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RURAL FILES

Travelblog: Once in a lifetime voyage to the heart of India.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Highs and Lows one last time.

Highs

- Waking up before my alarm every morning excited for my day to begin. The last 8 weeks have been one big high.

- Giving my final presentation in Hindi. Bollywood Hindi (half Hindi, half English) that is. It feels so good to be done. It hasn’t felt like work, but it has been. I’m ready to go play.

- Getting positive feedback from Dr. Bang. I get giddy when the man looks my way. Hearing words of appreciation from him just made my year.

- Sowing seeds in the field. I told Sanjay on our last day in the field that I have been able to do everything I’ve wanted except for go out to the field and do roni (sow rice seeds) and play rami (cards) with the boys in the village. He stopped the car, hollered to some people in the field and a few minutes later I was out in the field sowing seeds. He confirmed it was too late for rami.

-On my way back from the field last week we stopped in Gadchiroli for an hour. More than a week had passed since my trip to the market so my fruit stocks were running low. With only 15 rupees in hand, I walked to my usual fruit stand in the market. I was greeted by my favorite cheerful merchant who immediately started putting some apples on the scale. By now he knows what fruits I like and the amount I will be purchasing. I basically just show up to hand him the money. I explained to him that this trip would be different. He nodded and a few minutes later handed me a bag FULL of fruit. I had only asked for some apples, but here he was handing me a bag full of bananas, goas, apples and even a papaya. I gave him a puzzled look, and reiterated that I only had 15 rupees. I’ll be back tomorrow I reassured him. He laughed and told me to just pay him next week on my normal market day and the papaya is on the house he added (he’s a nice guy, but the free papaya is largely to ease his conscious. I know I’ve been taken. I pay NRI rates for the fruit).

I wait for events like this when living in a new city. When a vendor takes the liberty to start a tab it means he knows you and trusts you. It makes me feel like a local.

- My visit to Hyderabad.
I ended up with less than 20 hours in Hyderabad, 5 of which were spent sleeping, but it was so worth it. I visited Kirti, who has been living there for the past year in the lap of luxury courtesy of Google. Sometimes you have no idea you’re missing something until it’s starting at you in the face. We came back from a disco, walked into the kitchen and there in front of me is a whole counter full of delicious processed American food—wheat thins, pringles, peanut butter, crackers, and granola bars. I was in heaven. The next day she took me to the buffet at the Taj Hotel. The selection was endless. It was such a gluttonous weekend. Loved it. I basically went out, ate, used her broadband Internet and came back to Gadchiorli. I spent more time traveling to and from Hyderabad then in the actual city, but it was a really good break and a fun adventure.

- Learning how to ride a motorcycle. My first lesson lasted 2 minutes. Sanjay made me get off after I almost smashed the bike into a tree.

- Long walks

- The last day of interviews. I have spent every day of the last seven weeks in the field. The last week we were leaving SEARCH by 6:30 am to catch the women before they headed to the field. I was ready to be done.

- My toothpaste lasting 8 weeks and not a day more. I have just enough to brush my teeth tomorrow before I leave. I’m a horrible packer normally; it’s amazing that I brought just the right amount.

Lows

- Last day of interviews. I’m going to miss the cows, roosters, water buffaloes, kids, and the loving people of the villages. I would have been tired of the field (it is fun but the days are long, and unpredictable + it’s monsoon season) a long time ago if it hadn’t been for my partner in crime, Sanjay. He was a blast to work with.

- Phones not working for 10 days, cutting off the little access I had left to the outside world.

- Janka leaving. She left a month ago, but I haven’t done highs and lows in a while. We took long walk religiously at the end of our workday. She was here doing Sex Discrimination and Infertility research from UNC and has been coming here every summer for the last three years. She was doing some really interesting studies. Really bright 20-year-old.

-Hemant Kaka leaving. He is the youngest, most energetic, gregarious 55-year-old I’ve ever met. He lived here for two years and in that short time came to know everything about everyone. There is no pretense with him, which probably explain why everyone is so quick to reveal there lives to him. We used to sit outside my front porch talking and gossiping (the people of SEARCH are more complex then I ever imagined) for hours. I miss our random conversations and discussions.

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