Mysteries of an Himalayan construction site

January 2009

When I first saw the piece of land we had bought, I wondered what kind of house could possibly fit on it; the plot looked pretty small. I thought that it might be big enough to put a larger tent on it, that’s it! It’s not that I didn’t like the idea of living in a tent or maybe a nice tipi, but after all the stories about leopards in the area we got to hear from locals and more after having seen one in full daylight I actually preferred to have four solid walls around my bed.

Construction site

After we had all the property papers in our hands, the first thing that Baba and I did was to celebrate a small puja ceremony on the plot amidst the high grown grass and flowers, together with the tourists who stayed at the same guesthouse. We chanted some mantras, lit incense and shared some food.

It took Baba a couple of weeks to gather the working people, who first proceeded to flatten the earth of the plot. To my great relief the land afterwards looked double the size and

YES! A REAL HOUSE COULD ACTUALLY FIT ON IT !

I never thought that I would ever have to bother about things like building a house! Until now I have always been renting the places I’ve lived in. First of all because buying a property of any kind was out of my range and second because it makes it easier to change residency whenever needed or wanted.

The only thing we knew for now was that we wanted to build three rooms: One for us, a living room and one guest room. Another thing I was sure about was that I wanted to have the bathroom inside of the house and not outside like most guesthouses of the area. Having an outdoor bathroom is a good thing, but due to my earlier experience with a leopard sneaking around the guesthouse all night long, restraining me to use the urgently needed bathroom, I had made up my mind. Otherwise we had no idea how people usually build a house in the Indian Himalayas. Baba tinkered a cute, roofless mock-up out of cardboard, showed it to the workers and on that base the building process started in the Indian way.Mock-up

He woke up every morning at six o’clock to go to the construction site to keep an eye on the situation all day long. People here are paid by day, which means that more slowly they work the more money they will get. Leaving them there alone meant that they would take things really easy and sit somewhere most of the time smoking beedis.

First, my German mind had an accurate idea, about how things should be done and eventually look like. In my opinion, I explained myself very clearly and everybody seemed to understand. My main job though was to cook and bring the meal to the construction site, where Baba and I would sit and have a picnic together.

Day after day when I arrived there with my tiffin, I had to discover that my plans for the house actually were not understood at all or simply completely ignored.

First I tried to fight it, but after only a couple of months to not become completely crazy, my German mind surrendered to the facts of the Himalayan construction “system”. After three more months I was just happy with the thought that soon I would have a new roof over my head and had no more expectations about the result at all.

It is very popular to hire mysteries from Bihar for building projects. A mystery is the Hindi word for the head workman. I didn’t know that for a long time and as in India people are often called by their profession, I thought that it was pretty funny that so many people had such a cool name like mystery!

The reasons why the workers from Bihar are very popular is that they have the reputation to be very good at their job and that they don’t drink excessively as their colleagues from the mountain area do. They also get paid more than the local workers, which usually brings jealousy issues along.

Winter had come and it got pretty cold, so whenever something had to be finished the same day, the local workers demanded to get paid in addition with “Gulab” with the excuse that it helped to keep them warm. Gulab translated means “rose” and is the brand of a local alcohol that smells like battery acid. Some say that if you drink that stuff regularly you end up getting blind, which I can pretty much imagine after having tried it once out of curiosity.

Well, maybe this is the reason why some of our walls have a certain angle which slightly reminds of modern art.

Of course, we also had our Bihari mystery and soon one of the workers said that he wanted to receive the same salary as him. Baba explained that he would do so, if he could somehow prove that he was able to do the same work in the same time with the same quality result.

One day, when I came to the building site, I wondered why the two arches on our porch differed visibly from each other.

The explanation was simple:

There had been a competition between the Bihari and the mountain mystery, which the latter lost!

But there was one thing that the Biharis and the local workers had in common:

After paying day, they did not show up for a couple of days without saying a word and then reappeared as if nothing had happened.

By the way:

If you like, feel free to watch the little movie about the construction process on the following link:

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The revenge of the chicken

August 2008

Baba did not get too many chances to spend some quality time with his sister Kamla during our short stay in his native Bihari village. There were always too many people around and he was most of the time involved in some “men activities”. I knew he would have loved to meet her more in private. We came up to the idea to invite his sister to meet us in Bodhgaya. Her husband’s village where she lived was not very far from there. We told her that we would come up for her room in the same buddhist monastery where we were staying.

