Another One Bites The Dust

September 2015

Sometimes I forget the life-giving and nurturing force of the powerful and sometimes equally destructive monsoon. I left a bone-dry landscape when I departed to Europe and found a stunning, lush green scenery after my return to our Himalayan village. My garden had turned into a wild jungle and the young trees had visibly been growing taller in a very short time.

Due to the high grown grass we had a lot of leopard presence lately. They seem to feel more secure, as the thicket allows them to hide themselves easily. They also turned bolder when it comes to approaching houses in search of easy prey.

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One night Baba drove home from our coffee shop late at night, as usually together with our dog Lamboo who used to run along with him right next to the motorbike. The guest who was staying at our house at that time was sitting behind Baba.

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They had almost reached home when Baba saw a leopard lurking in between the grass on the road side and in the blink of an eye Lamboo was suddenly gone!

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I could hear the howling down to our house. Our guest did not see anything from his position and as he is deaf, he did not realize what had happened until they reached home, where we explained it all to him with the help of gestures and scribbling notes on a piece of paper. He was shocked! They decided to drive back and see if the dog had survived and was maybe lying injured somewhere in the bush near the dirt road, but no trace.

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Lamboo was the fourth dog we lost to the leopards in seven years! Each time I tell myself that I do not want anymore dogs, but then, when they just pop up out of nowhere and look at me with their big brown eyes, I get weak and decide to give again a happy, but short life to one or two of them.

After this incident the leopard kept on sneaking around the neighboring houses after dusk for several nights and people would throb on steel plates or light a fire in the garden to drive him away. Some say that they saw several leopards roaming together. Maybe it was a mother with bigger cubs, as they are usually solitary animals.

Before I used to think that big cats generally avoid humans; until the following happened:

Like every evening, I was sitting in the bed with my daughter reading her a bedtime story; ironically this time she had chosen “The Jungle Book”. Lamboo was still alive at that time and while we were reading the chapter where Mowgli fights the tiger with a stick on fire, our dog all of a sudden started barking like mad. From the bed I peaked through the window to find out what was going on.

I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw a huge leopard sitting right next to my bedroom window! My first reaction was to scream as if possessed by the devil. The gate was open and brave Lamboo was only a few inches away from the cat. My outcry made the leopard look up and his hypnotizing green eyes stared right into mine.

Then, with a big leap, he disappeared into the night. By the time Baba had run out to the porch, the leopard had already vanished, but at least he managed to keep the dog from following him.

Lamboo

The whole situation lasted only a few seconds, but it seemed like an eternity to me. I felt horribly vulnerable and shivered with fear. The fact that these animals come that close to a house, even with the outdoor lighting on, was almost more scary than the happening itself.

From that day on I made sure to not let my child play outside in the late evening and to keep the gates closed. Usually leopards go for goats, dogs or other animals, but who knows, a child might look equally tasty to them and on top of it, easy to catch. Before that, I even used to enjoy sitting on the porch to listen to the very special roar leopards produce, when they occasionally roamed the area at night.

WELL, NOW NOT ANYMORE…

I do not blame the leopards. They are just wild animals which like any other being in this world need to somehow satisfy their hunger. They were always here and now find every time less space where to live and hunt. There is not much natural prey left for them in the area we live in. As far as I know, there are only pheasants and monkeys. The birds might not be enough to fill a big cat’s stomach and monkeys I imagine are not very easy to catch.

Not long ago I have read about a project by the Uttarakhand government, which consists in counting the leopards in each area of the region and return deer to the wild to keep the cats from coming to close to humans. Hopefully something will happen soon. I think it is worth a try, even with the consequence that the deer might feast on the precious grass meant for the cows during winter time and the crops for which the village people have to work really hard every year.

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Changes, Chances, Choices…

Not even two seasons since the inauguration of Baba Cake Café had passed when we suddenly had a problem: The traveling musicians loved to gather at our place and enjoy themselves playing some good music, which of course was not an issue at all for us. But unfortunately our neighbors did not share our enthusiasm about the jam sessions.

