All that aging stuff. I feel so superficial. It's really not that bad. I remember this Alice Munroe story (from the "Love of a Good Woman" collection) where there was a middle-aged character who was trying to figure out why she was so unhappy in her second marriage. She got angry at herself when she remembered all those years when she had let a certain arrangement of hair and breasts speak for her. Now I do very little with my hair, and I do not let my breasts speak for me (What would they say? Ditch the underwire?).
I do know, however, that I have always depended on being identified as "youth". And I use it to get away with stuff. And blablabla everyone goes through this, I know. But it is a bit hard to make that shift away from 20-something. It is also hard, I imagine, for all those kids who started trying to be adults at a very young age and never stopped 'trying to be adults' with their competent tones of voice coming out of wee bodies. It is only at this age that they start to wonder what the hell they were doing wasting their time being psuedo grownups when bonafide adulthood lasts forever.
Birthday Eve Sasha took me out for dinner at the United Coffee House and we went dancing in South Delhi. It was weird seeing modern Indian professionals cutting loose. The crowd was sweet and the vibe was very chill. No one bugged us. I kinda wished they would for once. I tried dancing. I was rusty. I was wearing the wrong shoes, that's it. Everywhere they love the song "That thing you do." And there is a Hindi equivalent of Macarena that is a real crowd pleaser. The night was low-key. We got picked up by our driver, Reni, at midnight. He came with his cousin. It was only later I found out that he brought his cousin because he was afraid to drive late at night with two girls in the car. He had heard stories of police pulling drivers over and asking them to get out of the car while other officers assault the women. I wonder how legitimate that fear was. There is a lot of fear in this country.
Hey ladies I spoke with Bindu about being a woman in India. The conversation lasted for 2 hours. Sasha and I had so many questions. Bindu spoke about how people are shocked at unmarried women living/staying alone. About how marrying a widow is seen as necrophelia (when te British outlawed Sati -burnign the bride with the husband-there was no place for widows outlined in Hinduism). About the lack of women on the streets, especially at night. She talked about being molested on sleeper cars in trains and beating the man on the head with her slipper when everyone told her to stop making a fuss. She told us how they were making a list of people to qualify for a position at our org and how one of the men ruled out a woman who was very qualified because she drinks and smokes (just like the men do in excess). How these women are seen as heroic for shaking off the marriage shackles at 30, but at 50 and still unmarried, are seen as irrelevant.
I started work today for Nirantar, the women's education group. All beautiful, strong, and smart women working out bright, cheerful office in South Delhi (unlike the dark dirty basement of BGVS with the toilet from hell). There is so so so much work to do for this org. They are very ambitious about their site. I feel guilty because I had secretly hoped they would be impressed with a very basic site. But now it seems they want a big, dynamic, well-designed work of web art that I do not think I can deliver (certainly not in 2 weeks). ugh. And there is still the Kashmir org to build for!
Delhi Belly I went to a photography exhibit yesterday on Buddhist monuments, and then to Dilli Hat, a huge outdoor crafts market. God help me, I love a crafts fair. Good thing I only had about 30 dollars on me, cuz I spent it all on prezzies for me and some people who might be reading this. poo. But we ate at a market stand and now I have the infamous Delhi Belly. Not sitting so good. ugh. My stomach had been so brave and normal in the face of all the new food and bacteria, I decided to take a risk. Sorry, stomach!
I feel less like a hungry traveller and more like a weary resident these days. Commuting to and from work, coming home, cooking dinner, watching a movie, reading, going to bed. Life is predictable.
The smell of animal shit does not bother me one bit anymore. (Human shit -so distinctive form animal shit - is a different story).
us and them A popular question here is: "Do you belong to here? / Where do you belong to?" It must be a direct translation from Hindi. I have been giving this question serious thought lately. Because something is happening: The them is becoming us.
Let me explain: when I was living in Jerusalem, there was a moment when I started to understand and appreciate the comedy shows that helped people laugh at themselves, I shook my fists at politicians on TV like the best of them, and haggled effectively at the vegetable market. The 'them' that I had read in textbooks and novels about became the 'us'. I could no longer choose to romanticize or despise the place. It was simply part of who I was.
I always thought it had to do with it being Israel and the Heebs being my peeps. But now I think that that sense of recognition comes through time and integration with a place.
With enough time outside of the tourist bubble, it becomes impossible to stand behind the curtain and watch the goings-on of a nation unfold with aloof judgement. You can't judge without you yourself feeling the sting of implication.
What is my point here? I don't know. I guess I just don't think you can begin to know a place until it is part of you. And I guess I feel that I am beginning to know this place.