Tag: India

India

Stories

If you are a person who loves stories, which I am, going to an orphanage is like going to the mother-lode.  Every child there has a story. They are sharing those stories all the time, whether you are wandering around a mustard field, or going shopping (where there was a cow in a store) or looking at mango trees and gravestones, or sitting around a fire. One of my favorite things to do was to sit at a bench and watch the kids play badminton, and invariably some cherub would wander over, sit next to me, and begin to tell me a story.  One afternoon I went into the dormitory where Rosey and her friends live and they showed me their books of pictures. These kids don’t have many possessions in their lives, but they have pictures of people who mean something to them and every single child there has one of those albums. (When I went home, I sent them a box full of pictures, which said Fedex box is still stuck somewhere outside Delhi. That is another story.) Most of the stories are somewhat harrowing, as you might imagine, and sometimes the children are sad, but for the most part they are […]

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Fires

You’ll notice that in every picture of me from India, I’m wearing a puffy pink coat. That’s because I was freezing the entire time. It wasn’t actually that cold. Probably in the 40s. But there was no central heating. So whatever it was, it was, unless you could get a seat at the fire. How I came to appreciate fires! The central fire, and the hub of all conversation at the orphanage, was in an old mango tree that had toppled over in a storm.  We would all huddle together on a log and watch the flame. (I was huddling. Most of the kids were trying to jump over the fire.) My hair, my clothes, my skin all smelled of smoke. Periodically someone would go off with an ax and come back with wood, which they would throw onto the fire. Time passed in a different way than I’m used to. You could spend hours just chatting with the people who came and went. The coziest fire was in the library, in a fireplace. Here many of the kids congregated in the afternoon. (I should say that I was at the orphanage at an unusual time. For most of the year, the […]

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Names

When I arrived at the Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission, I was warmly greeted by a great cluster of children, each of whom hugged me and told me their name. A minute went by. Then came the first question,  “Do you remember my name, auntie?”  As a teacher, I have long known the value of remembering students’ names.  In fact, I make a practice of calling my students by name over and over again during the first few classes, because I believe that if you keep calling people by their names, other people will call them by their names too. They will remember the names, will become friends and the class will be a success. All of which is to say, I desperately wanted to remember each child’s name. But it was so hard. There were so many names to remember, and the names were so unfamiliar and even if I remembered them I didn’t say them right. Rosey and Shane and Gladys were easy to memorize. But then there was Roshni and Khushboo and Jyotika. I spent the first day fumbling around and everywhere I turned was a beautiful child looking at me and saying, “Do you remember my name, auntie?” That first night I thought […]

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India

How I happened to go to India this past January is a long and convoluted story involving tragedy, triumph, stubbornness  and one very sweet young woman at an orphanage who I’ve been sponsoring for the last 3 years. Since I first began communicating with her, Rosey has been gently suggesting that I come for a visit, but getting to India is not an easy proposition. She lives in an orphanage 300 kilometers to the east of New Delhi, near the border with Nepal. To say that it is remote is putting it very mildly.   At first I planned to fly from Delhi to Pantnagar, which would have taken me somewhere close. But that plane only leaves 4 times a week. And it’s often canceled, which, in fact, it was. So then I decided to take the train. When you are going to India, many people have advice for you, most of it harrowing, so when I got to the train I didn’t know what to expect. (I should say that I had hired a guide to drive me to the station. He deposited me in my seat and said, “Don’t move.”) Fortunately, almost all the signs in India are in English. I knew that Haldwani, the […]

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My reading list

It will probably come as no surprise that my main concern about my trip to India is, what to read on the journey. (There was other stuff to think about–visas and shots and so on, but the books were my major preoccupation.)  I have a 6 hour flight from New York to London, followed by a 8 hour flight from London to New Delhi, followed by a 5 hour train trip to Halwadi.  I will have a notebook with me, of course, and I plan to take lots of notes and I’m also hoping to work on some important plot points for the book I’m working on now. But. I need to read something. When I flew to London last year, I read The Nightingale, which, as far as I am concerned, was the perfect airplane journey book. I picked it up, blinked, and was in London. I read an amazing book about India titled Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts, which would have been a perfect book, except that I’ve already read it. The list of Indian writers is obviously long, and I’ve read many of them.  I loved Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh, and I’ve been wanting to read the sequel. Arundhati Roy […]

