More about the kids

            I feel like I’ve been going non stop lately. It’s a good feeling, but it’s nice that it’s a weekend and I’ve barely done anything. After a long week it’s been good. On Friday night we took the kids to the fair. I must admit that I’ve been writing about them a lot lately, I’m conscious of that, but they’re amazing and we’ve been spending a lot of time with them lately.

            Wednesday class was cancelled. I sat in the park for a little bit with a book before class and saw the kids off to the side all sitting together. It was our 6 plus a few other older boys. I’m not sure if I liked the looks of them, but they were sitting in a circle, hanging out. Manoj came at a certain point and they came over to where I was sitting. We showed them the pictures Manoj printed out. They were fascinated and looked at each one saying who took it, where it was, who was in the picture, it was adorable. They handed them back to us and we had to tell them that the pictures were for them. They had a long discussion about in whose house they’d keep all the pictures and Avinash ran back to their houses to keep the pictures while we hung out and walked to class. We found out there was some meeting going on, so after standing outside, yelling at the guy from the space who didn’t inform us beforehand, and just chatting with the kids, we decided to ghumna around (stroll) and then ended up back at the park. We gave them birthdays. Two of them knew their birthday. The best was Avinash who said he was born nine days after Diwali. We figured out their ages, as they know them at least. When we talked about birthdays they all said they didn’t know. So we asked them their favourite month and to count how many stars they could in five seconds. They all have birthdays now. It was a really great evening. They’re great kids. We played a little bit, threw grass all over each other. It was a bunch of us who were there with them. Most of the time it’s just Manoj and me, but it was a few of the other guys as well this time too.

            We promised them we’d take them to a fair, and they heard of one so we took them on Friday evening. When we went to get them, first at their home, where we were told they were at the park, it was a strange situation. We met Avinash who seemed thrilled to see us but when they ran to the other kids (more than our core 6) they stayed and the other 4 came (Sabia didn’t come). Chapel was furious with them. While waiting for them Manoj and I both agreed that if they ever did anything bad (based on some of the older kids they were hanging out with) we wouldn’t want to know. We have such high standards for who they are morally. Anyway, Chapel expressed how angry he was. We took it and said if they want to they can, if they don’t want to, they don’t have to come. It’s ok. We don’t want to cause tension between them. Chapel, Ishwar, Ganesh, and Prakash got into the car, I drove, and we went to the fair. Manoj went to park the car when we got there and I waited with the kids at a nearby playground. It was a nice playground, but I attracted unwanted attention in a neighborhood that barely, if ever, sees any foreigners. Two kids laughed at us on the seesaw, which was fine, but then a few older men came over, said a few things in Hindi about me sitting on the seesaw with them and Chapel facilitated the process of walking away. The kids followed us to the other part too and Chapel, at a certain point, told us we should go back to where Manoj was parking (it was taking a while anyway).  They protected me and continued to protect me throughout the night. The fair was more like a big market; a narrow street with vendors on each side selling little knickknacks with a temple at the end. When we got to the temple we were all going to go in. They had to tell Ganesh (who we think might be the most religious amongst the whole lot) that he couldn’t go in; he ate chicken that day and you can’t enter the temple. Saddened, only Ishwar (who’s veg all the time) and I were able to go in, and the rest stayed outside. While on line to get in I mentioned that I didn’t have an offering (usually you give yellow or white flowers that look like carnations, incense, and something small wrapped in newspaper). Ishwar said that we should go. We left and I said that said we should just buy some offerings and we did and hopped back on line. The women/children line was nice and friendly. The women, besides the one who was behind us and pushed her way in front of us, were really nice and helped explain to me what to do. It was a tiny, tiny room that you enter through a tiny, tiny door. There was a small Ganesh statue that you pray to, Ishwar told me what to do, and you walk out. On the way back there was a lot of attention coming my way. I tried to dip out a bit but with such a huge crowd, it’s hard. At one point some guy brushed by me in a not so unintentional way. Chapel turned back just to see that and my reaction of pulling my hand over myself and trying to make sure the kids didn’t see. He was mortified. He pushed us ahead even faster. When we were finally out, he brought it up. He said the men didn’t do good things. I explained in my broken Hindi that it happens, that it doesn’t make it ok, but it happens and what’s more important is that they know it’s wrong, that it’s wrong to do to any woman and women don’t like it. In the car again I reiterated that they’re important to me, not stupid people on the street and that I know they’re good kids. They seemed satisfied with the answer. When we drove them home I reiterated that he can’t be mad at his other friends, he can’t be upset for me; Chapel takes these things to heart. He got out of the car and while we told them today’s plans they ran out to tell Avinash what happened. I said to them, “Kaun important hei?” And Ishwar promptly responded, “Ham (we) important hei.” That made it OK.

            To finish up the long kid email, I’ll just say that I ran a 10K this morning inside the University. It’s the only really, really nice part of Pune, shaded with trees, and with nice pathways not car ridden. My friend hooked me up with the Pune runners club. I just ran and ran. It was really nice. It was mostly older men, mostly very fit looking and I was very scared. I ran with the mid runners – not too fast, not too slow. After the first 5k we arrived back at the starting point and some folks just kept going, so I kept going with them. To follow up – we had a nice cold Korean coffee with waffles and an omelet in my old neighborhood. So good.

Last but not least, here’s a link to the photos from last week’s trip to Rasta Wada with the kids.

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