Monday, December 10, 2012

A couple of random thoughts on death... and recycling...

First, death. Although it is a depressing topic, I thought I would talk about the culture of death here. For some reason, several people from the center have been experiencing family deaths recently.

Whenever a death occurs, people always return to their remote villages. As an example, an intern in the child life department recently lost her mother. Her village is in northern India and is quite cold this time of year. When a family member dies in this village, the family must wear the same clothes for two weeks. This means that she must bathe in them and cannot dry them. I am constantly thinking of her because she is so skinny and she is wearing wet clothes in the cold.  

My roommate's friend's father died also. My roomate's friend is the oldest son, so as a result, he and his mom had to sleep and cook and eat in the same room for two weeks. He could not leave the house at all and could only eat fruit, milk, eggs, curd and a select group of vegetables. For the next couple of months, he cannot drink alcohol or hang out with friends late into the night. 

The traditions here go on and on and each village reacts differently to a death. India loves to celebrate. Death is a celebration of a person, honoring them using rituals that date far back in history.

On another note, this past weekend we visited the slum on Sundays as always. While we were driving to the slum, I saw three girls from the slum picking up trash along the road. As we were unloading, I went to find them so that they knew the food had arrived. They immediately stopped picking up trash, hoisted their bags on their backs, and happily walked with me to eat a delicious meal. When they went to set their bags down before eating, I walked with them to see exactly where they store the materials they collect. Of course, they were keeping the trash in their homes. And on the way to their homes I saw the community material drop off, which is where they ultimately take their trash for money.


I immediately e-mailed one of my environmental friends to say that while India has no formal recycling program, the Lakhtokia slum sure knows how to reuse. They will sell the bottles pictured below so that people can reuse them for water bottles. 

One of the girls who comes to the Sunday meals really wanted Kristin and me to come to her home. She lives on the train tracks but in a house, which is one room, above her dad's chai tea stand. Including Sima, her two parents, and two siblings, they live and cook and eat in this one room, which is the size of a closet. While I was there, I saw three rats and numerous cockroaches. Despite all of this, I think she will be Prime Minister of India one day. She loves to go to school and loves to show off her English. She is working so hard at English and it is so fun letting her practice. 

Sima... the future Prime Minister of India. 

Sima and her mom! 

A bed for all five of the family. 
I realized that she is one of the lucky ones. Yes, their house is not much, but compared to her friends who live right outside with nothing above their heads, it is a lot. You can tell she is so thankful and that she knows that her dad works so hard to support her family. 

Sending smiles from India,

A yummy Sunday meal. 
Passing out the chicken, which was also added to the menu. 
When passing out the chocolate, you gotta hide it behind your back. 
Chocolate was added to the menu this past Sunday! 

Yummy yummy chocolate. 
So happy about the chocolate! 
Wearing their new shoes that we gave them!  


  1. Hannah, This post is very special. I am so happy that you can see beyond their poverty and witness the real joy in the lives of the poor. And that you will visit their homes (despite the roaches and rats) and still hug them and see what they are proud of. I am sharing these letters with some young people and we all look forward to each entry. Please keep writing. And keep your beautiful open heart. Ellen McPherson

  2. i, too, appreciate the love you show in telling their stories.. thank you thank you.

  3. dear hannah. I have loved keeping up with you. You are a wonderful writer. Would you send me an address for the ngo for the weekend food program? I want a donation to be my Christmas present from scott and the children. So I need to know how to send money that goes for more chicken and chocolate! much love to you and we can't wait to see you in nashville for holiday--cary

    ps. please bring your blue sari home so I can see you in person in it.