Friday, 31 December 2010

नया साल मुबारक हो!

Supr Bath,

Lots of things happened over the last month.

Bijli Mahadev temple
Also known as the Lord Shiva temple, this astounding tourist attraction point is elevated fifteen hundred meters above the sea level. So it goes.

This early December me an Anine got ready to conquer the mountain, mainly to compensate for the recent lack of physical exercise. It wouldn’t be regular us hadn’t we hitchhiked all the way up. We started in the Kullu by-pass an son fund ourselves in a regular Hindustani car – Maruti Suzuki. White metal chassis, plated with black plastic and rust. Maruti looks like this:

But before that, we had a regular conflict on the regular red bridge. I think that me and Anine were governed by the same physical laws to which pressure cookers abide by. So letting some steam off before the trip is good!

So, once we reached the mountain whereabouts we thought of taking a bus after all. As a rule of thumb, buses do not obey regular rules, they are sponsored by destiny…

An hour into our trip we got into the bus and the Kullu city shrank in the horizon, until the tiny dwellings were ablated by the adjacent mountain. Now it was time to stop our bus trip, as there were no free seats available.

Meanwhile, another bus was approaching us, thirty students and teachers from the Mandi College sang joyful songs and danced in the vehicle. We got aboard and the students, mainly testosterone governed guys, “hospitalized us”. I often wish I knew how to dance. Not only Hindu dances, but also Classical European or Polish Polka. I don’t and sat all the way up.
Technically, all the roads finish a kilometer short of the mountain top. So we went. “What a beautiful trek!”, I thought, and the nature smiled, sun smiled, and two cute kale kute smiled at us as well (those dogs got an egg from me later on, surprisingly, refusing Anine’s banana) ;D

We talked and we cursed and we sweat. By the time we reached the mountain top which looked like this:

my sweaty t-shirt froze my body and mind. The scenery up there was beautiful. So was the temple and an honorable “temple–man”, who taught us how to pray (puja) for the Lord Shiva. The tuition fee was dropped into the “charity box”.

Then we lost Anine’s phone. Maybe someone sneaked into the bag, or maybe it rested on the mountain slope who knows. I owned Sony Walkman, and know what it means to lose one of those intelligent music phones.

Our frinds from Mandi gave us a ride home, and we walked over the Lal bridge: this time happy, or simply too tired to quarrel =)

Solang Paragliding
I went paragliding, which qualifies me as a superhero, and managed to loose my cell phone during the trip. For the sake of a good anecdote, I could swear I lost it in the air. One way or the other, the phone was lost and I got Nokia 1080. A thousand rupees phone has many features: bichromatic screen, torch, radio, Panchangam, Cricket game, Snake game, Bouncer game and Devanghari keyboard.

One way or the other, I went paragliding, which qualifies me as a superhero. Avian experience.

On December 11, it was time for Anine to leave. Beforehand we had been sharing a new apartement for ten days. New apartment aside, I FEEL LONELY.

Of course, there are people, especially children, in those few remaining institutions, who support me with..their own presence. Kullu inhabitants are benign and sincere. They help me with Hindi, and I tell them stories about my beautiful country.
You see, India being as big as Europe, not many people have left the subcontinent, just as not many Europeans crossed their own borders. Many locals I spoke to express a desire to visit a foreign country. For the first time, someone honestly wonders where I live, and how could they visit Lithuania. Conversely, the Westerners’ still see the country ruled by the clique of USSR cadres and inhabited by corrupt people. Well, at least I have never felt ashamed of it, as time will heal those wounds.

I’m not the only one who’s missing Anine. Even now I hear people wondering what have I done, to make “the beautiful foreigner” leave Kullu. The others still hold a firm belief of our marital union ;D

My position in the blind school has changed significantly without her. Days are getting colder and colder, and we (teachers) and the children encircle the only stove in the classroom. They constructed the stove pretty hastily, and “the smokes spill over” once too often. That’s why we dedicate the first half an hour before Puja for warming up. Samshe is the most eager when it comes to warming up, few days ago he lost a handful of hair, when it caught fire!

