their culture is probably one of the hardest things that you can do. On the surface, it is about really superficial things like food and dress, but you would be surprised how deeply those things are tied to your sense of self. I thought one of our students last semester was being overly dramatic when she stated that trying to dress in Indian clothing and learning how to comport herself was making her feel like she was losing her "core" but I can now empathize if not completely agree with her point. I think back to the first time I stayed in Jaipur and I have definitely made least I don't strangle myself with my dupatta (long scarf)on a daily basis anymore but at the end of the day, I want to go back to MY culture. I do not mean to say that somehow American culture is better. Rather, it is what I know...without having to think about it and without having to try. And other people around me can understand where I am coming from.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hanging Out in Delhi

Well, I don't have much to report. Ian and I are currently in Delhi. I was having some stomach issues so we decided to get me checked out in a bigger city. We went to a very nice upscale hospital in Greater Kailash and they gave me some antibiotics and told me to come back for a check up on Friday. That means we have some time to hang out and recharge before heading back to work. So we went to one of our favorite restaurants for lunch and did some shopping. Now we are back at our horribly over-priced but not so impressive hotel watching tv and using their wireless internet. Hopefully tomorrow we can catch a movie! :) Unfortunately, Delhi suffered a terrorist attack last weekend so there is a lot of police out and it has gotten a little hard to move around. However, there doesn't seem to be any reason to think that the terrorist group that took responsibility is planning any more attacks in the capital.

The weather (late rainy season downpours) and my under-the-weatherness has made getting anything done relatively difficult. I spent Sunday and Monday with my RWs and when I get back I am determined to be productive!!! Ian was able to go to some villages last week which was a good. However, he has run into a funny problem where his informants are afraid of giving him the wrong information so they want to go and write down the "correct" history with citations and THEN talk to him. Of course, he wants to know what stories people know, rather than the "Truth" with a capital T.

I will let everyone know when we are back in Bharatpur. Hope all is going well in the States!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Still here

Well, September is here and Ian and I are still plugging along. Things have been slow at the park. Not many tourists, so my RW spend most of the day sleeping in their rickshaws. Not the most stimulating of research situations. Ian is still meeting with people and trying to pin them down for interviews.

The weather is hot and muggy, though we had a nice rain this morning. The monsoon lasts until about mid-September so we should have a few more rainy days before the end of it. The farmers are busy harvesting their summer crops and getting ready to plant mustard and chickpeas.

Besides that, not much is going on. Hopefully I'll have lots to tell next time. Send us news from America. We would love to hear it. And if anyone knows anything about a machine that is suppose to cause the world to end, I would like to know more. My RW were saying that they heard it on the news. Weird, huh? Lots of love! E