Monday, June 1, 2009

Comprehensively stuffed

I always sort of dread these--we got invited to dinner. A few things here are absolute mainstays: the food will be entirely too spicy for Ben, 97% so for Caitlin, the children will watch at least two hours of horrible TV, we will be out way past bed time, and Ben's behavior will rapidly deteriorate to an ongoing struggle to injure any and all around him in any way he can.

Then we go, and yes, all those things do happen, and did tonight. But for pete's sake, people act like we're visiting from heaven. They're overjoyed to have us in their homes, and they invite all five of their sisters over to make dinner, and wring their hands if we don't constantly gush praise over the food. There must be pictures with any and all relatives present. Cousins from downstairs and across the hall and the next county over are dragged in, sheepishly grinning, one after another to meet us. Tonight Seetakshi stood over us and tried to give each of us more of whatever we'd just taken a bite of, and wouldn't take no for an answer. Then one of her sisters insisted that we come to HER house to see the new baby.

[We had to wash our feet at the door to leave 'pollution' outside. The baby is 16 days old, sleeps through everything including mom and aunties holding it up and saying, loudly, 'A sundarā, utthāro!' (come, beautiful, wake up!) and had black spots on its forehead and left cheek, hand, foot, and side of the navel to ward of the bhuri nazar, evil gaze. We each held the baby twice and got our picture taken with it.]

Then people get our full biographies and want to know all about everything, and are almost always positively elated that I can speak Hindi like a four year old. Every new family member gets a precis of the proceedings upon arrival (he speaks really good hindi. Studying sanskrit. They didn't eat enough. [this, frankly, is a total falsehood.] Three years he's been in India. No Marathi. Children don't go to school. Madam sahib helped make the bread. Yes, they all do look very handsome, don't they?) to which the inevitable response is a series of impressed and approving nods and murmurs.

We always spill something, usually multiple somethings, Ben often remarks out loud that he doesn't like dinner, and people apologize over and over again for THEIR insufficient hospitality.

I always walk out of these things feeling very full, and not a little ashamed, 1. that anyone should make a fuss over not so very important me, 2. that I spend the whole night talking about myself and not learning and asking questions, and 3. that I have never, but never treated a guest to my home in any such way, nor ever acted like it was such a consummate privilege to do so. I told one of the girls that she had no accent and that that told me that she must have had good teachers (which could be a really left handed compliment, now that I think about it) and she practically exploded from smiling.

Tonight it was actually enunciated, atithi deva bhava (I think the actual original Skt should be atithirdevo bhava, let the guest be [as a] god [for you]).

The real tragedy is that these people should be feted like this by me, and that without them and hundreds, nay, thousands of others, my work could never get done, and they will never get to read the meager thanks I can give them in an acknowledgement section, or here on SLNC. Perhaps worst of all, all I can think on my way there is 'this is going to take a long time and inconvenience me.' Ingrate. Poverty of riches.

In other news, let saying of having told me so begin, I wiped out on my scooter today. I'm blaming it on Chase Visa--if the credit card had gone through the first time, I'd have been five minutes earlier, going slower, and not taking a turn too hard trying to avoid an oncoming rickshaw. It was a spectacular wreck, but I was going all of 15mph, and I have 6 smaller-than-a-nickel spots of road rash, plus 2-3 sore spots/bruises. May whoever runs the skies and rivers be praised, I was alone. I would probably still be beating myself up next Tuesday if Ben or Caitie had taken the spill with me.

Also, 4 nice men packed up 235.6kg of our stuff today, and are sending it back to America for the paltry sum of rs370/kg, roughly $3.90 a lb.

At that rate, my stuff will cost more to get back to the US per pound than us, though it might be admitted that the stuff will be directly delivered to Blackhawk drive.

Last: speaking of flying home, save the date. Aug 9, 10:50 a.m., Team SLNC arrives at OHare. I am going directly to the nearest soda fountain and getting an enormous Coke with a ton of ice in it.

You heard it here first.

1 comment:

Grandpa George said...

Loved this. Reminded me of dinner at Rudi and Vessna's and of the many people we had come stay with us at 1020 Richmont and how I wanted them to meet the neighbors.

Glad the accident wasn't worse.