Sunday, February 16, 2014

Two ways to live your life

There are two ways to live your life
One is as though nothing is a miracle
The other is as though everything is a miracle
~ Albert Einstein

My time in Anandwan leprosy community is winding down fast - I have 12 hours left as I write this. It's been a fascinating and mostly nice time, mixed with enough hair-pulls and drama, real and imagined, to keep me on my toes. I've been trying hard to figure out a good wheelchair/showerchair system for Jyoti. She begs me not to, then says she wants one, then begs me not to, again, for reasons I can't quite understand. Jealousy is a big factor in the daily life of these women who don't have much else to occupy themselves with. And Jyoti's biggest challenge: she wants everyone to be happy, and she's willing to go without for someone else's benefit. She's still not eating much, she says, because "toilet every day, problem," meaning her elderly caretaker will have to take her to the toilet too often. I told Jyoti you're going to get sick one day and you'll die because you're so thin. Her response: "Good! No problem! I'll be with Bhagwan! (God.)" Me not happy. But it is her choice, after all. Oooof.

After finding a wheelchair that reclines flat and can serve as a bathing chair, I thought I was on to something. But my leaving and not having a local advocate for Jyoti means that we'll have to wait until I come back next time, in November or December. As Jyoti puts it so simply, "It's OK, Father. Next time." And she means it.

So, beautiful Jyoti, until next time. I hope I can manage to not cry very much today when I say goodbye. It won't be easy.

Much love,

This sweetie's nickname is Chocolate. She came back from the shower yesterday with her hair all wild and in her face. The ladies in the room couldn't stop laughing about this photo. Some threw up their hands and looked away like it was too terrible to behold.

OK, I love all my grandmothers, but lovely Saraswati might just be my favorite. She is one lovable granny.

Just outside Jyoti's room this blind man has been coming most afternoons and singing beautiful songs. I took a long-ish video yesterday that I'll edit and post one day.

Watching the blind man sing.

I walked by the blind and deaf school and saw these three girls doing each other's hair.

Nanibai getting what's left of her feet worked on by Mousie. Mousie had a fall recently and has been in the hospital for a week or two. She only hurt her knee, so it's not too bad.

This is part of my "Contrasty Photos of Old Men Sitting By Themselves" series.

Flowers bloom near one of several lakes at Anandwan.

Who doesn't enjoy having lunch out with their friends?

The sparks are flying in the Anandwan workshop.

One of the ladies in the courtyard where Jyoti lives sets out these candles most nights.

Old school milk delivery. Prasad takes a small pot and pre-paid receipt to find the milkman on his bike, who dispenses the milk from his blue container.

My favorite house in Anandwan. Just bigger than the bed, but enough room for posters of God on the wall. What more do you really need? It reminds me of living in my van.

I followed music one night and found a night of "bhajans" - beautiful and vigorous devotional music. Great stuff.

These BhajanBoyz was rocking the house. Seriously.

Another of the series: CPOOMSBT. Maybe you've heard of it.

Cute kids. They just LOVE have their photos taken.

I love these guys. There are acres and acres of wall space covered with broken tile in Anandwan.

My movie star friend, making a "namaste" greeting as best she can with her crooked fingers.

Two days in a row an old woman died in the old folk's home. Baby and Khausa, Jyoti's caretaker, are on the left. (That's Jyoti's room behind that window on the right, by the way.)

They washed and dressed the body, then carried her to the cart to take her away.

She had plant leaves put in her mouth, and a coin placed on her forehead.

The men are taking her off to be buried. If the family can afford the wood for a cremation, they'll do that, but Baba Amte, Anandwan's founder, was in favor of the simplicity of burial versus chopping down trees for cremation.

Here's Jyoti, watching a sweet video sent by Xulia, who was here last year. If anyone wants to send a postcard or letter to Jyoti, let me know and I'll give you an address. She would LOVE it! Really.

Here I'm showing Saraswati how to draw on my touch-screen laptop. It was pretty funny.

I had the idea of Jyoti doing painting - basically just choosing the colors and filling in patterns. I found this design on the internet and Jyoti really loves making these. She doesn't have enough control of her hands to do much drawing on her own.

Lovely Jyoti, Daugher #1. It's been a little hard for both of us this week, knowing that I'm leaving on Monday.

