The reality of India seemed to just slap me in the face one afternoon really, REALLY hard. All the shitting, urinating and spitting in the streets I see constantly, poverty and beggars everywhere, staring from everyone, groping by the men on the streets and every other aspect of this insane country finally sank in. For a while I was thinking ‘Yeah, India’s hard, but is it really going to affect me the way everyone has warned me about? Is it really going to push me to my limits and crack me down?’ And the answer is: YES. And probably more than I thought was possible. This country is so unbelievably ridiculous and confusing. I’ve never hated and loved anything so much in my life, nor have I ever thought something was so incredibly beautiful and so disgusting at the same time.
Paola and I have been living together in a mud hut (told you grandma!) with a family that could not speak any English. It was really confusing to keep track of who’s kid was whose and who everybody was and why they were there because every night there were different people sleeping with us. But for the main part there was a lady and her 3 year old son, a man (her husband maybe?) and 4 other children. Some nights there were more kids and more adults but we really had no idea what was going on. The NGO that we have been working with provided us cots and so that is where we slept. The house was a 2 roomed hut with a pretty big ‘porch’ right next to the cows and goats and overlooking the farm. The porch is where everyone slept and the two rooms seemed to be storage for their few belongings (it didn’t make much sense to me that they didn’t sleep inside, but nothing makes sense to me nowadays.) The family kept to themselves for the most part just as we did, but every single night we would sit on our side of the porch under our mosquito net and they sat on theirs on their cardboard mattress and we would just watch each other. And every morning we were woken up by knocking on our heads and given chai. They were very very welcoming, friendly people and by the last night we even pulled out our cameras and took pictures with them! We also played with the ADORABLE children and when we pulled out the camera they started to show off for us. One little boy, probably about 5 years old, started to dance for us and at one point was swinging between a cot and a pillar and his pants fell down. Everyone laughed SO HARD! It was hilarious! I’ve learnt that dancing and laughter are two very universal things. There are many times this week that I have thought: ‘This cant be real. I’m not ACTUALLY here am I?’ Watching this family survive with almost nothing was just awe-inspiring. From within my little mosquito net world I was able to watch so much. I watched this family make chapati over the fire, young ladies fetch water from the well and carry it back on their head, little boys with no pants play, small children sweep porches with brooms made from leaves, little girls tie their cows and goats in for the night and so many other things that would never happen in Canada. As much as this family amazed me, it also broke my heart. The little boys do not wear pants, no one has clean clothes, little girls have their dirt-matted hair braided and bowed, there are no bathrooms, toddlers are obviously malnourished, these families do not have any belongings and they work so hard from sunrise to sunset trying to do the only work they can on their small farms just to be able to feed their kids and themselves.
There was one night that I was having trouble sleeping because I was so uncomfortable and as I was trying to find a bearable position I rolled over and saw this family of 7 all sleeping on their cardboard bed on the floor of their porch. And I thought to myself ‘How dare I think I’m uncomfortable on this mattress on this cot when there is this family who sleeps like this EVERY SINGLE NIGHT!’ I felt like such a terrible person. But there wasn’t any comfort in the fact that they were more uncomfortable than me. It’s these realities that make India so hard.
Every morning we taught for 2 hours at an all girls boarding school which is home to girls from the age of 4 to 15 (roughly) including a handful of orphans. I was really excited to teach english at the start of this and as I have barely survives this week I have no desire to do that ever again.
Greg and I taught the sixth grade class. Or I guess I should really say that we TRIED to teach them. We were supposed to work on their spoken English and pronounce their pronunciation. The really ironic thing about this situation is that these girls are taught English by teachers that DO NOT know how to speak English. So we went into a Hindi speaking classroom and tried to talk to them in English and they had zero idea what we were saying. It was extremely frustrating. This became a very dreaded event for me every day.
These young girls are without parents (even though temporary for most) and seeing that they are not properly taken care of was really difficult for me. They were so curious about us and so eager to talk to us and be our friends, it was obvious that they were wanting the attention that they are lacking every day. They clung onto all of us and every moment they could they asked ‘what’s your name?!’ And ‘what’s my name?!’ I never want to hear either of those questions again in my life. It took me a while to realize that that was the only English these girls knew and since we speak English this was the only way they could talk to us. Looking at it that way, it’s really sweet. But living through this week, it was brutally annoying.
They were also extremely dirty and it seemed as though many had not bathed in weeks. I wanted to be able to embrace them all, hug them, kiss them and love them. I wanted to teach them things, let them brush my hair and chase them around. But I really just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I felt like such a terrible person, but every time one of these girls touched me I wanted to yell and run to take a shower. Clearly this is a bit of a harsh reaction, and none of you reading this will probably be able to understand but obviously this was a week of mental breakdowns. It wasn’t even that I was just disgusted my them and their lack of hygiene, but I was so overwhelmed by sadness every time I saw them. Once again this was India slapping me in the face with its realities. Imagine walking into a classroom and not being able to breathe through your nose because the smell of poop is so intense, or having handprints of dirt and dust left on you after these children touch you. These kids use the field behind their school as their bathroom and they don’t even know what toilet paper is, they don’t really wear shoes, they do not bathe often or properly, and their skin is so dry you can see it flaking off. My heart aches for them. And working in the school with them made me feel so helpless and lost because there is nothing that we can do to help them. And this is just one little town. There is a whole entire country of people living like this. And many other counties for that matter.
There is also no such thing as privacy here. There was a boarding house for guests that we stayed in the first two nights and hung out in the rest of the days. The very first morning we woke up to a bunch of little heads poking into our window (there were no blinds). And throughout the week while we were all trying to get some VERY NEEDED rest and alone time our windows were filled with little faces watching every single move we made. At some points ( that’s right, more than one) we had them climbing up to the window that was at the very top off our wall and banging on our doors. We were actually scared to leave our rooms! And if we did and one girl was able to slip in, well we were goners. What was especially hard about this was the fact that these little girls were so beautiful and happy and loving ad friendly. Despite everything that I hated about them, I loved them. Everything they did was with good intentions. Like the name asking for example. They didn’t mean to annoy me, they just wanted to talk to me!
I’m so confused by everything around me. It’s really overwhelming and this week I was consumed by it all. It also doesn’t help that every moment of every day I am surrounded by people. I’ve really been aching for some alone time. I love the people that I’m travelling with but I’d probably love them more if I could spend some time away from them! I’m very glad that this week is over, and I don’t wish that it didn’t happen because I learnt a lot about myself and of course a lot about my surroundings. There are so many things that I still need to process. This is a seriously unreal experience, and I’m very looking foreword to moving onto the next part of it!