Well, not much, as I’m mostly teaching the kids all day long. But after that first day at India Gate and the Gandhi Museum, I did get out to an International Puppet Festival, a Jazz India show and tonight am going to a classical Indian music concert. Talking to various Indian teachers at this International School— and wonderfully so, there are many—I’ve gotten little snapshots into some of the current culture, from the trivial to the serious.
For example, apparently it’s bad luck to get your hair cut on Tuesday. I needed one on Monday, but decided not to push my luck the next day.
The air quality here is a constant factor, but it’s not the Beijing factory pollution, but one that comes from burning crops in the outskirts. From the little I understand, the practice of crop-burning is trying to compensate for not having tractors to plow the land. I could be wrong here, but if that’s so, seems like it could be a fixable problem.
And then a sadder story about someone’s sister going into labor and arriving at the hospital. Apparently, the hospitals here have a deal that they won’t see you unless someone gives blood first. So the pregnant woman’s sister offered hers. But there was a catch—they only take male blood. Huh? Is there really a difference? Is this up there with Chinese foot-binding and European/American witch-burning as one of the more outrageous and extreme examples of cultural misogyny? Since the woman in labor only had sisters, the father of the child was not on the scene and her own father was in ill health, things were looking desperate. It took a male faculty member from the school rushing over to make sure the woman could be cared for. Whatever admiration I have for Indian culture—and I do admire a lot—this is simply unacceptable. Women of the world, I am so sorry for the ongoing ignorance and assault by my gender group. It is simply shameful.
Back to a lighter note. A sign next to where I’m staying announced “Awards for Blind Cricket Players.” With no disrespect intended to the blind, I can only wonder, “Huh?! How exactly does that work?”
So tomorrow it’s back to the artificial big city of Shanghai, another school and another PD workshop for teachers. another 8-day black-out from Facebook and blogs. Here in India, it hasn't exactly been a cultural immersion in this land of cultural complexity and contradiction, but a nice reminder of its gifts and a hunger for more. Particularly interested again in studying a bit more Indian music, but also realistically knowing that such a highly developed art form does not lend itself easily to “a little bit of study.” Maybe I’ll just be content with the lovely song one of the Indian teachers sang for me and let me record.