Thursday, September 30, 2010

home as a village

I've been trying all day to start a post about the culture shock I feel in Beawar, how the differences in outlook on hygiene are strange, how looking out the window and seeing cows remains bizarre, how it veers between frustrating and relaxing to understand so little of what people around me say, how it pains me to see young boys working and girls pulled from school after 10th grade to prepare for domesticity. But I haven't had the time to organize my thoughts, because this house is endlessly chaotic. It has a central courtyard square open to the elements via a grate overhead that also forms part of the roof, and there are rooms around the periphery, some of which are occupied by Prati's mother and others which are rented. The square, the roof, the bathrooms and sinks are shared, and visitors and  maids traipse in throughout the day.

For most of today, one tenant's two children and three or four of their friends have been playing with the computer, watching downloaded videos and playing games. Most of them have probably never seen computers before. At this moment, three of them are sitting beside me on the bed I share with Prati and Cayden playing with Cayden's toys even though the boys are  older, perhaps 10. It's always necessary to keep an eye on Cayden, I was taught to (and failed to) make battis, dough balls local to the area, a friend of Prati's mother oiled my hair (and tried to braid it before Prati intervened), and the mom called me over to watch one of her prayers. Since I began the previous run on, Prati came over with kheer and began a conversation. I understand, now, why Prati has zero sense of privacy; this house is more village than independent structure, with everyone in everyone else's space and business.

This makes reflection difficult to us westerners used to living and being in spaces with individualized purposes. Asanas are practiced at yoga studios; breakfast is eaten in the kitchen; and there are no lizards lurking on bedroom walls or hairless baby mice mewing in living rooms where I grew up. Here, I do my quick yoga practice (yes yes, yoga is a constant practice; I mean poses and concentrated focus on my breath) while Cayden naps, cows moo just beyond the wall, children play on the ledge outside the window and I wonder whether the woman who cleans the floors will enter mid-downward dog to shoo me out of the room. If I can learn to focus here, everything else will be cake.

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