Monday, December 29, 2008

Preemptive love

I'm not familiar with military slogans and jargon, but I have heard of the 'preemptive strike'. So this strategy for peace and a world filled with love instead of war caught my notice. I think it must make God smile.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I wish you and all those you love a very Merry Christmas holiday.
May you be blessed.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Here are some of the faces I've seen in the last few weeks.
Some I said goodbye to after knowing for a long time. Some I'll never know other than in passing. But they've all left their impression on my life.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


I have a camera again. Once again I can take pictures whenever I like.
I am very happy about this.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I was on a plane flying to the US when I overheard a conversation.
"Are you heading home for the holidays?" said the lady.
"Oh yes, can't wait for that cranberry sauce," said the man.
"Yeah," she laughed, "back to reality."
"That's right, heh heh heh."
And their conversation went on to complain of some of the deprivations their stay in India had included, how they couldn't believe the way people lived, and what modern conveniences they were about to enjoy upon landing.
Wait a minute, I thought, cranberry sauce and people speaking American English, that's reality? This experience that people are living by the billions on the other side of the world is not real?
Life for the guy sleeping beneath the Ambedkar statue isn't reality? There are thousands of people homeless and living on the streets. And, yeah, they bother you knocking on the car window at the streetlights, begging for money. But they're not imaginary, and flying to the other side of the world doesn't mean they cease to exist.
I don't think the goatherd's little girl--or anyone she knows--has ever heard tell of a cranberry, but her reality is just as meaningful as my own.
She puts a little sweater on her baby goat and brings him to graze in the shadow of the Taj Mahal--if that's not other worldly! She may never go to school, but all she experiences is still real.
I'd have to say that it's we here in America who think life needs to include instant messaging and drive-throughs that need the reality check. Since when do we need these things as if it's the only way to live?
If you've seen it, it's only fair to at least acknowledge that it's really there, this other place where people live and work and love and die.
Because it is. Real.

And be careful what you say on an airplane. Because someone might overhear you and form unflattering opinions of you.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Eid sacrifice

Eid Mubarak!
Today is Eid. A day for sacrifices.
I went out to a friend's house today and she said not to be alarmed when I saw her street. It was covered in blood from all the goat sacrifices. Actually, by the time I got there it was only puddles of water and a few people out hosing down their entryways. But the smell of fresh blood was still in the air.
The day before, we'd seen goats festively attired in garlands and bows. They were dressed for death.
And before that we'd seen sheep and goats lined up along the street outside the slaughter house. All in preparation for the big Eid celebration.
Camels, too. There were camels for sale to those who can afford a sacrifice of this size.
And they, too, were painted and decorated for Eid.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Taj

I visited the Taj Mahal this week, where I took a lot of pictures and where we wore our Taj-protecting-shoe-cover booties.

Oh, me. There were a lot of pictures to take--how exhausting.
And here are a few more of other things to see near the Taj.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Out of place pieta

Through the gates of annunciation, there is a church.
A church which bears striking resemblance architecturally to Hindu structures--
as usually found in Hindu temples.
Here, you can also find The Pieta (not Michelangelo's original, though a good imitation) garlanded just like any other Hindu shrine.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Old timey photographs

I went into an old photo shop today and found some old photographs taken in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. The exact dates for each picture are unknown, but they make for fun viewing.
The older man who ran the shop said their store has been open since 1915 and he is the third generation to work there. But he has no one to take over after him. How sad that his historical photography shop will have to close.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

From the airplane window

There's a pretty good view of the Himalya out the window of the airplane as it flies over.
Especially this time of year when even the lower peaks are snow covered.

Monday, December 1, 2008

As seen from a cycle rickshaw

I rode through the old city on a cycle rickshaw this week. I did it twice, even. There are a number of interesting things to see from this point of view. The cycle is right there in the middle of everything and yet slightly separated, in the way that you don't have to maneuver traffic yourself but are free to look around.
So here are some of the things I saw:
Shirts being delivered somewhere.
The uncle who sells paneer.
Lots of traffic.
Bangle shops.
Crowded streets.
People on the steps of the mosque.
Pretty trinkets hanging from shops.
And the Fort just as it was being lit up.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Five two year olds

I visited some friends in a house where there are five two year olds running around. It's a pretty active household.
A friend and I took some pictures, to put on refrigerators and stuff.
In return, we had our pictures "taken" also.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The dog that barks at me

This is the dog who barks at me every time I go in and out of the house.
Masha very big dog, too. His paws are about as big as my hands and I was very uncomfortable with his greeting one day: his teeth around my shoulder.
This is me walking up to the house approaching Masha's cage and awaiting his bark.
This is the door whose squeak Masha waits for to know that it's time to bark at me.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

An interesting video

A friend of mine recently drew my attention to this video. Maybe it's staged and maybe it, too, is one sided, but it sure is a different perspective than the one usually shown by American media.
And: it's a lot more like the people I know.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thawing out

It snowed last week. I woke up and it was cold with no electricity or sunshine.

