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The W.J. Clinton Fellowship for Service in India Blog: Sixteen ten on my mind

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sixteen ten on my mind

Today had been an unremarkably routine day. Nothing to write home about, as they say. Unremarkably routine day. One down. Sixteen to go. Only ten at Rishi Valley. Frightening calculations for a girl who has grown so fond of the place she’s learned to call home. The Subcontinent. Incredible India. My own Rishi Valley.

The day had started as most days in Rishi Valley do, with waking up to a screaming Bollywood alarm melody, to close the doors for a hope of privacy. A few hours later, I rubbed my eyes out of bed awoken by the intrusion into privacy, the maid in the window singing a long “Helloooooooo”, intruding into the hideously messy cocoon of my life, fit under and on top of two twin bed cots put together with thin mattresses on top.

Some time after the usual morning routine of brushing teeth and inserting contacts, walking to lunch to the hum of my iPod being overrun with outside sounds: cicadas buzzing, various birds singing various songs, tractors plowing down the road, rickshaws blaring more Bollywood tunes. Rice and dhal consumed, kofta gathered into the folds of warm soft chappati pieces placed gingerly in the mouth. A friend once told me that Bengalis have a saying, “Eating with a fork is like making love through an interpreter.” Makes perfect sense. I dread the cutlery waiting for me back home – shiny spoons and sharpened forks, the interpreters of my love for the Subcontinent. Incredible India. My own Rishi Valley.

Post lunch, heading to the office for browsing the internet, connecting with the outside world. Learning about new status updates, request of technological friendships, news of engagements and breakups, reading articles about sadness drenching our world with old wars, new conflicts, neglect, and somewhere maybe even hope. If only the world was drenched with more rain. I hope the sky turns grey. If only over the Subcontinent. Incredible India. If only the rains would come just to my own Rishi Valley.

The afternoon heat is sticky. Physically disturbing. The cool comes after five, close to six, close to dinner-time. But my room remains hot, everything, each piece of the mess under and on the cots and even the cots themselves, warm and unpleasant to the touch. It used to cool off by the time dinner was over, by the time I had finished licking the rice and sambar off of my fingers and walked in the cooler air down the road in the dark by the faint light of my cell phone, familiar sounds mixing: the tunes from the iPod, the birds still chirping, the relentless cicadas, the honking of rare motorcycles going by. But now, it does not cool off until midnight, technically the next day, ruining the post-dinner plans of comfort and productivity. I lay uncomfortably on the warmth of the sheets, swallow pain-killers for the dehydration headache, sip water mixed with Glucon D, try to read, think if I can afford a cold shower during this drought. Mostly, I am filling my head with thoughts not revolving around the numbers sixteen or ten. One month left to shudder and distract myself.

When relief flows with the wind from the screened windows, it is not immediately noticed. The air cools gradually, like water boils gradually, first becoming lukewarm, then warm, then hot, only finally bubbling. The desire to sleep floats out the window with the hot air. The cool air allows the head to think clearly, to be productive, to be comfortable, to be creative, to be alive. Fully. Even though it is technically the next day, it is time to savor the one just lived, even if unremarkably routine. After all, it is this unremarkable routine that I will miss the most. The annoying Bollywood melody. The screaming cicadas. The green of the palm trees waving as I walk by them on my way to my forced vegetarian diet. A familiar “Helloooooooo” in the window. My whole life fitting under and on top of the two twin bed cots put together with thin mattresses on top. The heat sneaking out of my room when relief quietly spills in. The Subcontinent. Incredible India. My own Rishi Valley.

Posted by Tatiana Rostovtsev


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