As we did not want to get into any silly never-ending fights with anybody, we had to come up with a solution quickly. They asked us to keep the heavy roll-up door closed in the evenings, which was not really helping much; the sound was still audible and now it included the new and loud clattering noise of the rusty door being rolled up and down each time somebody wanted to come in or leave the place.

I am not even sure if the activities at Baba Cake were actually the true reason for all the complaints. In small towns all over the world  jealousy matters are happening and people love to talk. The years that I have been living here taught me quite a bit about the Indian sort of jealousy, which I personally perceive as extremely strong. It also seems to be extremely difficult for people here to be happy from the heart about somebody else’s luck, achievements, success or happiness and it doesn’t even matter much if it comes to a neighbor, friend or even a close family member; ugly and unbelievable things happen – at least this is what they are to me, as for some people all of this is nothing but “normal” behavior.

For me personally this fact is very hard to digest, because somebody else’s happiness makes me feel extremely happy, too.I rather prefer to feel good and happy inside, for or with someone else than grumpy and bad and will for sure keep on trying my best to choose a positive attitude instead of spreading miserable feelings.

There is a famous saying, which goes

“When one door closes, another opens”

– in our case this is what literally happened.

We had started to make friends with the grocery shopkeepers, whose place was just a stone’s throw from our café. The same family also runs the local mill, where women from the surroundings bring their crops to grind. As I already mentioned, it’s a small village, and of course, the shopkeeper already knew about our trouble and offered his storage place as a new location for our project. I had serious doubts, when we had a look at the place. There was nothing but a rough tin hut with a bunch of flour bags in it. But as always, Baba immediately saw the positive side of it:

“No problem, this good place! Much bigger!”

He was already figuring out in his mind which improvements were necessary to turn the tin hut into a cozy café. Sure, the rent was a bit higher and we would have to spend again some money to somehow build something like a kitchen, but in the end this was still better than having to face endless hassles with the locals. Besides, we did not have any means for something more sophisticated anyways. So we decided to take a chance.

It was January 2014 and with a bit of an effort we would manage to get the new space ready for the coming spring season, which begins every year in March. There was a lot of work to do: the tin set needed to be cleaned and painted, an additional door was necessary and we decided to build an open kitchen inside of the same space.

I was surprised when I realized how attached I got to the old place, which we had created only a short while ago.  It was not easy for me to let it go, but as the new location slowly took shape I started to look forward for the change. Aside from that the place was indeed bigger and we even managed to create a nice and inviting porch.

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And again an artistic soul appeared just on time to create the final touch in form of an amazing painting on our outer wall – well, in this case our outer steel sheet. To cover the metal indoors we used some sarees for the ceiling and pretty bed covers for the walls. Maybe the end result was a touch too colorful, but well, let’s not forget that we are in India, so being generous with colors is okay 😀

Something that keeps on fascinating me about India is that there is always the possibility to create something out of nothing really quickly. Likewise, thoughts and ideas manifest much faster than expected, so it is wise to think twice before making a wish and to watch the flow of your mind from time to time. As Gautama Buddha said:

“Our life is the creation of our mind”


If you like to see and know a bit more, you can also have a look at our Baba Cake Page on facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/babacake.kasar

A nameless child & more cow pee

October 2011

While in the West parents already know which name their child will have while it is still nestled in mommy’s womb, in India babies are born nameless and it is considered very inauspicious to even think about how it will be called. It was a bit strange for me to cuddle this little no-name person I loved so much and to call her just “baby” or “little one”.

The name giving ceremony, called Namkaran (Nam = name, karan = to make), usually takes place eleven days after the baby’s birth. It also marks the day of the end of mother and child being impure, after the ceremony, of course. A pandit (priest) is called to perform a sacred ritual; he purifies mother and child and then suggests auspicious names according to the date and time of birth. Hindus believe in the power of sounds and to each person’s birth chart there are corresponding syllables. This auspicious sound shall accompany the name bearer throughout his journey of life and attract good luck.