Roiht is the one bringing us the wood, I’m not pretty sure where does he get it from though.;D A few pieces inside the “combustive chamber” and I can read them a story. A story about the dreamy milk maid (dut valla) who spilled her milk and lost everything, a boasting oak tree which got toppled over and the bush, etc.

I have finished the conceptual design of the goal ball. Unfortunately, the huge copper bells were totally muted by the excessive amount of printed media inside the ball. This time I’ll try stuffing the plastic bags inside, as they seem to have better sound conductivity.

Trip to Delhi

I have participated in the training programme on counseling skills on children protection in Delhi. For five days we were taught counseling and empathy and active listening and how to make an Asian PPT presentation 

Delhi is big. I’m glad it’s bigger than the NYC or LA or any other polluted agglomerate on the US. One way or the other, if you climb atop of a 5 storey building, the city in front of you looks like a jungle. Especially the new Delhi, whereas some residential areas resemble Santa Barbara or French Riviera.

The city has over a million of street children. We stayed in the Indian social institute, and next to it there was a Sai (yes, Anine, BABA) Memorial, where street residents could get free rice and other food.

Panki, Ankit’s brother, was my guide for those five days. He is a really warm and interesting person. He showed me the biggest Electronics market in Asia. He took me to the biggest hardware market in Asia. And, finally, he told me of the biggest vegetables market in Asia, which we haven’t seen.

Both of us found the conference interesting in one or the other way. I personally enjoyed all the ladies speakers. They were great communicators (private practice in the US does miracles!), and I have to admit, Indian women have beautiful eyes and smile. Once they are activated together, people tend to be lured into listening, subconsciously. The male speakers positioned themselves firmly into the chairs and gave us the “lecture”.

One way or the other, they must have said many important and compelling counseling techniques, but as long as I were the only English speaker, I couldn’t grasp the fruits of knowledge in Hindi. Well, I learned the meanings of matlab, karenge, sakte, Bahut MUSHKIL!, 100% failure hoga, Ankh mein ankh milake. The latter is my favorite, it means what we known as the “eye contact”. I still don’t get the meaning of bilkul.

I made one friend there, actually, his name is V.K. He is a resident of Uttar Pradesh. He asked me not to forget him, and I won’t.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Playing dough

We stopped being sick and spent an amazing week in our institutions.

Each Saturday we’d creative craft activities with the blind school students, namely the paper hats, massage sessions or Classical music. That Saturday we had to keep 20 children busy in the “morning time”. What we did was the playing dough sculptures.

However, before the actual proceedings, we needed the playing dough itself, which cost around 3 times more in the Indian market compared to Lithuanian enterprises ;))
Anine found a smart way round the problem:

1) 2 cups of flour
2) 1 cup of salt
3) Spoon of baking soda
4) 2 spoons of vegetable oil
5) Water

We haven’t made it before, and obtained the necessary ingredients on the last hour before the actual activity time. So, we didn’t take risks and made the playing dough ourselves, 2 kg at a time! :]

After evenly distributing round sticky balls of dough to the children, we explained them and the teachers, how to make “art” out of it.

Explanations apart, children weren’t as engaged and “talented” as might had expected before. Probably, they have never played with it before and in the first few minutes we found a handful of chapattis rather than pieces of art.

Wait a few minutes though, and keen children will deliver it. Some rolled the “chapatti” between their palms and ended up with a sausage. The others erected it – “Here stands my tower!” - thought Gotham.

It was interesting to observe the children’s adaptation skills developing in front of our eyes. “Impromtu artists” hastened to show off their masterpieces to us: “M’aaaaaaaam! SIIIIIIRRRR!!! Dikhaeeeeeeeeeee!!!!” So that we could reply “Anjee, ye kye ha? (what’s this?)” .

