Sitting back at apartment in Brooklyn (in bed) listening to the radiator bang and hiss on an early (6A) late January-morning because I can’t sleep due to the gnawing jet lag, missing my baby-infused Indian bed more than I can say. Just how jet-lagged am I? When I put in my contacts this morning, I put BOTH contacts into the SAME eye. The worst part was it took me a few minutes to figure out what happened – did I drop the other one? Did I leave it in India? I had admitted defeat and was taking out the “one” in my left eye when I realized that without that contact in I could see perfectly. OOPS!
It occurred to me several times a day while in India that I should be posting more. When I went to India my goal was to post two or three times a week at least, if not more. In fact, every time I go to India I make of list of things I would like to do while I am there. Looking at past journals, here are some past goals:
1) Show Mom India, 2) Make movie.
Here is what my list looked like for January 2011:
1) Rest and recover, 2) meditate 20 minutes a day, 3) attempt to do Crossfit, run, and take walks, 4) read to a group of kids every night, 5) volunteer at the clinic, 6) exchange Hindi/English lessons with a child, 7) find a study hall group to work with, 8) post on Chocolate and Chiles 2-3x per week.
How many of these did I actually do with enough regularity to say that I “accomplished” any of these goals? Not one. Am I disappointed? Not in the least. But why my curious little pakoras (recipe coming) did I fail so miserably at my list of goals? Very quickly after I arrived at Sri Ram, Natalie didi became Natalie didi mommy. KT asked me to define the terms a bit – a didi is anyone girl/woman who is under the age of…50 maybe…that is older than you are. So to all of the kids I am “Natalie didi”, Rashmi is my didi (although word on the street is she just got christened “Rashmi Ma! Read on), Radha is Simi’s didi, etc etc. You see where I am going with this. At the ashram, the mommies are the women who live on-site and care for all of the children in some way or another. There are 6 mommies (Sunita, Godonveri, Veena, Rehka, Andrea, and now, RASHMI MA!!) and 2 mommies-in-training (Seema and Parvati). The mommies keep the ashram going – from braiding hair to washing clothes and changing diapers to making sure the kids eat, these women are with the kids 24/7 making sure they aren’t hanging from trees or anything. No days off, rarely vacation. They are literally MOMS.
So what happens, pray tell, when one of the mommies has to leave for say, a family emergency? If it is January 2011 at Sri Ram, Serena didi and I get upgraded to honorary mommies and become the caretakers of Simi, Sita, Julie and Vandu. Everything about their care was entrusted to us – washing, feeding, clothing, diaper-changing, nursing when they are ill and making sure they are occupied throughout the day and not hanging from trees. The most intense part of this experience was the sleeping. Picture this – in the equivalent of a queen-sized bed you have me – to my left you have little Sita (23 months old), to my right, little Julie (3 years), to HER right there’s Asha didi (age 15 who was a freaking god-spend helper!) and at my feet for a few of the nights there was Simi (20 months). Vandu, like a big girl (3.5 years), found a bed to sleep in up stairs. Even so, needless to say on our nights “on” Serena and I did not get much sleep, and when Serena left 4 days before I did for the US, the juggling became quite intense – 6A milk (which I never made), 8A breakfast (in PJ’s), by 9:30A have them all washed, dressed, and hopefully being watched by an older didi s I could run to my room, brush my teeth, wash my face, and change out of PJ’s in JUST enough time to run back over to the babies section and make 10A milk, put kids down for morning naps, keep other one occupied, go to lunch, put down all kids for afternoon naps (HOLLA!), drink chai, wake up kids, give 4P milk, take them to see the cows, take them to see the puppies, get the bigger ones to aarti (daily Hindu worship) try to keep the little ones pre-occupied so I could phone home or check my flight status, dinner, PJ’s, milk, rock babies to sleep, put them in bed, and collapse into bed for a night of restless sleep, potty trips, glasses of water, etc etc. Reliving it here again makes me tired.
I can say with confidence that this trip was a level of involvement that I have never experienced before and I truly relished having such intimate contact with kids of all ages – from the little babes I was sharing a bed with to the older girls who helped me keep it together along the way to learning from the seasoned mommies how to properly prep the milk or layer a child so she stayed warm. However, this schedule barely left time for teeth brushing and phone calls home, so posting sort of was left of the dining room floor with pieces of discarded rice and chapati. The fortunate part is that I do have a lot of experiences from this trip that I would like to share with you – trips to town for pickle, cooking pakora with Seema didi, joining the afternoon knitting circle, and endless hours playing with the kids.
No pictures this round as I fried my computer in India and am using Jason’s old one, but I promise I will get them up soon and fill you in on everything that went down in India that I was **too tired to post about.