The proud Baba-Papa was really busy for some days: he had to build a terrace so the guests could sit comfortably in our garden, to find fire wood for the cooking and organize the village catering company; which consists of a bunch of villagers who turned up in the morning of the Namkaran with their enormous pots and cooking spoons which look rather like weapons of war than kitchen tools.

According to the Indian sense of punctuality, the pandit arrived three hours late. Nobody seemed to really bother. Same as in other social ceremonies Indians did not really care that much about the happening itself. The first Indian marriages I attended for instance really surprised me: In our culture the wedding party attends the marriage ceremony keeping quiet and at least pretend to pay attention, forming part of the event in some way. Here, people come around from time to time, to take a peek at the ceremony, walk around, talk on their mobile phones or merrily chat with each other in loud voices. Maybe that is so, because Hindu ceremonies can last pretty long.

Outside it was a bit chilly and the ceremony took place on in our living room. The first thing the pandit did was to draw a square with some kind of white powder on the floor and instructed me to sit in the middle of it together with the baby. I was not allowed to step out of the mark until the puja would be over, otherwise I would contaminate the surroundings.

Then he drew a yantra with sandalwood powder and curcuma and placed a lump of cow dung besmeared with ghee in its center. There were also severel other items, like a coconut, oil lamps and a lot of incense, but to my amusement the piece of cow dung enjoyed most of the attention throughout the ceremony. I had to pull myself together not to grin as I pictured a cow pie being worshiped during a baptism in a Christian church. After I found out that a pile of cow dung might represent the obstacle removing elephant god Ganesh, in case there is no appropriate image of him available.

Another thing that made me smile was that the pandit had told Baba to cover his had and in his hurry, Baba took the first thing he found, which was a green hat in Tyrolean style.

INDIA INDEED IS DIFFERENT!

The ceremony lasted about two hours and I observed with devotion and concentration the pandit’s movements backed with beautiful sacred chants. Everything was really mystic and nice; the only thing that irritated me was that from time to time we were sprinkled with a liquid, which I correctly guessed was of course: COW PEE.

Then the pandid handed me a glass and grinned “Drink! Medicine!”

My worst guess turned out to be true, as I could tell by its smell:

IT WAS COW PISS DILUTED WITH MILK!

But I am really proud to say that I managed to do it!

I DRANK IT!

And not only once, I had to drink two times five sips of this special cocktail! My mind came up with some useful information to get over it: Most of the ayurvedic medicines contain cow urine and even in the West many beauty creams have a component called urea, which is actually nothing else than uric acid.After my purification I had to sit in our room where the guests would visit me and the Baby to congratulate. They offered presents or pressed some money into her little fists. To bless her everybody applied a red tikka on her forehead and after only half an hour my little girl looked like postmarked all over her tiny face.

It had been a long, tiring, but happy day for all three of us which eventually ended without having chosen any name for her. The pandit had suggested five names. Four of them absolutely not pronounceable for the European part of the family and the fifth one very old fashioned. But the pandithad told us to take our time and not to worry. Any name starting with the sounds NI, NA or YU (by the way which names start with” YU”?!?) would be fine.

After another couple of days we found it and so she was named her “NITYA” – which means “ETERNAL

Caminando por las huellas de John Lennon

Julio 2007

…me encantó Rishikesh y estaba encantada con mi Baba!

A ratos todo me parecía absolutamente surrealista, aún estaba pensando mucho en el trabajo.

Mientras que estaba sentada en las orillas del ganges, bañando mis pies en su agua sagrada, rodeada por alegres mariposas amarillas, me acordé de que en este preciso instante estaría sentada en mi oficina gris de Barcelona y que tocaría redactar el informe semanal. Con una sonrisa satisfecha borré esa imagen de mi mente observando como las suaves olas acariciaban los dedos de mis pies. Suspiré profundamente sintiendo una profunda gratitud por finalmente haber sido capaz de dejar ese trabajo que me tenía atrapada durante tantos años y que en realidad nunca me gustó.