However the totally blind ones still didn’t surpass themselves, or at least that’s what I firmly believe. So, let’s wait for tomorrow’s session and give it another try.

Other highlights

As for the Nepali school, children were happy to see us both together again, following a short Anine’s absence due to the illness. Girls (we mostly work with them, and yes, girls are smarter than boys. Full stop) absolutely adore Anine for her kindness and smile, I don’t know if they like my let’s-get-this-work-done-now approach and general strictness…

But students occasionally do abuse our lenient approaches and lose concentration or even leave the classroom. It is by no means eccentric in Indian “terms”, yet I always take it personally. Apart that, those 4-5 girls are utterly knowledgeable and eager to learn.

After a regular English class, Anine did some song reading and drawing activities, which were a smashing success.

However at once I got terribly startled, when one of the girls asked about the superlative adjectives of “good” once again told me the same old story of “gooder” and “goodest”! We found the correct words in her exercise book, which she has noted down last week. =] I shouted at her, and think to myself now, do I really have any rights to shout at these students.

The drug de-addiction center thanks Peter Wilson for his “balls”. We managed 5 different balls at a time and will try adding more next week. Also, now there are 60 of us, the center received 10 new guys in less than 2 weeks period. Due to Diwali and Dussehra celebrations maybe? ;) So they were asked to choose between playing with my balls or braiding Anine’s yarns ;D Most surprisingly only half of them stayed with Anine.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Back on track

Working Alone

This week I am working alone. Anine is really sick after her “tourist” trip, though tomorrow we are visiting the blind school again.
Being alone proved to be a tough experience: especially when it came to getting to places. Hitchhiking with a girl is a way faster than standing alone by the roadside. It seems that for two weeks we let ourselves loosen up, prepare less and concentrate on our personal businesses instead. This has to change now. It is especially important for her, as her last month countdown is ticking. In the same way, these two weeks gave me time to learn how to live by myself, plan the activities and enjoy the leisure.
There were days when I didn’t speak at all; there was no one to speak to. Except Anil, maybe, he owns a Chay shop just a hundred meters away from me. His Chay shop is typical – little light, dark walls, gas balloon, a few tables and plastic chairs. There is an ashtray and there are smokers. Most importantly, do kute safed he – two white dogs, little puppies which warm my heart in the cold mornings. There is ahbaar- a newspaper, where I look for the familiar letters.
So far I have learned 20 of them, and I estimate there might be up to 50 in the Devenghari alphabet.

Nepali school learns about stars

I travelled to a Nepali school in Manali with Modan. This generous man is waiting for Anine to recover so that we could visit his house. Modan is one of a few Indian men who respect time, his usual words being “9/8/5/4/2 o’clock sharp!” I like it very much, and our trip was interesting – we always find some isues to discuss with. This time we talked on Indian roads, agreed that a good road is a key component for a prosperous economy. Also, he reminded me to love my girlfriend! 

When I came children were reading the story books donated by the Londoners. I was happy to see the books being taken care of, majority of them finding their way back into a brand new metal closet. I quickly formed a gang of five “eagermost” students. We revised comparative adjectives (big-bigger-biggest), and learned some tricky ones (good-better-best and bad-worse-worst). I inadvertently told them that one can describe the whole world with the help of either GOOD or BAD. They are gullible and young, hence believed in me. Finally, we revised tenses as well, namely Present Simple and Present Continuous, followed by the lunch.

What made me sad, was that only a few of them had brought the lunch, so I shared my two bananas with the other 4 girls. And our stomachs filled, we entered the world of Geography and Astronomy.

Although we got them a globe two weeks ago, they haven’t been allowed to touch it ever since. Pretty girls had little understanding why there would be 7 continents, and why some nasty professor would assign India into Asia. However, a cumulative effort from five students - they located India in no less than 5 minutes! Their favorite continent was “Antarctica”, due to its spelling and strange location. Kasun, one of the girls, later said that the southern continent should be “shipped” back to the North, because Antarctica missed its family members: Asia and Europe! However, no-one cared about shipping back Australia, as it stands above India in the world cricket federation standings.

