Violent Harlots

How pathetic am I?  I worked two days last week and now I’m struggling to catch up with the rest of my life.  Saturday, the rat wheel in my brain spun endlessly:  “Buy toilet paper, Buy toilet paper!”  I even thought about that damn toilet paper in my yoga class.  Tainted practice, that one…

(Dear working mothers, how do you do it all…?)

It’s a quiet Monday morning today and I stayed home to answer emails (sorry if I haven’t returned yours yet) and write this blog entry and enjoy my lovely tree house.  The gardens outside are lush and leafy this year following record monsoon rains.   The wet is a welcome break from the heat but it makes things pretty muggy around here.   It also provides the perfect environment for mosquitoes.

There’s lots of standing water because of poor drainage and construction and the mozzies are having a breeding fest.  The worry about this is dengue fever.  There are a record number of cases this year and it can be a very nasty disease.  There’s no cure or vaccination for either of the two strains of the infection:   The most common causes high fever and miserable muscle ache and is usually over in about a week;   The more serious strain, known has hemorrhagic, is far more problematic and is every bit as miserable as it sounds.  The risk with either strain is re-infection, which can be more severe than the first bout.   We know many people who have had dengue, and in fact, just yesterday, received a phone call from friends asking us to watch their son because both parents were infected.  So, what do we do to protect ourselves?  SPRAY with 78 -98 percent deet – the extra super duper lethal strong stuff that’s probably burrowing its way into the deepest corners of our spinal cords, waiting for some weak moment to wreak havoc on our livers, or lungs or breasts… but what else to do?

We could hole-up, I suppose… but doing so would mean missing this:

My boys, never ones to hide their misery: (and me, post yoga STILL chanting in my head:  buy toilet paper…)

On rainy weekend afternoons, I benefit from the kids’ boredom.  This particular day they decided to give me a “spa” treatment, with an oatmeal and yogurt face mask.  That’s George by my feet, applying an olive oil and sugar scrub:


I’m always thinking about what to share with you – what do I encounter in Delhi that makes this place different or interesting or shocking?  Looking back on my posts over the last year, it’s obvious that I’m seeing with seasoned eyes this time around.  The grit and the shit don’t seem as noticeable.  I look out the window of my car less and read the paper instead.  I don’t snap as many photos; I don’t gasp when a tinfoil bus overflowing with people barrels down the road, millimeters from hitting me.  The electricity goes out and the generator doesn’t work?  C’est la vie.  There’s no water this morning?  Shower at the American Club instead. Bugs in the pasta? Let them float to the top of the saucepan and spoon them out.   If it’s raining in the morning, wear waterproof shoes that won’t disintegrate in the muddy, poopy, polluted water that washes down the streets, falls from the sky, floods markets and invades homes.

The poverty still strikes me though – maybe even more than it did when I arrived.  Friends had warned me that seeing this sadness was the greatest challenge of living here, so I think I bucked up and feigned indifference.  Last year, I rarely gave to a beggar.  Now, I give regularly:  sometimes money, often my half-consumed bottle of water, doggie bags of food, trinkets… whatever is at hand in the car.  I open my window, I smile, I touch.  Jim tells me that he lets kids use his earphones to hear what he’s listening to on his ipod.  Any sort of contact seems more respectable than turning away.  I hate the argument that giving encourages the problem.  What does not giving teaching anyone?


And a few words on the Commonwealth Games, which will be staged here in just over a month.  Maybe.

Unfamiliar with these games?  They are the third largest sporting event, following the Olympics and the Asia Games.  Athletes from Commonwealth countries compete in swimming, gymnastics, archery, tennis, etc. Commonwealth countries are former colonies of the British Empire who are currently members of an entity that affords them some geo-political benefits, I think.  I’m not sure why it’s meaningful to be a member of the Commonwealth.  Anyone care to enlighten me?

