Thursday, September 10, 2009

Saying hello

I've given up cycling to and from work – first the heat of the summer and now the monsoon-season coupled with the frequent black-outs at night made cycling an exhausting and slightly precarious activity. Cows that bed down in the street at sunset are not visible in the pitch black until you've crashed into them and it seemed all too easy to accidentally cycle into the open drains. So, for the past few months I've been walking and as a result I've made numerous new friends. OK – the average age of my new friends is about 8 and our conversations are a bit limited but on an average morning I'll be greeted by up to 20 children at various points on the way – some are pushed forward by their mothers whilst others come racing up to me shouting "Hi Susie-Auntie", or Foreign-Auntie or Didi (sister). Each encounter begins with shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries in English– "How are you? I am fine" (all said in one breath) and, whilst I've taught them "Good Morning", they've picked up "I love you" from someone else. We then move onto Indian greetings "Namaska" said whilst putting your hands together and the smaller ones, chivvied into action by their grandmothers, bend down to touch my feet – a sign of respect in these parts. Finally, we get to the all important question, "Camera achho?" (Have you got your camera?) and when I say "Han, aji camera achhe" (Yes, I have the camera today), there's a flurry of activity as they round up everyone else and jostle for position in the line-up. They never seem to lose interest in seeing themselves on the digital camera and, as I squat down so they can all get a good view, they point out themselves to the rest of the crowd who will have seen an almost identical picture a couple of days before. The younger children's lack of reserve has also encouraged the older ones who now give a shy "Good morning sister" as they cycle past on their way to school before speeding off to have a quick giggle with their less courageous friends. Recently, I have also been accompanied for a few minutes by two old ladies who, clearly dying for a chin-wag, join me on their way to the water pump each morning and, with their large metal pots cradled on their hips, proceed to tell me … well I'm not entirely sure what they're telling me but I'm obviously saying yes and no in the appropriate places most of the time and we part with a couple of namaskas – they to collect their daily water and me into the next throng of children. There are some downsides to my morning ritual. A while back I developed a skin rash and noticed about the same time that a lot of my new friends were also sporting similar exzema-like rashes. Had I given it to them or they to me? The chemist seemed sure it was worms and, whilst I was a bit dubious about his diagnosis, I dutifully took the worming tablets he prescribed and it cleared up so I guess he must have been right. Skin infections are, however, only a minor irritation compared to the pleasure the morning greetings give both me and my new friends.

1 comment:

viksdes said...

Susie, I read your posts always with great interest. It just tells me each time I am so oblivious to the situation in my won country. These kids must love you and its certain that you are doing a great job with your life. Keep blogging and always a pleasure for me to read your adventures.