Sunday, March 10, 2013

Mama Dobes and Papa Dobes hit India.

I am so happy to say that my parents came to visit me and see what my life is like in India. We spent four full days in Delhi, where we looked around both Old and New Delhi. Back last September, when Dad dropped me off, he and I spent a quick couple of days here. But this time around we had more time and a better sense of where to go in this nice, green, spacious city.

In addition to a rickshaw tour of Old Delhi, provided by our incredible tour guide Ritu whom we’d recommend to anyone, we visited two incredible sites that were both only a short walk from our hotel, The Claridges. Literally next door to The Claridges is the Brila House, where Gandhi lived the final days of his life and was assassinated. And a little further away are Teen Burti (Nehru’s home) and the home of Indira Gandhi. All are open to the public.

Poor men waiting for food in a Hindu temple.

Himayan's Tomb

My father had promised to play golf with me at the historic Delhi Golf Club, but received no reply when he emailed them prior to leaving the States to arrange a tee time. One morning he went for a jog, making a point to run by the course and see about a tee time. What did he find? Well, the Asian tour was playing an event there! So mom, dad and I went to the course and followed several threesomes around.

Before we knew it, our time was up in Delhi and we were on the plane to Guwahati. On the flight over, the pilot announced, “Outside the left of the plane you can see Mount Everest,” and no lie, there it was! Bright blue skies and the tallest mountain on the planet.

I was so excited to show my parents Guwahati, which Dad had already seen. I was a little nervous about what my mom would think but I knew she would learn to love this crazy place. Selfishly, I was looking forward to returning to my own bed after being away for two and a half weeks. I wanted to hug hug hug the Lakhtokia kids and see all of my friends at the Op Smile center.

The first day, I took my parents around the Operation Smile center and then we visited Lakhotkia because we had to take the kids to school. Unfortunately, the government had knocked down their houses again, which causes the slum to be more chaotic. Think about this: their tarp houses are the only structures they have in their lives. When these get knocked down, everything goes haywire.

While I was gone, a friend had been taking the kids to school (thank you so much Siri). We have the same five to six girls going to school every day. However, bumps in the road like the demolition of the houses make going to school really difficult. It is never easy. The day I took mom and dad there, three kids showed up. The next day, there was only one girl—her house did not get knocked down. (There is indeed politics in the slum.) Despite all of this, I was so happy to see the kids and be able to laugh and give them hugs.

School time

The barbed wire fence playground!

Off to school!
The school bus is moving. 
Don Bosce, which is where the afternoon program is held. Beautiful, huh? 

I also took my parents to Pinky’s house. Pinky is my close friend here and her family has been so welcoming and kind to me. She invited us over for a massive lunch. I prepared my family by saying there would be a lot of food and that they must eat as much as possible. When the food was served they realized what I was saying… lots of food. First, there was a big tray of sweets—dessert comes first. We all ate several desserts apiece. Then fried eggplant, fried peppers, chicken, fish, rice, boiled eggs, and so on and so on. We took big deep breaths and dug in.

Gone native!
Climbing the Great Wall of China to Pinky's home.
Lunch is served.
My parents loved taking photos of me eating with my hands. 

After eating, Pinky and her brothers took us to the top of the hill to show us the beautiful city of Guwahati. Pinky’s mother is a weaver, and she has a huge loom in front of their house. At one point, she draped ceremonial scarves that she had woven around mom and dad’s necks. She explained that they were gifts and it is their custom to present these to visitors. 

At the end of our visit, we drank sweet cups of home brewed chai, and then Pinky’s mom and her brothers escorted us back down to the busy road where we caught an auto rickshaw home. We had a blast meeting them and so appreciate their hospitality.

The master weaver. 

Family photo (minus Pinky's sister, Pinky's brother and me)

Beautiful Guwahati! 

Today is Sunday and in about an hour we are going to the slum to feed the kids. Tomorrow we fly to Darjeeling way up in the north of the country. Darjeeling is tea country and is located at the base of the Himalayas only a few kilometers from the border with Nepal.

I’m going to post this whenever I can. Since mom and dad and I have been in Guwahati, the power has been going off every couple of hours. Such is life here!

Sending smiles from India,

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