Beatlesashram

Un día, Baba y yo estábamos sentados en el Last Chance Café a solas cuando de repente me preguntó:

“Ek puppy milega?”

Esto lo hacía mucho; hablarme en hindi y claro que yo no entendí ni papa. Pero ya había aprendido que “ek” significa uno y “milega”  posible. Estaba confundida…

¿Qué quería qué?

“Puppy” quiere decir cachorro en inglés; no tenía sentido, así que le pregunté:

“Puppy? Que quieres decir? Un perrito?!?”

Se rió y dijo:

“No perrito! Besoooo!”

…Bueno, supongo que esto fue cuando nos convertimos en pareja…


Era la época del monzón y no había muchos turistas. Descubrí lugares hermosos, pero la mayoría del tiempo simplemente no hacíamos nada y disfrutábamos de nuestro tiempo en la guesthouse, dónde ya formábamos parte de la familia del Last Chance Café.

Mi sitio favorito era y todavía es el Ashram de los Beatles. Se llama así porque el famoso grupo musical vino aquí en 1968 para abrirse a la meditación trascendental siguiendo las instrucciones del Gurú Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Cabañas de meditación

Parece que el recinto fue un pequeño pueblo autónomo en sus días de gloria. Tenía su propio banco y oficina de correos. Ahora solo quedan ruinas invadidas por la naturaleza, pero es pura magia pasear por este sitio en medio de la selva, dónde lianas e inmensas buganvillas se han apoderado de los viejos edificios. Es fácil imaginarse que aspecto debería haber tenido entonces, en los viejos tiempos hippies. ¡Parece de locos que John Lennon y Paul Mc Cartney estuvieron paseando por estos mismos senderos!

Los residentes de Rishikesh también lo llaman Chaurasi (84) Kutir (cabaña), ya que hay 84 cabañas individuales de meditación con un interesante diseño redondo dentro del ashram. También hay grandes edificios con  numerosas habitaciones dónde se alojaban los devotos y una gran sala de meditación cuyos muros lucen muy buenas obras de arte creados por gente de todo el mundo que pasa por allí, así que ahora se conoce como  “The Beatles Cathedral Art Gallery”.

Beatles Ashram Art GalleryLamentablemente todos los edificios han sido saqueados después del abandono del ashram. La gente se llevó todo que se podía vender o usar para la construcción: Barras de hierro, azulejos y hasta los asientos de váter. Pero en algunas habitaciones aún encontré pequeños tesoros en forma de viejas revistas y panfletos sobre retiros de yoga publicados en los años 70.

El espacio subterráneo de meditación es un lugar un poco escalofriante: Consiste en un estrecho y larguísimo túnel oscuro que da por ambos lados a un gran número de pequeñas cuevitas redondas de meditación. Murciélagos, ratas y serpientes lo han hecho su hogar y es realmente espantoso atravesar el túnel con nada más que una linterna. No me extraña que los sadhus cuenten tantas historias sobre fantasmas y espíritus que aparentemente residen dentro del Beatles Ashram.

Beatles Ashram RooftopLas azoteas de los grandes edificios son maravillosas, ya que ofrecen unas vistas espectaculares sobre el Ganges, especialmente durante las puestas del sol. Los mosaicos que cubren el suelo me recuerdan mucho a las obras de Antoni Gaudí. A través de una escalera uno puede penetrar dentro de los gigantescos depósitos de agua en forma de huevo, que son especialmente populares entre músicos y yoguis, porque la acústica y el ambiente dentro de esos huevos son fantásticos para tocar música o meditar.

