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

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Remiss in Blogging

Sorry that is has taken almost a month for me to post this. I wish I could say I have been busy but that fact of the matter is that my life has been so boring that I have had nothing interesting to write about. I know, it is a lame excuse but the most accurate reflection of reality.

In the past month I have spent more time trying to get a tooth root-canal'd than doing research. While I was in Karauli I noticed that my right eye tooth was hurting when I bit down on things. Ian and I debated whether I should get it looked at in B'pur or go to Delhi. After being in exile for three weeks, I wasn't in a hurry to leave again, so I decided to get it looked at in Bharatpur. We got a recommendation for a dentist...the most famous dentist in B'pur. I went and he said that it wasn't decay (which is what I was afraid of), but that my root was damaged. He said that I would need a root canal. Again, Ian and I debated. Should I get a root canal in Bharatpur...this lovely, choti-moti (small, unimpressive) city or should I go to Delhi? Again, I decided that I would stick with the Bharatpuri dentist. His office seemed clean and well supplied and he seemed competent. Well, let's just say that they do root canals a bit differently here than I had heard about in the United States. It was a simple 10 minute procedure at first but I had to come back a couple more times before the treatment would be complete. Then I started to worry that he hadn't done it right. So I ended up going to Delhi afterall. Ian had been planning a trip and I decided that I would join him and get a second opinion on the tooth (a second opinion, mind you, after the first dentist had drilled a hole in my tooth and "cleaned it" with a small, pipe cleaner like doo-hickey). Now I bet that all you are thinking that the Delhi dentist saved that day by fixing what the Bharatpur dentist had done, but NO! Instead he said, "Your Bharatpur dentist has done a very good job, a very good job indeed. You don't need me. Go back to Bharatpur and let him finish his work!" So today, I went back to my dentist and he finished the root canal and put in a filling. It is still a little sensitive but both dentists said that should fade within a few days.

In more pleasant news, last Saturday was Raksha Bandan, on which sisters tie embrodery floss-like bracelets on their brothers' wrists in order to protect them. In return, the sisters get small gifts like cloths and money. You can also "make" new brothers by tying a rakhi on a male friend. So I have six new brothers--the two sons of my landlady and four of my most favorite and loyal RWs. And I made a small fortune...Rs. 400 in the deal. :)

There is another big holiday coming up the day after tomorrow. The birthday of Krishna, one of the Hindu gods who was supposed to be born about 40 kms, is on Sunday and people makes lots of sweets and go to very spirted programs at Krishna temples.

I think that is about all for now...I will endevour to be better about writing, even if it is to say that nothing is happening. :)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Research: In progess

For those of you who might have thought that I am just goofing off here in sunny Bharatpur (like the park director who said to me, "What are you doing? What have you done?), I acutally did some real work this week. I finally was able to get some interviews this week which makes me think that I might actually get a PhD yet. It isn't necessarily the way that I envisioned things going and problably not how fieldwork manuals would recommend, but I'll take what I can get. My one RW, Gurdeep, took it upon himself to recruit people in his typically smart-ass way. He went over to another RW who was dozing in his rickshaw and said, "Madam needs to take your interview. Go over there and talk to her." Of course the sight of me tape recording our conversation brought over other rickshaw-wallas as well as people passing by (that is really not ideal). But after the first person did it, others were more willing to sit through the process. So far, the interviews have been a little shorter than I want them to be which might just be a result of the fact that we are sitting on the edge of the road with five to six people listening in. But its a start...I can always follow up with people later.

Besides that, Ian went to a near by village for three days to attend a function at a temple there. He said that it was frustrating sometimes that he couldn't understand what people were saying to him because of the rural dilect. I told him that he couldn't complain. That is the way it is for me ALL the time. And he didn't have someone telling him that his spouse's Hindi is SOOO much better than his own. I have to remember sometimes not to get angry at Ian for his Hindi compentency but it always irks me when people compare us.

One of our professors from Syracuse will be visiting us in two weeks. Initially I was a little nervous...what if she thinks I'm not doing a good job? But now I am just looking forward to spending time with someone who knows the other me. :)

Weather is still hot and sticky. It rained this morning but we need more.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Interview, anyone?

