Friday, July 31, 2015

Day 84 in Delhi: First farewells

31 July 2015:  It was my last day at work today, and I get to spend the next 10 days exploring a bit outside of Delhi and enjoying the last of my time in Delhi with the wonderful people I've grown to love and will miss so much.  Work was normal, and after work, my coworkers took me out to dinner for a last farewell and got me a beautiful Ganesh to add to my alter and some yummy chocolates!  We had delicious South Indian food and lovely conversation, and I feel so grateful for the experiences and time I've had here.  It was my first taste of the goodbyes to come, and in contrast to the food, I didn't like this taste one bit.

It's a full moon soon, if not today (I don't have my moon calendar here), then soon, and I am full of emotions pulling me back and forth like the moon does the ocean.  My soul is scattered across the world, and I am tired of goodbyes.  Life is full of goodbyes, and it feels like there are never enough hellos to balance things out.  I feel like for every five people I lose in my life, I meet one new person.  And goodbye is never final anyway, at least not in my heart.

So I just keep stuffing people into that crowded organ and holding on for dear life, but the walls are stretching to their bursting point under the pressure of loss, and every goodbye pulls it just a bit tighter, rips it just a bit more, thins it just a bit further, until it pops and deflates and out pour all the people I've ever loved like a water ballon bursting in someone's tight grasp.  The hand must loosen its grip on the balloon or it bursts just like I must loosen my grip on my heart or it will burst.  And then with what will I be left?  No one.  An empty balloon, broken and stretched thin and flat and incapable of holding onto a thing.  I cannot become that.  If I choose to wear my heart on my sleeve, I have to let go of it, and let people come and go as they will.  I have to let go when it is time.  I have to let go, but I'll never forget.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Day 83 in Delhi: Leaving my emotional baggage behind to make room for souvenirs

30 July 2015:  I know I mentioned this yesterday, but I'm getting a lot of anxiety about leaving Delhi.  It's starting to hit me that I actually have to go back to Florida, to my old life, to law school, as this new person I have become here.  Every trip changes you; that is why we travel, isn't it?  But I am slightly terrified about how my changes might interact with my old life, and I'm also not ignorant enough to think my old life will even be there when I get back.  Everything changes; that is the only constant we have, so I know my old life is gone, the old me is gone, and a new me will return to a new home where everything and nothing has changed because that's how it works.  Everything stays the same, and everything becomes slightly altered in the waves of time, just like me.  But I was talking with friends yesterday about how I love Delhi because I found a lot of self-worth and self-love here, so while it might not have anything to do with Delhi, it might, and that's beside the point.  Delhi will always feel like a bit of home to me because I learned to love myself here so I learned to love Delhi at the same time, and the two loves will be very hard to separate, if I ever manage to.  This is why I fear returning to Gainesville.  What if I cannot separate the loves, and I lose everything I learned here and slide backwards into the rut from whence I ran three months ago?  But life cannot be so cruel, can it?  I cannot be so weak, can I?  I really hope the answer to both of those questions is a resounding "No," but I can only be sure when I return.

My friend asked me yesterday if I was excited to go home, and it sounded so odd to me to answer in either the positive or the negative.  It is and will be bittersweet.  I am terribly excited to see my family and friends and cat, of course, but I have made a home here that I will miss too much.  I have made friends I'd call family here whom I will miss too much.  I have found parts of myself here I hope to bring home with me, but I don't know.  Maybe I can be myself more in Delhi than I can in the small town of Gainesville.  I hope I have the courage to remain true to myself when I return home.  I hope I have gained enough self-worth in my time here to do that much for myself.  And I hope these are more than just hopes, but how can one be sure until one is in the thick of things?  For now, all I can do is focus on strengthening the growth I have achieved here so I will return home with more gifts in my bags than worries.

Also, I would like to note that I'm not blind to the news, but I am strongly refraining from discussing the death penalty today.  I've had enough controversy for a little while, and I think the inhumanity is apparent enough.  I could make my argument, but it's been made and I am too tired of arguing about the death penalty to do it here.  I work in the field of human rights; I think my stance and opinion should be clear enough.  Plus, who am I to talk, coming from a country that throws around the sentence like candy on Halloween?  Also, it's a bit too personal for me.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Day 82 in Delhi: Dream cannot always be destiny

29 July 2015:  I had a bit of an odd morning, about which I wrote a prose poem below, but the rest of the day turned out pretty good, even though I couldn't quite shake the mood of the morning and the tears lurking around the corners of my eyes that never quite came.  Work was fine and normal, and then I had coffee with a dear friend and met one of her friends.  We had lovely conversation, food, and drink, and now I am home, finding myself suddenly stressing about all the things I haven't yet done in India, like see the Taj Mahal, which I will not forgive myself for not seeing.  I am feeling the time I have left here slip away very quickly, and I am worried I will not make the most of it.  I am frantically looking up trips on TripAdvisor and asking friends for help, but I think I need to let this anxiety pass tonight and revisit this issue tomorrow when my mind is a little more prepared.