Om Mane Padme Hum

Om Mane Padme Hum

Actually I was a little nervous, because I barely spoke a handful of words of Hindi and I was very insecure about the social expectation as an “Indian” wife. There are plenty of social “rules” about how to act and what to say (or better not) in all kind of worldly situations and I really did’t think that I would do very good at it. I just wanted them to like me and make a good impression. I was so thankful to have Pagli, our American friend around to give me some moral support!

WOULD I BE ABLE TO DO AS WELL AS AN INDIAN HOST?

…BECAUSE THEY ARE REALLY DAMN GOOD AT IT !

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Something strange must have been in the air, because I don’t know why Baba suddenly decided that he wanted to eat that chicken curry! At the end of the meal we even started arguing, which is something we do extremely rarely:

“You really have to order this chicken?”

“Me long time no eating chicken! I want chicken!”

“It’s expensive!”

“no problem!”

Few minutes later…

“Why you don’t eat the chicken?”

“This chicken strange taste!”

“Well, you wanted it! And I told you! Common, now you eat!”

“NO! Me not eating this possible! Chalo!”

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The three of us left that strange restaurant in a grumbly mood. His sister would arrive tomorrow morning with her husband, her mother in law and her youngest son; this didn’t help much to improve my state of mind.

In the evening Baba started to spend several long periods inside of the bath-room and ended up spending most of the night there, too. In the morning there was nothing more left for him to get rid off and he was crouching in anguish next to the toilet. His head was really hot and he was bathed in cold sweat. It was the first time that I witnessed an Indian’s skin turning into a greenish complexion.

We girls put him to bed and tried to make him drink water, but that effort only ended up in further stomach cramps. Baba stopped talking. He did not react to us at all anymore. Suddenly he started to repeat in a weak voice:

“Doctor, Hospital…!”

This really made us panic! Baba never went to see a doctor in all his life, neither did he believe very much in them. This situation was truly not looking good at all!

Monsoon in Bodhgaya

Monsoon in Bodhgaya

Kamla arrived with her family and it was all a big mess! Baba couldn’t talk, Pagli and I didn’t speak any Hindi and non of them spoke any English. She immediately started to take care of her brother, sitting on the edge of the bed holding his hand. We told her that we would go out to find a doctor. It took us some time to find the doctor the resident buddhist monk had recommended us. The doc and his assistant followed us immediately to the monastery. He performed a quick check on Baba and shortly after I saw how the assistant started sticking all kind of needles into my poor husband’s body. I tried to find out what they were giving him and why, but without success. The doctor talked vividly to Kamla and her husband, but the only thing that I understood was that they had to put a drip and eventually the word

FOOD POISONING!

I felt helpless and numb, but at least Baba’s fever went down fast and he had fallen into a peaceful sleep. I wanted to be a good wife and a good host. We didn’t have any kitchen to offer snacks or chai and the street sellers were not out on the street due to the heavy rainfall of the monsoon. We managed to get some chai from the monastery and explained Kamla that we would go out to bring some food and asked her to stay with Baba. The only thing we could find was some momos and samosas. When we came back the doctor explained us somehow that Baba was okay now, but that his assistant would stay that night with him to change the glucose drips.

The rooms were reorganizes in Indian style: Kamla’s husband would sleep in Baba’s room on the other bed. I would sleep with Pagli and Kamla with her mother in law and her son. This was all very strange.

Was I supposed to oppose?

I just agreed and decided to check from time to time on Baba during the night. On my first inspection the assistant was snoring loudly in an armchair. On my second visit he was for some reason sleeping next to Baba; in the same bed and almost hugging him. Was that normal?

I guess that sometimes it is better not to think too much and to let things simply happen the way they are supposed to in the Indian way without asking oneself too many questions.

The next morning the assistant looked rested and Baba looked much better, too. He could speak normally again and around noon he even started to feel hungry. The following day we all went out to do some sight-seeing and to eat out in a restaurant. Kamla ordered Chinese Noodles. I think she never had tried such a dish before.

It was touching to see her trying to manage to handle the long noodles with a fork and I remembered how some women in the village whispered with each other and laughed at me when they saw me eating, saying:

“Look! She doesn’t know how to eat properly only with the hand”

…and I could not avoid a smile…  

Baba &  Mathilda

Baba & Mathilda

Floating cups and water snakes

August 2008

As soon we sat in the bus heading from Baba’s tiny Bihari Village near Patna to Bodhgaya, a sensation of freedom came over me. Free from masses of staring eyes, expectations from the Indian family side and I would have not to worry about if my behaviour as a western wife could accidentally offend anyone.

