Final exam came and went this morning. How have I been here for one month? Time is where –
Thank you Mussoorie for your beauty –
The red tin roofs where rain pats, pours, and pounds.
The red tin roofs where monkeys screech and tumble at six in the morning. WWF monkeys have adopted the position of our alarm clock during the week.
The clouds that billow and tuft in between the foothills.
The fog that rolls through to hide the trees.
The moss that shades the concrete fresh green after it rains.
The steep hills that wring out our breath.
The dogs that sleep on the streets, hugging corners, in nooks, under awnings, on cement railings… shaggy splotchy and lazy.
The shop keepers who don’t speak much English; when we can only communicate on a word-to-word basis, a puzzle!
The juicy mangoes –
No clean way to eat one. I’m like a five-year-old gnawing at an ice cream cone and having it melt and spill down my arm and make sticky sugary ring around my mouth when I eat a mango. Too juicy. Perfect. Never have I eaten so meaty of a mango.
My teachers. My four teachers that I’ve seen almost every day for the past month who have shared stories and spirit… One of them adjusts her glasses with the palms of her hand and furrows her eyebrows disapprovingly when you say something wrong (it sounds just as encouraging as it really is.). The next one sold me a jar of honey from her brother’s bee farm, and let her voice lilt and fade away at the end of every phrase. After a 30 minute chai break, my next teacher’s voice scraped his nostrils – I have no idea quite how to describe this man – his hair thin and wild, his face darkly rugged and blemished, and he closed his eyes when he spoke a good amount of the time, all the better to hear his voice scraping gently across every word. His laugh was more of a giggling chuckle and revealed a charming gap between his front teeth – turning his frazzled mystical look into a silly, er, mystical, look.
The day before yesterday, four of us ended up visiting his home. We drank chai in his sitting room while he smoked bidis. He showed us a fraction of his owl collection (owls in India are considered stupid, however, not wise! Yet this man is obsessed.) which completed is about 2,000: golden owls, marble owls, glass owls, owls that take pictures with their eyes, owl magnets, carved owls, big owls, small owls – he even has a beautiful art collection of personal drawings with graceful inky owl feathers in front of etchy scenes… we crowded into his ‘office’ – a room just big enough to fit a few dusty bookshelves and a twin bed covered in blankets, his ‘desk’.
My last teacher of the day – an ex-alcoholic (‘this is the fun of drinking!’), always chewing paan, walking over to the window to swiftly spit it from his mouth while we stumbled through our reading. My favorite day in his class was a story day in his class – about the opium trade through the middle east and throughout India and beyond… an honest black market. It’s the ‘chains of corruption’ that keep it moving along so well.
Another quote of that man: “We experience many things. Sometimes we don’t do these things, but we still have the experience of it,” through stories, through others, through many other pathways… it’s so true though, eh? We pass on stories to create an experience in itself.