I spent a lot of my auto rides today reading my book, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, and here is a beautiful but also sad but also beautiful quotation:

Every love is the same love, and it is overpowering--the wrenching grace of what it is to be human.

And here is my writing from this morning:

Sleeping Sobs

My broken sobs woke me from my slumber as the sun peeked over the horizon this morning.  The substance of my dream quickly faded, but your face did not.  I touched my own face in disbelief.  Had I really been crying in my sleep?  My fingers returned wet and confirmed my confusion.  About what had I been so upset?  I faintly remember the hysterics, the hyperventilation, the anger, the blame, the hopelessness, the loss, the fear, the desperation, the emptiness for which my tears crept out of the corners of my dream and ran down the sides of my face.  When I shook off the veil of slumber enough to understand the reality of my tears versus the falsity of my dream, I felt at a loss.  What to do with the sadness that remained, lurking in the pit of my heart and dripping past my temples and into my hair?  I pinched out a few more tears before rolling over and determining to return to sleep sans sobs.  But as I lay there in bed, wondering about what I had been so deeply disturbed, I could not shake the anger I felt at my weakness and the sadness I could not understand.  One cannot possibly appear so opposite of one's desires; one cannot possibly feel so deeply and weakly within the padded room of sleep.  How can it be?  The only answer is repression, and I refuse to give in to that weak excuse for a solution.  So I will face my pain without fear while I posit a question to my subconscious--have you finished yet?  Have you gotten it all out?  Because if you needed that dream to feel better in your waking life, then make sure to get it all out because it may be an efficient way of dealing with emotions but it sure shook up the rest of my day.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Day 81 in Delhi: Some humble words of advice

28 July 2015:  While I was walking to work today, I was thinking about how there are a number of site with tips for single women traveling around India, but I haven't found anything for those of us living in Delhi, which is a very specifically unique experience.  Hence, I decided to write my own--

21 Pieces of Advice From a Single American Female Living in Delhi

1. Get used to the staring because you'll never stop it, and it'll drive you nuts if you don't just accept it.  It's not personal; it's curiosity--you're different--don't let it make you feel crazy.  Stare back if you want to make them look away, but not with a smile, which brings me to my second piece of advice--

2. Perfect your resting bitch face.  If it doesn't stop the staring, it'll at least make you feel more in control.

3. Don't mention Delhi's rape statistics if you can avoid it.  Everyone is well aware, and it's a bit of a sensitive subject.  That doesn't mean don't talk about it if attention needs to be drawn to it, but the likelihood is, no attention needs to be drawn to it that isn't already there.  I'm not saying be silent; I'm just saying don't rub it in the locals' faces.

4. Learn how to bargain, especially with the auto drivers.  Slice everything they quote you in half because chances are, the locals pay 1/4 of what they're asking, but since you're white, they'll never go that low.  However, it never hurts to try.  And if you can, ask a local how much it should cost to get somewhere; then you have a bargaining point with some confidence.  But if you can get them to go by the meter, that's your best bet so always try asking for the meter.

5. Don't be afraid of the dark; just be smart.  As a female, you know walking around alone at night anywhere doesn't guarantee safety, but don't live your life in Delhi in fear of going out at night.  Don't fear the statistics.  With the population of India the size it is, the percentage of rape cases is of course going to be higher, and I'm not going to deny the violent culture.  But you can't pretend America isn't violent either, so use your intuition and be smart but don't be scared.  Don't wander at night, but if you know where you're going, walk fast with keys in hand, and chances are, you'll be fine.  If you don't want to take your chances, don't, but don't live in fear.  I did that for the first month, and I was absolutely miserable.

6. Take the metro, and ride in the women's only cart.  Sure, it's fine to ride in the other carts too, but I promise you you'll be a lot more comfortable in the women's only section.

7. You don't have to wear traditional Indian clothing; just don't dress in short shorts and a bikini top.  Be conservative, but be yourself.

8. Bring a flashlight, and keep buckets of water around the house.  The power will go out, and so will the water.  But they'll both always come back on, so it's just better to be prepared.

9. Make friends with the locals.  They're incredible people with a lot of soul and wisdom to share.

10. See the Delhi monuments.  If you're living in Delhi and working in Delhi, like I am, you might not have that much time to travel India.  If that's the case, see everything you can in Delhi; it's worth it.  If you can travel, even better, but Delhi is an endless place to explore so don't worry so much about leaving it if you don't have the liberty.