In Bodhgaya we checked into a buddhist monastery. It was a big compound, but it was off-season and the three of us were the only guests in the entire building.

Of course! To whom else but us crazy monkeys it would occur to travel through Bihar during the peak of the raining season?

It felt just like haven to have such simple things like an own room with a door, a toilet and a shower again. Baba, Pagli and I were in a very happy mood. We celebrated our freedom with a small dance party in the room and playing card games.

Monastery "Garden"

Monastery “Garden”

The next day it started raining; a warm constant monsoon drizzle – which didn’t stop. To leave the monastery we had to cross the garden to reach the main gate. In the evening the garden had started to turn into a pool and the water accumulated came up to our ankles.

On the second day the water had reached knee level and some kids were bathing and playing in the growing pool. It was still okay to cross it after taking out the sandals and rolling up the pants.

After the third day of rain, the water came up to our waists and as I looked down from the balcony to the waterscape I discovered several water snakes and a couple of rats swimming happily through the green element.

No way that I would cross that pool any longer!

To get out of the monastery to have some food we took the safer way: Balancing on the narrow edge of a long wall along the pool. And naturally at the first crossing mission I fell straight into the pool accompanying my clumsiness with an hysteric shriek. All the diseases one might contract during the monsoons described in the Lonely Planet rushed through my mind. The thought of touching the ground with my bare feet made me panic and I paddled at high speed back towards and up the wall.

On the fourth day it stopped raining and Pagli and I decided to visit an Indian family with who she had made friendship during a previous trip to Bodhgaya. The pool was still full of all kind of creatures, but at least I was able to figure out a suitable balance technique to walk on the wall. Outside of the monastery, all streets were filled with stale water or there were still streams of brown soup rushing down the sides of the roads.

Eventually we reached the family’s house; well, actually it was not a real house, but a bamboo structure covered with plastics and tin sheets. The residents were busy piling up all kind of objects in front of it. A fatty mataji in a thin cotton saree spotted us and started to beam as soon as she recognized Pagli.

“Come in, come in! Welcome, welcome!”

she said joyfully and hastily pulled a few leeches off her leg. Blood ran down her skin. We took out our sandals (well, I did, as Pagli most of the time prefered not to wear any) and stepped through the small entrance, where we found ourselves up to the ankles in a nasty broth of monsoon water.

Chai time

Chai time

She led us to a charpoy in a corner of the room, as if there was absolutely nothing strange at all happening. There we sat down to enjoy an interesting view on floating cups, plates, flip-flops and even a paddling mouse. Mataji lived in that hut together with her husband and one of her sons, who’s beautiful wife was pretty advanced in pregnancy.

She went out for a moment and shortly after came back with two cups of chai. I wondered with which water this chai had been prepared, but I drank it.

INDIA TURNS YOU BRAVE!

I like to remember that story, for instance when I drown in self-pity or catch myself complaining about my situation too intensely. It reminds me that no matter how big my problems seem to me, I can be sure that there are people who have many more reasons to complain and worry about.

But they just keep on going;

…and they do so with a smile…

Inside the hut

Inside the hut

Bye-Bye Bihar!

August 2008

It was so hot, that we ended up sleeping all together on the roof top under the open sky. In the middle of the night the monsoon surprised us and the whole lot of us grabbed our blankets and drowsily went down to the rooms for shelter while large bats were flying across the open patio. Pagli and I slept together with our little caretakers on a large bed.

The Patio

The Patio

I woke up expecting to have a more peaceful day, as it seemed that all the village inhabitants had already come to stare at us “weird” Westerners for a while the day before; hopefully to their entire satisfaction.

Well, maybe the greater part of them did; the thing is that the voice about two white ladies had spread to the surrounding villages and by the time we were having breakfast we were watched again by an even bigger crowd than we had staring at us the previous day!

I think this was the moment when I internalized an important lesson:

 

In India it is better not to have any expectations all. Good and not so good surprises lurk behind every corner just waiting to jump on you! Every single thing usually turns out quite different from how it should have – sometimes much better than expected; or well, much worse….

…and what fascinates me pretty much about human nature, is how we manage to get used to all kind of circumstances and routines relatively quickly. It did not bother me that much anymore to have all those strangers at a short distance observing every detail about how I stuffed my Indian breakfast into my mouth, as if I were doing something absolutely amazing, like for example swallowing a box of nails.