The most important thing to note here is this:  It has been interesting watching Delhi prepare for the games, especially following our witness to Beijing’s staging of the 2008 Olympics.   I won’t dwell on the differences – this is an unfair exercise.  However, I can say this:  The city is awash in construction, with ripped-up sidewalks, half-built venues, piles of construction trash, concrete, dirt, and sand.  Roads are caving from the work and the rain;  workers are falling ill from dengue because of festering puddles of polluted water;  security is unorganized.  There are oodles of stories and concerns and I think that it’s fair to say most people blame corruption and incompetence.

On a funny note, I read a story in the paper last week about the city’s efforts to train “stakeholders” in the games on how to deal with foreign women.   A 200-page training manual includes examples of possible scenarios.  They include:

A couple checks into a hotel and it is apparent to the hotel employee that they are not married.  What do you do?

And this beauty:

Two women are standing at a bus stop and a female beggar approaches them.  They push the beggar and she is injured.  What do you do?

So dear friends, it appears that there’s a collective opinion in Delhi that foreign women are violent harlots.  Take pride!


A few last shots this week.  The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree!

This is another way to live in Delhi.  I have some friends who live in “farm houses” in the suburbs.  They come with stretches of land, pools, and sweeping villas, all for the same price as my apartment in the city.  We spent a lovely Sunday here swimming and playing and yaking, yaking yaking:


Finally, NOT to be missed, because I nearly peed myself at around the one minute mark… and you may, too!



You may remember that in May, Lala and I sponsored a little girl to go to school. Here’s Ritika, age 11:

For 150 dollars, Ritika can study for a year.  The tuition includes her uniform, food, and supplies.   Today we learned that Ritika’s father died recently from liver disease and that her mother earns 550 dollars a year as a maid.  She has three siblings – only one attends school with her.  She loves to play yard games and to sing, just like Lala.  Ritika celebrates her birthday next month and she’s asking for shoes and books .  It takes so little to help her  and we hope to keep her in school for as long as she wants to be there.


It took us two hours to get to Ritika’s school, normally a 20 minute drive. It’s monsoon season and the rains are raging.  It’s been a particularly wet year (note the flooding in Pakistan) and Delhi is replenishing its compromised water table.  We’ve had flooding in our home to remind us that while we may live like kings, water reigns here.  Today, I shed my wet shoes and walked barefoot.  I would have given up the umbrella as well and romped in the rain with Lala, but I had to sit in the library and write a “character sketch” for a job application and I didn’t want to shiver my way through it.  The next rain, though we’ve promised each other  we’ll get completely soaked and drink in the joy!


A lot has happened in my 13 days home – most notable:  I have suffered the injustices of a bladder infection, Delhi Belly, and now, lice!  Add to that the already mentioned jet-lag-from-hell and the usual stuff we women have to endure.   Please, someone out there top this list to make me stop whining…


I did manage to drag myself out of my Delhi Belly deathbed to attend a cocktail party at the U.S. Ambassador’s house.  I hadn’t been yet and I wanted to snoop around.  The occasion celebrated the arrival of a delegation from the Kennedy Center and the upcoming Maximum India productions scheduled at the center in March 2011.   Here’s the Ambassador telling us an interesting story about Jacqueline Kennedy:

While visiting India, Kennedy admired the design of the Roosevelt House, the ambassador’s residence in Delhi.  Later, she wanted the same architect, Edward Durrell Stone, to design what is now the Kennedy Center.  Take a look, you can see the similarities:  (we pissed off a few guards by shooting this photo!)

And one last note on this particular event:  A dancer performed for the guests and throughout the performance I was obsessed with a little bug on the dance floor.  You know that Hindus don’t indiscriminately kill bugs or animals.  Well this little buggy was zooming around, this way and that and the dancer was dancing this way and that and unknowingly, after 15 minutes and many close calls – she didn’t step on him!

Here’s to hoping  that we avoid the dancing feet of fate…


And finally, a little aside on the man who bought me perfume in the airport:  Last Friday, a gold wedding invitation arrived in the mail.  It was from my perfume-professor.   We were unable to attend, but I did invite him to the house for coffee this week.  He couldn’t come because he was returning to the states.   It was an anti-climactic ending to a chance encounter…  but still, I love that we met, even briefly.

