25 March 2009

The Blankets Were the Stairs.

[The following is an excerpt from an e-mail from my good friend,Val.
Wed, Aug 6, 2008 at 11:17 AM

“Every little girl needs a doll (or two!)

“more like, every KID needs a doll. :P
heh. I remember when my mom called my he-man ACTION figures, the 'D-word', I started crying.”

“It's true---I was going to write, "And every boy needs ACTION FIGURES!" But I was too lazy…

i can't wait to buy the girls dolls...I'm such a Aunt! Ha!”

Thank you, Val. I will always love you for your compassion.]


The rooster that has served as my alarm clock for the past week was out done this morning by the distorted blaring music from the private courtyard, echoing into my room through the bathroom window; I don’t think it would have been possible for me to sleep in, even if accidentally.
My morning routine of eating breakfast at the Pole-Pole, taking my vitamins and malaria pills, returning to my room to brush my teeth, and heading off to the school was slightly modified.

I wasn’t going to the school this morning.

Nikesh and Vinod strolled up to the steps of The Deep Guest House, where I sat waiting for them; we were going to go visit Rajani and Vinod’s younger sister, Baby.
Since receiving news of their injuries, I have been trying, to the best of my abilities, to not be full of grief and sadness.
While not fully understanding how it had happened, I was able to generate awareness back home and send money from Dharma Punx to Nikesh to help where we could. I was kept updated by periodic photos sent to me by Nikesh.


With the two baby dolls that Val had given to me to deliver to the girls, patiently packed away in my saddlebag, Nikesh explained to me in greater detail how the accident had happened, as we walked down the back alleyways of Bodh Gaya… away from the bustling touristy streets.

It was a normal damp humid morning in July when the two little girls, Baby and Rajani, were walking to school; a sagging over hang (unshielded) electrical power line snapped, dropping directly right on top of them.
Rajani suffered electrical burns on her back, right arm and legs while Baby was burned on her hands.
Due to the lack of proper treatment available in Gaya, by the time Nikesh was able to get them to Patna, the capital of Bihar, Baby’s condition had worsened and the Doctors were unable to save several of her fingers.

[Rajani and Baby, being students of the Ao Zora School, have families of their own. Because their families did not have the money needed for their treatment, Nikesh and the Ao Zora staff stepped in and decided they needed to use donated money meant for the school, to help the two girls get the medical attention they desperately needed; Dharma Punx NYC responded immediately, sending donations.]

If it were not for the care and support of their families and the Ao Zora staff, the two girls would have suffered much more.

Arriving at Baby’s house, I met her mother and family and then, Baby, herself. We sat on the family bed, as I presented her with the Blue Doll. Her shy demeanor could not hold back the huge smile that appeared on her face, the unexpected gift had made her very happy.

Her mother brought in small glasses of steaming hot chai and handed Vinod a platter of Diwali treats and biscuits; the tiny room became very crowded as neighboring children had gotten wind of a visitor who had brought a present.
Baby emulated the mannerisms of a loving mother and showed off the proud infant doll that she held carefully in her arms, to all of her friends.

It was Baby’s baby.

I explained to her how happy we all are to know that she was safe and getting better.
She had been out of school since the accident and missed learning so much. She told me that Math was her favorite subject; another smile appeared when I shared with her that I too, love math.
After several photoshots, I hugged Baby and said goodbye.

Nikesh led us back to the alleyway, only to walk through the adjacent door… Rajani and Baby were neighbors.

With the cleaner, more spacious open roofed area of the house, Rajani’s family was noticeably more wealthy than Baby’s. Colorful hand painted flowers covered portions of the walls, reflecting the family’s happiness.

Much like before, Nikesh and I were greeted with Diwali treats and waiting cups of hot chai.

I still sort of regret having eaten breakfast at the Pole Pole this morning…

Hanging out with Rajani was a completely different experience. She seemed much more timid, but it also felt somewhat coy; the vibe of the conversation felt forced. Perhaps she just didn’t know what to say…

[I mean, what do you say?

