Brown Paper Packages Tied Up w/String

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up w/String

Friday, January 16, 2004 Travelogue:  Excerpts from past impressions and experiences in India (see the first travelogue segment we posted)

Mysore, Karnataka, India

These are a few of my favorite things:

A sari is a single piece of material, wrapped around and around a woman’s body then thrown over the shoulder and draped almost to the heels.  It’s an entire outfit, the brilliantly hued skirt and shawl, with a draw-string underskirt and a tiny undershirt, exposing the entire belly.  The cloth in front is for modesty, and completely hides the shape of the breasts.  Shoulders and back are also covered, but the belly, the glorious belly, is left skin to air.

                          Push and me

In Kerala and much of Southern India the women decorate the dirt doorsteps in the morning w/ rice powder or white chalk and fluorescent dyes of all colors. They draw intricately shaped geometric figures – bordered white and colored in w/ pink, purple, red, turquoise and yellow.  In the evening when they clean their doorstep they splash water into the dust, erasing the shape they have created simply to recreate it the next morning.  When we visited our friend Push’s home his sister had drawn a simple, white-only decoration for the day.  When we saw Push the following day he said his sister had drawn a spectacular design in the hopes that we would return.  In India the people have so little, even their home decor is temporary – permanence is unimportant and their furnishings are erasable.  I find them to be as unconcerned w/ material things as I am obsessed by them.

               Push's sister and her baby

Our friend Geo’s aunt, who cooked pineapple curry for us the day after Christmas, has four small stone elephants waiting at her home in Trivandrum.  She says they are gifts waiting for her four American friends should we ever return.


Jonit and I were aboard a bus, stranded a few kilometers from Tipu Sultan’s summer palace and being harassed by a rickshaw driver eager to take us to see the sights.  A little pig-tailed girl who was translating for us commanded suddenly:  Come w/ me.  You want to go to palace?  I’ll take you; come.  Jonit and I followed her down the street and through a metal pot shop which lead into her house.  She said her father would drive us to the palace, just wait a moment.  We met her sister, cousin, aunt and mother; the little girls spoke spectacular English and before we could stop them brought us lunch plates filled w/ lemon rice and papaya pieces.  Their father, a well-dressed handsome mustachioed man, arrived w/ the car and when we thanked him after dropping us at the front gate of the palace, his reply was:  “It is my duty.”


Geo's grandma and aunt

The schoolchildren ride city buses to and from school.  On an Indian bus it is crowded; women sitting in twos on one side and men in threes on the other with people standing elbow to chest in the center aisle.  The schoolgirls riding home w/ their backpacks cram themselves onto the bus and then haphazardly remove their backpacks, swinging them onto the laps of the women sitting near the windows.  These women and girls do not know each other, and when the girl’s stop arrives she grabs her pack w/ a smile and a thanks and is off.

Take care and write more often.  The girls and I miss you.