|Parade in Aluva. Check out the elephant!|
On our walk, we passed a long, tightly packed line of people, mostly women, waiting. Binu explained that the women were waiting for their weekly ration of rice and other staples, which are distributed by the government to the poor. As we walked by, we attracted a multitude of stares, not unfriendly, and smiles. And as I smiled back, all I could think of was a comment made by a fellow YAV at orientation, in regards to our commitment to live simply and be part of an underprivileged community for the duration of our service: “We’re rich enough to be poor for a year.”
We returned from our walk and it was soon lunchtime. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Indian culture, utensils such as forks, knives, and spoons are not used. The only utensil utilized, in fact, is your right hand (not the left—it is considered unclean). So, as we sat down to the delicious meal that Betty prepared for us, there was a definite moment of apprehension shared by Jim, Maggie, and me as we all glanced at each other with the same frantic thought: “oh my gosh—we’re about to eat with our hands!” This was bound to be tricky, as there was rice involved.
As we quickly learned, there is a definite art to this practice. We managed pretty well, and laughed a lot at ourselves along the way (as did Thomas John, Betty, and Binu. I would have laughed at me, too!).
We spent the last part of the afternoon in Aluva, a nearby bigger city. We traveled there by bus—what they say about Indian buses is true; they are PACKED!—and spent time walking around the shops. Today was the birthday of a Hindu diety, so there was a parade of schoolchildren of all ages, as well as adults. They wore ornate costumes, sung, danced, and played instruments. Best of all, there was an ELEPHANT at the end! That was definitely one of those ‘whoa,-I’m-in-India’ moments, since I can’t imagine that spectacle ever taking place in the US. It was pretty much awesome.
As Maggie pointed out, however, I’m not sure which parade the onlookers were watching with more interest—the fancy Hindu celebration, or the trio of foreigners walking down the sidewalk. Probably both.