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.

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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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Sprinkle, sprinkle, little star…

The next morning after our daughter was born I found myself in the kitchen making coffee. Actually I was full of energy and felt great. Our neighbour already had heard about the good news and stepped in for a visit.  When he saw me in the kitchen, his eyes became big like saucers.

 “What are you doing in the kitchen?!?”

he asked. With the coffee maker in my hand I answered with a grin

“Coffee!?!”

He asked me for a small plastic jug and said that he would be back in a minute, dashing out of the door. Indeed, he came back pretty quickly and immediately started to sprinkle a liquid from the jug with the help of a leafy twig not only over me and my coffee, but also all over the place.

“What is it?”

I wanted to know

“Cow urine. Purifying!”

he said.

He also told me that from now on I was not to enter the kitchen and that I had to stay in my room for the next ten days.

Right, I forgot!

Women after giving birth or while they are having their period are considered impure in India, and so is everything they touch. I assumed that it was not a very good idea to ask him if he wanted a cup of coffee…

I shook my head and once more was amazed about the cultural differences: A perfect and beautiful little being just came into life through my body and I was impure, but cow piss was not?!?

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I think that actually in case of confinement after birth the true reason behind it is to give the woman a real rest from all the hard work in an Indian household, to take care of her changing body and to get to know the newborn. Maybe one day women told men something about impurity so they would understand and respect that very womanly matter, I don’t know. Birth and its details are exclusively considered a ladies’ issue here, so people were pretty shocked when they learned that Baba was not only present during birth, but in fact received the baby with his own hands.

Menstruation, of course, is also a big mystery to most common Indian men, just to tell you that once I went to buy diapers and the shop keeper gave me sanitary pads! During these days of the month women are also not allowed to step into the kitchen and are supposed to keep a physical distance to others. On the last day she has to undergo a purification ceremony and wash her hair. In this case, too, I personally think that in the beginning women had the need to be with themselves to connect to their strong meditative energies that are part of the menstrual cycle. Somehow knowledge got lost, forgotten and manipulated and therefore at some point turned “impure”.  Maybe because men were scared of the unknown and the energies involved. But, even if it seems so, in the West it is not much better: Menstruation is considered nothing but an annoying monthly phenomenon. But the sacredness, wisdom and deepness behind it has mostly been forgotten.

Anyways, it might be nice for the new mother to get a total rest and in Indian families there are usually several females living in the same household or at least present after a child was born. They are allowed to step into the “polluted” room where mother and baby are resting and are there for all their needs.

Well, Baba and I were alone. Was I supposed to die of thirst if I needed a glass of water when Baba was not in the house, because I couldn’t step into the kitchen?!?  We managed it our own way and the house would be sprinkled anyways again and again with cow piss if visitors would come by; and like that it would be purified again! Problem solved!

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?

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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!