Life back in India, some things change, some things stay the same.
Delhi, as happens with any city, continues to evolve, when one is here all the time, it is harder to notice the changes. During my time away, the hideous rape case that shocked the world took place and, despite it being too late for many victims, changes have now taken place. I have caught auto rickshaws which have slogans plastered across them claiming that ‘we respect women’ and indeed in Gurgaon there is a set of pink auto rickshaws for women only. In the one shopping mall I have been dragged into, there are women only parking spaces, located in well-lit areas and closer to the entrance/exit. I would like to think that this change was implemented solely for safety reasons and not just for ease of reaching your car with countless shopping bags having stocked up on the latest western designer goods which are the craze now in the cities of India. I also attended the launching of a new initiative by Delhi Police which was to teach first aid to the girls and women of the city. How far reaching this will be I don’t know, but at least efforts are being made, and if, as seems to be the case, we can’t change the mentality of a certain percentage of the male population, then better to be armed against them. It is all encouraging and no step is too small if even one women is saved, let’s hope the numbers are many more.
Some things though, stay reassuringly the same. Throughout India, ‘Health is Wealth’ is a constant refrain and this together with the fact that very few people have gardens means that there is an active park life which happens. Early in the mornings, and in the evenings, people visit their local park to walk, practise yoga, Tai Chi and gossip all before the heat and demands of the day kick in. In a country where space is a premium there is no embarrassment about standing in the middle of the park and doing your exercises or practising laughter yoga. My nearest park is directly in front of my house and has a walking path around it which takes exactly 6 minutes to circumnavigate. I have thrown myself into the ‘health is wealth’ regime and rise at 0600 to hit the park before the heat of the day. When doing this regularly, one starts to recognise the local characters and all of them of course know me, being one of the few white residents in the area, and gossip being an Olympic sport here.
On the third day I lived here I was visited by the local ‘antiques’ dealer who had heard I had moved in and mistakenly thought that I was a wealthy white woman and therefore a prize target for his over-priced products. Word spreads, I wouldn’t be surprised if the local community all know my exact dietary preferences by now and underwear size, privacy means little in India and having a maid, the nosiest landlord in the world and sending your clothes out to be ironed ensures that little can be secret. Not that I have my underwear ironed, I hasten to add!
But I digress, as usual. My favourite local character is the gentleman, quite young, only in his 40’s who has obviously had a stroke but who charges round the park at a phenomenal rate of knots, I have no chance to keep up. Then there is the man who, on my first sighting of him, I presumed was wearing rather large ear phones, when I got closer I realised that it was a case of the most incredible ear hair I have encountered. I am not sure if ear hair is solely an Indian phenomenon but it is a wonder to behold when left unchecked, something which happens frequently. I also love that all the Indian ladies walk (or in many cases, waddle) around the park in their traditional salwar kameez whilst sporting the latest ‘state of the art’ trainers. My favourite four ladies meet daily to waddle around just a couple of circuits whilst gossiping away to each other. One has to admire them, as wide as they are tall (one can’t help thinking its more the social benefit they seek), they meet up daily and walk two abreast around the walking path, and believe me, that is a lot of ‘breast’ I have been pinged off into the foliage more than once!
There will always be bureaucracy
Of course, India also has to keep reminding you that despite allowing one an easy ride and welcoming you back into her vibrant, crazy, energetic soul, and so the odd frustration is thrown your way. In my case this time it is the bureaucracy that is causing the problems ( I can’t really complain, it was us Brits who introduced it to the country) but ten weeks in and I still haven’t been able to open a bank account. The situation is not being helped by having to have proof of address notarised by the court and the sub-registrar on the day I got my papers stamped, being suspended so that all his paper work is being investigated and therefore not released! But, it will happen and at least it is one way of saving for a rainy day.
And the one last positive report for today. So many of you were touched by the plight of Kalpana and my desire to find her. See http://memsahibinindia.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/about-kalpana/
Despite searching for a particular maid in Delhi, with its population of 20 million, being akin to looking for a needle in a hay stack I have done it. Part of my goal is complete, I have located her, she is alive and well, still has just the four children and is living in the next colony to where I am. Having listened to several of my friends, I haven’t contacted her personally yet as it would appear that this will be another mine field to negotiate. How will she react? Will she automatically assume that I want her to come back to work for me? Will she act ‘pricey’ as they say here? Personally I don’t think so. If she was to come back and work for me, what would happen to the maid I have at the moment? Would she even want to? Would she be any more reliable? All these are mere excuses. I know that I will contact her but I also know that despite working to improve it, my Hindi isn’t up to the conversation that we would want to have and I need to find the right person to accompany me. But this will be done, as with all things in India, when the time is right. After all, India is now working with me and what is meant to be will be.