Wednesday, June 23, 2010

India: Milestones, ambulances, and strolling through Monda Market

(Actually typed on Tuesday June 22, 2010)

Today marks a special day in Ivy's Adventures in India. Today, Ivy arranged for a rickshaw ride without any of the Totally Experienced Teammembers. Yes, indeed. Coming back from a productive research hour at an internet cafe, Ka. and I had to find our own way home. I 1) led the way across a usually very busy street that, miraculously, didn't seem nearly as scary as usual 2) hailed an auto rickshaw driver and said "No" when he wanted 40 rupees 3) asked a second auto driver if he would take 30 rupees instead of 40 to take us to "West Marredpally" and 4) was able to direct the driver to the right street when he took a route I'm less accustomed to. It was so satisfying.

I also finalized the dates when I want to have certain tasks done for my projects. That felt good. I feel like I will be able to finish what I need to in the five weeks I have left here. I feel more confident.

I went with K. to Charminar so that we could buy fabric. The store we entered was at least four stories tall. Fabrics of all colors and textures. I'm amazed how all the tailors here use pedal-powered sewing machines. it is incredible to watch them, and how fast they sew. I wish I could bring one home for my sister.

On the way there, I gained a new appreciation for how respectful and responsive American drivers are of ambulances. The roads here are chaotic, with all drivers jostling for the most forward position. An ambulance, which was not much larger than one and a half rickshaws, had its siren wailing but the others drivers didn't make a path for it. Most seemed to completely ignore it. Our rickshaw would have gone faster than the ambulance if our driver hadn't hung back, even trying to keep a few people from getting in the way of the ambulance. In the ambulance was the parents and grandmother of a young man laying on his back with an oxygen mask. He was breathing heavily. The faces of the family were tight and the father was agitated. We traveled with the ambulance for about four saddening minutes. I hope the man makes it.

Our auto driver on the way back from Charminar was a balding man without many teeth. He sang to himself and gave us many toothless grins. He called out to other drivers near us on the road, "Americans are in my auto!"

We stopped by Monda Market on the way home and met Sister A. She cooks weeknight dinners for us, and we picked up enough produce for lots of vegetable curries this week.

I loved being able to enjoy the market. Imagine mounds of spices in large bowls. Cinnamon bark that is two inches wide. Chocolate brown Star anise, green cardamom pods, vanilla beans, whole cloves, fennel and anise seed, covered jars of cashews and almonds and golden raisins. And flies buzzing. How can flies stand to land right on cloves?

An old woman with gray hair saw me taking a picture and gestured for me to take one of her. I did and showed her, and she smiled. Then she touched her right fingers to her forhead with a kiss, brought it down, turned around, and walked away.

There was a women who, kneeling on one knee, charred shucked cobbs of corn and placed them on a mat in front of her. She fanned the cobbs using a square of woven reeds.

One man had a cart of green/yellow mangoes. He had a long white beard, dark eyes, a red bindi on his forhead, and kept calling out "Eli Eli Eli Eli Eli" loud and quickly. An old woman sat by him on a stool with her head down. Many women bought from him.

We bought a lot of veggies from a woman sitting on a tarp with piles of purple eggplant, okra, beans, potatoes, and green peppers surrounding her. She had coins laying next to her and kept bills in a large purse made out of blue tarp with fraying edges. There were still many buzzing flies. (This is why we soak all produce in bleach water). While Sister A. was discussing amounts and prices, an old lady set a large basket down on the ground near us and resolutely began putting our bags of veggies in it. Sister A. argued with her and then asked K. if it was alright if we paid the woman to carry our purchases, about 10 rps. I'm glad K. agreed. The woman followed K. and Sister A. and carried the basket on her head. By the time we finished shopping, it was very heavy.

But I'm not finished with the market.

There were guava, ripe green eggplant, fresh ginger root, piles of greens wrapped in bundles, including palaak (spinach), cilantro, fennel, mint (I almost bought some), and something that looked like a weed. We walked under blue and yellow tarps hung for shade. Some people would stare until I caught their eye and then they would look away. I like when people smile back at me.

A young boy with white teeth caught my eye and smiled when I smiled at him. He carried a gunny sack that looked emptly. He followed us for a while, never asking for anything, and at some point disappeared.

We walked through a dark narrow alley which emptied into a much quieter section of market. I found out why 20 seconds later when one of the most foul, putrid smells I've breathed so far here hit my poor neuron receptors. Dead fish. Headless. Rotting. Laying on short tables in front of hairy men with large bellies and loose shirts. Many more flies. I didn't look too closely. I was trying not to throw up.

Then the funnest part of my day took my mind off the smell.

We were in front of the coolest market stand I've ever seen. Filled to overflowing with cooking tools. Slightly curved steel pans, marble mortars with pestles, a utensil that looked like it could have been a hair curler, wooden smashers (Sister A bought one, "It will make the food taste better."), knives with green rock handles (not malachite), sieves, wooden cutting boards, things I didn't have a clue what they were for...I was in heaven. Maybe it's a good thing planes have limits on how much luggage you can carry. Then I realized THE WHOLE ROW OF STANDS WAS LIKE THIS ONE. I could have stayed for hours, but we walked right through. One man, sitting on a stool in front of his stall, saw how wide my eyes and smile were and called out "How do you like our market?"

"It's Beautiful!!!"

He was pleased. :)

As we left, I heard a voice call out "Hello!", turned around, and saw another young boy leaning out, grinning, wave to me. I smiled, waved, and called back. He was a highlight of my day. :)


  1. So - shall we expect to see a crate or two show up in a couple of months--shipped home by slow-boat-- full of all the things you just couldn't resist in the market? :)

    I hope you will be content with just lots of pictures!

  2. Ivy, I loved this post! I could just see your excitement the entire time I was reading this! :D I love you!!

  3. Love your descriptions, I can see everything, lucky for me I can't smell the smells! I am enjoying getting to know you better! You are amazing. I don't know the the focus of your project yet!

  4. It sounds like the perfect place for you! :) it sounds beautiful to me too!

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