Well, this is the end of the first week of the park being open. Though the tourists have been spotty, I think everyone is glad to be back even if it is just to sleep in their rickshaws. I have started asking people about interviewing them and they are a little suspicious of the whole enterprise. I'm hoping that if one person gets interviewed, he can pass the word along that I am not going to stick pins under their finger nails or ask them ridiculously hard questions. So, I am going to keep plugging away at it. Hopefully, I can pin down either Bhagat or Gurdeep to be my first "victim." :)

In other news, our landlady's daughter is getting engaged this week so I am actually going to be taking off two days at the park to spend with the Sharmas. Auntie drives me crazy but I like Priyanka so I don't really mind. I'll try to remember to take pictures so I can show you my digs (which I haven't done up to now...weird, huh?)

Ian is still in Delhi. He was planning on coming back a couple days ago but our friend Mather was in an accident. Overall, she is okay, but she broke her collar bone so Ian decided to stay with her while she is in the hospital. Mather took such good care of Ian when he was sick with his fever last fall that I'm glad he is there to help her now.

It rained all day here yesterday which is good news. I hope it can keep in up! If you are the praying type, please put in a word or two.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Palace Pictures...

Oh, I finally got a chance to upload a couple photos from Karauli. I wasn't able to get one of the market, because pulling out a camera here is like asking to be mobbed by small children. I just wasn't up for it. But here are the digs where I stayed... The picture on top is the building in which I stayed and the one beneath it is the residence of the Maharaja and Maharani.

Back to the Daily Grind

Ian and I had a nice mini-vacation in Delhi to celebrate our anniversary. We didn't do anything specialy really, but it was just nice to be together. We were going to see a movie, but after perusing the selection we decided that it wasn't worth our time (Hindi movies are about 3 hours long!) or our money. So instead we spent the day browsing in shops, and we finished the day with a wonderful dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.

Ian is staying in Delhi until next week, but I decided to come back a little bit early. The park is opening on the 1st of July (yea!!!) and I wanted to be ready for that. So I have spent the last few days visiting with people and catching up. And once the park opens, I really am going to start my interviews (come hell or high water).

So after all the excitement of Karauli and the celebration of Ian's birthday and our anniversary, life is finally settling back down to normal. I must say I am ready for my 10 cups of chai, sharing lunch with my RWs, and finally making progress on my research!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ian's Birthday

Today is Ian's 30th birthday (and he will probably get very angry that I am posting it so widely). We spent the day pretty uneventfully here in Bharatpur. In Indian culture, it is the resposibility of the person whose birthday it is to give sweets and, if there is any sort of party, to pick up the tab. We decided against the party because we had a feeling that it might drain our bank account but Ian did distribute sweets to people we know that he met this morning in town. He also decided that he wanted to cook himself dinner instead of going out to eat. It is a good thing that he likes to cook because he would starve if I was in charge of the kitchen. All of my RWs think it is funny that he is at home making dinner while I am hanging out with them in the bazaar. It is completely opposite from anything that they have ever known. :)

The day after tomorrow we are going to Delhi to celebrate our anniversary. Ian also has some other work to do, so I am going stay for four or five days and head back to Bharatpur. It seems as though the Gurjar agitation is officially over so there should be no more problems travel-wise.

Hope all is going well in the States. I have heard that there has been some more wacky weather in the Northeast. Watch out for the hail! The monsoon has started here about two weeks early but so far the rains seem to be good. Knock on wood because my RWs need a good rainy season if they are going to make a living this winter. Take care and I will post more soon...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Back in Bharatpur

I have escaped from Karauli and arrived back in Bharatpur this morning around 9 am. Actually, it was one of the most sedate, uneventful car rides I've ever had in India. You would never have known that anything was amiss except for the road was pretty empty. That is why we made excellent time...3 hours. Unbelievable! I am very glad to be back in Bharatpur safe and sound. Ian and I went out to lunch, and I think this afternoon we are going to relax at our house or maybe go into to town to catch up with people. It'll depend on how tired I am. I got so used to sitting around in AC that I am a little worn out with the walking.

From here, I don't know what our plan is. We were originally planning to go to some place in the hills for our anniversary and for Ian's birthday which we scraped. Then we thought maybe we would go to Delhi, but we will have to see how things go in the next couple of days. In any case, we'll be together! :)

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Agitation Continues

Greetings from Karauli! It is now day 16 of the agitation and I am still tucked away at Bhanwar Vilas (a.k.a. the palace). The leader of the agitation is just demanding really silly things now so I don't know how long they will keep it up. Hopefully, I will be home by next week.

