A Great Weekend

I’m writing this while folks are taking a nap. So much has happened these past two days. For the first time I don’t feel homesick. The story goes that capoeira gives you a home and a family no matter where you go. When I was moving to India, one of the first things I did was look up where there was capoeira. I found Baba who is a part of a different capoeira group, Cordao De Ouro. He invited me to come to Bombay (about 3 or 4 hours away from Pune) whenever I liked. I found myself here on a great weekend, the weekend of Diwali.

I had to get to the bus stop by 5:45. I made sure to leave my flat in Koregon Park at 5. The taxi was supposed to meet me at the German Bakery at 5am. Of course I’m nervous about missing it so I get there about 5-10 min early. It’s a very odd feeling walking around Koregon Park so early. There are barely any cars, there aren’t many street lights, just enough so that when you’re almost out of your visual comfort zone, another lamp will put you back in place. The only other people out are rickshaw drivers and some dogs. It’s also one of the nicest times to walk around on North Mumbai Road because you can actually breathe without inhaling enormous amounts of smoke, dust, and car fumes. As 5:10 rolled around I started to get worried and called the cab company. The guy said he would have the driver call. Then 5:15 came, no call, no cab, so I hopped into a rickshaw that ripped me off; but as he said, it’s nighttime, no meter, and no one else would do the meter either. As we pulled off I saw the cab at the corner. Of course it was of no use to worry about being late. There was no one there at the bus stop. Finally after a bad encounter which I will choose to spare the details of (no I didn’t get hurt, and nothing bad happened, it was just an unpleasant experience) I saw two other women waiting. at 6:20 the van came to take us to the bus. It stopped twice to pick up other people. Although the bus was scheduled to leave at 6, we didn’t really get out and rolling until about 7. Before taking off, the driver burned a few sticks of incense. The bus didn’t smell bad – although we were going on a long trip, there was no bathroom on the bus. The girl who ended up sitting next to me (who didn’t smell particularly good either) made a fuss about her having the window seat as per our seat assignments. As I didn’t really care I let her have her way. Only 15 min later she sparked up a conversation with me and we were able to talk about living in Pune. Like many Indians I’ve met from Pune, she is not from Pune. The bus ride was freezing, but nice. The rest stop included my first bathroom without toilet paper. I forgot that that is the way things are done in most of India. I’ll spare details here too.

When I got to Bombay I met Baba and we spent some time with his family at his place. He has two great kids (one is just 6 months old) and a great wife who does the same kind of work as me. We started talking about ways to link projects, cross information, etc. Right around lunch time, a bunch of Baba’s students came over and we ate, played capoeira music, talked, I felt like a piece of me had been put back into place. After a while, we went to the beach to do flips. I didn’t manage to loose all inhibitions, but more than I usually do. I joined in the flipping and jumping. It was great. We also got quite a crowd. The beach was at low tide and smelled particularly fishy. It actually reminded me of a dirty day on Far Rockaway beach. Everyone except young boys are fully clothed, some women in long sleeves. It actually didn’t feel weird getting stared at because everyone who flipped got stared out. I was no longer the odd one out. After a couple hours of flips we did a roda, got some coconut water from a coconut and headed out separate ways.

I ended up with two of the guys back to their flat to take a shower. Flats in Bombay are very similar to Pune. They’re intricate conglomerations of buildings, all white, but quite dirty. The stairs, when made, were not measured properly (at least I assume), and each step you take might be a few inches higher or shorter than the step before. As it is Diwali, firecrackers (crackers as they are called here) are going off left and right, and very loudly. They’re sooooo loud! They make the air cloudy. People don’t even stick to the little ones, in the alleyways of societies and between buildings, they light big ones too.

We went to Piolio’s house, where I’m staying, and him and his girlfriend went out for a bit while a group of us did Pooja. Pooja is the ceremony one does during Diwali which involves candles, representations of different gods, sweets, a song praising the god Lakshmi, and putting a bindi on. It was really nice to be automatically included. It was also really interested to see the religious part come out of all these people who are so non seemily religious. For the rest of the night we played cards, listened to music, and ate. It was very calm and reminded me of home and my friends. It’s great how one little thing like capoeira can unite so many people from so many different walks of life. They expect me back for their batizado in December, which I am more than happy to oblige. Right now it’s nap time, but I can’t seem to sleep. Later today we’ll have class, and I’ll be on my way back to Pune tomorrow morning/afternoon.

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