left on walnut

Along the Road in India

We did a fair amount of travel while in India. Delhi to Agra to Jaipur to Rishikesh and back to Delhi. Mile after mile along the roadways we saw carts with fruits and vegetables and potatoes, little tobacco carts, boys playing cricket, and open air cafes.

We saw men lying on cots in the heat of the day, crouched under trucks during a brief rain, splashing themselves with water from a pump, peeing beside trees, and talking in groups at cafes.

We saw women carrying packages the size of coffee tables on top of their heads.

We saw cows, dogs, mules, bison, monkeys, sheep, goats, and camels. We saw cars, vans, trucks, buses, motorcycles, rickshaws, bicycles, and tuk tuks. Lots and lots of people walking.

People honk their horns all of the time in India. Honking means something different in India than in the States. In the US, a horn might mean “Don’t pull out in front of me, you Nimrod!” or “Hurry up! The light turned green already!” or “We’re about to crash, you idiot!”

In India, honking isn’t so aggressive. A honk seems to mean, “There’s a sliver of road between you and that bus and since I’m obligated to squeeze past I thought I’d let you know by honking my horn.”

I will never understand how all the traffic and animals and people coexist as successfully as they do on the roads of India.

Faces of India, part 2

Faces of India, part 1

What Children Learn in India

Everywhere in India, my daughter drew a crowd of kids. They wanted to know where she was from, when she got to India, and how long she’d stay. They wanted to know what she was doing there and if she went to college. They wanted to know what she thought of India. Parents clustered outside the circle, waiting and sometimes listening while their children met this new person.



They took family photos with her.




Then we’d all look at the photos together.




Sometimes, they just looked at her, this new and different person. Open inquisitiveness with new people is valued. Kids expected that Katie wanted to meet them just as much as they wanted to meet her. Children learn people are good and differences interesting. Children learn privacy may matter, but not more than having family and friends nearby and inviting new people into our lives.

Children learn the life-affirming goodness of people.



Lunch in Rasool Pur, India

If you are very lucky, you may someday find yourself in the boyhood home of Ajay Kumar, in the little village of Rasool Pur, India. Rasool Pur is northeast of New Delhi, on a long, hard road to Rishikesh. Ajay was raised in this home until he left for the big city. Ajay’s mother still lives on the farm, in the home built by Ajay’s dad. Ajay’s brother lives there, too, with his wife and kids. On their farm, they grow what they need for the family.

Ajay’s mother may be 65 or 70. Birthdays weren’t counted. She greeted me with a hug. I was shown a chair by the fan in their open air kitchen. We were served betha, a rich, spicy, slightly sweet masala made with pumpkin. We had fresh tomatoes and cucumbers and a potato dish. Naan appeared, hot from a fire that I never even saw as we were shown around the farm. A second piece of naan came just as we finished the first.  We drank a cold, spiced buttermilk, courtesy of the the two cows tied in the yard. Dessert was a cold cream of wheat called sojji (or sooji or suji, my notes don’t seem clear).

The meal was followed by family photos, just like in the rural Indiana town where I grew up. Then Ajay’s mother walked us to the car. I couldn’t understand one word she spoke that day, but her message was clear as she took my face in her hands, “Come back any time. You are always welcome here.”

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Honest and Faithful Service to this Country

Bill Printy only finished eighth grade. Then he was needed on the farm. In 1941 he enlisted in the Army. Later that year, Pearl Harbor was bombed. Bill fought in the Philippines and then New Guinea. He earned the expert infantry badge and the combat infantry badge. I suspect his boyhood of hunting squirrels and rabbits for food was helpful in this regard. He earned the Asiatic Pacific Theater Ribbon, three battle stars; the America Defense Service Ribbon, the Philippine Liberation Ribbon, and two more battle stars.

Bill talked little about the Island of Corregidor or Manila Bay. He rarely spoke of Bataan, where he was wounded.

Bill would, however, talk about the New Guinea natives. Their bellies distended over grass skirts. Their little huts. Babies sleeping in slings hung on low limbs as their mothers worked their gardens nearby. The special grass hut for religious ceremonies or worship. The enviable callouses on their feet allowing them to walk across cinders that would cut the tender feet of the boys from the States.

“Some people called them savages. But they were growing food, singing, rocking their babies, worshiping. We were halfway across the world, shooting up their island. Sounds like we were the savage ones to me.”

When Bill was released from Wakeman Convalescent Hospital at Camp Atterbury, he returned to the farm. He gave away his hunting rifle.

Painting the Cellar Door

Early this morning, I painted the cellar door. The “Auntie Em door,” we call it.

I enjoy painting. I like the methodical motion of the brush. I like the protective quality of paint. I like that I can let my mind wander. The morning was warm and still. Copper, the basset hound who lives down the street, kept me company. His bark is low and mournful. If Copper’s ever in a movie, he’ll be played by James Earl Jones.

Yesterday my friend and I saw The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. While painting, I thought about the movie and my trip to India next week. One of the new visitors is clearly wrong for India. “How can you bear this country? What do you see that I don’t?” she asks.

Tom Wilkinson responds, “Light, colors, smiles. It teaches me something.” She could only see poverty and squalor.

Occasionally a carpenter ant would crawl near a freshly painted spot. I just blew them safely off and kept brushing.

Can Guy

Our side porch is usually a quiet place for morning tea. Busy white-breasted nuthatches yammer insistently, whacking sunflower seeds into the bark of trees to “hatch” out breakfast. Squirrels fuss at one another over territory they’ve staked out. I don’t see why some branches have a higher status than others, but apparently they do. This morning a rollerblader in earbuds whirred by. Mostly, though, it’s quiet.

I heard Can Guy before I saw him, his grocery cart rattling down the alley. Can Guy gathers aluminum cans from dumpsters around the university. Our alley is on his route.

Everyone in our neighborhood was busier than I was this morning. I sat on the porch swing taking in summer.

a new carry-on

This is my new carry-on, my retirement gift to myself. Katie and I leave for India in a couple weeks. This 20-inch Samsonite and my tote will be all I take. This suitcase is light. It weighs less than a gallon of milk.

I’ve been reading quite a bit about India: about the tourist spots, of course, and also about the religion and history and economics. Here’s a fact that I’ve found heart-wrenching: my new suitcase cost more than the average Indian makes in an entire year.

before and after

I’m learning that good portraits can be enhanced in a photo editing software called Lightroom. I’m only beginning to learn Lightroom, mostly from online tutorials.

This is a before and after shot of one of the ladies in the park. I think she’d like it.