Started From Under an Umbrella…Now I’m On a Train’s Floor
*This blog post begins on last Wednesday. Before you read further, I have to say that this blog post's title is partly inspired by the Jewish-Canadian rapper Drake's single "Started From The Bottom." Because of the ominous nature of what you're about to read, I think it's appropriate that you try and listen to the instrumental version of this tune. That is because the actual lyrics are far too explicit to be listened to while reading such eloquent writing. * Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pe9dToThkI
Anyways, back to last Wednesday.
Our cohort had just finished volunteering in the slums. As per our usual routine, we were walking back to the train station to head back to our accommodations in Byculla. It just so happened to be raining quite heavily. Which really isn't surprising because Monsoon season started a month ago. But, prior to last Wednesday it had hardly rained. So as we were walking back to the station, a cute, young Indian lady carrying an umbrella had muttered something to me in Hindi. I thought that maybe she was offering to share her umbrella with me, as I didn't have one. Being slightly embarrassed, I continued to awkwardly walk right beside her. A few moments later she walked over to me and kindly placed her umbrella over the both of us. I asked her if she spoke any English, and she nodded her head side to side. (This is the Indian equivalent of an American shaking their head yes or no- very confusing) So I was able to ask her what her name was in Hindi, and that was about it. It was one of the more memorable acts of kindness I have experienced in India, if not for the fact that we could hardly communicate. Furthermore, I'd have to concede that after experiencing a human action like that, I was certain to experience less civilized behavior, or just plain barbaric actions later in the day. Look no further then men riding the trains in India. Due to the rain, our train had been cancelled one stop after we got on the train heading to Byculla. This led to many additional passengers waiting for the next train. We had to prepare for one of the fiercest battles of our lives: pushing through many men to win a seat on a railcar. I was one of the brave few in the front lines. I put all my valuables in my backpack, which I was wearing on my stomach. As the train's door opened, a throng of men rushed for the door at the same time as me, causing me to get stuck next to other men between the door. A few more men pushed, and I made it inside the train—sans glasses. As I leaned to pick up my glasses, I was violently pushed from behind, but not before I picked up my glasses. Fortunately I escaped with only two bruised, sore knees. Hence, the pervasive juxtaposition of life in India!
Besides that little incident, that day and this past week was a very good one. (Well mostly- the past couple days I've been having some nausea and headaches from some unidentified source) On last Wednesday, I had the pleasure of planning and leading our group's lesson. The theme on which we decided for last week was Geography, which was all encompassing. The goal for the past week was to introduce the map of the world to our students, as many of them are quite unfamiliar with geography outside the slums or India. Thus on Tuesday we introduced some of the wonders of the world to our students, the Taj Mahal being one of them. The lesson I gave on Wednesday comprised a PowerPoint presentation of the flag's of Brazil, India, the U.S.A., and the U.K., and a couple features about each country's national animal and its environment. For Brazil, I chose to highlight the Amazon Rainforest, 60 percent of which is in Brazil, and the poisonous dart frog. (Which is not Brazil's national animal) Thursday was a lesson on natural disasters, which ended with our students playing a spirited game of acting out different natural disasters (earthquake, tornado, volcano eruption) by doing various bodily motions. I didn't make it to work Friday as I unfortunately caught a nasty little bout of Malaria. (Kidding) But I actually did have five of seven possible symptoms that Malaria sufferers have. Basically I just had a mild fever with body aches and chills. Thankfully this little illness lasted only a couple of days, and I was able to enjoy the Shabbat and weekend with my fellow cohorts. Since I was so (facetiously) adamant that I had Malaria, a few of my fellow volunteers were even concerned enough to ask if the disease had gone away. Thankfully it had.
This past Monday was one of the most interesting days I have had in India. Firstly, is for the fact that a goat was in one of the classrooms in which we teach. It was raining so intensely outside, that I guess it was even too much for the goat to bear.
This week we are introducing the arts broadly conceived to our students. (I.e. music, painting, poetry, literature, dance) Thus on Monday I brought my violin into the slums for the first time since I have been here. Before I played, I said how music could express many different emotions, with happiness and sadness just being a couple of them. Hence, I played selections from Beethoven's Ode to Joy to demonstrate lively music, and passages from Bach's Partita in D minor to show more somber tones. And then after I played in the classroom where the goat was, it tried to steal the violin cover from my case! Unfortunately I could not use it thereafter as the goat had gotten it drenched from his saliva, the rain, or both.
Tuesday was a lesson on dances from around the world, and after exposing the kids to genres such as Salsa, and breakdancing, we ended by dancing the Macarena together- which was much fun for all of us.
Lastly, this weekend I'm traveling to the state of Kerala in Southern India with Isaiah, Evie, and Harmony, where we are eager to explore the Jewish history, and natural beauty of the state. Here are a couple links to pictures:
http://dreams.efusionerp.com/login/user%20files/dreams/5922649212_565f5fbd2f_b.jpg (Paradesi Synagogue in Kochi, Kerala. Constructed in 1567)
Alvida from the land of Malaria and Monsoon,