Ancient Egyptians believed that upon death they would be asked two questions and their answers would determine whether they could continue their journey in the afterlife.  
The first question was, "Did you bring joy?"  
The second was, "Did you find joy?"

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mope-aholics Anonymous

India is hot.

India has been hot since I arrived, don't misunderstand.  Compared to "my" moderate Seattle and to the parts of the globe that have been ravaged by winter over the last two months, India has kept warm and cozy, at least the parts I've been in.

But sometime in the last week the sun shifted in such a fashion that even the way its rays shine onto the ground have a different, more aggressive slant to them.  The afternoon air turns almost white with glare.  Now, it is more judicial to close the house up entirely around 1 o'clock to keep the fresh heat from making the old heat trapped in the house utterly unbearable.

Sweating is quickly becoming the natural order of things.  Chaffing follows.  Sitting still, if at all possible, ensues.

This is only the beginning.  India will continue to get hotter as the days tick by.  April, I'm told, will be unfathomably hot.  If it is, at the rate I'm going, I shall have to take 19 tiny showers a night just to stay cool enough to sleep.  I'm already up to three 30-second spritzes between 10 when I go to bed and 6 when I get up for the day.

My mood seems to be reflecting, in a distorted fun-house fashion, the change in temperature.  I am irritable, melancholy, quick to judge.  Perhaps this is because the heat is affecting my digestion and for the first time since I arrived in India  I've had a more than fleeting bout of travel related stomach ailments. Maybe it's because Martin has written to say that he has decided to "move on" despite the fact that I "have awakened feelings in" him.

It could just be that my time here in India is growing short.  I find that I am occasionally beset with fits of inner conflict about going back to my life in Seattle.  Certain moments, I simply cannot imagine it.  Other times, especially when people get to talking about the Indian government and the absolutely ass-backwards way that certain programs, health, education, and human services especially, are run, or not run as the case may be, I feel sure that I would go mad if I tried to make a life here.

One small example involves the process of adoption.  If an orphan can be adopted, which isn't always the case for some reason, it takes at least two years for a child to move from the chaotic orphanage to their new home despite the fact that they have been assigned to a couple that has been approved and is waiting to nurture and to love them, not to mention able to relieve the state of the burden of feeding and clothing the child.  I defy anyone to satisfactorily explain to me how this is a good or wise or logical or prudent or humane way to do things.

I told you I was grumpy.

I didn't even go to teach this morning.  My stomach, and my emotional barometer, felt too delicate.  Like the humidity in West Bengal which can rise from 30% to 70% at the drop of a hat or fall just as quickly, my constitution threatened to be just as unstable.  Instead of teaching I fell fast asleep for three hours, sleeping past lunch (no big deal) and awaking in time to feel the sun ramp up its super-powers.  I shut my windows and now am hiding away in my sweltering cave, hiding from the even more oppressive heat outside, my obligations, and anything or anyone that might ask me to be present and accountable.

I could, actually, be moping.  It's been a long time since I have moped, so I'm not sure.  But the permanent pout I've been sporting all afternoon is a pretty good sign.

I talked to Nicole today.  She is in Varanasi hanging out with some boatmen and swimming in the Ganges which, since she told me she just saw a dead cow float by, seems like a rather, well, insane thing to do.  I felt jealous, though, that she is out in the crazy world, taking risks, while I am moping in my dark room.

It got me thinking about that last three weeks in April that I'll have after I leave Santiniketan and before I go back to Seattle.  Whatever shall I do?  As the Celsius rises, I am aware that my ability to move with any speed or even joyful sense of adventure will be severely handicapped.  But, time is running out.

The prudent thing is to do what the English always did at this time of year and disappear into the hills around Darjeeling.  I'll probably do that for a week.  Then I must see Varanasi myself and though I'd like to swim in the Ganges I'd rather do it from farther up stream where dead bodies aren't a regular feature:  Rishikesh, maybe?  I leave from Delhi on the 28th of April, so it is looking like Jaipur will have to be axed from my current itinerary.

People always talk about how big India is and, therefore, how hard it is to see everything.  India is actually not that big, just increasingly hot and always hard to get around in.  The diversity of the country also becomes a looming factor when contemplating the next move: will the next place be more or less conservative than where I am now, will it be primarily Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, will it be hot, cold, dry, humid and do I have the right clothes, can I get there by plane, or do I take an all night train, or must I chance a bus????

I should not be asking these questions today.  They feel like itchy wool sweaters worn on already sensitive, and very hot, skin.

I keep telling myself that the lethargy and the irritability that arise as the temperatures begin to soar are important aspects of being in India; they are part and parcel of the whole experience.  I cannot separate out these lousy days of adjusting to the extreme weather and pretend that they are aberrations.   I must not punish myself for losing time and experiences because I am not out and about every possible moment.  I've only got to find a way to give into the shift in dynamics, to respect the heat, and to discover what smaller worlds are waiting behind shuttered windows in the still realms of this country where extremes of every kind, weather, geography, religion, politics, social status, shape its essential mysterious beauty.

But can I start to do all that tomorrow?  Today, I only feel like moping.

1 comment:

Kirstin said...

Dearest Morgan,
I too have been irritable, melancholy and quick to judge over the last several days. Of course there are parts of life that can lead to these feelings and responses but reading what you've written, on the other side of the globe, I wonder if the Virgo in us is just having a big temper tantrum! With the moon pulling our strings and the planets alligned as they are, maybe it's just something for us to get through and the fewer people we go off on, the better. I support your quiet cave. I also support being allowed to feel...pissy...for a lack of a better word. Tomorrow will be better and if it's not, the next day will. Sending you love and trying to shake of the grumpiness with you. All my love, Kirstin