Thursday, January 29, 2009


The last days have been characterized by the acquisition of books. I'd already gotten a few

which as you can see I keep with my kitestring, dental floss, and flashcards on top of my desk. I've cracked at least half of these, I swear.
But there are two or three great Sanskrit outlets here in Delhi, including the Chowkamba Sanskrit Series office which is down a backlane, through a maze of branch alleys, past some dangerously pointy-horned bovanimals [and their at least as dangerous POOP], up a narrow staircase and through an open courtyard. I feel like Aurel Stein or Rahul Sankrityayana.
Except that Sachin from CSS delivers, by bicycle, and a good thing too:
The CSS is actually just the larger box on the bottom, which weighed more than Caitlin. The 8 black volumes are the always helpful History of Dharmasastra by PV Kane, and then there's a bunch of other stuff--basically the greatest hits of Sanskrit. For perspective, both in terms of size and familial importance,

here are B & C, and I swear that they had just gotten done saying, in unison, 'We are so proud of you, beloved Father; won't you please acquire more archaic Indological materials for us to inherit some day?'

Here is a shot of them with the full range (well, almost) of books I've bought since I got here:

Ben is so obviously overwhelmed with excitement that he is about to experience the onset of environmentally induced narcolepsy.

One more bit of perspective--here are most of the materials that we've purchased in the last four months that Ms. H and I have reviewed together, albeit without the children (their library is, I say shamefacedly, even more extensive)

That bottom one, Dead Man, is a Jim Jarmusch film that everyone should see if only to rattle the foundations. Not featured here: The Rookie/Miracle set that SMH got me for Festivus. I hated Syriana. Slapshot is an homage to the Dish Boy Posse.

Today we forage the CIHTS publication unit for obscure information on manuscript materials pertaining to Vinaya, especially Gunaprabha, and the Triskandhaka (of which I have now actually a full, if late, unpublished manuscript and, as of two days ago, confirmation of its source. Go go gadget CaReer!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bring Your 12 Year Old to Work Day

On Sunday our laundry woman, Neelam, turned up with her 12 year old son, Sachen, in tow.  She told us he wanted to learn English and had been asking her to bring him to us for a long time.  For whatever reason, Sunday was the day.  Shortly after Neelam and Sachen arrived, Manju, our cook, arrived with her 12 year old daughter, Shilpi.  We never could quite figure out why Shilpi was tagging along, but she joined the English lesson happily enough. 

Long time SLNC readers will remember our earlier attempt at teaching English.  I thought we were off to a great start with the neighbor kids but the project quickly fizzled and I was left rather confused and discouraged about the whole project.  (Why the project fizzled definitely falls under Chris's new WTH=Totally Standard meme.)  However, Chris has taught English at the monasteries during his prior trips to India so he was happy to have another crack at teaching. 

Over the past week the class has doubled to include our housekeeper, Sunita, and our driver, Shamsher, each of them attending on their own (somewhat inscrutable) rotating schedule.  It’s a fun group – all of them here because they really want to be, and thanks in large part to Chris’s teaching style, full of laughter.

As I type, Ben and Sachen are indulging in an extra-curricular pillow fight.  There are so many things about living here that are frustrating, difficult and just plain ugly.  But there are also these beautiful, pure, joy-filled moments, and in the most unexpected places, people whom we have come to really love.  English class is chock-full of both.  

Fashion Flash

Attention Benarsi Boys and others closely following the local fashion scene!  Time to put away your drab dark brown faux fur fezes!  Spring has sprung!  What you need now is a baby blue and pink striped faux fur fez!  No self-respecting Varanasi bicyclinist will be caught without one this season.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