In the last couple of days, I have decided that I should just prepare for winter. First, I finished the quilt top that I started in January. I am planning on finishing the quilt itself when I get back to Bharatpur. I will probably buy some cotton fabric and see if the guy who makes bed covers by the one temple in town will give me some cotton fill. I'm not going to quilt it but tie it, at least until I get back to the states. Then I have been working to finish up the socks that I started last fall. I didn't get much done on them when we were with the students and I have been working on them a little bit since we have been back to Bharapur. But with 12-14 hours on my hands, I think I'll have them finished by tomorrow. So even though it is 100+ degrees now, I am ready for 30 degree weather. :) I just don't know what I will do once I am done with the socks. I might have to go out to the bazaar and see what other kind of crafty project I can hunt up.

After finishing up with email, I think I am going to go look in some of the shops near by and then head back for dinner. Hopefully the cable will be back on this evening so I can get my fill of Hindi soap operas! Another exciting night in Karauli! ;)

P.S. This computer doesn't have a USB port so pictures and what not will have to wait for me to get back to Bharatpur. Sorry...

Friday, May 30, 2008

Anthroplologist, Interrupted

(No anthropologists have been harmed in the making of this blog)

I should have known that the trip to Karauli was ill-fated when my RW friend backed out at the last minute, citing family obligations. But normally not a person to be disuaded by bad omens, I insisted on still going. So I waited until Ian returned from Delhi and we set out in the morning on May 19th for Karauli, on a Rajasthan Roadways bus of course. Well, the bus broke down about an hour outside of Bharatpur. We waited on the bus while the driver tried his best to get her going again. Then another bus, headed in the direction of Karauli stopped and we, the white people, got first dibs on "seats" (for awhile I was sitting on the shifter cover, next to the driver). We finally got to Karauli in the early afternoon, and arrived at the heritage hotel, at which I thought I had made reservations. The woman who greeted us looked confused, if not inconvienced, at the sight of us. After a bit of discussion, she agreed that we could stay a few nights though the hotel was techinically closed. It turns out that this heritage hotel is acutally run by the erstwhile royal family of the State of Karauli (which like Bharatpur was ruled separately until India got its independence from Britain) and the woman that we first spoke to was their daughter. They are much more laid back than I would have expected a royal family to be and once they found out that we were students, and not just random tourists, they were really nice. After learning that the palace is the only place in Karauli that accepts foreign guests (due to something called the C-form), the Maharaja agreed to let me stay for a week. This was on the 20th of May. On the 21st, Ian left to return to Bharatpur. The plan was that I would stay for a week to 10 days and find out more about the Panchna dam and the villages that it serves; the Maharaja had given me a contact at the irrigation department. Everything seemed to be going my way. And then...

The Gurjars, an agricultural community who has been asking for a special legal status, decided to protest. The word they use in India is agitation...I don't know if that means those protesting are supposed to be agitated or those affected by the protests but let me tell you, I am agitated. When they protested last spring they burnt buses and police stations,so the government decided to halt all bus service in the eastern part of the state. During this protest, the Gurjars have decided to tear up rail road tracks, so they have rerouted train services. Therefore,I haven't been able to go to any of the villages that I wanted to go to and the guy from the irrigation department said that is wasn't a good idea to go to the dam. So basically, I have been stuck in Karauli for a week now. Well, eight days to be exact.

The first couple days was great. I have AC and a western style toilet. They listen to me when I say I don't want roti and serve me rice instead. I was able to get some reading and writing done that I had not been able to do in Bharatpur. I was working on my quilt top. I felt relaxed and productive. Then the fourth and fifth days hit...The Maharaja asked them to move a TV into my room. That helped, but as we all know from the United States, there is never really anything on TV. So I have been flipping between the random American movies they show on Star Movies (has anyone seen the Ringer?), Hindi soap operas, and criket. By all means, cricket is my favorite. Today I finally asked about the Internet, and the Maharaja's hotel manager had to scour the town to find someone who had an interent connection (though I must say I am pretty impressed with it).

There isn't much to see in Karauli. It makes Bharatpur look like a major metropolis. Ian and I toured its old palace (the one which the Maharaja lived in before the new palace was built in the 1930s) and went to the main Krishna temple. Its main industry is red sandstone. They also make and sell lac bangles and rolling pins. I have now bought both. I am going to give the bangles to some of my informants wives and daughters. The rolling pins...I'm going to keep one and probably gift the other to Auntie.

