This past week has been a very long seven days. I feel like last Sunday was more like a month ago rather than just a week ago. Not only did I have a frustrating week at work and have to visit Jodhpur three times, twice for work and once for a personal excursion, but I also had a friends visit the village for two days, witness a funeral in the village, and I have been party to hearing a wedding for multiple nights.
At the beginning of the week, a friend from Jodhpur, Madison, decided to come back from the city on Sunday night and stay in the village for two days. She, like the other American interns in my organization, has no time to herself because she lives in an Indian household where “me time” is not common. Not only is home not a serene place, the city itself offers no refuge due to the noises and bustle: honking cars and buses, rickshaws who won’t take no for an answer, the impoverished street children and women who follow you down the streets, and not to mention the lack of peaceful sitting options inside or outside. Being that home is no refuge; she decided that coming to the village to relax would be the best option at that time. This worked out well, since she came on a Sunday night and we had dinner and drinks with my host brother and his friends whom were in town from college, and the next day she had the day to ponder on life’s questions and challenges that become clear and pressing after realizing that your time in India is almost over. Madison will be leaving in one month and her time has really flown by from the time she arrived to the time that she realized she would soon be leaving.
While Madison was here, I was planning on working during the day, my normal business hours, but a woman in the village passed on and we shut the center for the village to be in mourning. Because one of the women at the center was related to the deceased, she has not been attending work lately due to customs. I have witnessed many things in the village, but this was the first funeral that I have encountered during my time here in Chandelao. Being in a traditional Rajasthani village, rituals tend to be time-honored as well.
The women of Chandelao are not allowed to be a part of the funeral procession as the men walk throughout the village carrying the departed wrapped in linen cloth and covered with marigold flowers. The men carrying the body on their shoulders can surely feel the weight as wooden poles cut into their muscles. Once they reach the lake, they burn the body and spread the ashes while washing themselves in the lake. This is the traditional ritual all over India, but especially in Rajasthani villages. Madison and I happened to be walking around the village and saw from afar the funeral activities at the lake, and although we wanted to go and witness this custom, we thought it would be culturally disrespectful to venture too close. On the thirteenth day after the death, there will be a funeral feast that takes place to the honor the deceased and all family from the village and farther will come to celebrate. During this time, there will most likely be child pairing as is custom with large gatherings, and they will be betrothed for the marriage to take place later in life.
On a lighter side though, during the winter months in India is wedding season. I have observed, been invited to, and even attended multiple weddings at the end of last year and the beginning of this year. This is no exception in the village and there have been quite a few weddings this season. Indian weddings traditionally last three nights and have different practices each night with the third commencing in the actual wedding ceremony. The village weddings are on a much smaller scale then the city weddings I have attended due to the cost and attendance, though they are no less joyful. For the past three nights, I have listened to the loud Hindi music blaring from the rented equipment set up to entertain the guests while they all dance and sit to view the bride and groom. Weddings are a whole other blog to get into, but needless to say, they are a charade that seems to never end. The village only gets electricity for a certain number of hours, and this posed to be beneficial to my sleeping. Around 10 pm every night, the blaring music, heard over sparingly from my window at the hotel, was cut off when the power cut out suddenly. I was thinking what a relief that it was off, since I had been listening to it for over three hours already from different areas of the hotel grounds. Well, that was short lived and the electricity came back on to plague my sanity for another hour until the power cut happened for real and actually kept the electricity off all night.
Since this week has begun, I have a long list of “to-do’s” and I hope I can make a dent in them before the weekend. With the bank account being at the top of the list, I will have to rope in the help of Praduman, my host father, to help me sort the paperwork and open the account in Jodhpur. I have also been asked to start going on the projects that the past interns had left behind, so I need to start the greenhouse project and allocate the money for training the women into finding a different training source than originally budgeted for, which means I have to re-write the grant proposal as well. Needless to say, I have a long week ahead and am already looking forward to a relaxing Sunday…