wth=meh=absolutely standard II

Ok, so I'm at work at the Shantarakshita Library at the Tibetan Institute a couple days ago. A few weeks before this I was chewing a paan out back (so as to be able to spit in the scrubland) and talking to a friend when one of the peons walks by. Don't take that wrong, these guys are budgeted for as peons and they do stuff like bring tea and show people the way out to the next building and so on. Anyway, this dude starts talking to me, and even asks me if I can get his kid a job (totally standard) in India (actually kinda weird) to which friend and I say 'you're the one who lives here; this guy's been here like two months, what does he know about electrical engineering in Varanasi.' It might be added that that explanation rarely fails to make an impression--apparently all Americans are experts in everything from medicine to politics to fiscal policy to, yes, all forms of lucrative employment. Anyway, I talked to this guy for a few minutes and he was very pleased to learn I speak Hindi. (totally standard)
Back to a few days ago. As is often the case, I'm thinking deep indological thoughts for hours on end and ignoring the rest of the world, when suddenly I realize I've needed to pee for like 3 hours, and so now I really need to go do something about it. (totally standard).
So, I go to the less disgusting of the two men's rooms in the library, the one on the first floor, where the squat toilet, as always, swarms with mosquitoes, but at least no one has splashed water (hopefully water!) all over the toilet seat, because...there is none. The door is closed, but not locked. The floor is wet (totally standard, don't ask me why, I just live here). It's around 1 or so. Standing in the middle of the room, like equidistant from sink, stall, and urinals, is the fellow from a few weeks ago. He's in his skivvies and soaking wet, taking a bucket bath, it seems, in the middle of the public bathroom floor.
Hi, he says.
totally standard.

Watch out for the fez of all fezzes soon...

New SLNC series: wth = meh = absolutely standard [I]

This morning I went running in a local park, first time in a long time. The details are pitiable, but here's the wth=meh=absolutely standard:
There were five or six dudes doing something like yoga on the grass on blankets. Since its about 60 out, they are wearing jackets and have scarves tied around their heads. As I ran by, they were all up on hands and knees, roaring. Like "AAAAAUUUUUUURRRRRGGGGGGHHHHH."
absolutely standard

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Turning Back the Clock, Another Visitor

Back in November, my dad came to visit.  Happily he's talked the UW Ag School into starting a big program in India so he can have an excellent excuse for visiting us every 2 months or so.  (Good planning Dad!)  Not so happily, I got super sick shortly after he arrived.  There are next to no pictures of his visit (above is the 1 good one, out of 5), and there was not a lot in the way of fun exciting visitor stuff happening.  Mostly, he just showed up and was a dad.  Took care of the kids while I puked and passed out.  Bought them new clothes.  Helped Chris not go crazy.  Normal dad stuff, but in the middle of the all-time-worst-ever intestinal awfulness I have ever experienced it was super-human.  Divine.  

He's coming back in a few weeks, probably in the midst of our move to Pune, but we're looking forward to seeing him all the same.  And as crazy as moving in India may turn out to be, I am confident it can't be much worse than the awful awfulness I was gripped by the last time he was here.  Can't wait!

More on The Visitors

Braver than brave, mere saus aur mere nanud spent a week with us in Varanasi.  We did pretty much every single touristy thing one can do here, including taking our first boat trip on the Ganga.  Can't believe we waited so long to do it, but I'm glad we got to share the experience with Ginny and Susannah. Mark/Rajesh, one of the beloved Uncles from Open Hand moonlights as a boatman so we were extra-lucky to have him at the helm.  After the boat ride we hiked up from the Ganga to one of our favorite restaurants, Lotus Lounge.  We wandered in the galis, got overwhelmed by the noise, crowds and lights of Godoulia and walked the ghats.Crossed the pontoon bridge to Ramnagar Fort and were wowed by the results of Susannah's weight lifting regieme!
Just a day behind Ginny and Sus another notable arrived in town so toward the end of the week we went up to Sarnath to see him.  Had lunch with a bunch of Chris's old friends/teachers/students from Ladahk and Kerela and explored the ruins of the original Deer Park.  There were also dance parties, fashion shows, shopping and eating out that was both delicious and hilarious.  

But beyond all the activities I think I speak for all of the SLNC crew when I say that just having G and S here was the very best thing.  We've all been homesick in our own way and in our own time and having beloved grandma/mom/sister/aunt here with us for a week was wonderful balm for us lonely gauras in India.  

Who's next?  Meema?  dHaps?  Brooklyn Peeps?  Paul?  You know you want to!  The welcome mat is out for any and all of you out there in blog-reading-land.  Can't wait to see Grampy in t-minus 3 weeks and counting!

ATM Protocol, a comparative study (plus a secret contest for our readers!)

By this time loyal S.L. N.C. readers no longer need (or want) me to tell them how totally completely FREAKIN different Varanasi is from any other place I have ever been.  But the fact remains that even now, 3.5 months into this crazy journey, I am still, almost-daily, smacked up-side the head with the fact that I am really not in Kansas anymore.  Even something as seemingly simple as getting money from the ATM is an exercise in culture shock.  

