Today I have been living in Khajuraho for two months. Gosh, how time flies. No way I can come back to the West now. Yesterday I spoke to Dad, and I told him I may be back in September or October. He was taken a little aback, but then, time flies so fast that I feel i will come back pretty soon, really.
There is something I like very much about India. Normally we are seven people living together in the house. Three sisters, two brothers, one mother and me. These last couple of weeks though, the two other sisters, who live in their husbands' families have been living here with their kids. And so we've been ten people - sometimes up to thirteen - living together under the same roof. Needless to say I had never lived with so many people before. And being such a loner, I have surprised myself at how well I have been coping with it. Perhaps it's because I can do my own things without feeling judged. (I did feel very observed at first, but now they are used to me and my 'funny' ways, so I can pretty much be myself easily at all times.) I can even meditate in the room when two sisters sleep on the other bed, or when people come and see me whilst I meditate. It was something I was very shy with before. Somehow. But then when so many people live under the same roof and there is virtually no privacy, you have to be yourself and not feel judged, because everyone needs to be alone at times, otherwise wouldn't you go crazy? Meaning if there's a lot of people all the time, you have to be alone - in your head! - even when people are around you. It is a question of survival. And that is where I feel my practice of pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) comes in very handy... Still, it seems in India there's something that makes living with so many people more bearable than in the West... Something to do with non judgement and 'togetherness of privacy'...
I don't even think there is such a word as 'privacy' in Hindi. Or is there? There is one single towel in the house and everybody uses it after their shower. I brush my teeth and pluck my eyebrows sitting outside of the house with passers-by looking at me. I can't feel shy about plucking my eyebrows anymore. They all do it anyway. There are a few beds which everybody shares, though sometimes people change. Sometimes X and Z sleep together, following day X will sleep with A and B. There are no individual rooms here, and the family eat together on the same plate. I don't because I guess I am still a guest and not from the family. But when I was always given a mat to sit on at the beginning of my stay (because of respect), now I am so comfortable that they accept that I can sit on the floor, too and they no longer feel bad about it.
There are many ways in which I adopt the Indian lifestyle. Sitting and eating on the floor and with my fingers are second nature for me now. And there is no table to cook on, they use the stone floor, too. Why bother with tables when the floor is always clean? I come to notice how much useless things we have in the West. Here there are no high chairs for kids. It's very comfy to sit on mummy's crossed-legs-in-a-saree on the floor. Why bother? All these useless expensive ustensiles that we have, honestly. oh, and about food - I have even surprised myself burping after meals! At first when I burped, I felt bad like someone would tell me I'm disgusting. But it is so natural here that no-one notices. Now I don't notice either. Squatting in the toilet has become very natural. In fact it is more natural than sitting like on a chair. And I have come to like squatting toilets better than Western style. I even stopped using toilet paper - yes! I use my hand and water. Sorry for people who don't like to read this. But it is nature. And it is very hygienic when you wash your hands afterwards. Here people have handled cow dung since they were kids, so no wonder they are not afraid of touching poo. Cow dung is used so much here. There are piles of cow dung drying everywhere. Dry cow dung is VERY good to burn fire. It burns very well. And burning cow poo is a mosquito repellent too, actually. Everyday in the family, for puja (religious worship) they burn cow dung on the kitchen hob. The cow is seen like the Mother here.
Here I am very aware of the environment. Nothing is hidden in India. You see reality as it is. You see people with harelip not 'repaired', crippled people who walk on one foot and one hand because their other leg no longer works; you see lepers in the streets. And the rubbish you throw you see it also, because there are no facilities and so where do you throw your rubbish? In the dry lake, behind the temple. Or where there are already rubbish, some piles in the street. I hate using sanitary towels and use as few as I possibly can, keeping them as long as I can in my pants, because I have to throw them behind the temple, too. I see directly where my rubbish goes because I have to handle it. It makes you VERY aware of rubbish. It is a very good lesson. So if I can use one instead of two towels then I will. And that plastic bottle of shampoo - well I have come to hate it. The other day I asked Vijay how his sisters wash their hair. There is no other bottle of shampoo in the bathroom else than mine. Well, they wash their hair with the mud from the dry lake*. I too want to try using mud if it can save me from throwing a bottle in the pile of rubbish behind the temple. And I don't use plastic bottles for my water - Thank God for that travelling water filter. Oh and I have come to LOVE using pots to have a 'shower'. Of course there is no proper shower; there is a big bucket of water and we use a small pot to pour water on ourselves. But what I love is that this way I can see how much water I use - and I use far less than I do in the West. But then Khajuraho has not had a rainy season for three years and so the water in the wells runs low... And so I am indeed VERY happy not to use too much water. Oh and mothers don't use nappies on their kids. I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. No stupid, millions of so-non-ecological nappies in the rubbish! Understandably, with so many kids, and no hidden place for rubbish, how would people cope in India with nappies anyway? So babies wear no nappies. They are just continent earlier than kids in the West. And they run around bare-bum. And if they want to poo their mums take them outside on the side of the road or in the field. And if they pee on the floor, it's OK, because stoned-floors are very easy to clean anyway, and no-one is scared of pee. And accidents happen surprisingly rarely. Oh, I can't tell how much I LOVE the fact that they DON'T USE NAPPIES.
Sometimes I do long of the West because everything is materialistically easy. Part of me longs the easiness, but the other part does really like to be here and be aware of the other way of living. To be so close to nature because that is what we are, really. My other concern is that the VERY hot season is coming soon (April-May) and it will be about 40 degrees here. Apparently it's even hotter in Varanasi. Yet I do trust that my body will adapt somehow. My heart knows I have to be here right now and so I will adapt - I have very well adapted these last few months - I no longer take my tablets of grapefruit seed extracts with meals and I am not ill. When my foot is completely OK (it is ALMOST now, really!!!) I keep thinking I should start drinking the water untreated, too. A french guy I met last month told me that when he lived in India for a year, after a few months he could drink the water. I have already used the water to brush my teeth. I have probably swallowed a few drops in the process, right? I will see how I feel... Everything anyway revolves about seeing how one feels in the now anyway. There is nothing else in life but being aware at any moment.
I later came to find out why there are no other shampoo bottles in the bathroom: not that they only use mud to wash their hair; rather, they mostly use (unnatural) shampoo in individual sachets, which they then throw in the gutter outside of the house... For my environmentally-friendly self, this is not nearly as exciting as using just mud, tsss....
A note on my three blogs
A note on my blogs
(1) vio; in love with india - this one is the main blog about my Indian adventures, which started in 2005. I don't write much on this blog these days because I prefer to write privately in the confidential blog. But check out the categories and the index to figure out your way. I have kept some older posts not about India but which I still find interesting or relevant in Old words. Also check out my new, fun category Only in India in which I post photos of funny, unique, Indian situations...
(2) vio; sounds of india - this is my blog of sounds, because India wouldn't be as incredible if it was not so vibrant and just so full of incredible sounds!
(3) vio; confidential - this an extension of my main blog in which I post entries I do not want to reveal to the entire webspace for privacy or sensitivity reasons. You must receive an invitation from me and then accept the invitation to be able to read it. You may email me if you are interested in receiving an invitation.