One of the good things about being here is that we were able to meet another PhD student from England who is doing her research at the Kaila Devi tiger sanctuary. There are actually 40 villages that lie within the sanctuary, and she is looking at the villagers perceptions of the park,tigers, etc. Since it is the old hunting grounds of the Maharajas of Karauli, the current Maharaja has taken an interest in her project. It was good to commiserate (sp?) with someone else who is doing research.

Oi vey...What an adventure!! Hopefully, next time I'll write it will be from Bharatpur, though the Maharaja said that it will probably be a few more days. Don't worry about the protests...I am safe and I won't go on the roads until I know that everything has died down.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Leaving on a Rajasthan Roadways Bus

The past week has been truly strange, in that sad, melancholy, things-are-going-to-change sort of way. On May 1st, Keoladeo National Park closed for two months. It is the first time since it became a national park that it has closed. Some people are saying it has closed so they can do maintainence, others to save money. In any case, my RWs and the guides have needed to find something else to do for the time that it is closed. Though some RWs always find other work in the summer due to the lower number of tourists, usually there are about 30 who work at the park all year long. I could tell people where upset by it all; in the days leading up to the closure, people were quieter and more distracted than usual. Most of the Sikh guys are now plying their rickshaw in the city so I run into them, but it isn't the same as when we are together at the park. For me, the sadness of the park closure is heightened by the fact that I am leaving for two months. Tomorrow I am leaving for my other field site, Karauli. It is about three hours away by bus, though I have heard that the road is pretty bad. I am guessing that in the US it is a trip that would probably take about an hour. Two months isn't that long, but I am really sad that I have to leave Bharatpur and the people here. I didn't think I was going to get so attached. If this is what I feel like when I am going away for a short time, how am I going to feel when I leave at the end of the year????

Okay, enough of my feeling sorry for myself. I have to run and pack, go to the market, and try to meet some people before I go. I will probably be off of the internet for a few weeks but I will try to get something up.

Monday, April 21, 2008

News Flash: Anthropologist Fed to Death by Informants

Indian hospitality is going to kill me. I can't eat one more roti (flat bread)! All week I have been waging battles with my rickshaw-wallas about food. Imagine if you will that it is 90+ degrees and all you want is a nice spinach salad with a light balsamic vinegrette. But instead you get two heavy pieces of roti and a nice heaping pile of spice fried potatoes. My stomach just can't handle it any more. A few nights ago I went to the house of one of my RW's. His wife had cooked fish which was served with roti AND rice. I got through the rotis but couldn't finish the rice. Gurdeep looked hurt, but I don't know what is worse: being offended by my not eating or watching me vomit of the verandah (sorry, that is kind of graphic).

Besides that, we have been busy attending all sorts of functions. On 13 April, we were invited to the Gurudwara (a Sikh temple) by some of my RW to celebrate Baishaki. It marks the founding of the religion as well as the start of the harvest. It was a nice program of devotional music though Ian and I couldn't understand much of the Panjabi. The program was ended with langar with is a communal meal. In contrast to Hinduism, in which people of different castes can not eat together, the Sikh langar represents that everyone is equal. So we all sat on the floor and ate off of banana leaf plates. The menu: an spicy potato dish and ROTI!

Last Friday I went to a goddess temple outside of the city with Gurdeep and his family. It was part religious pilgrimmage, part county fair. There was a ferris wheel, lots of vendors selling everything from trinkets to household items, and of course food stalls. Gurdeep's sons even got tatoos from a traveling tatoo artist. Can anyone say hepatitis?

This week is full of weddings. Tonight we are going to a ladies' sangeet which will include singing and dancing prior to a wedding. Tomorrow and Wednesday there will be two weddings--one Hindu and one Sikh. It will be interesting to see how they are similar and different.

The Park is closing at the end of the month so I will be leaving for Karauli, which is 100 km from Bharatpur to talk to people about water issues. I have a feeling I won't have much internet access so I will try to get up another post before I leave.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Mehndi and Bindis and Bangles...Oh my!

The last week or so has been one of social visits for Ian and I. Last Sunday, we went to the house of one of my rickshaw-wallas on the outskirts of town. He was very excited about having us and particularly about fixing me mutton (don't tell my land lady). All of my rickshaw wallas are happy that I eat meat (and wish that Ian did too). It was a wonderful night...he is such a great guy and his family is really nice. They have also invited us to a wedding at the end of April, so today I went to the market to get my sari ready and buy new bangles.