Back home I'd take a peek in the wallet and upon seeing that cash-holdings were a bit low I'd plan to stop by any one of the 40+ ATMs within a mile of my house.  If, upon arriving at the ATM, I found another person using it I'd wait patiently for my turn, standing a goodly distance away so as not to encroach upon the other person's privacy.  I'd politely avert my eyes so as to not even accidentally discover any details of their transaction.  Once the ATM was free I'd step up, confident that other ATM users would wait patiently and at a distance while I completed my transaction.  The transaction would be quick, simply selecting a cash withdrawal from my checking account.  Upon receiving my cash I'd pause for moment to put it in my wallet and then put my wallet in my purse, while the person behind be continued to wait patiently.  Then, on with the rest of my life.  Sounds pretty straight forward, right?

Not so here in Varanasi.  Here, upon realizing I need cash, I first ask my husband if he has any. (Anything to avoid going to the ATM, even sacrificing my status as a financially independent woman!)  If Chris doesn't have enough money to give me we compare our plans for the day and decide who will be better able to hit the ATM.  If the task falls to me, I set out with the kids and our driver on some other mission which will take us past one of the 3 ATMs in the whole city that I've been able to use with success.  Shamsher (our driver) will cheerfully suggest we hit the bhang-wallah road ATM.  (SECRET CONTEST!  First person to correctly define "bhang-wallah" in the comments* wins a bar of  Nag Champa soap and a pack of Nag Champa incense.  Ginny and Sus, you are exempt, as are all others who have ever had any personal interaction with a bhang-wallah.  Ready, GO!)  Shamsher and the kids and I will all spend the next 5 minutes re-affirming our disdain for bhang and our conviction that bhang consumers/vendors are bahd-mash-s.  Eventually we get to the ATM.  Shamsher parks at a goodly distance from the ATM and is left with the kids (lucky Shamsher).  I walk up to the ATM which is conveniently located in a little glassed in room, with a locking door.  Invariably a man is using the ATM and there are about 3 more men waiting.  I stand behind the guys already waiting, maintaining what I feel is a comfortable amount of personal space.  (Note here that I say "waiting" and not "in line."  There is most assuredly NOT a line for anyone to wait in.)  (Also note the use of "man" not "person".  ATM usage seems to be a decidedly male endeavor.)  More men will walk up, stand between me and the men already waiting, invading my personal space, and then turn around to stare unceasingly at me for the duration of the wait.  I wither internally, but decide to persevere, even if it means allowing the starers to go first.  (Would you really want to debate the niceties of turn-taking with a paan-chewing Indian dude who is STARING at you like a piece of meat?  Me neither.)  After a LONG time it will finally be my turn.  After allowing the prior ATM user to exit at his leisure I enter the ATM room, firmly closing (and locking) the door behind me, much to the consternation of the men who have joined the line behind me.  Apparently this desire to use the ATM ALONE is baffling - many people seem to bring a friend with and welcome the supervision strangers while using the ATM.  I mumble a prayer that the ATM will work and start the transaction.  I first have to choose Hindi or English and then whether I would like my money from my "saving" or "current" account.  ("Current" is the right answer.)  I input the amount desired in 100 rupee denominations.  I am scolded by the ATM for not using 100 rupee denominations.  I try the exact same amount again and am again scolded.  I decide I ought to check the account balance, just to be sure.  While waiting for the machine to process that request I realize that I can hear, from outside, the next ATM user narrating my transaction to the others.  Every single thing the screen displays this guy reads aloud to everyone else in line.  Assured of my balance I try my withdrawal request a third time, for the original amount.  This time the ATM deigns to give me my money.  After a long wait, the money comes.  I take it and hear the door being rattled as my narrator demands to be let in.  Unfazed I put my money away, and then put my wallet away. Rattling continues.  I step to the door.  The door which opens outward and which is completely surrounded by Indian men wanting to use the ATM.  They are so close that I cannot physically push the door open.  I stare at them until someone gets the bright idea to back up enough to allow the door to open.  Finally, I exit and am minutely scrutinized as I walk back to the car.  Opening the door to the car, I see my entire ATM fan club still staring at me.  Only after I get in the car do the narrator and his assistant enter the ATM.  

Everything is an adventure here.  Everything.  

*HOW TO COMMENT:  At the bottom of each post you will something like "2 Comments".  Click on that.  It will open another window which shows the comments and has a place for you to write your own comment.  You may need to sign in (if you have a Google account) or create an account, but this is painless.  Then simply write and click the "Publish Your Comment" button.  Done!  

Friday, January 16, 2009

Mom and Nan in India

'nuf said.

