I am back in Australia. I am almost over my culture shock! Finally I seem to have thrown off the layer of grief that I have been carrying around. I can connect again with the joy and feeling of special privilege I have had working on this crazy dam project that we did in Tirzada.
Clearly this chapter has to be about gratitude.
Gratitude for the privilege that I was given daily of just being there. The hospitality and generosity of so many of the villagers – who invited me into their homes – offered chai as their welcome to the village.
Thee villagers seemed to be honoured that I went to their home.. but the honour was all mine despite the over dose of chai!!
Gratitude for the simple pleasure of just sitting under the tree at the dam site .. on a rock that was made for my seat. Yes – the men said: “Oh be careful there are snakes” .. but each day I made ‘clumping’ noises as I entered that creek area and I figured the snakes knew I was there and they are generally shy so they didn’t bother me.
And sure – there were plenty of moments all up and down the scale. From complete joy and fulfilment to tears of frustration and grief.
The tough times when I had found out that some of the key players had ‘lied’ to me.. or at least ‘not entirely spoken the truth’.
I still grapple with whether that is right or wrong.. but in the bigger scheme of things – does it really matter? When I step back from judging it – the people behind the ‘lies’ are only acting out of a sense of ‘this is the best thing to do.. some of the reasoning being – “Shazar doesn’t really need to know this.. she will only get upset!” 🙂 or otherwise – the ‘truth’ that seems best at the time.
But all that said gratitude is the overall feeling that remains. How many people like me have the chance to spend three weeks in an Indian rural village. Hosted by the most generous and loving family that I could possibly have wished for. This family who opened their home and their hearts to me.
The food and care was wonderful. Their place was a little haven. It was hot in Tirzada – but we came home each evening to fresh water in the bucket to wash the dust off, treats in the form of ‘pepsy’ a small plastic pouch filled with an delicious orange cordial and frozen. (You snip the corner off with your teeth, suck and enjoy.) Or perhaps special fried things.. crunchy and tasty and of course always the cool water proffered immediately you arrived, followed by sweet strong chai in a small china cup.
Rajendra, Amrapali and their three children took me into their small house as family. Not the traditional cow dung and mud style house. We were ‘up market’ with a concrete floor – fans, and even for the hotter times a big noisy rattle trap ‘cooler’ which blew air through a water soaked wall of fibre to cool the air. This ran all night along with the fan .. also noisy – which was designed to blow any errant mosquitos away. My itches told me it didn’t always work.
With three basic rooms in the house, – the kitchen – a small bedroom / dressing room – with one bed – and a general living area where we ate and five of us slept – where I as honoured guest – was given the day bed. Each night Rajendra would spread the mattresses and bedding out for us all – and every morning he would pack it away again into a strorage area.
In the early morning when I got up with the rest of the family I would take up a place on the front porch – to write and read and have quiet time. Rajendra unfailingly came and asked me.. ‘Brush?” meaning .. have you brushed your teeth? Quite a ritual for all in the morning – a vigorous brushing and often a clearing of the throat that to us foreigners sounds painful and distressing. I was a little puzzled as to why Rajendra would ask me if I had brushed my teeth as if I was a child… until one day I realised – “Ah ha .. he is asking me because he wants to bring me chai” and is checking to see if I am ready for that. What a sweet and wonderful man he is. He cared for me so much as did his wife and his whole family.
And there is more gratitude for that time: The quiet. The bells of the cows, the bleating of the goats – the walk each morning to the dam site – through the village – smiles and calls of ‘Mam Mam” from the village kids, through the fields, and down into the small river to where the labourers were gathered – then the hours in my favourite spot under the shade of the water trees, sitting on a comfortable rock or lazing on the mat that they brought for me to rest on. Writing – thinking, chatting to the boys and emerging every now and then to take some photos of the progress and the on going work.
Pace in the village is slow – people take time to say hello – people hug you – people are intensely generous – they have little – but would share the last with me – the mad foreigner who is building a dam.. for what?
They ask: “For us?”
“What is she getting out of it?”
me: Gratitude and Blessings. and a learning about life that just fills my heart.