A couple days later, I was invited to a wedding of one of the rickshaw-wallas sons by the Sikh tonga walla (horse-cart driver). I agreed to go and he said "I'll pick you up at 4 tomorrow and drop you off at your house afterward). I figured that we would go by tonga and that it would be a whole evening function, but the next day (@ 2:30) a rickity old jeep-like car pulled up at the gate of the park with three guys crammed in the front seat. "What happened?" I said thinking that things never start early in India. But, strangely enough, things had gotten started earlier than expected and the food was going to be served at 4pm. Okay, I thought, but I still don't know where the wedding it?? It turned out the it was the day BEFORE the wedding for the groom's family and that is was very close by... I was home by 5 pm. But the ladies of the family had great fun to paint my finger nails and apply mehndi (henna paste) to my hands. I also got to play with cute babies. :)

Last night, Ian and I went to one of his informant's houses for dinner. In some ways there is a stark contrast between my lower class Sikh and Hindu guys and the (formally) educated, middle class people with whom Ian works. While anything really goes with my guys, Ian's informants have a definite idea of what I should do and how I should behave (not unlike our land lady). The man and his wife immediately started telling me that I should be wearing a bindi (the "dot" that married women wear on their forehead), sindur (red powder along the part of the hair), bangles, earrings and toe rings. Not only do Hindus think tha things insure a long life for my husband, but they also mark me as an upstanding married woman. I was already wearing earrings and bangles but they sent off their daughter-in-law to find the other required items. They were able to pull out a bindi for me and apply sindur but alas! they did not have extra toe rings. :)

Hopefully, I will begin interviews with my rickshaw-wallas (RWs) next week. Though they all say they are willing to be interviewed it has been hard to nail them down to a time. Ian's work is also going well...he has been talking with bookshop and tape shop owners about different forms of history materials that they sell. So far, so good!

Let us know how things are going over there on the other side of the world. The RWs are always asking what the weather is in America. :)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Feeling hot, hot, hot...

Though everyone talks about the changing of seasons here, there really is no period of day it is cold and the next it is hot. It is averaging about 80-90 degrees over here and people say it is going to get even hotter in May and June. I personally don't mind the heat, especially now that Ian and I have a fan for sleeping at night, but all my rickshaw pullers are worrying about how I will fare.

Overall, things are going well. I had a bit of a stomach bug last week. Our high caste landlady insisted that it was the "low caste" food I had been sharing with the rickshaw-wallas but I doubt it. I think it must have just been a bit of a virus...nothing too serious, just unpleasant for a couple of days. However, it did raise the issue of the fact that our landlady doesn't like the people I work with...she even went so far as to send her son out to tell some of my guys not to feed me. Oi vey!

On the 21-22 March, we celebrated Holi, which is the North Indian Festival of Colors. The first day is a day of worship in which offerings are given to the goddess and at night bonfires are lit and freshly cut wheat is roasted in the fire and eaten as "prasad" or blessed food. The second day is the actually day of "playing" Holi, when colored powder or colored water is thrown on people. Ian and I have pictures which I will try to get up this week. Again, everyone was worried about our well being since it is a big drinking holiday, but all the people we played with were well-behaved.

Besides that, Ian and I have been meeting with people for our research. I hope to start interviews with some of my guys next week so I can get a fair amount done before I head off to Karauli at the beginning of May.

Finally, we finally remembered to ask about our address. Here it is:

Emera Bridger and Ian Wilson
c/o M.C. Sharma
335 Rajendra Nagar
Bharatpur Rajasthan 321001 INDIA

Letters would definitely be welcomed. :)

Friday, February 29, 2008

Emily's Visit Continued

We arrived in Jaipur on the 20 February by bus, and after dropping our stuff at Arya Niwas we went to the Anokhi showroom which has a really yummy cafe. You can actually get salad there which is not super scary. The next day we went to City Palace, Hawa Mahal (the Palace of Winds), and the Jantar Mantar (a astronomical observatory built in the 18th century). Unfortunately, everything in Jaipur seems to be under renovation which was a bit disappointing for Em. For that reason we also decided not to go up to the two forts north of Jaipur because they were also under renovation.