Some of us have a lot to say...

...and some of us just take pictures.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Delhi Nails It (very long...)

In Which We Ride the Delhi Metro and Surf the Himalaya(n Coffee Shop's Wi-fi)

M says I should post something. I always feel like a blogpost without graphics doesn't really give you your money's worth unless you're like Paul Krugman or something, which, now in my thirties, I recognize at last that I am not. However, I am not cool enough to have a camera on my mo-bile wireless cellular telephone phone, nor do I have a phoneless camera. Thus, I will poach y'all some images and hope that suffices.

Some years ago I viewed with skepticism the beginnings of Delhi Metro. The whole of India is so and so often loosely held together, ancient, and charmingly jerry-rigged, that the idea of a subway in Delhi was just incomprehensible. Yet there were ongoing reports of workers being crushed by cranes (ouch, and unfortunately somewhat predictable...) and the traffic reroutings were hard to overlook. I had presumed, foolishly as always, that this was still somebody's pipe dream, but then this last time in Delhi in September I thunk I see'd a train going on one of the tracks.

So yesterday I was trying to get out of the 'ganj (backpacker ghetto extraordinaire, with lots of swell fresh off the plane tourists) so I could find a rickshaw-walla who would be willingly to only slightly gouge me, when I happened upon the Ramkrishna Ashram station. With a name that could be, only slightly erroneously, translated as 'Spiritual Retreat of the Incarnation of God Station' I think Elephant & Castle has slipped out of the number one Impressive Train Station Name spot. Maybe the fumes of the 'ganj had gotten to me, but for once I was roaming leisurely and without a 348567-item agenda, so what the hey, thunk I, this is a nugget of South Asian culture of which I should be aware, and it can only be so much worse than trying to debate a rickshaw-walla. After my recent experience with a one-day late train, and with all the rest of Indian Railways stations, employees, procedures, antiquated systems, crumbling stations, and god-awful toilets, which have been uniformly awful from Kerala to Kashmir, I maintained a guarded fatalism.

(Note: I like slow, crumbling India just fine, in fact better than incredibly praudyoginikaa [technological] Tron-resembling parts of America. But part of the joy of India is just how wackily off some stuff is, and getting used to the notion that that doesn't change the reality that my life is Just Fine.)

Probably will be, as so many other things, quaintly amusing and yet routinely disheartening, and certainly redolent with expectorated betel-juice, not that there's anything wrong with that. (Cue foreshadowing of the disillusionment of the cynic...)



By which I mean to say, wow. As in, mera madlab 'wow' hai, yaa ni 'WOW.'

It's just like a subway. Except faster, shinier, and better smelling than New York's, Chicago's, or Boston's, closely edging out D.C.'s, and I'll even say it trumps the London Underground.

The stations are clean, bright, shiny, and spacious.
The concourses are thoughtfully planned out to facilitate movement between lines. There is no graffiti (ahem, though I for one do miss grafitti.) The escalators all work.

People stand in line for tokens without rushing the windows in a gross display of Social Darwinism where not only the strongest but also the rudest prosper and the poor, weak, and demure are summarily and literally shoved aside.

A token costs 8-20 rupees, aka $.17-42.

The trains themselves are well-lit, fast, and run without fail. They have lots of straps for hanging on to, reserved seats for women and the handicapped, announcements about upcoming stations and transfers, and are clean and not at all smelly, unlike some other metropolitan transit I could mention.

There are particularly Indian announcements such as "Please do not sit on the floor of the train." And the British get a shout-out at every stop: "Mind the gap." (There is none.)

There remain some wrinkles to be ironed out, such as the certainty that those exiting a train will be washed back inside by a rushing tide of humanity. Letting other people off first--so seemingly sensible--is apparently not an intuitive notion, although in some stations people line up, single file, 20-long, on each side of the door, and a security guard stands in the middle to make sure people can get off. Then everyone crowds into the car, albeit in an orderly fashion.

I think the best part is, if I can say this without being completely superior, chauvinistic, colonial, and Orientalist (though I am, in fact, a member of the American Oriental Society) the whole project seems to have a salutory effect on the culture.

People are really calm, polite, and happy. The trains are quiet, with no blaring horns or scathing accusations over who cut off who in traffic.

Prices are more or less comparable to the bus, so that, unlike the IT wave, this development won't disproportionately serve the already-affluent while leaving the poor behind.

