Thursday, October 25, 2007

Round trip

Oct 23, 2007

It feels strange to be back. Last year when I went to say my bye byes, The Doc asked me rather bluntly, “You are not going to be back, right?”. I said “No” and believed I was not lying. But here I am, back in the non-ball-scratching belt…exactly one year later. I realize that a lot has changed and the first day is not yet over.

The auto rickshaw man is not sure where ben’s clinic is. I try all the tricks that worked last year “The ‘ben (sister)’ who is on TV” to “the ben who runs the clinic for mothers”. Has her popularity dropped or is it just this driver? The clinic is not packed either. The exterior is still the same – the rubbish heap, the dogs and cows, the sign at the entrance announcing that the clinic does not conduct sex –determining tests and the bigger, flashier (Doc’s) Honda Accord parked outside. The Doc is surprisingly welcoming and waves out a “Hi” through her pink sleeveless dontexactlyknowwhatitwas. The last I remember she was in a rather flashy sari and a big 5 kg gold Sri Krishna (Hindu God) pendant and this new western avatar is intriguing. I wonder if it has anything to do with the Oprah show she is supposedly going to be a part of. We exchange some “Western” pleasantries, setting us apart from the Gujarati speaking nurses and staff and then I am led up to the second floor. The first floor which used to be a hostel for the surrogates has been converted into a high-tech Operation theatre.

The room is lined with 5 beds one next to the other with barely enough space to walk in between. There is nothing else in the room. The earlier single occupancy rooms have been replaced by this dorm-style arrangement. Each of the bed has a pregnant woman resting on it. All of them look up at me curiously. The first bed is occupied by a visibly aging woman. The wrinkles on her face and hands and her red-henna hair make her appear to be more than her claimed age, 42. She is visibly pregnant and tells me it’s her 9th month. Her “party” (the hiring couple), she claims is from America. From my last trip I’ve learnt to take this piece of information with a pinch of salt. According to the surrogates almost everyone is from “America” and is not a Gujarati although very often the records indicate that they are Patels (bonafide Gujaratis) from all parts of the world – often very very far from America (One “non Gujarati, American” party turned out to be a non resident Gujarati from South Africa, for example). *interview details for later.

The new development – or at least new piece of information I get is about the booming business middle women have carved out for themselves in this area. It seems there is a woman who literally goes knocking form one door to the next to convince women to become surrogates. But that’s for the more formal field report. This is meant to be less academic and more ramble. I feel a little disturbed that the surrogates are given such little space and absolutely no privacy. But then as I watch their camaraderie I am less sure of my perspective. Are they perhaps better off lying next to each other, chatting and laughing their bizarre pregnancy away?

The first two interviews last longer that I expected and I am almost at the end of my first recording cassette. As usual I planned badly and didn’t get the whole lot in my backpack. So I resort to a lunch break – all the women demand gota (fried dough with spices) and I run down to get them a pack each while I munch on the more evil looking but less evil tasting dhoka-chaat (baked dough of some kind with raisins and some sweet greenish chutney). While we sip our tea and eat the snacks, an ex-nurse trudges in, very pregnant and tired. I remember her from my last visit but she is playing a totally different role in the play now. After convincing 20 women to be surrogates at the clinic she got convinced herself and decided to take the plunge. The tea-wallah (a young boy) steps in for the payment and mild flirtations start from each bed. I wonder what the boy thinks of these pregnant women all lined up on iron cots, lying around all day with nothing to do except talk to him and each other for entertainment. Maybe I’ll catch hold of him next time he brings me the tea.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Nostagia Part IXIII

(A points out, almost possessively, that my last few posts have been all sentimental nostalgia posts. Is the past that great that you want a portkey (I guess he is complaining becasue he is missng-in-action fro the past!). Well, maybe I should start with a disclaimer. Just because I miss the past, doesn't mean I am not looking forward to the future! )

Do you sometimes have such urgent and violent spasms of nostalgia that you feel almost overwhelmed and choked up? Maybe its something about returning home.. to Delhi.. in the winters. All the sights, the fog in the morning, the dew-y back gardens, the tiny oranges on our tree, the 4 am chirps of birds..all these sights ans smells trigger off different memories. Maybe its something to do with impending "life changes" (my aunts keep threatening that drastic changes are going to take place BEWARE!).. or maybe it's just the jet lag!

My answer to the first week of jet lagled early morning wake up calls is to start jogging.. at 5 am. So as I step out and face the still moon-lit skies, and prepare to run. The two twin brown dogs raise their eyebrows at me dismissively. The chowkidar eyes me suspiciously. And then the smell of the shiuli phul (white fragrant flowers) hits me and takes me back to the winter dawns in 1994. 13 years ago when Didu (my maternal grandmom) stayed with us in delhi. Weekend morning ritual for us (me and her) was to walk down to the trees lining our back entrance and pick up all the shiuli flowers off the trees and from the ground. Didu would finish her poojo (her own non-religious version of it involved singing some melancholy Rabindro sangeet) and put those flowers in a bowl with some water.

On a totally different terrain, a couple of years later. A totally different set of sights and sounds. I am peering down the steep cliffside monastery somewhere near Spiti valley. A truck goes rolling in the dust thousands of feet below me. The day ends with the sun setting behind the snow-covered rocky mountains. We sit with our arrack in broken cups stolen from the only guest house amidst purple and yellow flowers in the pea meadows and watch the sky change colors. P sulks about something or the other I had said to him and G tries to end the fight with a bouquet of flowers.

The back stairs of Players auditorium on a crisp sunny winter afternoon. All the actors and directors are trying hard to be creative. But all we end up doing is smoking, eating the oily chhola bhatura and drink endless cups of teas. The masks we made for Gum and Goo are sitting pretty (actually ugly). We are dying to try them on but they aren't dry yet. Mojo is standing red-eyed in a corner trying to get into character. Sidey sits in another corner, trying out his baseball cap which will transform him into a little boy. I am sure I will forget all my lines. I am hoping Mojo takes off just his shorts and not everything else underneath this time when he changes in front of the audience. Or maybe I am hoping ....!

The queer cry-ee happy feeling on the first day of a new crush. Ahhh.. haven't that for a while!

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