I promised someone really special to teach the girls some Astronomy. Bearing in mind that the Earth isn’t flat anymore, they wondered why it levitates in the space, without falling into the abyss. We drew the Solar system.

However, it turned out to be relatively unproportional. They wondered why the cosmos is dark, and assumed that there has to be a hole throughout our planet in order to put a thread into it. By thread they meant Earth’s orbit. Which I didn’t draw thoroughly enough.

I had to leave at 3pm, and children asked me to promise them we are coming back next Wednesday. Unfortunately, there are only four more classes remaining until the school closes for the winter.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Planes. Trains. Automobiles.

Happy Diwali to begin with!

Five year olds setting off fireworks, rush hour at the candy shops and me all alone. Anine’s gone for her well deserved vocations in Rajastan, then Delhi and Agra. I couldn’t say I’m too lonely but two is a company..
I went to our institutions alone this week and Annine was certainly a missing asset in our activities. However, the blind school worked out nicely for me: we learned to speak about our families, houses and any other imaginable personal information. In other words, we played Facebook, whereas I learned the equivalent words in Hindi. I started taking this language seriously, especially after installing a pirated, but no less valuable Rosetta Stone!

Yet, Ghuruvar (Thursday) left a mark in my mind. I woke up early that day, did yoga and was about to take a shower, when I discovered the water boiler was turned off. It’s an open secret, that our master loves saving electricity and sneaking around our stuff, but this time I’d waken up 1 hour earlier to set get warm water, and after exercise – enjoy a warm shower. What else could a man need in the morning?

I took a cold shower. Some say it strengthens the immune system.

Afterwards I boiled eggs (protein protein!) and ate coco nut.I had to prepare some activities for the drug de-addiction center, remember the Pete’s balls?  Working with these interesting and sometimes unpredicatable guys alone ought to have been a challenge. But after a several lifts I discovered the center was closed, so I ate the Diwali cake and drank Diwali Chay. Now I had to get back to Kalheli, which is around 5 km up North. Who thought I might come there with the Kawasaki Ninja 250, kindly offered by a local Hindu biker. Bikes are abundant here in India, but I’ve never seen a real street fighter before, and riding it felt like home. Except the helmet part which was missing 

Guess what? Kalheli went Diwali too, so after eating a mouthful of candies I headed home. I new automobile stopped, and behind the steering wheel there sat a ..lady. Her license plates were from Himachal, so I proudly proclaimed she was the first woman ever to drive in India! My words cannot be interpreted as sexist, women simply don’t show aptitude for driving, at least according to the male drivers. But what a reversal of furtune it was when I discovered she was the most stereotypical driver ever: she drove steaily at 20km/h, shifting the wrong gear from time to time (she used only 2 of them anyways) and “breaking” when moving from stop-go. What a comedy and tragedy at the same time. I hope no one got into her way.

When I hit the Kullu by pass, I saw a man coming from the Sharab (alcohol) shop with two Kingfishers. He was making himself conmfortable when I approached the vehicle and asked for a lift. So we drove and didn’t speak. The first time I was ashamed to speak with the driver. For a handful of reasons, my clothes were dusty and I smelled of traffic. Then after 10 minutes he tld me in perfect English, “I don’t live in Kullu. I just like driving on the by-pass, there is not traffic.” I replied there surely wasn’t any.

He halted the vehicle and gave me a bottle of “the strongest beer in India” (4%!!!). There we sat and drunk beer. And the valley was generous with its red-orange-gray-green shades. We would lift our rights hands simultaneously for a gulp, as we gulped day became night.
I got off from his car, wished happy Diwali and went straight to the street restaurant to fill my slightly intoxicated stomach. Some people could speak for hours and you would bear no memeory of them. But this gulping and relaxing man truly made my day.
In the evening I felt lonely and boiled some eggs.
By the way, the movie “Planes. Trains. Automobiles.” Wasn’t that bad either, Steve Martin’s and X Candy’s conversations were comic and missing-my-belowed-ones-like. I loved Martin’s monologue, when he gets fed up with Candy’s “big mouth”:
"You're no saint. You got a free cab, you got a free room and someone who will listen to your boring stories. I mean didn't you notice on the plane, when you starting talking, eventually I started reading the vomit bag?"

