To Be or Not To Be… Normal.

I’ve neglected this site the past few weeks.  Apologies to my family, whom I know monitors my well-being here since I’m a lousy email correspondent;  and to my friends who suffer my habits as well.

I’m struggling a bit, trying to manage work and the kids, and training for another half marathon, which eats a lot of time if you do it right.  For my weekly long runs, I now wake-up at five on Saturdays so that I’m back before anyone knows that I was gone.  The greatest challenge though is being present and fully engaged when I’m with the kids.

I think Georgie said it best this week when he told me that I’m “a failure at being normal.”   His teasing belies his unbounded love for me – but he is right.  I don’t do normal.  George has seen me yell at too many tuk-tuk drivers!

For those of you who read the last post, I never found the “blind” man – and never got my money back.  I do have another, related story to share though, and this one ends well.  It also confirms George’s statement.

In August I took a dress to my dry cleaner to have the cleavage tailored.  (I freely admit that I wanted more!)  My sweet Sikh dry cleaner over charged me and I willingly paid to support his business and to invest in our consumer-provider relationship.  (Am I spinning this too much?)

Two weeks later, the dress was not ready.  Three weeks later – and still it was not ready.  A month, six weeks, two months.   All the while I had visited and asked and politely accepted his assurances that he would deliver the dress “soon”.

Indian time has its own standard, so I’ve learned to be patient.  It is telling that in Hindi, the word for “tomorrow” and “yesterday” is the same.

I am only so patient though.  I simply wanted the dry cleaner to return my money and admit that he had lost the dress.  He would do neither.  And I wanted closure.

At wit’s end with the situation, I casually walked into the storage area of his shop, selected two western, tailored men’s shirts – already cleaned and hanging in plastic, and walked out of the store with them.  I told my dry cleaner that he would get the shirts back when he returned the dress.

Why could  he not tell me what happened to the dress?  This reticence is often at the heart of street-level transactions.  No one wants to say “yes” or “no” or share more information than they have to.  I’m sure there’s a cultural explanation and I even have a few theories.  However, when visitors to a country try to interpret cultural norms, it’s easy to misunderstand what we see and experience.

The story ends a few days after the hostage-taking of the shirts.  He delivered my dress, fixed to perfection, and I released the prisoners.

So – yes, George, this wasn’t a “normal” way to deal with the situation.  Maybe one day you will appreciate that mommy’s nuttiness is neither better nor worse than normal.  It’s just my way…


A few weeks ago we went to Amritsar to see the Golden Temple:

And we visited the temple kitchen that feeds tens of thousands a day:

Wood for fueling the cooking fires:

Every day the temple provides free lunch and dinner:

Lala and Daddy dared to taste:

Two pious girlfriends:

How many different vehicles do you see in this shot?

We also went to India’s border with Pakistan and attended the daily ceremony.  Notice the ladies sitting together on the Pakistan side.  The men are off camera to the left:

But zoom into this and what do you see?  The Indian side is segregated too!  Not because religion dictates this, I was told, but for the comfort of the women.

And Kristi and I ran with the Indian flag:

And finally, my students, again!  They filmed a book talk at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club.  The guest speaker was Jason Burke, a reporter for the Guardian and author of The 9/11 Wars.   Burke is the guy in the middle, next to Jim.

7 thoughts on “To Be or Not To Be… Normal.”

  1. More great stuff. I am in awe of the pakistan/Indian border thing… I need to get there.

    And don’t worry – you will never be normal. We all ove you just the way you are. George nailed it.

    I thought you would also get a kick out of this blog post (and photo):
    Enough already. It’s not the sugar’s fault that your kid is a hyper lunatic. http://alanpaul.net/?p=3846

  2. I am not quite savvy with this site hence confused if I am commenting at the right post which I intend to. I cannot believe that you barged into his shop and took custody of his two shirts; he must have been dumbfounded with your audacity..hahaha… ! By the by, the blue shirt which is hanging in your office against the wall, is that one of those? 🙂

  3. Stupid new fb has not let me know about your blog posts. I just caught up…your living room looks amazing for only a few weeks in, your class sounds fascinating, and I can’t believe the boys are 9 and 7! Glad you are all well. And good for you for getting your dress back–love your creative hostage-taking!

  4. weeks later… and now i’m a tad embarrassed about taking the shirts. send me a photo of the kids when you get a chance – i’d love to show lala.

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