After breakfast we decided to visit the village temple, just to get a bit out of the house in which we were trapped; of course, we were followed by a large crowd. I think the temple never had before that many visitors at once since its construction, not even on Shivratri!

Pagli and me were trying to go along with the joking and laughing kids that jumped excitedly around us, when suddenly a boy with a wicked gaze came up to me and kicked me hard in the leg. I have no idea why he did it; maybe he thought he’d better make sure in case we were a sort of ghost or he just didn’t like me.

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The boy who kicked me

We thought it was a good idea to make a gift to the girls that took so good care of us, they were constantly with us, fanning us with palm leaves and making sure we were as happy as possible. When we went back in the house we went through our bags. We gathered some fancy jewellery and make-up items that we distributed among the girls; which turned out to be a big mistake! Soon all the kids were fighting with each other, grabbing the things out of each others hands and complaining loudly that they also wanted this item and not the one they got. Baba’s niece ran back to her house crying complaining that the other girls received so much nicer things than she did from the westerners, she came back with her mother and a big drama started to develop.

The 103 year old dying grandfather we had come to visit was still in the same state. He got to see my husband, his youngest grandson one more time, which was one of his wishes to be fulfilled before he died.

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Village Kids

Actually we had planned to stay longer in the village, but things were getting really intense and on the fourth day of our visit, with a sugar rush for having had farewell-chais in most of the family houses of the village, we took our backpacks and walked out of the Bihari village to reach the bus stand by walk at one kilometer distance.

I looked behind me and the German story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, who led the rats out of a village by playing his flute, came to my mind; a never-ending line of villagers was walking right behind us to say goodbye; they stayed with us waiting until the bus left and merrily waved at us as we drove off.

These four days which I will never forget felt like four years to me! So many incredible things happened in such a very short time, many situations were pretty tough, others just amazingly beautiful!

I learned so much about people, life, love and most of all about myself.

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India: Sometimes tough …and sometimes touching, beautiful and overwhelming

August 2008

In the afternoon we moved into another house, followed of course by the usual crowd of faithful observers. There was no more room left in Baba’s brother’s place. Seven children, Baba’s brother and his wife, a pregnant cousin, the dying grandfather and an aunt who had come to take care of him were already occupying all available space.

Patio life

Patio life

Our new “home” was at a Brahmin’s family house, Baba referred to them as uncle and auntie. In India you don’t have to be physically related with someone to have a big family, it’s more kind of a how you feel towards the other person matter. Because of that you can actually have countless brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts.

I loved that house from the beginning. It had a spacious open patio around which the living area was built. In the middle of the patio was a deep well, which looked like the ones you see in horror movies, a water pump and a lovely puja place. The house was completely plastered with the typical mix of clay and cow dung, which made it look pretty comfy. Besides the uncle and auntie, the grandparents and four bigger kids were living there. The three girls were extremely beautiful. I have to say that I was generally amazed by the beauty of the village women.

The toilet

The toilet

Puja and Shilpa who were twelve and thirteen years old became our personal caretakers. They would follow us wherever we went with their palm tree fans to alleviate us from the sizzling heat. First Pagli and I felt pretty embarrassed about that, but they did their job with so much love and dedication that in the end we really ended up appreciating it. It was also truly comforting that they had a “toilet” which was actually a mere hole in the ground inside of the cowshed with some bricks on each side; BUT it was a private space with a door you could close behind you, a fact that I highly appreciated after my crazed action earlier that day.

At some point the people who did not directly belong to the household left for lunch, Baba went somewhere on a mission with the men of the house and finally we were asked if we would like to have a shower. Pagli and me wrapped a pareo around our bodies and stepped out into the patio. In India it is a common thing to take a shower with something covering your body; while men shower openly everywhere under public water pumps in underpants riddled with holes, the matter is a bit more complicated if you are a woman. The girls were pumping water for us into a bucket from where we then scooped water over our soapy bodies with a jug. The mud floor became pretty slippery and after I had finished with the bathing ritual and wanted to leave the patio, I slipped and almost fell. I managed to hold on to the wall and ended up with a huge piece of it in my hands. The grandmother appeared and I apologized:

“Sorry, Mataji! I think I broke your house!

She started laughing and made me understand with a gesture that there was no need to worry. If you are used to take a shower in private and don’t have much practice with the Indian way, then it’s pretty much of an art to get rid of all the soap from under the cloth. I guess my technique was especially poor; a couple of hours later I was covered with a nasty, itchy rush.