Una vez queríamos pasar una noche romántica en uno de los huevos. ¡Era un desastre! Demasiado polvo e insectos, mezclados con los sonidos salvajes de la jungla, no me dejaron pegar ni ojo en toda la noche. Los residentes dicen que leopardos, tigres, elefantes y otras criaturas salvajes deambulan por allí y Baba dice que una vez vio una cobra de cinco cabezas!

¡Por suerte yo nunca tuve un encuentro de este tipo!

La única cosa que ví allí eran inofensivos pavos reales y gigantes pilas de excrementos, que me confirmaron la existencia de elefantes en el aérea.

Ahora el Beatles Ashram pertenece al gobierno. Antes había un vigilante del departamento forestal, que vivía en el viejo edificio de recepción y cuyo deber era no dejar pasar a nadie por razones de seguridad. Pero por un poco de baksheesh (soborno) te dejaba pasar. Por un poquito más de baksheesh incluso daba permiso para celebrar fiestas y jam sessions y por si no querías entrar en el juego de sobornos, otra alternativa era colarse por la parte de atrás.

No sé muy bien porqué y cómo, pero ahora el vigilante fue reemplazado por un sadhu que se llama Langra Baba (Baba Cojo). No tengo ni idea de que ocurrió y admito que desde hace mucho tiempo ya no intento averiguar razones lógicas en este país. Por un lado porque no suelo entender la mayoría de explicaciones que se me dan de todas formas, porque no tienen sentido y por el otro, porque a veces las cosas en la India simplemente SON y punto.


“EL TIEMPO QUE DISFRUTAS PERDIENDO NO ES TIEMPO PERDIDO!”

 – JOHN LENNON

beatles-at-rishikesh

A Himalayan Home Birth

October 2011

My due date was approaching. I tried to keep calm and to put aside all the expectations about my baby’s birth. I meditated as often as possible (which I admit was actually not too often, as I am one of these persons that finds a hundred excuses before eventually sitting down). Inside of myself was the only place I truly could find and feel peace.

One day suddenly something very revealing happened to me:

I JUST KNEW!

I knew that since always an ancient knowledge was dwelling inside of me: The knowledge of all the women who gave birth before me; ancestral women connected with nature, and above all connected to their own spirit. Women all over the world have experienced birth since the existence of mankind. I suddenly had the absolute certainty that I had given birth in thousands of previous incarnations, that my body and soul knew exactly what they had to do and that there was absolutely no need to worry about anything.

To some, this might sound a bit New Age, but well, this is what happened. After that I felt free and completely fearless, as if a huge burden had been taken off my shoulders. It was simply amazing!

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Sure, something might go wrong during birth. But only might, not will!

Unfortunately nowadays pregnancy and delivery are being treated like some kind of disease. It is not! Much of what we hear and the precautions we ought to take disconnect us from ourselves if we don’t take care. So, we mostly approach pregnancy and birth rather with fear than with joy and confidence.

Just think about all the movies where women are lying on a bed, sweating and screaming from the tops of their lungs during labour, while someone shouts at them “Push, puuuuush!”.

It does not have to be like that. If the checkups turn out fine, the mother is healthy and the baby is in the right position, there is not much to worry about. It is the most amazing thing a woman can go through, however the experience might be. Nobody can ever take it away from you, as only you really know what it feels like, because every pregnancy and delivery is unique.

My doctor had calculated the expected date of delivery for 4th November; I thought that it would be rather cool if the baby would come on 01.11.2011. But the baby did not agree with me. On the morning of 29th October I had sometimes pulling sensations in my abdomen. On my multiple internet researches I had read that some days before labour the body starts to prepare itself and it described this kind of sensation. That was probably it.

How are you supposed to know how something feels like if you never felt it before?

The sensation came and went from time to time all day long, but I didn’t pay too much attention to it. However, I realized that in a few days the baby would be born. In the evening, the intervals were every time shorter and I thought that maybe tomorrow or the day after I would be a Mum.

That day the alcoholic midwife’s husband had come to visit and we were sitting in front of the TV watching one of those stupid Bollywood movies, that doesn’t make much sense.

