Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Days of sunny persuasion

India was a rough time. I'm starting to feel more fulfilled by the it now, long after the experience itself (just as all my wise friends told me I would).

I was so ambitious, and whilst it didn't always (or ever) seem like I was accomplishing or learning anything, I suppose I did. It was just a bit of cultural chafing. In the West, NGOs are purposed, lean, struggling. In India, sometimes they're just family businesses, something to spend your working hours doing, somebody to employ your important uncle's cousin's cousin. I got some good experiences, some decent learnings.

Now, even the long, painful train ride seems nostalgically pleasant in memory.

I still remember wide open endless empty beaches, at least two difference places where the sky was filled with eagles, homegrown appropriate technology foundation, gorgeous cloudswept mountains, complex (but not particularly exciting) costumed music and dance, and of course, Auroville's nigh-utopian Solitude Farm and its rockstar crew of farmers-by-day, Indo-pop-jazz-musicians by night.

Add this to the list of days that could be perfect:

I wake up with the sun here

and take in the view of the farm and its surroundings from the rickety, 30 metre(?) windmill. It's mostly grassy plains and clumps of trees, and I can spot four other windmills, each painted with distinctive colours. I eat a modest breakfast including bread, PB and herbal tea, sitting with some really neat people on a stone floor in a circle. I pick papayas with Lowell, we take turns prodding them off trees with a long stick and catching them as they fall. We sneak a couple of small, ripe ones.
We work in the fields, planting and thinning corn, running water through channels, building compost piles. It's hot, sweaty work. I take a quick shower with my clothes on half way through. Lunch is millet and lentil cakes swimming in curry. They are beyond words amazing, my mouth is watering just thinking about precisely that meal.
Lowell and I walk about the farm and talk in the afternoon. We hang out in his small blacksmith hut. Soon, he has to he has to get ready for The Show. I cook a simple dinner with some of the other people, of red rice, tomato-onion sauce and watery lentils (like they seem to enjoy here) and we head over to a Indo-pop-jazz concert to end all Indo-pop-jazz concerts. The afterparty is at Solitude and there is amazing food, and singing to ukelele and guitar. We croon out such great hits as "Freight Train", "Rivers of Babylon" and "Lovely Rita" late into the night.

The best part of this, is that it's true life.

That summer reminded me a couple of times how amazingly lucky I am in the places I chance upon and people I meet. Weeks later, I met just the most incredible couple on a train up to Thailand from Singapore. They taught at a school in Chiang Mai, and had adopted two Sri Lankan orphans. I won't write it here, but I also got the most amazing how-my-dad-wed-my-mum story out of M. If you ask me to, I'll gladly tell it.