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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:

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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?

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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!

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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:


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

9 thoughts on “Violent Harlots”

  1. Hi Theo, it was great to have you all down here yesterday, we’ll get you guys down here again very soon (once you have given me the chocolate cake recipe!!!). LOVE the video of Eddie, I nearly peed myself around the 50 second mark!!!!

  2. Hey Theo – Try to hide from the Agip Mozzies or whichever ones carry the Dengue. Christian had it in Malaysia, and his blood platelets were still low 18 months later. The Dengue is really bad in KL too, a lot of neighbors and friends from the schools had it.

    1. i think you are right, it’s the day-time Agip mozzy that’s the culprit. does christian feel weak at all?

      it seems ages since we sat in book club or gossiped in baby group. hope you are well and happy..

      xoxo t

  3. Theo, your “Violent Harlots” title really intrigued me. I expected something different from your rather mild examples. Save the title – it’s great!
    Eddie is TOOOOO CUTE! I think there should be a Yardley Family Band video – there is some talent to be sure.
    I’m preparing to go to Haiti on Sept. 14 – taking malaria precautions, but don’t think dengue is a factor there.
    I need to touch base with you about my proposed trip to India in January. Vlad has opted out. I return from Haiti on Oct. 14 and will probably wait until then to book anything. Every post of yours makes me more and more curious and excited about seeing it all.
    London? Vlad and I seem to be the only ones going this year. Next year may be building to be another big one – even Cole can join in then.

    1. shshsh! i really want to go to London this year and don’t want Jim to think that it’s NOT an event!!

      january 16th is the mumbai marathon and i’m planning on running the half… you and i can stay a few days after and play. i think the whole family will go down to watch the race.

      (jim accuses me of trying to spike my readership with the title…)

  4. he’s such a cutie: impish, smart, funny. a lot of yardley, a lot of mama!
    india is calling you, by the way. wouldn’t it be fun to come while hannah is here?

  5. I just love hearing about your on-going adventures. I’d love to see what the
    tree house looks like.. sounds like a great place to read. Not sure of your access to books but I just finished Let the Great World Spin, which i loved. ready to start Freedom, the new Jonathan Franzen book, which is being called the first Great American novel of the 21st century.
    Eddie’s video is hysterical. i showed it to Spencer, Nell and Liam. Remember that video I have of Eddie and Liam singing.. No more Monkeys Jumping on the bed.. from our china visit? I think Eddie is a natural!

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