(The End)

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Father's dilemma

‎"See it clearly without judgement and let it go. Come back to the present moment. From now on until the moment of your death, you could do this."
 ~ Pema Chodron

I've spent a lot of time with beautiful Jyoti here in Anandwan. I guess you could call Jyoti my main "project," though that would be a pretty lousy description. She started calling me Father early on, so I started calling her Daughter. Then some of the women who are just younger than me started calling me Father, then some of the older ones, and today one who's got to be 70 called me Father. Shachar, who was on the work retreat, says that they see past your physical body and look into the qualities of your heart - and that's why they call me that. Whether that's true or not, I accept the explanation and the title, pleasant as they are.

I do some fatherly things for Jyoti, including buying her way too many sweets and basically whatever else she asks for. And sometimes I'll use a baby wipe to clean her face - she closes her eyes and she gets an expression like she's being pampered at a spa. A fellow volunteer found out that Jyoti loves to read in English, even though she can't understand the vast majority of it. So I picked what I thought was the most direct style of writing that I had on my Kindle, oddly enough ending up with Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls." I have to hold the book for her and turn the pages, and I'm amazed to say that she just gone over 200 pages read. And I worry about her like a Father would.

So here's my question, I guess rhetorically stated: what kind of a Father leaves his Daughter in the old folk's home of a leprosy community while he's traipsing around the world enjoying himself? I don't have an answer. The worst answer I've come up with so far: I don't have any obligation to Jyoti.

Much love to you,

Dang, this one breaks the mold of what you ought to look like to be at the old folk's home. And check out those non-bleached probably-never-been-to-a-dentist choppers. She's very sweet, and the only thing I know about her condition is that she lost one leg about mid-calf.

Raging Bull. I get a little stomach ache when I see this photo, because I remember the mysterious drama that lead Baby to unload her formidable intensity in Jyoti's direction. And I remember Jyoti towards the end when she exclaimed, in complete exasperation, "Oh, Bhagwan!" (God.) Not a nice memory.

Sweet and confused Neelam, schizophrenic and pretty adorable. "Namaste, Father! Neelam. NEELAM!" she started saying recently.

Not all of the grandmas here are lovely! (Jyoti thinks this photo is pretty hilarious. Maybe it has some cultural significance that I don't grasp.)

One of my favorites, she's sure to give me the news, regardless of how many times I tell her I don't speak Marathi. She just talks and talks, and I just nod my head and nod my head. She fell in the bathroom recently, splitting the back of her head open, and was wearing a white bandage. Poor Prasad, my 18 year-old friend and translator, says "every time I see her she tells me AGAIN about what happened!"

It's my "Born to be a Rebel" friend enjoying his daily ration of hot milk.

A very quiet woman that I don't interact with much.

I've left the confines of Anandwan I think four times in the eight weeks I've been here. This photo might give you a hint why that is. Not too much see, really, although there is the "BOOM Beer Shopee."

In another newsletter I said that this beauty and I were dating in a parallel universe.

This is one of the ladies who scoots around on a little wooden cart that's only a few inches off the ground. I just about fell over when she came around the corner with her new artificial leg. She looks completely different standing up.

Part of my morning commute.

A fence in front of guest accommodations in Anandwan.

They are crazy for sweeping around here. Every morning before it's even light they start up. Apparently it started as a way to protect the feet of lepers who don't realize when they've stepped on rocks. Dirt, street, sidewalk - if it's horizontal it's getting swept.

My eccentric friend Kadar, who insists on using my phone every single time I see him. Once I heard him talking to a woman who it seemed like was maybe his daughter, and he started crying. He had streams of tears coming out of his eyes like I've never seen. I thought, Kadar, you can use my phone whenever you want.

Doing each other's hair in the old folk's home.

Ditto: Doing each other's hair in the old folk's home.

I always think of this Lady in Red as a fading movie star. I'm not sure why. She really funny - she mimes at length like she's deaf, (which is handy for EnglishOnlyBoy,) but then also speaks perfectly fine, too.

OK, this is the same lady, and she's not looking so movie-star-ish here. She's got the shades, though.

Sorting through the beans, I think, and taking a nap in the sunny courtyard.

Oh, this sweet man. He's looked like this, more or less, since I've been coming, but he's becoming unbearably thin. He doesn't seem to be able to speak, but he makes this hands-together namaste sign, then holds them out flat and wobbles his head to indicate that everything is all right.

School kids squeezed into a three-wheeled rickshaw.

Enjoying a late afternoon chat in the shade.

Kelsabhai, who takes care of Jyoti, and a friend from the next room.

This old guy seemed proud to stand, stiffly, in the door of his room at the edge of the old folk's home.

I think this gentleman's a Muslim. I haven't seen him before, but I like his face.

A young mother and child in the big "mega kitchen," as it's called.

A one minute video of a blind man singing at the old folk's home, just outside Jyoti's window.

(The End)