The roof

Our master's house is a typical of its kind, but in order to understand why we pay so much for the rent, lets take a walk up stairs, on top of the roof. As I have mentioned before, houses are built floor-by-floor, with the supporting poles giving birth to a new floor and so on.

Our roof gets sunshine from 9 am till 3pm, so if I ever felt cold or in a bad mood - I come upstairs. If I look to the West - I see "the blue school", South - akhara bazaar (market), East - residential buildings, and North - a glimpse of the river Beas.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

how I lived my week

Most paradoxically, the after-festival-week brought many new challenges to us. We’ve had some interesting moments like watching Joothi Hi Sahi a Hindi movie or organizing a trip for the blind children to the amusement park. On the other hand, our relationship with the Master [our room owner] ditorioted gradually throughout the week and this morning reached its climax. To add to this, we’d spent 2 days in Manali and established useful contacts with the British fundraisers and bought some things to the Nepali school. But things have their own order, and I shall give my subjective account of the previous week.

Manali fundraising
We’d usually go there each Wednesday, and on Tuesday evening the preparation part followed. We were selecting the books to be read and worksheets to be printed when Ankit told us that the following day we ought to go to Manali Sudhershana’s orphanage (our first time there) and meet a group of British students from a private High School in London. A rush of adrenaline set me on fire: “Fundraising! Responsibility! British People!:)”, I was worried and anxious. In fact hooked up with cortisol for a few days, I wonder sometimes whether there is enough blood to dilute all the stressful lipids in my body!
I managed to wake Anine up at 6am (completely insanely illegal time to wake up!), took a cold shower (who’s forgotten to turn on the water boiler?!) and got myself ready for a two hour trip to Manali. We planned to hitchhike, but that early in the morning roads appeared empty, so we stood there freezing on the Kullu by-pass. Fortunately, a bus picked us up. We enjoyed the comfort of the “deluxe sleeper”, where as Anine actually fell asleep, and reached Manali in 90 minutes! Then we took a rickshaw to the hotel Highland(er) and got terribly ripped off (that’s why I love Kullu – people would never deceive you there, as long as you’ve been haunting in the city for a few months!).
The British group consisted of 22 girls and 4 guys. Their splendid outfits and Converse sneakers contrasted with the Hindi clothing  Apparently, they were well off, and the hotel looked impressive. The very same Nepali immigrants served them beans, ham and eggs, followed by the bagged tea – a rare phenomenon, finding its niche in the European-oriented hotels! I loved listening to the British accent, even though I always step into an uncanny valley when listening to the native speakers. However, the local children loved it, and carefully repeated “H stands for hoooose (horse)”.

