More Backlog [en]

Thursday, 30th: I take my classes. But at the end of the last one I am out of service again. I go back to my room to lie down – I can’t even read. I have a very slight fever.

Friday, 31st: I rest. I go out 200 metres away from the hotel to buy myself some water. I take one class, and that is about all I could have handled. The afternoon is spent in “cultural discussion” with our Hindi teachers – many of the students are in India for the first time. I still haven’t managed to check my email.

Saturday, September 1st: almost all of the students have decided to go to Musoorie for the week-end. My roommate and I have decided to stay here to catch some rest – which turns out to be a great decision. We find a tailor to stitch blouses for our saris, manage to check our email, and spend the rest of our day napping and reading.

Sunday, 2nd: I walk around Rishikesh taking lots of pictures while my roommate gets an ayurvedic massage at the place we know. We have lunch at the Madras Café – the uttapam is a very nice change from the hotel food (which in itself isn’t too bad, but I’m starting to develop a gustative intolerance to it).

In the evening, we finally find the place we had been looking for the whole week-end: the Amrita Library Restaurant. The Lonely Planet map actually places it on the wrong bank of the Ganga! If you are in Rishikesh and crave some non-Indian food, I can definitely recommend their pizzas. We also had a tomato soup and a poiled potato with butter – there are times in life when one has to eat something without any spices! We’ll be going back to check out their imported Italian macaroni.

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Bitter Chocolate [en]

Rishikesh, 26 August 01

I’ve finished reading another disturbing book. After the concentration camps of World War II and Partition, here comes Bitter Chocolate by Pinki Virani – a study on Child Sexual Abuse in India.

One out of four boys. Four out of ten girls. In all social classes, from lower to upper. By aggressors of same or different sex. The rare comlaints filed take years to reach court. More often than not, they are dismissed for lack of conclusive evidence.

My new “tagline” for India is The Country of Red Tape. Related, this example of Indian logic, excerped from Pinki Virani’s book.

A young boy is abused in his school by a meditation summer class teacher. The parents refuse to report the case to the police. Another parent, a lawyer, alarmed by the fact that this same teacher has been invited to give classes in his son’s own school, decides to write to the police commissioner, detailing the whole incident.

On 25 October 1999, Raju Zunzarrao Moray gets a visitor from the police station near his residence.

The police officer tells him, ‘Your complaint to the police commissioner has come to us. We were well aware of the incident but no one came forward to register it as a case. This is the first written complaint on the matter, so you are our First Informant. Therefore, we will have to start our investigations with you first.’

All right, is Raju Moray’s reaction, but then what.

‘After investigating you, we will investigate everyone else.’

‘Okay,’ says Raju Moray, ‘but just remember that I was not an eyewitness to even the boy who came home hurt. You need to speak with the boy’s family.’

‘We will.’

A doubt flickers in Raju Moray’s mind. ‘By now the boy has gone back to Pune. Suppose his family here says nothing of the sort happened.’

‘Then it will be assumed that you have made a false complaint.’

‘What absolute nonsense!’

‘Not nonsense; it is a serious matter to make a false complaint.’

‘But it is not a false complaint.’

‘If you cannot prove it, it is; also, then you have no business to unnecessarily clutter up our files and cause us unnecessary hardship.’

Raju Moray re-starts the conversation, ‘Listen, let us assume—correctly, since I know what they have decided—that the boy’s grandfather says that there was no incident. Then what?’

‘Then we will call you to the police station to question you on why you filed a false complaint.’

‘But it is not… oh all right, then what happens?’

‘Then we will call you, and we will call you again for questioning, as and when the need arises.’

‘I have to go to court you know, I have to be available for my clients and my practise. You should at least tell me when you would call me, I cannot come in the mornings, I can after court during the evenings. And, obvioulsy, I see no reason to come every day to simply sit in the police station.’

‘Then it is better you write a letter saying you are withdrawing your complaint so that we can close the file.’

‘But you have not even opened a case till now because no case has been filed. Where is the question of closing an un-opened file?’

‘These are technical matters; better you just say in a letter you are withdrawing your complaint.’

Please do read this very sensible book. Awareness is what is needed first – and your awareness could make the difference for someone. Whether or not you are in India or Indian.

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Reconnaissance [en]

Rishikesh, 26 Août 01

Me voici saine et sauve à  Rishikesh. J’ai passé mes deux derniers jours à  Pune dans le stress (c’était prévisible: trop de gens à  voir et de choses à  faire, ce n’était pas possible).

Quitter Pune. C’est moins dur que la dernière fois, mais c’est loin d’être facile. Les Shinde sont des gens véritablement adorables. Leur gratitude me fait mal; aussi parce que je leur suis au moins également reconnaissante – pour des choses moins visibles, certes, et donc peut-êtres ignorées pour certaines, mais non moins importantes ou réelles.