The next day we caught a train to Sawai Madhopur, which is about two hours southeast of Jaipur to go the Ranthambore Tiger sanctuary/national park. It was a really nice chair car that was only half full...only a few Indians and a handful of foreign tourists. We arrived around 3 pm and the manager of the hotel asked if we wanted to go into the park and see the fort and the temple that is located there. Though we were planning on going on safari the next day, we decided that seeing the fort and temple might be nice too. We had a great driver/guide that took us around and on our way back we got word that there had been a tiger sighting. The driver said "I go you mind if I go fast to see the tiger." We said that we didn't mind and we went flying down the mountain in an open air jeep. I am glad that he did go fast because we were able to see a real honest to God TIGER...a pretty good size male... right on the border of the park. The safari the next day was a little disappointing after the wonderful afternoon we spent at the fort and we didn't end up seeing much and our guide was less than helpful.

Leaving Ranthambore turned out to be a little bit more of an adventure, including a swindling porter who demanded Rs. 500 for WHEELING our luggage to the train car. We had bought two berths in a three tier sleeper, but when we boarded the train we found out that our berths were inaccessible because people were still sleeping. To be able to sit comfortably the upper berths are folded up to create essentially benches on which three people can sit. Though a sketchy Israeli man offered Emily and I a seat with him, we decided it was best to forgo the offer. So Emily and I climbed up to one of the upper berths and slouched there uncomfortably for about three hours until we reached Bharatpur. It was harder on Em since she is taller than me but even so I hate getting up and down from upper berths.

Unfortunately, Emily got a stomach bug in Bharatpur. Her stomach had been feeling "funny" but she really felt like crap once we had arrived. We are still unsure of what it was but it was something gradual...she didn't have the severe/sudden symptoms of food poisoning or E. coli, etc. Perhaps she had eaten something a little off but my hunch is that her body was just adjusting to India. Ian and I have definitely been there. So we laid low for a couple of days after going to the doctor for an Indian antibiotic cocktail. Em saw a little bit of the bird sanctuary and made one quick trip into the city to do some shopping. Luckily, she felt better for the trip to the Deeg Water Palace and Mathura and had made almost a full recovery for the trip to Agra.

The first day in Agra we went to see Itmad-Ud-Daulah's Tomb, which is sometimes called the "Baby Taj" It has beautiful inlay work and a really pretty garden. The next day we went to see the real Taj at sunrise. I didn't really make the rounds of the Taj because I was freezing, so I found a patch of sunlight to bask in while Emily and Ian went into the monument proper. After that we went to the Agra Fort, which is one of Ian and my favorite Mughal forts. Then we took in some shopping, went to McDonald's, and went to a new Bollywood movie about the Mughal emperor Akbar. It was neat to see the way they depicted the Agra fort after just having been there. The cinematography was also beautiful, though the really Persianate language was a bit difficult for even Ian to understand.

Yesterday we returned to Delhi, had a nice dinner, and saw Emily off to the airport. I can't believe how quickly these last thirteen days went. It was great to have Emily here and to show her around. India is a hard place to really wrap your head around until you've been here, and even then it sometimes is too weird and surreal for someone who has spent some time here to understand, so it is nice that Emily can relate a little bit to what we do. I thought that it might make me more homesick but it actually helped to relieve some of it. Now Ian and I have to get back to work...we will be heading back to Bharatpur today and next week I have to meet with the director of the park to get permission to continue my work in the park. Though I don't think he will refuse to give me permission it still makes me a little nervous.

On a good note, it is getting warmer and I have been able to retire my long underwear though at night I still wear my flannel PJ's. In a couple weeks it should be hot, which I am very much looking forward to. :)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Emily Comes to Visit

My friend Emily Cloyd has arrived from DC to spend two weeks with Ian and I in India. Of course I was unlucky enough to get sick right before she arrived and wasn't able to pick her up from the airport. Fortunately, Ian was able to go and use his tall blondness to get her attention. I am feeling a little bit fever anymore, just a very snotty, stuffy nose. We have been very busy since Emily got here..the first day we took her to Lodi Gardens and did some shopping at Kahn Market, which is a nice market in south Delhi. Selfishly, we took her to an Italian restaurant that we love since we have been Indian food-ed out. Yesterday, we did a quick trip to old Delhi and visited the Jama Masjid (a mosque that was built in the 16th or 17th century). We then took her to a Jain temple and a Sikh temple (gurudwara) before lunch at a famous kabab restaurant called Karim. Needless to say, Emily was completely overwhelmed by the crowded streets and crazy traffic so we opted for a more relaxing afteroon at Humayun's tomb. Emily enjoyed the gardens though we could have done without the screaming school boys..."HELLO!! HELLO!!! HELLO!!!!!!" We finished the day at our friend Nidhi's parents' house. Nidhi is in the same department as Emily at ESF and she lived next door to Ian and I when we stayed at the Plaza. Her parents were very welcoming, making our favorite Indian dishes. Today, we are off to the old fort and some handicraft places. Tomorrow, we head to Jaipur for a VERY quick tour of the Pink City.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