(Rereading this after posting, let me clarify:  The invitation was for a family member of the perfume-professor; he was traveling with his wife and sister…. AND he is likely old enough to be my father. )



Walk the final footsteps of Mohandas Gandhi, the highly revered spiritual leader of India’s civil rights movement and independence from the British and feel the weight of history here.

I thought that visiting the Gandhi Memorial would be a good way to begin my new season in Delhi and to start my journey into trying to understand this complicated place.  I spent last year learning about India’s ancient history.  This year it’s time to delve into the 20th century and to sort through the events that gave rise to modern India.

Gandhi was assassinated in 1948 as he was about to deliver evening prayer on the lawn of a colonial home where he had stayed for six months.  He had come to north India to end the violence between Hindus and Muslims after the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan.

On the evening of January 30, he walked from his simply furnished room where he slept, worked and received guests to a prayer site 200 yards away.  He was weak from a recent hunger strike and he walked slowly with his widely recognized walking sticks and with the help of his niece.

Gandhi’s assassin, Nathuram Godse was a Hindu Nationalist who blamed Gandhi for weakening India by supporting reparations to Muslims in Pakistan.   As Gandhi faced the crowd with his hands folded in prayer, Godse shot him three times.

Witnesses say that Gandhi cried out twice to God as he died.


Last night Jim’s cousin, Hannah, who is studying here in Delhi came to dinner and we had an interesting conversation about Gandhi and whether he actually denounced the caste system or whether he simply called for equality among castes.  From one of his writings, which I found from a document source on the computer (and assuming that what I read was authentic…), Gandhi claimed that caste has no religious foundation and that  “it is harmful both to spiritual and national growth”.   However, he writes on to defend ancient Hindu institutions that say it is a Hindu’s duty to earn a living in the tradition of his family but that there is no job greater or lesser than any other.

Lots to discuss here…


And honoring the tradition of silliness in the India-Yardley family, here’s the beautiful Hannah doing her duty….


I’m still getting queries about Maya.  I haven’t seen her since I’ve been back but I do have this little story to share about the last time I saw her in June.  I was flying that night to the U.S.  and I spent the day running errands.  It was miserably hot (how may times have I written that?) and I saw her at the usual intersection.  I wasn’t in the mood, really to give her anything – some days are like that – and she was mad at me.  Then she beckoned me to look at her feet and I was shocked to see that she wasn’t wearing shoes.  It was at least 115 outside and she was standing barefoot on the searing asphalt.  I told her that I would return in a few hours.   And so, Lala and I stuffed a bag with big shoes, little shoes, boy shoes, girl shoes – and delivered it to Maya and kids on her corner.


Jet-Lag-From-Hell:  I don’t know what the sun and moon and stars and gods and sleep fairies are doing this year, but I think they are in revolt and taking it out on wee-little Theo.  I simply CANNOT SLEEP past 1:30 A.M. It’s been a week since my return and I have never experienced such debilitating jet lag.


One nice thing about jet lag is that I’m reading lots and getting oodles of early morning snuggles with my mildly-jet-lagged boys.  (Lala has mastered the sleep universe.)  Eddie, however, set the parameters for these snuggles on his first early morning:   he crawled into bed with me and when he felt my naked legs, declared:  “I don’t sleep with girls without pants!”


I saved my one bottle of champagne for this moment:  to invite our closest friends here to cheer Jim and The Book.  He still has revisions but the worst is behind us…

And this photo is for pals whom I saw this summer…  Can you find the wedding gift you gave us 16 years ago?


Instant Magic

Can it be that eight weeks and four days has passed so quickly, so slowly?  That the summer  is past is what’s shocking.  And now, here I am, back in Delhi sharing with you a few highlights of my travels and my beautiful re-entry into India.

