Sunday, March 31, 2013

Monday, March 18, 2013

Kerala: Pour Bath

Monsoon is supposed to arrive in Kerala in June. The sky is rent apart and the rains pound down on the parched earth that has been crying with increasing urgency for relief.

Last June, there was no rain. None.

As a result, this year, old city water pipes are bursting, causing what little water there is to be wasted on the streets; wells are at all-time low levels and water pump motors are being destroyed by overuse. 

Thus when you are a guest in someone's house in Kerala you're very conscious of wasting water and power. You drink ALL the water in your glass ... turn off lights, fans, air conditioning ... open the doors in the early morning to let in the cooler air and keep them tightly shut for the long afternoon's stultifying heat.

So when it's time to have a bath, you try to do what you can to keep water consumption down to a bare minimum. Dad had told us over the years how he used to do it when he travelled the dusty, dry Kerala villages in the summers. Perhaps he would have a straw mat as a shower curtain around him; perhaps there would be an old sari; perhaps there would just be giggling children! Here's how we did it in complete comfort. They're called pour baths ...

Two taps fill up the water bucket - hot is from the geyser

Gather your stuff, including the pouring dubba ...
Wet your hair by holding your head over the pail and
pouring water over it with the dubba. Shampoo.
You won't have to rinse and repeat.

Scoop a little water in the dubba so that all the water
in the bucket doesn't get soapy when you're scrubbing!
You might have to add a little more water
to the bucket if you're running low as you rinse off ...
Rinse shampoo out of hair directly onto the floor
with a couple of dubbas of water. Apply conditioner.
Head massage time!
Rinse the conditioner out of your hair
for two minutes under the cold water tap

When you're finished, squeegee the floor
so that the next person has a dry surface!

I could have a wonderful, refreshing bath with 1 to 1 1/2 pails of water plus a couple of minutes under the cold water tap.

And what a water conservation plan!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Kerala: Waiting for Tomorrow ...

This evening we sorted backpacks into girls' and boys' piles. We filled pencil cases with all kinds of goodies; the rulers will be given separately ...

Jonathan, Jabez and BA
getting everything organized
Because tomorrow's the day! Jabez and Jonathan, GS Nair's grandchildren, worked cheerfully and tirelessly this evening to get everything ready (BA patiently kept them on track!). Tomorrow they will come with us to the Tsunami Children's Home and be our distributors. Their mother and father, Debbie and Johnson, are actively involved in this work; it will be wonderful to see their children get their feet wet!

The beautiful Debbie-Mummy
(as opposed to Debbie-Chechi,
our own Deb!) tranquilly
watches the proceedings

Dad is doing well - he always does well in Kerala! - and is planning on joining us, God willing.

All of us out here can hardly wait! 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Day 6 - Hour of Flowers

In preparation for Dad's 54th anniversary luncheon, we ordered some old family favourites from the same places Mum used to buy them when we were children and she was splurging to treat us. So the cake and the mutton samosas came from Fatima's Bakery, of course - the grandson of the man Mum knew is running the operation these days! - and the curry puffs and bread for sandwiches came from Koshy's, the little bakery at the other end of Wellington Street. 

The bakery

I picked up the bread the evening prior to the event, and I was to pick up the dinner rolls and curry puffs at 11 o'clock the next morning. When I went to pay him for the bread, the proprietor told me I could wait until the next day and pay for everything at the same time. 

"You would trust me?" I asked quizzically.

"Of course," he responded immediately. "I knew your Mother ..."

It was all well and good to get the food locally; but for the flowers, Raj said, we had to go to City Market. And he would pick us up at 5:30 a.m. in order to be there when the vendors were just unpacking their wares. "Oh Raj, please, not so early!" I begged.

"OK, 6, but sharp!" he conceded.

And so at 6 sharp the three sisters piled into the vehicle and off we went through the just-stirring Bangalore morning streets. 

We didn't saunter or explore like we had done a couple of years earlier - our time lines for this day were extremely tight - but here is a glimpse of what we saw as we bustled through the streets in search of red roses, white glads and of course the tuberoses. We also picked up vegetables for the veggie tray and sandwiches - fresh, no chemicals, with flavours so sweet and succulent that a person could contemplate moving to India just for the produce! No wonder food always tastes better out here ...

After having visited India, most people mention the smells. I wish - how I wish! - that they could walk with us through this bower of beauty available for anyone who wants to venture out at the loveliest time of the day. The air is clean and perfumed with the promise of joy. Even the people bargaining for their purchases are congenial. The flowers are working their magic ... 

