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)