Sudhershana orphanage started whwn a local woman named ...Sudhershana was asked to accommodate a poor pregnant lady some 6 years ago. It grew into large institution ever since, housing 40 children at the time, providing the elders with the vocational training (driver and IT professions). At the first glance her orphanage seemed poor, but that was the optical illusion created by the Indian speciality - garbage in the river. She has established a profitable money flow from the government and looked like the most luxurious institutions of all.
Our British counterparts brought the children to a massive field (almost non-existent luxury item to the other orphanages) and played sports games. They brought a few cricket bats, gates and those who honestly get the point of this game – please continue with the vocabulary items. After a few minutes children were presented with balloons and lost all of their attention from the new teachers, not to mention the fact that plentiful candies kept their mouths busy for a while.
Despite that, I saw the beauty in this cause: people coming all over the world to see the different lifestyle, accept it and help the ones in need. To make sure they saw the really –desperate-in-need institutions as well, we brought them to the Nepali school the other day. Due to the limited school area, we invited only 6 girls, who came with the book and stationery jammed bags. Of course they didn’t assume the worst case scenario (which is as follows: when planning a lesson expect the children have the least possible amount of knowledge in the particular subject), so the pre-nursery group were presented with the color pens instead. However, Fiona, one of the teachers, read a beautiful abc-story of Old MacDonald, who had a farm! Storing all of these books will be problematic, bearing the fact that there are no particular humidity proof closets or drawers in the office.
That’s why even before being exposed to this extraordinary amount of charity we decided to buy a new metal closet. Hence, after the beautiful Londoner ladies left, we went to the new Manali and bought a big metal closet for 3000 rupees and a globe. Globe was my favourite, knowing that geography is rarely thought in this part of the world!
We were happy to know that the British students managed to raise 600 pounds for the Kullu project cause, and Ankit will further coordinate the fundraising action. I hope that yesterday we solved at least some of their problems. Still, pupils are not coming back for December-March period as the winter colds will constipate the unfinished building.

Blind school
On the last days of Dussehra we organized a small trip for the young ones to the amusement park! In order to get the kids there we had to assist and guide their way till Dalpur. It took us some 30 minutes, walking in pairs, and stopping here and then to let the traffic go. Sad, in this country the car goes ahead of the pedestrian, and I felt especially cautious when handling the blind ones.
Once at the fair we sailed in the Columbus ship. A huge fly wheel propelled with a swinging “ship” hanging on the A-shaped metal carcass. There were enough space for 50 people, however there was not enough space for my lunch and at a time I sworn to God never ever become a sailor! Before subduing myself to the illness, I tried to close the eyes and imagine what they felt.
Remeber Harper Lee’s “To kill a mocking bird?” Atticus wisely said that "You never really knew a man until you stood in his shoes and walked around in them". After a month spent with them, I believe I am getting closer and closer to these people and I would never dare to classify blindness as a condition or sickness. It is a simple state whereas one has to relocate the brain resources to the other instruments of perception. Still, the linguistic barrier is standing solid, even though the rate of verbal learning is much more advanced in the blind children compared to the “sightful” people.

We met Shalini today, and will allocate some donations to pay for the transport to the mountain trip on the 13th of November. The whole student body should go with us and have a hands on experience with snow and Shanti. Shanti, means silence in Hindi, and living here amongst all of these cars and people they’ve got used to the noise. I wonder how will they accept silence there?  Moreover, we will try to establish the contact with “Funskool” corporation, an accredited importer of Lego toys in India. I think there couldn’t be a more imagination enhancing toy on the market. Simple pieces and complicated mind, I bet they will visualize and construct, but now let’s try to get it first!

I do not really know the meaning of this special Hindi day, but it is truly unique and extraordinary for me. Karwachauth is the day when a married woman prays for her husband’s long life and prosperity. She fasts for all the time, being eating when the Moonlight consents and giving up her daily duties and work as long as the sun is out there. This Tuesday we went t the Blind school and found none of the children, nor their teachers! After half an hour we went upstairs and found Budhram (a 19 year old crazy college student with impaired vision) cooking for 20 children! All the married staff was absent and guys had to run this institution for a day! Similarly, Bharat Bharti school was empty as well, as we travelled all the way to Dalphur to have a class with our wonderful friends. Today we will go there again and discuss the corporal punishments in Indian schools. I believe we will get some insightful ideas! Anyways, let the women Indian ladies prosper, whilst the Western man even in the most delirious dreams couldn’t imagine the wives fasting and praying for their lives!

