Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Up All Night, sort of

Sun City, day 2. No, is it 3? I am losing track. Still jet lagged, 8pm seems like 6am sunrise after pulling an all nighter. Last night at dinner with darling Govind Rathore, owner of a nearby guest house and man-about-town, I was slumping under the table like a 5 year old. I put my head down at one point. So today, it's 6:30pm and my head is swimming. Actually it'd be nice if I had the old 6am post-party clarity but -- not a chance after a day in Jodhpur's boring-hot sun.

After a frustrating morning of half-meetings--half-understood, since the social worker I was trying to interview only pretends to speak English, and half-finished, since we were interrupted--I headed out to the fields, which are surprisingly green after a decent monsoon. After dodging herds of goats, and their red-turbaned shepherds (will post photo shortly), we arrived in Binewas, a village of about 4000. The pink saree-clad promoter, or project rep, jumped into the car and we trucked out over a bumpy path-road to an enclave of Malis, a farming tribe. Technically it was a one-family home but this family numbers 60. There are 21 grandkids living here, and in fact, the scattering of stone buildings surrounded by cows and bed frames was overrun with children. Three were naked and had lazy eyes. As we sat and chatted (well, I just sat) with their parents, the children, one by one, found articles of clothing. One would hoist a long shirt over his shoulder, like he didn't know what to do with it, until his mother put it on him after an hour or so (at the end of our two hour stint there the kids had an outfit on between four of them). A gangly gang of pre-teens turned up later in dusty blue government school uniforms. The nurse, Vimlesh, a bright, quick-moving 29 year old with an 8 year old at home, examined pregnant woman--in this family there are currently five, all about to pop--while a cow gave birth outside. Then the social worker gave a lecture on family planning: "Small family, happy family!" is the typical theme. The woman sat on the floor under their pink and orange scarves in front of the patriarch, a yellow-tooth man perched on a bed frame under a large tree. For a while the social worker bantered on uninterrupted and then the old guy started chiming in, gesturing, yelling at times, then randomly laughing. I understood about three words intersperced in the seemingly-heated debate, like "char" (four) "bacha" (baby) and "acha" (good). The nurses began chiming in, yelling back, while the women bobbeled their heads on the ground (this could mean "absolutely yes" or "absolutely no" depending on the bobble-style, so I have no idea). Just as I was about to conclude, in my notes, that this family will continue to abstain from birth control, the social worker looked at me and concluded, "he is very much in favor of small families".

After a stop in one more village we drove back and had more meetings, with lots of finger pointing and yet more chai (was that the fifth cup?). Now I want to read my a novel and zone out but we have a dinner meeting.


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