11. Learn a little bit of Hindi.  I wish I knew more, and anyone will be happy to teach you.  It'll help the most with the auto drivers (so learn numbers, directions, etc.).  But don't worry about learning "thank you" or "please"--these are formalities no one uses and can often be interpreted as rude (speaking from experience).

12. Don't pretend like you understand or will ever understand what it's like to be from Delhi or from India, but appreciate your experience for what it is, nonetheless.

13. No one wears rain boots...not even in get some waterproof sandals.

14. If having stick deodorant is important for you, bring enough from home because you likely won't find it here.

15. Don't fear the chaos.  Jump in and learn to swim with the stream.  It's what makes you fall in love with Delhi.

16. Ask for directions.  And then ask for directions.  And then ask for directions.  And keep asking a new person every few minutes until someone points you right toward where you need to go.  It's sort of like a maze, and every person along the way will point you in the (hopefully) right direction, but no one will ever tell you exactly where to go so you just have to keep asking everyone until you find it.

17. Eat everything, and take probiotics.  If you're a vegetarian, of course make sure there's no meat in what you're eating, but chances are, there isn't because Delhi is the most veg-friendly place I've ever been.  If you're not a vegetarian, or "non-veg," as they call it here, eat everything.  I haven't eaten anything here I haven't loved.  And if you're worried about getting sick, probiotics will be your life saver.  Take them daily.

18. Always carry an umbrella.  It blocks the sun, and if you're there during monsoon season, you never know when you're going to need it.

19. Be single, but if you're not, don't let your long-distance relationship hold you back from experiencing everything you want to and can experience in Delhi.  Live it up, whether you're in a relationship or not.  But don't accept any marriage proposals while you're here, regardless of your relationship status (unless, of course, you want to), because those can be quite common and off-putting, so get used to them and get used to saying "no" firmly and repeatedly.

20. Embrace the culture.  Get mehendi, drink chai, eat street food, wear a sari at least once (even if it's just to play dress up in your friend's flat), wear a bindi (if you want), don't worry about misappropriation.  If you're culturally sensitive and wear it with awareness and appreciation of the culture and traditions from which it stems, the locals will appreciate your efforts to embrace their culture.

21. Lose your expectations.  Everything you thought about India is likely wrong, so throw away your stereotypes and expectations, and come to Delhi with an open mind.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Day 80 in Delhi: Paeanistic pagan

27 July 2015:  While talking to a friend today about an amazing piece of art she's making for me (I feel so special), she made the most beautiful typo that brought us to a brand new, wonderful word--paean.  She meant to write "pagan," but I didn't want to misunderstand so I immediately google searched the word "paean" and found this definition:

- a song of praise or triumph
- a creative work expressing enthusiastic praise

I am, for lack of a better word, a pagan in the truest form, and in order to convey the true meaning of what I'm saying, I feel another definition is necessary, with some etymology.  There are many meanings for the word "pagan," but many of those definitions are in contrast to some sort of other religion so they imply, if not right out state, godlessness and amorality at best, but more likely immorality.  Some even go so far as to define it as devil-worship.  However, here is a definition I much prefer:  "a member of a religious, spiritual, or cultural community based on the worship of nature or the earth," often called a "neopagan," but I refute the idea that this is a new form of paganism.  The word "pagan" is the noun form of a verb that originally meant "of the country," which can also mean "of the earth."  Wikipedia calls it an "earth religion," but I very much despise the word "religion," but maybe that's only when the word "organized" precedes it.

When I studied with the Navajos, I learned a lot about the value of giving thanks to the world around me, the elements of the world--earth, water, fire, air, etc.--because that is what gives us life.  We take from this earth, and when we do so, we must give thanks to those elements and commune with them in order to create balance and harmony in a world where so much of civilization simply rapes the land around it.  I understand and am well aware of how much of a "hippie" I sound like at this point, but I will not apologize for this.  I grew up Christian, and I still think Jesus was full of teachings I try to follow and the Bible is full of brilliant parables (Jesus' words, not mine) with excellent morals and guiding principles.  However, I also think many religions have much to offer, and when it comes to worshiping an particular capital G God, it doesn't sit right with me.  I'd much rather worship (and by worship, I mean revere and give thanks to) the world around me.  If I have a god, her name is mother nature, but I would never erect an idol of her to which I would then pray.  I would never tell another soul they are going to burn for eternity if they do not also worship her.  But I'm getting off subject.