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Traveling to India

This week I am going on an amazing adventure. I am going to India, and not just to India, but to a remote part of India which is 330 kms due East of New Delhi, just on the Western corner of Nepal, in the State of Uttarakhand.  To get there, I am flying into the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, spending a night in a hotel, and then taking a 5 hour train ride to Halwadi, where I will be met by a driver, who will then take me another 2 hours to the Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission, which is near Banbasa. There I will meet up with Rosey, a young woman I’ve been sponsoring for some years, and I will spend a week at the orphanage where she lives.  The orphanage is a working farm, as well as being a school for children in the neighborhood, and so I suspect they will plant me in the library and ask me to read books to kids. Perhaps I will teach a few writing classes! I think it unlikely I will be harvesting grain, though who can say? Life takes strange turns.  There is so much I am looking forward to about this trip. […]

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Passage to India

Yesterday I got my visa to go to India. That means, on Jan. 3, I will be catching a plane to Delhi, and then another plane to Pantnagar, and will then drive (or better to say, be driven) for two hours to Bambasa, which is where the Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission/Orphanage is located.  (The picture below is from their Summer Games.) There I will finally have a chance to meet Rosey, a young woman I’ve been sponsoring for the last few years. She’s just turning 17, speaks fluent English and dreams of being a journalist. She’s also endured some very tough things in her life and she’s a very inspiring and loving spirit. I’ll be there for a week. Usually they have visitors help out with the farm work, though I can’t imagine I’ll be of much use in a rice paddy. Perhaps I can give some writing lessons. Or help with the library. Rosey has promised me I will not be bored and I believe her absolutely. Only a few weeks ago, they found a python on their grounds, and I believe there’s been an elephant wandering around. Rosey said they’d teach me how to cook some Indian food, and her […]

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Rosie

Some years ago I was working on a novel and needed to set a scene in an Indian orphanage. It wasn’t a big scene, but I wanted details to bring it alive. So one afternoon I went scrolling around Indian orphanage sites and one thing led to another and I wound up sponsoring a young woman named Rosie.  Rosie lives in a small village on the very northernmost part of India, close to Nepal. So she is physically about as far from me as it’s possible to be. And yet one thing I’ve discovered, as we’ve exchanged letters every month or so, is that we have so much to talk about.(Her English is excellent. Far better than my Hindi. I was taking Hindi classes for a while, and she was so supportive of me. Praying for my success, though those particular prayers were vain.) She is fascinated by the arrangements for my daughter’s wedding. She loves all the details about the dresses and the food. She’s also very well-read. What I find surprising is that so many of the books she reads are the same as the ones American girls her age are reading, such as Hunger Games. She is in some […]

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Atmosphere and Authenticity

Setting the scene… in my case Switzerland. How much is too much; how much is not enough? I have several friends who don’t ever finish their great American novel, often because they keeping digging in for more detail, more perfection, just more! (Even more editing, which often means ‘less,’ then they need ‘more’ again. Argh!) There is no magic formula to finding the balance between setting the scene and overburdening with detail, a writing reality that I am contemplating today as I develop several minor characters. (Confession here….. they develop in situ, meaning the draft is well underway but the characters are shifting as the plot develops). Because Switzerland draws residents and visitors from around the world each of these characters very deliberately comes from a different country and a different culture.I have the good fortune to be in India for the moment and am concentrating on a character from that country. I’ve visited India many times and have a sense of ‘my man’ but each time I speak with someone a little detail is added, or a detail is questioned. It is easy to slip down the rabbit hole and have more backstory than is necessary and I feel myself […]

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