Well, by the evening, those light contractions were getting every time shorter and I started to suspect that the baby was on its way.

The day I met the midwife she had talked a lot about the importance of an enema, which seemed to be an indispensable item she needed to assist me and that I had to buy together with all the injections and painkillers she had written down for me. I never had an enema administrated before and the thought of it made me shiver. I even had nightmares! Maybe this is why I suddenly had constantly the feeling that I had to go urgently to the toilet. So I was going in and out of the toilet without any success, while the men were sitting in front of the TV screen absorbed in the movie.

“Excuse me!” I said during one of my toilet walks

“Maybe it would be time to go and get your wife?”

So the midwife’s husband jumped on his motorbike to fetch his wife. I asked Baba to bring a bucket into the room, just in case. I really wanted to stop going to the bathroom: I didn’t want to have to tell my child some day something like

“Well, my child, you were born into an Indian squat Toilet…”

As soon as the guy left, the sensations became more intense. I call them sensations, because it was not really painful. I imagined them to become stronger and less bearable, but they didn’t. I had other type of cramps due to a bad stomach in other occasions that were much worse than what I was feeling at that moment.

Then, suddenly my body took over and did it all alone without my interference. I did not do anything by my own will, my body knew better, and so I followed its instructions and let everything happen. Mentally I was in some kind of lucid trance, which is difficult to describe.

I went to our bedroom. Baba kind of seemed not to know very well what to do and how to help me, as I told him to just let me be. Thus he went on watching TV observing me from the corner of his eyes. Suddenly I shouted at him

“Turn the stupid TV off and come here!”

I didn’t want to welcome the child with some hysterically screaming women and fighting Bollywood heroes in the background.

My body had adopted a half squatting position and I just had time to tell Baba that I thought that I could feel the head and a moment later he held the baby in his hands! Only about ten minutes had passed since my body had taken over control.

What better start into life could there possibly be than being caught by the hands of your own loving father?

Baba and baby

We sat on a blanket on the floor leaning against the cupboard holding our little daughter in our arms. There we sat, in silence, amazed, incredibly happy and were unable to take our eyes away from this perfect little creature that had just emerged from my body. She was not too small like the doctor had predicted and all was in its place. Everything was in perfect harmony!

One thing I could not exactly find out on google was where to cut the umbilical cord, but I had read that it was actually good to not do so straight away and that some people even kept the placenta in a pot carrying it around with the baby until the cord fell off by itself. Thus, I was not worried about that.

Some minutes later the midwife dashed into the house, sober and SHOCKED! An endless stream of words bubbled out of her mouth:

“Oh my god! What are you doing, why are you sitting, you have to lie down, what happened, you people, blablabla…”

Man, what was her problem? I looked at her blankly and shrugged, thinking that it was my good luck that she hadn’t come in time. She would most probably have driven me crazy! All was the way it should be, at least for us! She explained Baba how to put the threads around the cord and where to cut it and then she checked on me. That was it, her job was done.

After that I took a hip bath in hot water with brandy. I even had a small sip of the brandy as recommended by the nurse and I have to say that it really felt good. I didn’t feel tired or anything, but was more in a party mood instead. There I sat in my blue plastic tub filled with brandy-water, with a glass in my hand observing how she cleaned and dressed the little girl. After the men had each a glass of brandy and she drank the rest of the bottle.

Bringing a child into this world was the most enriching and overwhelming experience I have ever had. If I was able to do this, I was able to do whatever I wished in this world. It made me feel sort of almighty and immensely proud of myself.

Comment

I think I have not mentioned that some years ago I had to undergo a cervix operation. They had to cut out a pretty big piece. It was the beginning of a cancer caused by the HPV virus. I defeated the virus and the following routine checkups turned out fine, but I have been told that I might not be able to have children and that getting pregnant or carrying out a child would be very problematic. I just wanted to share this information to let women, who might be affected by the same problem know, that they don’t necessarily have to despair.

LOVE TO ALL!