I wanted to discuss the beautiful connection between the word "paean" and the word "pagan," because if I have any religion at all, I am a pagan paean.  I do not worry about the suffering that may come from a lack of belief.  My main goal in this existence is to make my life a creative work expressing enthusiastic praise to nature, to mother earth, to the earth, air, fire, and water that give us life.  When I "worship," I dance in the rain (please don't think manic pixie dream girl), I give thanks to the basil that I pick to cook my meal, I tread lightly among the flowers to as not to disturb a single living thing, and I kneel down in awe at a slug going about his way.  I coat myself in oils pressed from roses and violets and sandalwood and myrrh.  I bask in the light and warmth of the sun; I howl at the moon when it shines brightest, and my ovaries listen to its pull like the ocean tides.  My soul dances in the beauty of the earth, and that is the closest thing to worship I have ever felt.  Therefore, I am a pagan, and my expression of my religion is paeanistic.

But most importantly:

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Day 79 in Delhi: Knitting my life away

26 July 2015:  Today was a lazy Sunday, but I finally don't feel terribly sick today.  I slept in and spent most of the day knitting and watching Downton Abbey, a show I watched once before, but to which I did not pay enough attention to really appreciate it.  I have paid enough attention now to absolutely love it.  I also wrote the prose poem below about knitting because I think too much while I knit.  Nothing much else happened today, but there's always tonight.  For now, here's what I wrote--

If only I could knit my world together the way I tie this yarn into knots with two long, metal sticks that look like weapons but serve only a grandmother's innocent purpose.  Life would be so much easier to control.  Cast on 20 years, insert right needle into the back of your 21st birthday, wrap the yarn around your first two decades, and slip the loop through to enter decade number three.  Knit thirty-wise for ten sets, then follow the pattern below--purl one year, slip two loops over for two years wasted, knit into those two years to make something of yourself, and repeat until the end of the row to make ten more years.  Repeat this pattern for the next two decades, and knit the rest to form the border of your life.  That sounds much simpler than all this mourning and grieving and attachment and detachment.

The reality of a knitting pattern of life would include a lot of changing yarns and weaving in ends and cutting off pieces and increasing and decreasing rows because the illusion of time would look like a zig zag in a knitting pattern.  But what would the finished product look like?  For what would it be used?  Would it be a sweater?  Or a ball that looks like the world to be stuffed with cotton?  Or a map of all the places I've been and people I've loved and lost along the way?  And where would it go?  Would it be an unfinished heirloom I pass onto my children, should I have any, with loose yarn and loops for them to finish with their own colors and patterns and needle sizes?  Or would it be a blanket to stretch across my dead body in the coffin--bury me with my life's work like a pharaoh buried with all his treasures in his tomb.

But what a waste it all seems.  And I cannot knit my life together into one, neat blanket, so why even bother fantasizing about such control, such patterns, such sense.  For yarn does not contemplate emotion, but life most certainly does.  And emotion makes absolutely no sense and refuses to be written into any sort of pattern.  So I knit to control the little ball of yarn in my hands to forget all that I cannot control, and in that way, I am very much like my cat, batting at something much smaller than me to forget all that is bigger and scarier than I can ever imagine.  Gives new meaning to the monicker "cat lady," which I have proudly been called more times than I can count.  So leave me to my devices, and find me decades from now sprawled across the floor, covered in half-finished knitting projects with which my myriad kittens play as they slowly devour my lifeless body because happiness is a warm ball of yarn or a warm ball of fur or both.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Day 77 & 78 in Delhi: Not the home kind of sick

24 & 25 July 2015:  Yesterday (the 24th), I was too sick to write in my blog.  I went to the Sehgal Foundation and met the UF students who are working there.  I had a really great time and met some amazing people.  I got watch the Harvard Law intern's presentation on the effectiveness of the legal aid literacy camps they are doing in the villages of India.  It was very interesting and confirmed what I suspected--the problem is not in legislation, nor is it in a lack of will of the people, but it lies in implementation and accountability, fueled by corruption.  This is the same as the international scale, where public shaming seems to be the only way to keep a country, or government official, accountable enough to act.  I could explain more about this, but I'm still quite sick today, and I'm struggling to to type.  I went to work after visiting the Sehgal Foundation, where I developed a fever and dragged myself to the Chemist.  There, I bought a lot of medicine and drugged myself to sleep from 7pm until 10am this morning.  Now I'm waiting for my friend to bring me some homemade Indian medicine to ease the pain in my throat and hoping enough rest will take away these feverish aches and pains.  Therefore, sorry these two days of blogs are a disappointment, but I am not strong enough to think of anything interested to say.  Hopefully I'll feel better tomorrow.