Our Master is a one-off character, the only one of his species, Greedicus Rupaye Accumulatus. The only subject he speaks with us about is.. money. How much, why so little, pay more, best accommodation in Kullu. In order to save electricity, which is really scarce in India, I take cold showers each morning. In addition, I explained it to Anine that the clean water resources in India are less than in Norway, although the latter is 10 times smaller than the former.
Still, yesterday his wife broke into Anine’s room just before were leaving for the Blind school and took her blanket! There were a huge fight with tears and swears, and quite frankly I am happy we are moving out next week. But where?
To finish with a happy note, I have started attending a local sports gym, and can proudly say that everyone else is shadowed by my biceps :D Also, we went out to movies, Filmi, and bought a few DVDs with classic Hindi movies, as one of their titles say “Old is Gold!”

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The great festival week

First impressions from Dussehra
Dussehra started this Sunday, and the tourists flowed in great number. Over 600 deities came from the valley mountains. They are being carried by two persons, poles resting on the shoulders and deity’s mascot balancing in between. We never saw Dalpur in such a condition: clean streets, orange and red plastic stripes, wind and music. Masses of people to commence and commerce.

Firstly, we went through the bazaar, in Hindi - mella. You could get anything in there ranging from sugar cotton to a 4-wheel drive Mahindra. Dussehra went commercial. But how can we exactly now that spending less than 2 months here? Probably, it’s always been like that: a huge festival preceded by a respective autumn’s harvest. Hence people buy and sell and worship the god’s for one’s forsaken prosperity 

Three football/cricket pitches are crowded with around 200 lakhs (thousands) of people on Dussehra. Once everyone is there standing, the gods start passing through towards the central square and all around the city. The guys carrying those spirits start swinging the structures and people have to run away to not get hurt. It was a real stampede! Some women were left injured, and my lungs nearly collapsed upon the pressure from the other bodies :D

Despite that, I ‘ve never felt so free and anarchistic in my whole life – being pushed by the thousands of cheerful folks is psychologically rewarding.
Besides Dussehra, a big international festival is taking place and we managed to see a few performances in the amphitheatre. I personally met a Kazakh troupe and exercised my Russian skills. You haven’t seen their faces, when I proclaimed: “Zdravstvuyte, iz kakye strany vy priehali?” I love being in India, but meeting even people from your own “block” feels special. I cast no doubts there must have been at least one Lithuanian among all of these goras (white skinned ones)!
I’m planning to get some shawls or our relatives and friends, and Dussehra is the right place.

Sitar classes
Today we visited the music school and agreed to start Sitar classes on Friday. Wouldn’t that be nice to bring home from India something more valuable than the Kullu cap? Let’s bring music! One of my friends helped me to fall in love with the Gypsy culture and I owe him one. Here in India, my Gypsy part of spirit is retained for a new life. Dresses, voices and sounds are too familiar to let them vibrate unnoticed.
Our future teacher, Rajeem, invited us to look at his dancers’ performance. There were 20 of them girls around 14-18 years old flexing divine sculptures with their bodies. After the dance they grabbed the Henna paint and drew virulent symbols on Anine’s hands. Meanwhile I had to content with an“OM”, as long as guys aren’t supposed to wear hand paintings  We loved it and made friends with them all. Chay was rewarding as usual.

Finding a place to live in India is easy, especially for a foreigner. Conversely, paying the right price is inversely proportional to the whiteness of your skin. Our master is a great man: in his 60's, housong 2 daughters and their children as well. However his 4 floor residence is far too big for an honorbleman of his age and family size. So he'd rent a few rooms for the tourists especially on Dussehra. In order to do so, he "requested me to relocate Anine" back to my room for 2 weeks. This was clearly what we didn't agree on before shaking each others' tongues for the almighty "verbal contract".
In the end, wemanaged to persuade him to give us a notice in case some tourists are coming, so that in a few hours time we'd move our stuff together and be sad. However, the last week as I saw it reminded me of "who's afraid of virginia wolf" scene when e. taylor attacks her historian husband and reveals their most intimate secrets. 6 renters came in total and they all caused lots of troubles. This morning we found Anine's towels covered in a yellow ..spice/sweat/goo, coridoor's odour was strikingly familiar to hashish. Apparently our boys had fun tonight and we'll pay the price by cleaning the bathroom again :)

I should apologize Jezhko for using his towel last year - I know miserable life becomes once your towel becomes a part of the community property ;D (I used it only twice, Jezhko!)