In Bharatpur, drinking lots of chai

The last couple of weeks here in Bharatpur have been simulatenously busy and uneventful. Our apartment is slowly getting settled. Last week we experienced some unfortunate plumbing problems...We were woken up twice last week at four o'clock in the morning to the sights sounds and sights of water rushing down our bathroom wall. Fortunately, in India, houses are made out of concrete and stone so the water damage was kept to a minimum but it still made a mess. The first time it was because the carpenter sunk a nail into the water pipe and the second time the upstair tank where the water is stored overflowed. But now, all is well. Our water is working without a hitch. Now we are just waiting for our gas connection in the kitchen so we can get that up and running, so we can make ourselves breakfast and lunch.

During the day, Ian and I "do our research" which sounds much more complicated than it really is. He goes to a library that is located in the old part of the city and speaks to people there about history and folklore. I walk to Keoladeo National Park and try to speak with people about tourism. So far, I have hit it off with some rickshaw pullers (a rickshaw is a three wheeled mode of transportation which a man rides like a bicycle while you sit on the seat in back). Both of us, in our attempts to be friendly, get served lots of chai, Indian style tea that has ginger, milk and A LOT of sugar. One cup is good, two cups is okay, but these days we are averaging 8 to 10 cups a day (albeit the cups are small by American standards). So far, I have not been able to find a way to effectively say no.

Some days feel productive but there are other days that feel like nothing has gotten done. I have also reached the limits of my Hindi, and though everyone has been nice about it, I get very frustrated. People say that in language learning you often hit plateaus where you don't learn anything new or have a great deal of trouble followed by a "breakthrough" during which you pick up new things and reach new levels of competence. I am waiting for my breakthrough. :)

At night, Ian and I play cards, read, or work on other projects (like my quilt top) when we aren't invited over to people's houses. We have found that many people want us to visit, so much so that we have to be careful not to overschedule ourselves. I guess that is one down side of two people doing their work at once.

The weather here is slowly changing. Last week it was really cold, but this week the afternoons have been boarding on warm thought the mornings are still a bit nippy. People are telling us that by the end of February, the weather will be warm. I can't wait...I am sick of the cold. As many of you know, I can't stand being cold and in the US I often turn the heat up to 73 and curl up under a blanet to get warm. However, in our concrete and marble home there is no indoor heating so it is always cold, so I never feel like a ever get truly warm. I hope the weather in the States is also warming up and that there aren't too many late winter storms.

I'll write again after Emily's visit to let everyone know of our adventures with her...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

(Almost) Settled in Bharatpur

Sorry it has taken so long to get this up...Ian and I have had a very busy and exciting three weeks. Our stay in Delhi was good...we worked on the report we have to write for the Consortium as well as attended the AIIS Junior Fellows Conference. We were able to learn about other people's research and we met three or four people who we will probably stay in touch with. After the conference, Ian stayed on to get registered, while I went to Jaipur to do the same. After Ian arrived in Jaipur, we spent a couple days relaxing before going to Jaipur. We were really ready to much so we even rented a car (with driver) rather than messing with Indian public transportation. Since we arrived we have been meeting with potential contacts as well as eating at people's houses (we have at least three outstanding invitations)...hospitality is huge here and they won't let you get away hungry! :)

With the help of a man who works at the hotel at which Ian and I are staying (and have stayed in the past) we have found a one room flat with kitchen and bath. It is a little smaller than we had originally planned but I think it will work out well. The room is part of a larger house which is being remodeled and the family with whom we will be living is very nice. We'll probably move in in the next few days and when I have an address I will pass that along to you all.

In a couple of weeks my friend Emily will be coming to visit. She will be staying for about two weeks and we are planning to travel in and around Bharatpur since there is still so much Ian and I have yet to see...we thought it would be nice to do it with Em.

Keep in touch and take care....