Post Christmas

Once again I had a fabulous time in Bombay. It was great to go back and see all my friends, get closer to my “close” friends and get to know the rest of the group. They really are an amazing group of people; I enjoy spending time with them. This will have to be a short update because it’s 1am and I should get to sleep so I can work tomorrow all bright eyed and bushy tailed.
I spent my Christmas Day again doing capoeira, this time in the park. Nupur had to spend some time with one of his clients, Shushmeeta, so I wandered around Lincoln road, bought myself a Christmas present (2 kurtas) and a new camera case so that I wouldn’t keep thinking that I’m damaging my camera screen. On the way up the escalator I managed to be my clumsy self and trip up stairs (no this is not the first time this has happened to me) and sliced my toe open. I thought it was a little wound but by the time I walked out of the mini mall my flip flop was covered in blood. I hobbled over to meet Nupur, Saci and Makako and all of a sudden there was a crowd around the bloody foreigner. It was kind of silly (bloody but not painful). Nupur rushed to get some antibacterial soapy stuff with bandaids and cloth wraps while the other two watched out for me. Street kids watched, people who were shopping watched, it was a little bit of a scene. It wasn’t quite as exciting as getting knocked in the nose while playing soccer with the kids in Guatemala and walking around spitting up blood, but it was the same kind of scene. Anyway, afterwards I ended up doing capoeira in the park; it was another very hard and interesting training. After two hours, we had a little coffee and Makako, Megumi, and Einstein and I went back to Megumi’s place for some Christmas dinner. After, we went to mass for about 10 minutes, heard some carols, listened to some Christmas talk, and then left. It was a huge crowd that took up a whole field. It was a part of St. Andrew’s college. None of us had ever really been to mass before. Then we met the rest of the folks at a restaurant.
I missed many of the jokes from the restaurant because I got to speak to everyone in my family. As promised my family passed the phone around from one person to another and I got to hear how everyone was doing, that they missed me, I told them what I was doing and that I missed them. It was really nice and special. It made me sad I wasn’t there with them. I think one of the best parts is that it didn’t really feel like Christmas. If it were cold and everyone was with their family’s and such, I might have been a sadder sight, but it wasn’t, and my friends were all around, so I felt much better.
Again on Saturday there was class, and again we went to Yacht, the after class food and drink spot. I had several talks with several friends from class and they all circle around the fact that it doesn’t feel like I’ve only been here for 2 months. (Today is my 2 month anniversary!)
I want to touch on one other item that I’ve written about several times, but it’s something that I think I can expand upon. People are friendly! Every time I get on the train, there is always someone looking out for me. Tonight it was three older gentlemen. I was speaking to Vishal, the friend I made last time coming home on a Sunday evening from Mumbai, and the doors of the women’s car didn’t open. When they did, they only opened a tiny bit and my fear of not making the train took over. Vishal told me to get into any car, find a conductor and hand the phone to him. I did as I was told and the conductor sat me down in a seat in the reservation car. The three gentlemen didn’t have tickets for that section either and were waiting to see when they would have to move. Of course we sparked up a conversation and the more vocal of the three told me about them. They were coming from Mumbai, from their brother’s wedding. They were 2 brothers and one cousin. The vocal brother asked me all sorts of questions and spoke about many things such as what his name means, meditation, good karma, things about Pune, why we now pronounce Pune, poon ay, instead of pun ah, and why Mumbai is Mumbai and not Bombay. The former are both symbolic of post British rule, and both represent a new freedom and independence. The vocal brother also used a term that said that I am their guest, meaning India’s guest. This is not the first time I’ve heard that, but he explained it a little more deeply when were uprooted from our one seating area. The expression goes something like you are a guest here and therefore like god. Anyone who’s from here and who reads this can feel free to chime in and help me with my bad memory. It goes something like Tika tika… I don’t want the special treatment because I’m a foreigner or because I look different, but now I understand it as a cultural thing as well. I also like to think that I deserve some of it. Whenever someone looked lost in the subway or the streets of New York, I always used to see if they wanted or needed any help. I also think it makes for an interesting trip. Every time I travel I get to hear new stories, talk to new people, learn something new about India. I think that’s pretty awesome.
I also have to mention briefly about Dharavi, the biggest slum in Asia. This is a place where Baba, the capoeira teacher, gives classes on Sunday mornings. It’s an amazing community, with it’s own internal infrastructure. This Sunday I went with Baba, now for the second time, to give class. His wife, who is also in the process of starting her own NGO, told me about some of the kids. There was one boy who is mute. Apparently his own parents abandoned him and left him on the street. Someone from Dharavi took him in and cares for him as if he were his own son. You can see from looking at him that for a long time in his life he was seriously malnourished, his legs are very tiny – he himself is quite little for his age, I think she said he was around 6 years old. Many of the boys (because girls don’t yet take the class) look healthy, however you can tell from looking at others that they might not get enough to eat all the time. Baba delivers a message to them, besides capoeira, to wash their hands. Because of the sanitary conditions, this message could save them from several easily avoidable diseases; at least that’s the idea. When we drove up to the entrance of Dharavi, the boys, some in capoeira clothes, ran along side the car; it seemed as if it was from a movie where the kids follow the famous person in the car. Even after spending a little time with them, playing some silly capoeira tricks on them, the boys opened up to me, ran away when they realized I was going to play a trick, and told me to get their friends. They were very sweet and I hope to go back to be able to contribute a little more to their lives.

On that happy note, my eyes are closing on me so I think it’s time to wrap up. Merry Christmas to everyone again.

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