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“This Is Just To Say”…

When 95 degrees feels cool, you know it’s been a hot spring.  Last week the thermometer hit 110 or higher in Delhi.   This is  a searing, exhausting heat.  On the last day of school I was wilting from the temps and the prospect of having to entertain my kids for 11 weeks.

I bought a yummy orange from the campus kiosk and I threw it into my purse to eat on the ride home.  The school oranges are wonderful – imported from Florida, seedless, sweet, juicy, easy to peel – unlike the fruit I get from my local stall.   To digress for one  luxurious paragraph, I’m reminded of the poem by William Carlos Williams “This Is Just To Say”:

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

I really wanted that orange.  I had a car full of kids and we were on our way home. I was in the front passenger seat, peeling and anticipating – when a hopeful, young face pressed against my window.  It was one of the beggar children from the intersection that I have written about so many times.  Ahh… Those hopeful eyes looking at my orange.

For the first time, I hesitated.  I’ve been mad at the kids on that corner, frustrated with them, sad for them, moved by them – but never have I not wanted to give to them.  Water, clothes, toys, shoes, boiled eggs, cake, doggie bags, and lately, earrings.. it’s all passed from my car to their hands.

Until last week when the heat got the best of my head and my heart and I just didn’t want to hand over that succulent, precious orange.   I took a moment while the car sat at the red light, knowing that I had time to debate with myself.  Would I feel bad if I didn’t hand-over my orange?  Would the universe play tit-for-tat with my fate if I were this one time, very-very selfish?  Was I wrong for even weighing a decision?  How many Our Fathers and Hail Marys would it take….?

You can easily guess what I did:  I split the orange and shared half.

But it wasn’t a selfless act.

—————–

Today, I took the kids to the Jain Bird Hospital.  It’s housed on the grounds of the a Jain temple in Old Delhi.  Jainism is an Indian religion that emphasizes peace and non-violence.  Jains believe in a creator, but after that, one’s fate is self-determined. Jains strive to live good, ascetic lives to break the bondage of reincarnation and dependence on a material life.  The most devoted Jains wear only a simple cloth – or nothing at all – and carry a broom to sweep away creatures to avoid harming them.

The hospital cares for  sick birds.  Most of the birds have injured wings from flying into fans or kite strings.  There are oodles of pigeons and doves, a few finchy-type birds, two peacocks and one falcon.  They keep the falcon in a big cage away from the tasty meals in the other cages.

When we go on an outing like this, it’s never easy.  Old Delhi is congested and dirty – the saddest of the sad sleep on the streets;  limbless, mutilated beggars ply the sidewalks;  pesky rickshaw drivers follow tourists;  the odd stranger offers tiresome tidbits of local info in hopes of getting a few rupees.

Lala held on to me with one hand and put her finger in her ear with the other – a habit she relies on to block the chaos;  Eddie held my other hand and George grabbed the back of my dress.  This is how we moved through the mess from the car to the grounds of the temple.  The gate was locked and wrapped in chains and seemingly impervious.  My heart sank.  Someone sidled-up and told me that the hospital was closed from noon to six.  (Not true…)

I persisted, as one does if you want to get anything done here.  The guard unlocked the gate and unraveled the chains and we got into the hospital which, was in fact, open.

We wrapped-up the adventure with lunch at a clean and familiar café, but we first had to dodge potholes and stray dogs and suffer a stinky alley to get to the restaurant.  Then we went home to play soccer.

It was all so normal and yet not…

I wonder what my kids will remember from this day?

——————

Lala and Eddie at the bird hospital:

A patient:

——————-

I won’t write again until August when we return to Delhi.  Have a wonderful summer, everyone!  Here’s a slice of our last season:

16 thoughts on ““This Is Just To Say”…”

  1. Travel safely and if you get wanderlust, show up on my front porch. I will have a rocking chair, a glass of wine, and Florida oranges worthy of a memory waiting for you. Did you ever hear from my acquaintance involved with Traffic Jam? I am still haunted by your post regarding child trafficking and gender injustice. I continue to work on the issue. Please tag me in a photo of you and Judith with huge smiles on your faces and the French countryside in the background. Ben says, “Happy Birthday Olivia and Annabel.” Can you believe they are 12?
    Namaste,
    Erin

    1. erin – i never did hear from Traffic Jam… would love to, though. please encourage him/her to email me. as for france – ah – i’m laughing at myself because i’ve traveled all over asia and much of the world, into the hinterlands, managed the world’s most populous cities…. and FRANCE is putting knots into my tummy! it’s becoming quite an endeavor. but when we are rooted in the countryside and i have long runs to enjoy through the soft hills, and evenings with sunsets off he verandah – i will snap a girlfriend photo and send it with lots of cheer and love. xoxo

  2. I actually recommended the hospital to a friend who had an injured bird trapped on her verandah and since then I have been wanting to visit- seems like yet another incredible discovery amidst the chaos of daily life here. So now perhaps I will gather my energy and head off to see it. Have a wonderful summer and dare I say it – come back revived and raring to go ! x m

    1. there was lady delivering a sick little parrot when we arrived and the doctor got straight to work. you have to take your shoes off when you enter the compound, which is spotless – but the hospital has bits of bird feed and other what-not around so it gets a bit gross walking. you might want to bring your own slippers or socks.

      a wonderful summer to you too – and yes, we will return renewed! (I’m already booked to work my first week back… craziness.)

      xoxo t

  3. sweet memories held so close in my heart – huge lump in my throat watching those pictures and time go by. i’m the lucky one to be living it with you!

    1. and there’s so much more to look forward to, dear friend. khajuraho, amritsar, srinagar… all before christmas!

      xoxo

  4. That video really makes me miss y’all!

    Please please please let me know when you’ll be in NYC or farther up the east coast and I’ll try my hardest to see if I can get time off work.

    Love,

    hannah

  5. hannah – mid july and early august in nyc. we’re staying on the east coast between nyc and nc. i’ll do a quick jump west to SF for a few days early july without the kids… send me your cell and we’ll call as soon as we land in the states. we’d love to see you. want anything from delhi? xoxo t

  6. See you in NYC and who knows, I might be able to skip over to Delhi for a week again…
    Big hugs,
    Vivian

  7. of course you will… ! maybe you can join krisit and me on our trip to khajuraho.. (if you don’t know the place – look it up. guaranteed – a weekend full of giggles!)

  8. Hi Theo
    Wondeful snippets of your life…makes me feel that I am there with you.
    Many thanks and have a super summer. Look forward to yur next blog in August.
    With love
    Seema Bennett

  9. seema – thanks for reading. i’d love to pick your brain about this place one day. are you London? i will be there for a week august 20 – perhaps we can reconnect after all these years…

  10. hi, those are some stunning photos in your video. I loved the one of the trees with the fog rising around them, and the one of you on the beautiful criss-crossing staircase.. and all those faces of every shade! Gorgeous. tell Kristi i get a lump in my throat too from watching the video.. and I wasn’t even present at these blessed events! It’s just seeing how your 3 kids have grown and changed. I, of course, would love to see you when you are in NYC. mid-july to early aug? where are you staying? let me know when you think you’ll have some time to hang out.

  11. karen – i will not let my stay in new york go without several visits with you! (july 15th-23rd and again july 30-august 3.) i’ll be in touch as soon as i hit the states june 26th… i’m pretty sure i have your number in my us cell and i think you have mine. lots to share! xoxo

    1. alan – just a matter of days… can’t wait to hear about china. have been following threads on twitter, but don’t have wireless in france (except for this very moment – am sitting in the lounge of a beautiful old restaurant in bourdeilles frantically taking care of business on my laptop..)

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