We westerners soon discovered our private Kingdom of glory:

THE SIZZLING HOT ROOF TOP

We escaped there from time to time to have a smoke and a bit of rest from the crowd. There we would sit for a short while motionless like lizards in the frying heat, but the few moments of peace were worth the suffering. Every time we went there Puja and Shilpa followed us until the steps watching us from there with horror and shouting

“DON’T GO UP THERE, YOU WILL GET BLACK !”

Getting black is one of the biggest fears of Indian women. The TV ads are full of skin bleaching products and if you go through the dating services in the newspapers (which by the way is a fabulous time pass), you will find a lot of emphasis put on the fair complexion of the bride. The world is a strange place; in the west people fry on the beaches to get sun-darkened and here they want to be as white as possible…

In the evenings though everybody would gather on the big roof top,  well actually only the women and the kids would join us there. They really seemed to enjoy that the westerners were women, too. This made them have something special that was not meant to be shared with any men. We sat there for hours, trying to understand jokes and to have conversations, singing songs, holding small babies in our arms and having kids sitting on our laps. It felt like having been adopted by a tribe of amazons and even if it was a bit trying at times, it was an amazing experience!

Our beautiful caretakers

Our beautiful caretakers

Suddenly a cracking sound filled the air. Then a squeaky voice of someone talking through a speaker could be heard.  We realized that there was a great number of speakers hanging on posts all over the village. The voice started singing and the someone played the tabla. Shortly after, a harmonium and more singers joined in.

Eventually Baba showed up and we finally got the chance to find out what was going on:

The villagers were doing this every single evening since his grandfather fell sick. Actually they were doing Kirtan to pray for his soul

…TOUCHING, BEAUTIFUL AND SIMPLY OVERWHELMING !

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How to answer the call of nature in a bihari village

August 2009

I woke up from an unfamiliar smell. As I slightly opened my eyes I could see a very old woman’s face only a few inches away from my own. She was inspecting me with curiosity and at the same I could see affection in her glance “Just pretend to sleep, don’t wake up!” my mind repeated on and on. The woman softly petted my leg and then left the room. There were still some kids sitting on the floor whispering at each other as I moved. Apparently they were exited about what I would do next.

Village kids

Village kids

I would really have loved to pretend to be sleeping for a little while, but I really needed to use a bathroom; thing I hadn’t done since we went of the train in Patna. I left the room and eventually found Baba, who asked his ‘Babi’ about where I could answer the call of nature. He turned towards me and translated:

“You just pee there, no problem!”

pointing at the small gutter that ran through the open patio.

“What do you mean with ‘no problem’? No way!”

I answered appalled

“There are so many people! I won’t piss in front of all them!”

I looked up and saw a group of people waving happily at me through the patio from the roof-top.

“They will leave, only some women will stay in the house”

The open patio

The open patio

I just could not do it. Call it ego or dignity or whatever, but if I couldn’t even take a nap without being observed like an animal in a zoo, at least I would appreciate some privacy with a more intimate matter. I already imagined ‘Babi’ evacuating the house shouting something like

“Everybody out, the foreigner has to piss!”

I decided to pretend that it wasn’t that urgent and to hold on for a little while more; maybe at some point people would leave.

Pagli, our American friend, was still sitting on the bed surrounded by a crowd of villagers trying to make some conversation. A gap opened through the crowd like when Moses crossed the ocean and I sat next to her. It was almost noon and it had gotten incredibly hot. A girl brought us a big plate with food, which looked delicious and I was really hungry. I started to eat slowly, but I barely could swallow a bite.

Have you ever tried to eat while hundreds of eyes are fixed on you and several voices ask you things in a language you don’t speak expecting an answer?

Lunchtime

Lunchtime with small audience

And I do not exaggerate when I say hundreds of eyes! The room was so stuffed with people, that I could feel the breath of the first line of them and in the stuffy heat I almost couldn’t breathe. I tried to eat as much as possible from the delicious food that had been prepared especially for us guests, but I could not finish it; I felt sorry because I thought that the woman who cooked it might think that I didn’t like it, but I really couldn’t help it.

Baba had gone somewhere again and my bladder was about to explode. Suddenly I started to hyperventilate and the more I thought “Breathe in, breathe out…” the worse it got. I stood up, made my way through the crowd towards the entrance door and went outside. I was bound and determined to find a nice private spot behind some pretty bush in the middle of nature. I realized that tears were running down my cheeks and went on walking quickly without turning around and ignoring the worried voices shouting behind me. I headed to a nearby field as fast as I could. Then I heard Baba behind me:

“You crazy? Where you go?”