 

 

 

The greedy doctor, the village midwife and the nurse

October 2011

There are many curious things for a Westerner in Indian culture, and pregnancy is not an exception. For instance, a pregnant woman shall not visit a temple after the 6th month of pregnancy. I am still not sure why, but I read on the internet that it is just in case she might go into labour there. She should also not witness any eclipse, enter an empty house or cross a bridge at night. It is said that they are more vulnerable to attacks of evil spirits and negative energies, which of course are not beneficial for the mother and her unborn child.

 

It is also strange for us that the Indian law prohibits doctors to reveal the gender of the baby. Sadly daughters are usually not as welcome as sons. But with some baksheesh the doctor might hand you a pink or blue envelope containing a prescription, telling without saying a word. Baba and I of course didn’t care at all if we would have a boy or a girl, but still I was really curious and tried hard to find out by myself observing intensively the screen during ultrasound scans, but, of course, without any success. The village ladies kept on telling me with a big smile that I was carrying a baby boy, probably thinking that hearing that would make me happy.

I still had not made up my mind about the delivery. I found out that a really fantastic lady called Parvati from the village, who I already knew since some time, actually was a midwife. When I first met her, I liked her straight away. She has those vivid and at the same time loving eyes and even if we had some communication problems, because my Hindi was not an awful lot better than her English, we laughed a lot together and I felt a nice connection. She has helped to bring about a hundred babies to the world. I asked her if she wanted to assist me having the baby at home and she was more than happy to do so. From time to time she came to our house to touch my belly, smiled and said:

“Sub tikhe (all is well)!”

I loved the idea of having her with me when the baby would be born.

But then… my ignorant mind came into play and bombarded me with all those what-if-questions.

More I read on the Internet, more insecure I became. I was not one of those twenty year old Indian girls who might just pop out a child. What if there were complications or if I needed medical help?

Then, one day, I went to a routine checkup to the doctors where she told me that my baby was too small, that probably a cesarean would be necessary and that we needed to induce labour as soon as possible. My due date was on November 4 and there where still a bit more than two weeks to go. I was in shock! I had considered before having the baby in that private hospital. It was clean and modern, but expensive and loveless. We were approaching Divali, which is one of the most important festivals of the year in India, comparable to Christmas in the West. The doctor looked at me stony-faced and asked:

“So, would you like to deliver the child before or after Divali? As you understand, me, like everybody else, I want to celebrate the festival with my family” as if talking about an item I would receive by UPS.

I still couldn’t believe my ears and just reacted hearing me say

“Before Divali”

“Okay, we’ll show you your room and expect you here on 24th October. You can call me anytime”

Back home I calmed down and could think clearly again. Wait a minute… if the baby was too small, why would I need a cesarean? I felt great, the baby was in the correct position and moving like always. Maybe this woman just wanted to get some extra money from a naive foreigner? And a cesarean would save her time and in addition bring her a bit of extra money. Did I really want to spend the holidays in that hospital room while outside in the city all the fireworks were exploding? I listened to my heart and it clearly said that the baby was simply not wishing to be born yet and that it would decide by itself when to come to this world. Baba shared my opinion:

“This is bullshit! Hospital not good!”

A couple of days after I tried to call the hospital to inform them, that I had changed my mind, but nobody picked up. The doctor’s cellphone was switched off. Really comforting!

SO NOW WHAT ?!?

There was a third option: The Indian wife of a German guy I knew was a retired trained nurse and midwife. For a bit of money she would assist and make me a list with all the medicines and things I would have to buy, just in case. This sounded to me like a good compromise; the only inconvenience was that unfortunately she was an alcoholic.
So I had the sweet Indian midwife with ancient village knowledge, which would cost me a new saree, the money-grubbing gynecologist I would spend about 40.000 rupees (500 Euro) for and the alcoholic nurse which asked 5.000 rupees (60 Euro).