What made it so beautiful was an act of kindness that I will remember every time I spray myself with a new perfume that marks my second season in Delhi.  I love perfume – it’s one of my indulgences.   When I was in Houston in June, I discovered an intoxicating scent by Geurlain and I have spent the summer searching for it in every high-end department store from coast to coast. Even Bergdorf’s in NYC didn’t have it.  It was there that I learned that this particular item isn’t sold in the U.S.

When I left immigration yesterday at the aiport in Delhi, I made one last whirl through duty free to see if, by the smallest chance, they sold “L’Instant Magic”. AND THEY DID!  It made me laugh to know that in the place where I want for so many little luxuries, I found the one thing that eluded me in the States.

So, there I was, happily holding my find and waiting to pay, when I coulnd’t find my bank card in my wallet.  Anxiety washed over me but I let it go when I realized that I had probably left it in an ATM  in NY – inconvenient but easily fixed.  When it was my turn to pay, I gave the cashier my AMEX instead.  “Sorry Madame, we don’t accept this card.”  My heart sank.  Here was the perfume that I so wanted, that I had expended such energy to find, and that in one final act would escape me.

Enter into this scene a sweet and generous Indian man who witnessed my fluster and who insisted on buying me the perfume.  There was a flurry of descent and flying hands on my part, kind and insistent smiles on his, and before I knew it, there was my perfume, packaged and payed for and sitting in my hands.  He would not take what little cash I had and insisted that this was a serendipitous gift that made him as happy as he hoped it would make me.

I don’t know if I already did something to deserve his kindness, but I can’t let go the desire to remember to pass on one magic instant when the time suites. I’ll let you know when it happens.  And to my sweet professor in the airport, Thank You! I’ve got a feeling that this is going to be a good, good year for the Yardleys in India.


Summer Highlights:

Houston:  I’ve had many laughs this summer but Rhonda, you get the prize for telling me that we know we’ve done our job as parents if our kids grow up and can pay for their own therapy!

And Todd, dear friend and doctor-extraordinaire, you went to great lengths to send me, on ice, a year’s supply of your own instant magic so that I don’t have a mid-life baby-crisis.   Thank You!

Judith and Gary – You are a rock to my family.  What joy to know that we will celebrate so many milestones together as our parallel families grow in the global village.

And Diane – my lips to your cheek and my smile to your eyes.  You still teach me how to be a good mom….


The moment of my summer though, was this…

….running the San Francisco half marathon.  Ah, to ascend the Golden Gate Bridge and run across it – to approach the finish with my kids and best friend yelling for me.  Every one of the 13 miles was sublime.   The run wasn’t easy and I was mildly unprepared for the hills after a summer of flat runs and too much wine in each of my numerous stops across the country.  Still, I finished with strong stats for an aging body:

Overall: 610 out of 8428
Women: 139 out of 5006
F 40-49: 22 out of 1069
Age/Grade: 65.36% Place: 198
Finish: 1:49:03 Pace: 8:20

SF style, I celebrated at the finish with a strong Irish Coffee:

The Golden Gate Bridge on my approach:

There are several official photos from the race that you can view if you are so inclined:



Probably the best words delivered to me this summer:  “Done!  Getting on the plane in five hours. Just sent down 139,773 words….”  That would be from Jim to Me about The Book.  Enough Said.  (Except this:  I’m really thrilled for him.)


If I knew that I wouldn’t feel miserably guilty I might have smacked Lala the other day when she announced that “It’s such a privilege to have you as my mother…” delivered with histrionic eye-roll and adolescent sigh.  She’s lucky she’s so cute:


Long drives always deliver interesting conversation.  I loved this particular exchange when Eddie asked how God makes people:

George:  “He births them, you idiot!”

Ok, so maybe George isn’t the brightest Yardley in the car – but he, too is cute:


In Washington, I took the kids for the first time to my father’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery.  They were very sweet, asking lots of questions and looking for rocks to put on top of the gravestone.


North Carolina:

Finally,  my amazing Patti:  Friend, Confidante, Sister, Conscience, Role Model… and willing partner who snuck away with me to watch the other cable series:

It’s good to be home.