It seems that our master's and many rich but PECULIAR men's dignity can be sold for a staggering price of 300Rs per night.

This morning my iGoogle announced that "Moon Crater Contains Usable Water, NASA Says".

Sunday, 17 October 2010

before Dusshera...

The Wedding
Wednesday was the long awaited Indian wedding day. Our friend Papu took us to a village 15 km away from Manali, and although by the time we reached our destination it was dark, there were literally kilometers of lamp cables leading the way to the main yard. In my life I happened to see lots of European marriage ceremonies, but they shamefully shy of decorations, music and food compared to the Indian ones. Let’s clarify, we hadn’t met the groom nor the bride before (neither that night), but their relatives showed the way inside a white tent, stuffed with 30 “drinking tables”. I was immediately served with “masahavi” food. The first time I’m eating meat in India! Still the “meat” is 90% bones and the rest is chicken or mutton.
Also, numerable appearances of the waitresses meant that the table had to carry a great deal of liquor glassware. Unlike in my own culture, North Indian people are careful with alcohol, their favorite choice being 1 part of whiskey and 3 parts of water. However, that night newlyweds’ family and friends skinned off the suits and celebrated. An hour later, all cheered up, we moved towards the dinner head quarters – garden. We ate right there on the ground from the plastic disposable plates. People accepted us warmly, and neighbors grinned occasionally at our failure to eat with the right hand.
Wedding food is special hear, it has its own colour (yellow/orange) and serving sequence. For a starter we are offered a handful of rice. Anine places her both palms over the plate and says “niche”, she doesn’t eat much rice. Then, brown beans follow. Dal, Alu, curry chase in and we get another serving of rice. The former meals are high in protein and are my favorites here in Himachal. Yet what follows next is a straight deviation from the sour and salty main courses. We get extra sour and sweet curry and mango pickle.
Before coming to India, I was aware of “the pickles” in the Eastern European way. Me, my sister and Mom would pick cucumber from the green house, shave off the spikes, wash them a few times with a boiling water and vacuum in the jars with lots of vinegar. Here everything pickled in one or the other way comes as a threat to my stomach! For desert we enjoy the orange sweet rice. I don’t know how they make them orange in colour, but it’s a sugary desert, enriched with cashew nuts.
On that night we made more friends than ever before, and some of them invited to pay a visit on Diwali break. Shimla, Rajastan, Panjab, UP! Locals, poor and rich, Brhmani and peasants, have one thing in common – hospitability. Abundant in the economically backward countries, it compensates with people’s smiles and kind heartedness.

Blind school
We face great difficulties in exchanging our thoughts with the blind kids. They’re mastering the verbal language easily, but learning new nouns such as a clock, floors, wall, cat or house is literally beyond their imagination. So I came up with a plan to get some Lego toys into the school. All we need are the basic Lego pieces, whereas the resulting 3D sculptures have endless number of permutations. I love Lego, and I couldn’t imagine my childhood without it. So I found out an Indian company producing similar toys (it has the Danish license as well). What we should do now is to get into contact with them and ask for a few sets. I’m sure we could negotiate with the company on the advertising basis. Hopefully, by the end of Dusshera we’ll establish a dialogue.

Tomorrow marks the start of the most flamboyant event in Kullu. It’s celebrated around India as well, but in Kullu Dusshera has a symbolic meaning. On one hand the Gods come down from the valley mountains, on the other – tourists. Lots of them are eager to spend the money on Kullu shawls and dresses. Truly beautiful textile is made right here in Kullu, and the foreigners bring sweet profits to the shop keepers. Speaking of whom majority are Sikhs. I wish me knew more Sikhs in person. But apparently only brahmani caste lives in Akhara (our part of the city).