Perhaps best of all, this is a public multi-generational multi-gendered space. So much of India, at least the parts of India in which I move and have my being, is predominantly male and 14-40. I myself am male and 14-40, and so I am sympathetic to, if not afflicted by, the ambitions that that period of life engenders, and the consequent brusqueness and competition that result from that imperious-seeming drive.

But the Metro is a space where women and men and people of all ages converge. It's handicapped accessible. It's real cosmopolitanism. It's genteel, and nice. No one spits or smokes, drunkenness and harassment are verboten, no one tried to sell me anything. It's Handicapped Accessible. People seem to be really proud of it, and I even find, in random Google searches, physics-types saying how modern it is.

(Here the former Prime Minister rides in style--Go, Atal Beharee Vajpayee!)

Of course its not perfect--vide one particularly ascerbic and humorous review, for example. There are tiresome (to me) and very thorough security checks. In a city of 19 million, how can you run a commuter train system where we're going to check everyone's bags one by one, by hand? Including lunchboxes? We all go to work with lunch and laptop in pocket? I suppose that's necessary, but it's still a drag, especially if you don't know the system and try to go through the turnstile without getting searched and have to stand around finger in nose while the police get you another electrono-token. Lines for those tokens are pretty long, too. But all in all, the Delhi Metro gets an A+++, I sez.

The success of all this is, I also sez, the ultimate argument against imperialist, colonialist, Orientalist notions. This shows that the problems of Indian culture, like those of all cultures, are the product of history and circumstance and accident and design. They are contingent, not inherent. There is nothing about India or Indians that precludes successful functionality and outstanding triumph--nor is there any reason why India cannot adopt those features of modernity which it finds useful and integrate them into a throughly traditional and 'Indian' society. I also think this is important given the apparent sense of reflexive shame on the part of so many people here, both vis-a-vis the higher stratae of culture, and the modern West (cf. the last two Booker Prize Winners).

At the end of all this I hopped off at what I thought was near Majnu-ka-Tilla, and had to get a rickshaw the rest of the way, but upon arriving at the Tibetan 'enclave' (read: ghetto) it was much the same as it ever was, inasmuch as when can get STUFFED for lunch for under $3, and the Tibetans are doing things well and right. For example, in the basement of an otherwise deserted-looking shopping complex, I found a coffee shop with espresso et al, friendly baristas, and high-speed wireless. Funky furniture. Tasteful innovative art. Chocolatey baked goods. That's not to say that it's good because its like the American standard I'm used to, but that it is better than Nescafe, dialup, and crumbling plaster by anyone's standards, I think. A double espresso was only a buck with tip. And best of all, the sounds of multiple Himalayan dialects all around--what more could a real Orientalist want?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Attention Horticulturists!

In the past few weeks these lovely, enormous flowers have begun to bloom in Varanasi.  They live exclusively in pots or gardens, and no one knows what they are called.  Our favorite waiter/uncle/boatman says they are roses.  I disagree.  Anyone know?  Aunt Margaret?  

Happy 100th Post to Us!

One of the benefits of being the oldest sibling, married to another oldest sibling is that you get to hang out with young, hip, tech-savvy kids far longer than you would on your own.  Hence, my excellent littlest sister in law has spent the last week here in Varanasi with me showering us with all sorts of technological wonderfulness (I have Facebook, finally!).  And thanks to her, I now know that this is our 100th post.  Woo-Woo!

Hard to believe we've been away this long, or that we've kept up the blog so well.  Thanks to all who are still reading, and especially commenting.  We enjoy writing and hope you all still enjoy keeping up with us as we wander.  

The next 100 posts should see us through our time in Pune, and then perhaps we'll celebrate the 200th post in Ladahk!

Varanasi: Livestock Valhalla

Everyone knows India has lots of cows.  Wild, free cows, wandering around in the streets doing as they please.  But there are lots of other wonderful creatures here in Varanasi too.  

First, the noble water buffalo or Behnz.  Is this not a magnificent beast?  Lovely though they be, they are dumb as rocks.

Next, goats.  Strangely enough we saw no goats when we first arrived up until Eid al Bakra.  Since then goats are everywhere, which to my mind ought to have been the reverse.  But this is India and I am no longer foolish enough to think anything will work the way I think it should. 

 Please note the goat's sweater.  Not only does the cold (60F! O No!!) imperil humans, it also threatens livestock, so many creatures are bundled up.  (Cows get to wear jaunty burlap sack coats.  McGoverns, are your cows appropriately attired for the Iowa winter?)