I wimped out and couldn't get out to teach. It was so cold inside that after trying to do a few things around the house before going to teach in the afternoon, I ended up back in bed under my down comforter. I couldn't come out. You're supposed to hibernate in the winter.

Later, I was relieved that it wasn't all in my head--I had a real sickness cold, not just an aversion to the cold outside.

Anyhow. The electricity that had gone off sometime in the night stayed off all day and all the next night. It returned just before noon the following day. Which is a relief because now my electric blanket and the hot water heater work.

The sun that also decided to shine today is another relief.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The government school next door

There is a boys government high school in the lot next door to my house. I can see it from my window. It's a boys' high school, right? So tell me this: Why are there little boys in attendance? And why are there girls there?
So this was exam week.
The children lined up in these rows on the ground to take their tests.
The passersby, especially army personnel, like to watch them over the wall.
The teachers also sit on the ground for their breaks and meetings--except the head teacher.
But even she has to stand up in attention and give over her chair when the big man comes to inspect things.
Everyone is very relieved when exams are over.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


I went out shopping today and I experienced some contradictory emotions.
There were moments of "Oh, I hate this",
like when the guy behind me in line at the ATM told me to move forward and close in the four inch gap between me and the man in front of me. No thank you, I like my personal space, small as it is.
Or when there was one check out line at the grocery store that took at least half an hour to get through.
Or when the rickshaw-driver-with-a-death-wish nearly drove us off the road where it drops eight feet and later did not notice the car backing out in front of him.
Or the beggar woman who called me a "maharaja daughter" and told me to give her food before cursing me.
Or that buying groceries and eating out for lunch took four and a half hours.

And then there were moments of "Wah, is there anywhere in the world like this place?"
Like when the check out attendant told one of his minions to bring me a free carton of guava juice.
Or the other clerk who gave me a two-for-one deal on matches.
The smell of freshly cooked rice and the fall which can't be matched.
Or a walk on the bund over the newly fallen chinar leaves.
There was the ancient man in an even more ancient photo shop who ambled over the creaking floor to tell us he didn't have any camera batteries.
And the other old man in a camera shop who did his best to produce the battery we needed, even sending his assistant several blocks away to look while he gave a us a newspaper to read.
Or the relief of finally being back home where everything is quiet.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Cast your vote

I usually avoid all topics political, but are you voting on Tuesday?
I encourage you to take the responsibility of your civic duties seriously.
Vote for Pedro. ;)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Disturbing events

There have been some disturbing and under-publicized things going on India. It's hard to get any report, let alone an accurate one. But the ugliness of persecution and violence is real.

Friday, October 24, 2008


I changed nine diapers and fed eight bottles to three babies today. I had a kind of assembly line going on. I also changed quite a few outfits and washed the bottles. When the babies weren't eating or sleeping they were pleasantly lying in their beds.
Very well behaved.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

On the way to school

The everyday things I see on my walk to school never cease to catch me by surprise and amaze me. What is common place here is still exotic and new to me.
For instance, this is a very personalized lorry. It even has shikaras (water taxis) painted on it.
The neighbor's house was decorated to the hilt for a wedding. So much tinsel.
One morning as I passed the sheep being herded down the road, the shepherds pointed out to me a newly born lamb on the side of the road. This is not him, but a cute goat kid who was also part of the herd that morning.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Funny things said to me this week by little boys

As I was leaving the house after school, six year old Daniel offered to shake my hand. Then he said to me: "Your hands are thin and cold."
"Uh, yes. You're right." It was an accurate observation.
"My hands are small," he added, "But they are not cold."
It was a new revelation for him. I think he would be disappointed to know it's not the first time I've been told something similar.

I was reading to Daniel and his brother Johannes when their dad came in the room to do something. Johannes wanted to get up and say something to his dad so I paused in the story to wait for him.
When he was done talking he came back to the couch and said, "Okay, push play," as if I was the tv, or something.

Friday, October 17, 2008


I was watching a couple of nomadic shepherd boys play cricket.
One of them was really good. It was hard to tell how old he was, since he seemed to be small for his age. He looked to be about five or six. But he might have been small for his age and really be closer to eight.
Here he is pitching (or bowling).
And here is his friend trying to hit the ball.