“oh golly gee willikers, thanks for the doll! You know, I almost died.”
My self-judgmental thoughts began playing its own alternate scenario of how things were playing out by filling in for the narrative of Rajani.]

I pulled out the lone Doll, which I imagined was waiting eagerly in my bag, and handed it to Rajani as Nikesh translated and explained who I was.
She turned and smiled, thanking me but then handed it to her two younger sisters, who both seemed more interested in my visit to their home.

[Rajani didn’t owe me anything.]

Heading back to Ao Zora, I began to feel like I had some form of closure…
Even now, as I sit here reflecting back on the day, I feel extremely grateful that I was given the opportunity to be able to meet the both of them and see first hand, their proud reclamation of their lives.

On with the rest of the day…

We played Cricket and some more Baseball again. The boys were still in awe of the Homerun I hit last night and were asking if I could show them how to hit Homeruns, every time.

Hilarious, especially since I too was still in awe of how ‘perfectly’ it had connected.

I’m definitely starting to get the hang of Cricket. I’m hoping that they understand my explanations of Baseball; they at least physically know the difference of the two games.

I brought my Journal with me to the school and had asked Santosh and Lakshman to help me write down all the Hindi they had taught me.

“Brother! Ap ka naam kya hai?” [What is your name?]
“Mera naam Victor hai.” [My Name is Victor.]

“Brother, Ap ka kitna sal ho raha hai?” [How old are you?]
“Mera untis sal ho rahha hai.” [My age is 29 years old.]

It was so easy to learn from them; their patience and persistence gave me the confidence to continue trying until I got it right.
I asked the two of them if they could help me out with the proper spelling of everyone’s name, insuring me that I will always remember them.

In the evening, I helped Santosh and Arvind with their Math homework. The electricity was still on which meant it was early, but dark enough that the mosquitoes were now out and about.
Nikesh’s brother, Mukesh, came over and asked for me to meet him outside to bring lil’ Suraj with me. Rather confused and uncertain of what was going on, I found Suraj upstairs, already wearing his pink-corduroy jacket, and told him that Mukesh wanted to see us outside.
We walked out and saw Mukesh sitting on Tinku’s HondaHero Motorcycle, motioning to me with a cool head nod, to hop on…
Carefully maneuvering through the windy Sujatta Village streets, we arrived to a brightly lit intersection – a crowded area with music blaring through the insect flying night sky… so many large grasshoppers clinging and fluttering around all the fluorescent lights.

Nikesh and Mukesh’s parents were having everyone from the school come over to celebrate the quieter family night of Diwali.
I met Nikesh’s father last night, but tonight I was introduced to the rest of his family - his mother, and two older sisters.
Suraj and I climbed off the motorcycle and were welcomed into the dimly lit house; it was an honor to eat dinner at their home.

The rest of the boys from the school began trickling in waves, via the motorcycle school bus.
Amit showed up and handed me a much needed bottle of water.

[Suraj and I thanked Nikesh’s family and stepped outside to make room for the next group of dinner guests; across the way stood a large tent, housing a large statue of Lakshmi.
Pulling my hand, Suraj led me through the crowd to see what was going on.
Next to the tent stood a TV that looked like it was wheeled out from a High School AV room, hooked up to several large PA Speaker sets.
Without blinking or looking away, lil’ Suraj managed to explain to me that the high pitched musical we were all watching was about the story of Diwali. Needless to say, I was thoroughly confused.]

Tinku came over and told us that Amit would take Suraj and I back to Ao Zora.

Amit, the neighbor to the Ao Zora School and friend to Nikesh has given me the kindest welcome of all the non-Ao Zora staff; he’s a very down to earth guy.
Giving Nikesh and I a breezy motorcycle ride back to the Deep Guest House, he shared with me the unfortunate condition that his daughter has developed and how all the Doctors do not think there is anything that can be done.
Nikesh asked if it would be possible to ask any U.S. Doctors what they would recommend; I agreed.

Tomorrow, the classes of the Ao Zora School start back up; the kids are eagerly awaiting the return to learning.

(The Blankets Were the Stairs - Sunny Day Real Estate)

1 comment:

Heavy Metta said...

Reading the blog is making me miss India...