#2 India, Living in Bangalore, Oct. 9, 1997

Dear Everybody,

I’m trying hard to get settled and all my domestic chores handled, as I will need to start work on the Abu Dhabi project in a few days. I’m really excited about it as I’m sure it will be very different from all the places to which I have traveled.

Today I picked up my curtains that I had made for the bedrooms and they are just the RIGHT material and color. They match the walls perfectly! I had asked them to put big rings on them because I could see that the rods are very fat, and the rings are nice and big! When I went to hang them, guess what! The rods are stationary and there is no way to slip the rings on the rods—-huh!

Oh, my ‘boy’ didn’t show up today, but his mother said that he will definitely come tomorrow. My furniture (sofa, etc) still hasn’t come either, but it will tomorrow FOR SURE!! The sound on my TV is horrible—you can hardly understand it, but I’m going to spring the money to rent a pretty good CD player, and I can hook the sound from the TV to the speakers.

My landlady, Rinte, has a maid and a boy. The maid, Charee, lives in a little room in the back yard (there is a similar one on my ‘side’ of the yard.) Her room has only a woven mat in it—no other furniture. There is a ‘bathroom’ next door to it, which is a small room with a porcelin drain in the floor in which she stands to pour water over her for a shower. She gets the water from the garden hose, using a plastic bucket to transport it.

The boy, Nagaraj, is married and lives a long ways away. He comes each day on the bus and goes home at night. He does the gardening and generally helps with anything heavy. He also deals with the many vendors that come down the street with their produce loaded on carts that they push.

About once a week I see an ‘ironing man.’ He does his ironing sitting by the side of the street with an iron within which he burns charcoal to heat it. He seems to have his regular customers.

There is a grocery store next to the little restaurant where I often eat my breakfast. They have the basics, which I can conveniently buy. I haven’t seen any supermarkets but I think there are larger grocery stores than this little neighborhood one.

Every morning I go for my hour walk in the neighborhood. There are also other walkers, mostly men, except for one older woman who walks with her husband. She wears the most beautiful silk saris and then wears the biggest sneakers that I think I’ve ever seen. I notice red ‘devilish’ heads on some of the houses that seem to have some significance—maybe to keep the people safe who life there?

There is a beggar near the restaurant that seems to live in the ditch that goes along side the street. I often give him a coin since he’s in my neighborhood.

I have figured out how to go to the market. I take an autorickshaw to the center of town, which is about four km. The first time I went there a ‘helper-woman’ approached me with her basket. She said her name was Mary, and that she would be glad to help me carry my purchases in the market. I see there is a cadre of women doing this, and they seem to get paid just a pittance—perhaps the equivalent of five or ten cents. Anyway, Mary has been very helpful to me and watches for when I come, asking to be my helper. My largess knows no bounds—I give her about 30 cents. I tell her what vegetables I want and she leads me to the best vendors from the best areas, or that’s what she says anyway, and I believe her. When the vendor weighs the produce, she says, “Basket weight!” and throws in another carrot or whatever. Then I go out in the back and choose my (live) chicken which they will butcher while I do the rest of my shopping. When I pick it up, it’s still warm! Mary calls an autorickshaw (I could do this but she insists) and packs all my bundles carefully into it. Then she tells the driver where I’m going (I could do this, too!) and off we go.

It takes me forever to put everything away, because the market is the dirtiest market I’ve ever seen! When I moved in I was told to buy a water purifier set-up that is mounted on my kitchen wall. There are several columns with cartridges to purify the water. Water is not piped into the houses, but is delivered by trucks into a storage tank in the basement. God knows what lives down there with the water! So I use a little detergent and several rinses of purified water on all the food I buy in the market, including the chicken!

I managed to order new upholstery on a rented set of a sofa and two chairs for the living room. I was allowed to pick out the fabric that I wanted in spite of them being rented. In the meantime I’ve been sitting in the living room on an upside down plastic pail, watching TV. I also have ordered a dining room set. Hopefully it will all come soon.

My cousin, Marlys, and her husband, Jim, are coming to visit me in January! This will be their first time visiting India. I hope it isn’t too much of a shock for them. I’ll have to hurry and get things wrapped up here so everything’s ready when they come.

Carol

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