For my mom, pigs.  
There are a couple of pig families in the neighborhood and two of the ladies are now mommas.  As all mothers do, they like to hang out together and take the kids on outings as a group (Val, want to go to Iowa today?) so we usually see them en masse - 12 piglets plus 2 moms and a pig-nanny.  

Last but certainly not least, January seems to be puppy season in Varanasi so there is extreme cuteness in the streets.  
Some children have nice parents who let them pick up the puppies and even take them inside and wash them and play with them.  (Un)fortunately my children do not have nice parents.

Monday, January 5, 2009

What I do all day (for the last few days)

Is study old Tibetan and Sanskrit books, right now the Manavadharmashaastra. Except for yesterday...

Long story short, on Sunday night I went to Mughal Serai, from whence high speed trains to Delhi are obtained, and after a heartstopping ride through pea soup fog, found that my train was going to be 10 hours late. For a 9 hour journey. ??

So I went home, and came back, and eventually the train got there 13 hours late, then sat for another four hours, before getting rerouted through our local train station, 2 miles from our house! and then eventually on to Delhi arriving, um, late.

Here in India, no one would think anything amiss about this conversation:

My train was late.

How late?

A little over a day.

So with forty five minutes to spare, I dashed to the airport, getting there five minutes after the plane I was to meet landed...thankfully, it was late too. Good for me, bad for a connecting flight leaving in 4 hours at 2:30. So, I waited...till 1:45...and lo and behold, my mother and sister, who I whisked into a taxi (half an hour predicted duration between airports, eek) and pulled up at Indira Gandhi Domestic Terminal 1B at 2:04, then proceeded to flail my Hindi skills at top speed (you have to talk fast to accomodate the inevitable insertion of the "You speak Hindi?" conversation) to shamelessly cut in lines for entrance into the airport and for security. And now Grandma Ginny and Aunt Susannah are here! We went to our old favorite Burger King last night and unpacked all our loot, and have just gotten done eating pancakes and drinking hot chocolate, all made better by the addition of American measuring cups to our household.

Cliffnotes: 36 hours in train station and train, 4 hours in Delhi, 1 hour in the air, and now 8 days wif my mommy and widdle sister.

Friday, January 2, 2009

What We Do All Day, Take 2

A while back I think I posted a sort of general overview of how we spend our days.  That must've been nearly 2 months ago, and now that we're solidly set up here and able to run our lives with a minimum of hassle (by Varanasi standards, anyhow), things for the kids and I have changed.  
Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays all 3 of us have Hindi lessons with Virendra Singh

For those of you not moving in Indological circles, Virendra-ji spends his summers at the UW teaching Hindi at the South Asian Summer Language Institute and the rest of the year here in Varanasi teaching for the UW study-abroad program here.  (Mr. SLNC is also a SASLI wallah,
 but in Sanskrit.)  Guru-ji has graciously squeezed us in to his busy schedule and we are all
 reaping the benefits of his generosity.  The kids especially love the lessons and Guru-ji has a wonderful gift for working with kids.  He plays all sorts of games with Ben and has recruited 2 excellent T.A.s to work with Caitlin and Ben while I have my lesson.  Below is Pooja, tomboy and kite-flyer extraordinaire.  She and her brother are under strict orders not to speak English with my kids so in the process of teaching them how to fly kites, they are also teaching Caitlin and Ben a lot of practical Hindi.  

Then on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we are off to Assi for Caitlin's harmonium lesson.  Her teacher, Gupa-ji,
 lives and teaches just a few doors down from our favorite chocolate cake cafe, so Ben and I brush up on our cake eating, book reading, and waiter-wrestling while Caitlin learns.  (Ok, ok, only Ben wrestles waiters.) 
 (And you'd be surprised how much Hindi a 4 year old can pick up while wrestling waiters.)  Gupa-ji insists that Caitlin learn to sing as well as play.  She has recently graduated from scales to simple songs, and with the frequency of the lessons, Caitlin is quickly building up quite a repertoire.  We're looking forward to the music school picnic on the 25th, and hoping we'll be able to find another teacher in Pune!  

All of the lessons happen over the noon hour so we do school-ish things in the morning and then reserve the afternoons for errands and reading aloud.  Currently we're working our way through the Chronicles of Narnia.  Sprinkled throughout the week are visits with friends, playgroup and further explorations of Varanasi.  Its such a wonderful feeling to finally know my way around, have friends to visit, things to do and a general comfort with life here in general!  Now, if only I knew where to buy incandescent light bulbs...