Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Week 6 (Monday 13th November – Sunday 19th November, 2006): In Rajasthan

The next day (Monday) I went for lunch at Mrs. Mathur’s place, where I met her parents, her maternal uncle, and Akshay. It was a lovely lunch. From there Mrs. Mathur (Anju) took me to the MDS University in Ajmer, where she works as a guest lecturer from time to time. Some of the students there had volunteered for Aasra, so she wanted me to meet them, and to ask some of them to accompany me to the villages I would be visiting.

The next day I had to be ready to be picked up around 8:30am, by my own auto rickshaw, with Mr. Junma Ahmed as my driver. LOL! We picked up two students Bhim Singh and Devendra, who went with us to the first village, Chachiyawas. We met up with Hemraj, who lives in that particular village and attends MDS. I met some lovely people there, such as Kamala, the kindergarten teacher. We were able to interview 12 people before we had to leave, as the boys had classes starting at 1pm. I also took a few pictures. I made Mr. Ahmed take me to town, where I checked email, and made extra copies of the questionnaire I needed. We went to Chachiyawas the next day also, and this time we had two more students join us, Gopal and Lavesh. Lavesh loved to sing, so he sung the songs from Kal Ho Naa Ho and other popular songs for me. At the village a group of women were so enchanted by me and they asked me to dance. They wanted me to stay overnight. All of them also kept offering me a lot of food. One of the young ones asked me why I didn’t use makeup, and actually brought out lipstick and eyeshadow to put on me. I had to show her my makeup case and explain to her that I wasn’t big on makeup. One of the ladies actually commented that they were poor but they had big hearts, which was clearly apparent from how they were all making me feel welcome and offering me food and inviting me into their homes.

I was a big hit at the hotel. For one, I was the only permanent guest, as most people only stopped there for a night to rest from driving. I made friends with most of the staff, particularly the manager, Manjeet Singh, and the head waiter, Morsingh. We had fun chatting every night at dinner, and they kept teasing me, because for the first three days I had the same thing, Mixed Vegetable Korma with roti or nan. Morsingh suggested that I try Navratan Korma, which is a sweeter version of Mixed Veg, so I kept alternating those two. I also asked them to teach me a few Hindi phrases, so that’s where I picked up most of my Hindi lingo.

The students couldn’t make it on Thursday, Friday or Saturday, so I was left to my own devices. I made Mr. Junma take me out sightseeing in Ajmer on Thursday. After the sightseeing, where a few people had asked to take pictures with me (seeing that I’m the new attraction in town..LOL!), I went back to the hotel to find the place being decorated for a party. I was having dinner when the party started. Some of the children at the party noticed me sitting in the other room and came to sit there and stare. I started chatting with them, asking their names and how they were in Hindi, and we became fast friends. I asked them if they wanted to dance with me and they said yes, so I went to bring down my laptop and we dance to the songs on “Kal Ho Naa Ho.” Their older sisters came to join us some time later, and we talked about Shah Rukh Khan and other good movies they had watched. We also talked about school, and what I was doing here in India>. They wrote down their names for me, with their phone numbers and email addresses. Piyasha’s mother actually asked me to join the party, but I declined, because I felt odd bursting in on a family gathering. She also brought me some food, but I told her that I had just eaten. I felt bad because I thought it was a bit rude to be refusing everything they were giving. When they were leaving, one of them, Piyasha, told me not to forget her. How sweet is that?!!

I stayed in the hotel on Friday and Saturday and was bored out of my wits. I had watched and rewatched the movies I had with me, and since the hotel was so far from town, I couldn’t check email or walk around at my own leisure. By Saturday night I was ready to commit a crime…hehehe. Thankfully Sunday came quickly and I went to the village with four other guys. Lavesh and Hemraj were the only ones I had worked with before. I had three new guys, PunyaVardhan, Salim and Praveen. We interviewed 100 people in total, and left the village. I decided then and there that I would leave for Jaipur on Tuesday. My original plan was to stay in Ajmer and do the same survey in antoher village, Chatri, but I was tired of being alone in the hotel. Mrs. Mathur had invited me to dinner that evening, so I was looking forward to that, and to also tell her that I was leaving.

It turned out that the dinner was actually a wedding dinner in honor of Zulficar and his new bride, hosted by Mr. Khan, who is Zulficar’s uncle (I think). I met so many nice people there, including a man who had lived with Amitabh Bachchan in Kolkata when they were younger. One of the men gave me lemonade with gin and bitters. Very soon I found myself singing “Kal Ho Naa Ho” to a rapt audience. LOL! When I was done, they asked me for a song from Ghana, so I sung Kojo Antwi’s “Dadi Anoma” and translated it for them. They enjoyed it. The food was also lovely, tasty, and very peppery! Hahaha! It was a lovely night all in all. I told Anju that I would be leaving on Tuesday, and asked if I could come do laundry in her house the next day.

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