Friday, September 6

Birthday and the last week blues.

The sweetest bits of my time in India have been the first three months and the last two weeks.

My birthday was immensely special. The Babel Language Institute regulars pulled together and gave me such a wonderful surprise birthday party. They invited my friends from throughout this whole year; some of my students from the very first English class that i taught even showed up. All of these people who showed their love by coming really touched my heart. I was made much of - there were surprise elements and special songs and wonderful homemade food, a gorgeous fruit-decorated cake and a huge and festive Happy Birthday sign along with well-wishes on the wall. People wanted to take pictures with me, and i got to give a short speech in which i shared the whole reason i came here: I told them all plainly the Good News in a way i never really would have otherwise had the chance to do. I had a captive audience full of people who love and respect me, and I pray they were affected in some way by the love i so desired to share with them. The whole thing just went well - and what's more, it was well tailored to my preferences and personality. The atmosphere was comfortable and warm and wonderful.
I've never had a better birthday party.

Afterwards some friends came over to sing in our living room, and after some time my friend Dika started into one song he seemed particularly excited about. When they heard the chords, everyone recognized it - they started laughing and they all sang me a song from an old Bollywood movie. The lyrics of the chorus are: "Pardesi, pardesi, jaana nahin! Mujhe chor kar! Mujhe chor kar." "Foreigner girl, foreigner girl, don't go! Don't leave me - you are leaving me." 

It is one of the sweetest of all my Indian memories. Maybe, actually, of all my memories anywhere.
I felt so close to each one of those people - I looked at those who worked so hard on my party and sang to me that night and i know their faces. i know their favorite foods. i know their hearts.
i feel so close to each of them.
Of course now, every time I feel close to someone here, there is a twinge of sadness in my heart.

Yesterday i was joking with a different friend of mine named Krishna. He is in an English class and he had come out to talk to me instead. I acted angry with him, because i've earned the right and the trust to be able to joke with my friends here. His teacher - my friend Nirvan - came out and ushered him back in as i yelled after him to work harder. Nirvan scolded him, stern but smiling. I laughed at the way their personalities interact, because i think they're funny and sweet people. Because i know them.
At that moment i was suddenly sad as i thought inwardly that now, every time I laugh with someone here it makes me feel like i'll never laugh again once I get to America.
Obviously i'm being dramatic.
What can i say? I have the last week blues, the rose-colored glasses, the 20/20 hindsight.

But today i paid a man 40 cents to pull me and my friend Praise behind his bicycle to a place ten minutes away - it took us twenty because of heavy and dangerously unpredictable traffic. He took us both to a huge street market that exists only once weekly. All of the shops are set up on that day and torn down on that night - Thursday - every week. I took only a small coin purse because the last time we went to Thursday market, my friend's bag was cut from the bottom with a sharp knife, and she never even noticed; neither did I, and i was right next to her the whole time. Right when we got there i bought fifteen cents' worth of some candied root off of an open sales cart. I ate it directly out of a bag made of today's newspaper and Taco Bell hot sauce packaging. I ate it as we browsed and picked up a few small things as i saw them, if i thought they would be useful or a good memorial of my time here. I bought a skirt, three pairs of earrings, and four sets of bangles. I spent under $8. On the way home i gave an extra 35 cents of tip to our electric rickshaw driver, and my friend scolded me for spoiling him.

And it's not dramatic to say that certainly none of that is going to happen again once I get to America.

i mix metaphors here, i drop the object of my sentence, i wear harem pants and everybody calls it a 'traditional conservative' style. I gain two pounds and people start asking me if i'm overeating because i'm stressed or because i'm happy - yes, they notice, and they comment. I wait for the vegetables and the cobbler (not food cobbler - he fixes my shoes... yes, that guy) to come to my doorstep. I use a blend of two languages in almost every sentence. There is deep history in architecture and museums and whole neighborhoods within my city, and the amount of public transportation options i have to take me there is simply unbelievable.  More than all that, I have abundant opportunities to serve, and on a daily walk i pass at least five or six temples that implore my heart to pray for hope to reign. Being good is hard everywhere, but doing good is easy here.
India has been hard on me.
But these are the things i can take away from India.

The kids in the slum. The spice market in Old Delhi. My church. The way to wear a sari. The subji-wallas. The chai being made openly on the street. The Punjabi chants coming from Sikh temples. The microphoned warbling during Hindu gatherings in neighborhood homes, sometimes for days at a time. The cloth and sari shops, the tailors, the gorgeous tassels and prints and colors. The simultaneous diversity and unity of the great culture clash in the Delhi metropolis. The monkeys hanging from the fences. The Mahatma Gandhi Marg. The way to eat rice with my hands. The old men with full beards tied and turbans on their heads who ride motor scooters. The way to ask for change for a five hundred. The unbelievably long black hair of a million beautiful young women.
These are the things I'll never forget.

after a number of upcoming parties including a huge birthday bash for my favorite five-year-old and a bridal shower for me, i'll be headed out. This Sunday I'll be in India. Next Sunday I'll be in Africa. The Sunday after that, I'll be in America. 
Globe-trotting is tough duty, but i guess somebody's gotta do it. 
I'm feeling incredibly blessed, but even more nostalgic. My heart has grown this year; broken and grown and healed. To you, my Indian friend, reading this sentence: I will miss you more than you know. I promise not to forget you.

Love from Delhi,
Julie with the last week blues.

1 comment:

  1. We will miss you Julie. Praise God for bringing you to our lives. May He use you abundantly even in America.