I guess that out of fear of the unknown, I opted for the middle way:

The alcoholic midwife,

praying and hoping that she would be sober when the baby would be ready to come to the world.

keep-calm-and-trust-life-7

Pregnant in India

April 2011

I was really glad that I found a modern, private hospital with a good reputation in Almora. The clinic is run by a gynecologist and her husband, who is a pediatrician. The waiting room is always full, even the hall is crowded, which is partly because the women come in company of their husbands, children, sisters and mothers-in-law or even with all of them. Many are from remote villages and have to travel a long way for their checkups. As you have to take off your shoes before entering, you can approximately tell by the amount of sandals piled up, how many hours you will have to wait.

When it was finally my turn, I informed the doctor that my pregnancy test had turned out positive. She frowned and asked me skeptically:

“…and you want to have that baby?”

“Of course!” 

I replied, feeling a bit angry inside because I perceived some kind of prejudice towards a western woman getting pregnant in India.

I was lead to another room where I got an ultrasound scan to make sure that everything was fine. I guess the staff was not used to have men witnessing the procedure; they seemed pretty surprised when I wished to share that moment with my husband. The doctor confirmed that all looked okay and for the first time I saw the little peanut-shaped being that was growing inside of me on the screen. The thought that me and all of us looked just the same in the beginning of our big journey crossed my mind.

LIFE REALLY IS A MIRACLE !

The weeks passed and somehow I still couldn’t believe that I was pregnant. I didn’t feel any different physically and was eagerly waiting for any typical sensations or pregnancy-related symptoms people always talk about. But nothing of that ever happened. I never felt nauseous, did not have swollen feet, back aches or strange cravings. The only thing that I felt during a couple of weeks in the beginning of my pregnancy was that my breasts felt again the same as when they were starting to grow in puberty and in the last month I didn’t sleep really comfortably anymore. That was it, nothing really annoying. I was still me, with the difference that an immense sensation of happiness invaded me every time I thought about the baby. I was going to be a Mum! I admit that sometimes the latter thought scared me a bit. Again a new chapter of my life would open, with new challenges and responsibilities.

But I trust in life; life knows better, come what may!

In India, same like in Europe, women usually wait until past the third month to announce their pregnancy openly. But while western women may wear nice pregnancy clothes showing proudly their growing baby bellies and celebrate welcome-baby-parties, in India women keep it hidden as well as possible to protect mother and child from bad energies and of course from the evil eye of jealous people. Actually one might think that there are no pregnant ladies on Indian streets, but the truth is that under a saree the tummy is barely visible and you have to be in the right angle to be able to tell.

When the news spread that we were expecting a baby, each and every village woman would stop me to give me some advice. Mostly they reminded me that I should cover my belly better or told me how much to walk, what to eat and what to avoid. One advice was to drink only warm water, as cold water would make the baby feel cold. I know they meant well, but it was becoming pretty annoying and I got really good in smiling while imagining that I was invisible and all the blabla was just passing right through me.

Once I went to town to buy some basic baby clothes, as I did not have anything. The saleslady asked me how old the baby was and when I told her that it was not born yet, she was shocked and refused to sell my anything, because it would bring bad luck. “You buy something when baby is born!” She said. Great, so my baby would have to stay naked until someone with some clothes would show up? I just went to another shop and asked for clothes for a newborn.

I never had any pregnant woman I felt close to near me. None of my friends had children and when my sister was pregnant I was already living in another country and so I lived her experiences only from a far distance. Internet turned into my most consulted adviser. For my gynecologist my questions and the information I gathered were pretty irritating. My experience here with doctors generally is that they don’t like it very much if they are asked questions or the cause or even the name of a disease. They are used to village people who barely ask why, but just swallow the medicines prescribed.

My belly was growing well, but in my opinion it was not really big. We don’t have large mirrors at home and I mostly saw my belly from above. When I look at the photos now, I have to say:

MAN, I WAS HUGE !!!!

Time had come to start dedicating some serious thoughts to where and how the child would be born.