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. :)