Aleika m’a donné tant de clés pour comprendre ce pays et y vivre en tant que videshi. Je lui dois de me sentir “chez moi” ici. Et indirectement, je le dois aussi aux Shinde. Tout ce qu’ils ont donné à  Aleika au cours des années, j’en ai reçu les fruits.

Bien sûr, il y a tout ce que les Shinde m’ont donné directement. Leur générosité et leur disponibilité est immense. Nous sommes dans un cercle vicieux de gratitude – un cercle vicieux positif. Aleika déjà  le disait très bien: “Ils me doivent tellement, et je leur dois tellement aussi.”

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Boring Backlog [en]

Rishikesh, 29 August 01

24th, day before departure: spent in a stress, as expected. Half-way through the evening meal at Shabri’s, my stomach yells “Stop! I won’t take a mouthful more!”. I insist on swallowing up the three gulab jamun served for desert, though.

2 a.m.: out come the gulab jamun. Temperature: 38.3°C. Three hours of sleep at the most.

25th, day of departure: doctor in the morning. Lots of pills, including a five-day course of antibiotics, to keep me up and running during the journey. I go to Vama to collect my (overdue) ghagra choli. Two hours and four trials later, after having sent Nisha back home, I am arguing about the price with the manager over the phone when I gracefully pass out and crumple to the floor, right in front of the main reception.

I leave the shop with Nisha an hour later (she came back to fetch me), after having nearly fainted two or three more times; I have obtained a meagre 5% discount – very unsatisfying, but it is difficult to argue with conviction when one keeps on passing out. I reach home thirty minutes before the bus to Bombay is due to pick me up.

Travel to Delhi goes very smoothly. The scenery from the Pune-Mumbai Expressway is beautiful in the monsoon sunshine. I get an hour of sleep on the plane. The man in charge of the prepaid taxi counter at Delhi Airport tells me that the New Delhi Railway Station is “15-20 minutes away only. You come, I take you on my scooter anytime, no problem m’am. You can stay at my place, also, yes!” I smile my way out of the situation, as I have learnt to do so very well, and explain that the airport waiting room is a beautiful place to stay in for the night.

I meet a young couple there. They are waiting to pick up a friend. We chat a little, and they very kindly invite me to grab a few hours sleep at their place before driving me to the station on time. They seem very nice people, I am very tempted, I accept. It was a good decision.

26th, uneventful journey to Rishikesh: we have to walk at moments, my luggage is heavy, I have fever, my sari is catching on my legs – but it is all still bearable.

I leave table early that evening: 38.7°C.

27th, first day: I wake up, feeling pretty good. 37.2°C. I sit up in my bed and a sharp pain flashes through my head. I lie down again. A stuffy nose and a sore throat the previous night make me take some cold medicine.

Morning class goes fine, as does lunch. During the second class, I pester against my unsteady hand which makes more and more “typos” as time trickles by. In the middle of the third class, I have to ask the teacher to excuse me and retreat to my room. The now throbbing headache, fever and vague nausea are too much for me to stay functional. Temperature in the evening: 38.8°C.

After hours of pulling the covers off and on, I start dozing off around 2 a.m. – but I really get some sleep only at 4 a.m., when a power cut mercifully shuts down the fan (therefore depriving my poor roommate of any further sleep).

28th, 36.5°C: I still feel a little feverish, but the number on the thermometer looks really good. My head hurts like hell – but not quite as much as during the night, when I wished I could prevent my heart from beating, since every beat was the signal for a flash of pain. I spend the whole day in bed and sleep a lot. Reading isn’t really within the realm of my possibilities.

I definitely suspect a concussion, which must have gone by unnoticed because of the anti-fever medicine I was taking at the start. I may be wrong, but it seems the most likely explanation I have come up with up till now.

In the evening, I feel courageous enough to walk down to the hotel restaurant for dinner. It seems to me I haven’t checked my email for at least a week (a little under that, in fact) – but due to the heavy rainfalls, the lines are down. I head for bed and sleep a good night’s sleep.

29th, I feel “great”.

The nausea which was so bad last night has left me, and so has the headache, as long as I keep nice and still. 35.3°C. Thinking that looks a little low, I take my temperature again, but in my mouth this time, instead of underarm as I usually do: 36.8°C. Is there always so much of a difference between the two? Should I add 1.5°C to each of the readings for the last days to get the “real” temperature? That would take us pretty high.

Anyway. Things are under control, and the days ahead look brighter than the days behind. I will start classes again tomorrow, but will stay inside the hotel for the next three or four days. I will take my time to decide if I will join the trek to Gangotri or not during the last week, depending on how I feel. I must say that for the moment I doubt I will be fit enough, unless some really spectacular remission takes place (not to say that I won’t be fit in absolute – but it does take some time to get back into peak condition, doesn’t it?)

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