Monday, August 20, 2007

16-17 August: Highs and Lows

Other than some major running around trying to get my phone to work, the major event on my day was a meeting with Asha from the Karnataka Network of Positive People (KNP+), a state-wide NGO empowering people living with HIV and AIDS and providing treatment. I wanted to meet with KNP+ because I knew they were doing work in the part of the state that I am researching, and that they have members who are devadasis. Talking with Asha, I found that my reading had served me well as I could engage her with intelligent questions, and knew many of the players she was talking about. In the most amazing moment of the day, Asha volunteered to take me to Northern Karnataka to meet their devadasi members and see a cultural program, and to translate for me. Additionally she would introduce me to key staff working with other NGOs! This is so unexpected and perfect and something I thought would take 4 weeks at least to happen! Asha told me that she is very interested in my topic and wants to help me. So awesome!

Some more phone backs and forths, too boring and silly to mention in detail, and it’s after 6pm and finally I’m in a cab on the way to my friend’s cousin’s place. It’s clear the driver doesn’t really know where Gedalahalli is (north of Bangalore’s center), so his dispatcher directs him until we finally reach Hennur Main Rd. Sitting in traffic (do I leave the window open for moving air or close it against the car exhaust? I can hear Germans calling for “frische luft, frische luft” in my head.) I see a sign on the back of a truck or bus that reads “If found driving rash, please inform…” along with 3 phone numbers. I also notice a sign that says “International Airport Link Road” and I am confused as we are heading north, and I believe the airport is east and a little south. Around Gracetown (not on my map, which looks a bit old anyway) the road turns to dirt with huge potholes. I start to think the driver deserves the ridiculous amount of Rs 400 for dropping me here in the dark and on this bad road. We call Rethy when the driver notices we have reached Gedalahalli, but it turns out we’ve already passed her apartment complex, Mantri Splendor. When we turn around I notice a sign that indicates drivers should be careful due to construction. As if no one had noticed the horrible dirt road and major holes! And did I mention the cloud of dust kicked up by the many cars? Later Rethy tells me that they are building a new international airport and that Hennur Main Rd will be the main access to the airport, so soon this road will soon be a very busy thoroughfare. This area is part of Bangalore’s sprawl, and Mantri Splendor (really, it is splendor compared to much of what I’ve seen – ha ha, how much can I have seen in 2 days? – with a pool, play areas, fountains, nice big apartments, etc.) only opened about 6 months ago.

Rethy is the wife of my friend Bindu’s cousin Ravi. She teaches English at a school nearby, mostly it seems to Korean children and adults. Evidently, Korean schools do not provide much English education, and it’s cheaper for Koreans to come to India that to the US to learn. She also does private tutoring at home. Her children, ages 15 and 11, go to an international school that is also nearby.

We had home-made chappatis last night (with cilantro and green chili in the batter), served with sambar, and I am in heaven. People can’t quite believe that I like Indian food, or that I’ve had iddli, etc. before. I’m sure before the end of 6 weeks I’ll have a hankering for pizza or french fries or something, but for now it’s great.

Then begins the Great Fever Saga. Well actually I think it began on the way back from the KNP+ office, sitting in the autorickshaw in traffic. I could feel my lymph nodes begin to swell in protest. All the running around about the phone didn’t help, and then the hot dusty drive… Went to bed with a fever of 100.3 (yes, I brought a thermometer because the list the doctor gave me said to!) which is very high for me since my temp tends to be about 1 degree lower than the average. Woke up Friday morning and it was a whopping 101.7! Scary! I think it was just a result of the long traveling, lack of sleep, overstimulation, and pollution that just did me in. I went back to bed, and got up at 3pm feeling better.

Still figuring out the Indian bathroom. My instinct that the kitchen spray looking thing is for cleaning of the private parts is correct, but according to LP, it is the equivalent to toilet paper rather than a bidet, as I had thought. I’m cool with that, but am still clumsy with the after spray part – how do you not drip all over your clothing? They kindly gave me a towel last night, I assume for post-spray drying purposes. And the ubiquitous Indian bathroom bucket which my friend Anisha has blogged about, here with accompanying small scoop – is it in addition to the shower? Instead of the shower? Not sure.

My late afternoon (post-fever saga) breakfast was banana cornflakes and iddli with sambar. Dinner, fixed especially for me since the all went to a birthday party at – wait for it – the Pizza Hut (!) was dosas, rice, sambar, eggplant cooked with chili powder and turmeric, and a yellow thing with a few pieces of tomato, which I thought was dal, but was cool and a little sour. Yum.

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