I turned around and saw like fifty people following me, mostly children and women. Under these circumstances I would definitively not find a nice private bush.

This was unbelievable! The only thing I wanted was to pee!

Finally I shrugged my shoulders and followed Baba and Pagli back to the house. ‘Babi’ shooed the people away from the door; and so first Pagli peed in the gutter; and then following her good example, I resigned and did so, too.

Necessity can be an excellent teacher!

Welcome to Bihar!

It was only 5.30 a.m. when we reached Baba’s village, but in spite of the morning hours the day had already begun for its inhabitants. A few kids spotted us as we went down the slope and ran excitedly back to their homes to announce our arrival. The houses in the village were all simple constructions built of raw bricks and the earth paths through the village were damp and muddy from the rains.

Welcome to Bihar

Welcome to Bihar

We reached Baba’s family house where we were received by his brother’s wife, a large group of small children and a few other family members. The floor was plastered with a mix of clay and cow dung. The dying grandfather was sleeping on a charpoy next to the small entrance door that led to a narrow patio.

I was surprised when I saw him; he did not look at all like a 103 year old man. He still had a lot of hair and his body looked pretty strong for that age. Pagli and I expected to witness a heartbreaking scene coming up, when the grandfather and the “lost” grandson he had been calling for on his death-bed would reunite; but nothing like that happened. The family gently shook him awake explaining with excitement

“Your grandson has come! You remember? You called him!”

He slightly opened his eyes and roughly exclaimed

“This is not my grandson! Go away!”

Well, last time Baba visited the village he still had dreadlocks and his long beard. I guess the grandfather didn’t recognize him at first.

We were invited into the house. On the left side of the entrance was the cooking corner, where the women would prepare food and chai on a fire pit on the floor, which was surrounded by a clay construction to protect the fire from wind and to support the pots. Just next to that was a little space to do the dishes and a narrow gutter for the dirty water ran through the patio.

Family house

Family house

We were led to a small room in the backside of the house and sat down on a bed trying to smile as much as our fatigue would allow. Slowly more and more people came to stare at us. Nobody there had ever seen a white person before, most of them probably not even on T.V., as there was only one in the entire village. As we sat there it was starting to get hot. More and more people came in to have a look at us westerners and soon we were surrounded by a large group that stood so close to us that we barely could breathe. They were laughing and chatting in loud voices, pointing at us from time to time. I felt uncomfortable and wondered if they were talking about how dirty we looked; after that trip I definitively was filthy and smelly, which did not contribute much to my comfort in this situation. That time I did not speak a word of Hindi and Baba who was our translator had gone to meet the men in the village. Time passed by and I was really glad that Pagli was sitting next to me; she was the only person I could talk to and sharing the first impressions with another westerner helped to release the accumulated tension. I thought

‘Well, it’s the fist day. Tomorrow everybody will have seen us and then they will stop staring and leave us alone’.

Baba’s oldest niece brought us chai. Her mother is one of the most amazing women I have ever seen. I couldn’t believe it when I was told that Baba’s sister in law was a mother of five daughters and one son, the smallest girl being only six months old. She was extremely pretty, small and slender but at the same time transmitted a lot of strength. She looked like a seventeen year old goddess! How was that possible?

The amazing sister in law

Suddenly a toddler came up to us; it was Baba’s nephew. He squatted and took a big shit on the floor right in front of us.

WELCOME TO BIHAR!

I was expecting somebody to ask us if we would like to take a shower or to rest after such a long trip, but nothing like that happened.

Rule number two in India:

Never expect anything!

Rule number one:

Make your patience grow!

I already had passed into a state of trance from the exhaustion and started to get angry with Baba, who had left us alone in this situation. Shower could wait, but I worried that I might faint sooner or later if I wouldn’t get a rest soon.

Entrance

Entrance

When he finally showed up, I begged him to find me a place where to sleep. They brought me to a small room where I lied down on a bed and started to doze off. There is not such a thing as privacy in an Indian family. I wonder if this word even exists in any Indian language and if there is actually any purpose of having a room door. There was a murmur and from the corner of my eyes I saw about a dozen of whispering kids sitting on the floor observing attentively how I was sleeping. It really made me feel like an animal in the zoo, but I decided to surrender to the situation and ignore the surrounding world. So I turned around and eventually fell asleep.