Like the clock striking midnight in fairy tales of yore, the streets and alleys and nooks and crannies in the market that are now filled with colour and an ephemeral patina of grace will very soon be charged with the pulsing energy of the daytime reality: street vendors hawking their wares; butchers with full carcasses hanging from enormous rusty hooks outshouting their neighbouring stall occupants; haggling housewives and pushy touchy men; spitting and yelling and laughter and jostling for and into position.

But for now we have these moment of sweet belief that the world can be like Eden once again, that fairy tales can come true ...

The dried fruits and exotic spices vendor

BA checking out the various grades of saffron

Our own Eliza Doolittle, heading off
for a day of selling flowers ...

A short cut from the fruits to the vegetables

Technology is everywhere!

A regular visitor to the flower market

Close enough to a white steed.
don't you think?!

Trying to calculate how much mint we will need
for the pudina chutney Dad suddenly requested

Loaded up for the day

Our favourite fruit stand

"Peel me a grape" seems so passe when
"Peel me a chikoo" in the shape of an exotic
flower is happening before our eyes ...
Day-old flowers


As in any good fairy tale, there has to be a handsome prince. This one heard Deb's earlier murmured comment that she could do with some chai. He got us back to our vehicle, instructed us to "Stay here!" and in a very few moments was on his way back ...

It's midnight, Cinderella -
time to start up the chariot and rush home
to the kitchen ...

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Day 5 - Faithful is He That Called You ...

Before we came back home to Bangalore I had mused to myself, Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could have a small reception to honour Dad for the 54th anniversary of his joining Berean? We could have the faculty and staff to lunch ...

Sarah and Mera, wives to my brothers Ed and Joh, graciously switched their menu plans up and encouraged me to go for it. "Maybe you could make small invitation cards?" Mera suggested.

When I conceived this plan, it was my intention to sneak out of the conference morning sessions in order to work on the party.

It turned out that I played the piano for every service; the heavy lifting went by default to Deborah, BA and Raj, with able assists from Aren, Mera and all the Ladybugs.

We left the college campus at 6 a.m. on the 5th, chasing across the city to the flower market for one brief hour of unparalleled beauty. Deb knew what we needed: Dad used to buy Mum flowers almost every weekend - roses, glads, tuberoses with their stocky stalks upon which balance delicate flowers that emit indescribably heady perfume not quite jasmine or queen of the night but a flower whose scent weaves tendrils into your subconscious and wraps itself delicately around your heart. And while tuberoses pervade your heart, your capacity for whimsical beauty grows exponentially.

Tuberoses had pervaded Mum's heart, and Mum had pervaded Dad's heart; Mum got her tuberoses almost every Saturday when they lived in India! She would arrange great vases for Church on Sunday with whatever flowers he brought her; and then on Sunday night, when the last person had left the auditorium, she would take the blooms back up to our home and the perfume would reside there through the week, a silent bene dictum to the beauty God provides in even the most trying circumstance.

More pictures from the market another day -
but Raj started our day by bringing us tea
from a chai wallah as we prepared to go home
after a whirlwind hour with flowers.
The story of the happy time we all had that afternoon together is best told in pictures. But as we crowded into the little lobby that had been promoted to an atrium for the day, the presence of God was in the place and the faithfulness of God, to Dad and to all of us, was attested to in word and in deed.

Gathering up vases for the flowers

"I did it how Mum taught me,"
she said when complimented
on her arrangements

Mountains of egg salad sandwiches!

Aren, Raj's wife and true partner,
getting it all arranged on the tables

Becca helping Auntie Deb
pour fruit punch

Faithess (combination of Faith and Princess!)
 volunteering to serve

Ready to start!
My brother Ed opened the afternoon with a
prayer for God's blessing

Jeremiah, a student of both Mum and Dad and
now the Academic Dean, gave tribute to the
ways Dad was and remains faithful
to his call

I said a few words on behalf of the family

We sang one of Dad's favourite
choruses,  'Faithful One,'
then Rev McIlveen thanked God for
Dad, for the time we were sharing,
for the food we were about to enjoy 

Ladies first ...

(Who says that can't be done in India?!)

Jello in orange, white, green -
the colours of the Indian flag ...
The cake - from Fatima Bakery, of course!

Another giant of a man, faithful
in the little things as well as
the large. Thank you, Derek.

"Ladies who lunch" -
Mera, Beneth, Sarah

Dad and Dr Bob

With two of his men, who are now
teaching at the College - Babu and Jeremiah

BA has already done so much in looking
out for Dad on this trip ...

Thank you, Divakar, for getting a Conference
theme banner done for me, with the
changes I requested. A keepsake of this week.

Faithful One, so unchanging
Ageless One, You're my rock of peace
Lord of all, I depend on You
I cry out to You again and again.
You are my rock in time of trouble
You lift me up when I fall down
All through the storm Your love is the anchor -
My hope is in You alone.