Stranger in a Strange Land
Tales of a Year Abroad

Yes but did you...?

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Recently (a couple weeks ago) I was sick--like fever and bad bowels sick. This illness passed in a couple of days, but as it ran its course it forced me (and Steve) to miss a "play-date" with Karsenbhai (the librarian at the LD, where Steve is studying). This play-date was a rescheduling of a previous play-date in which Karsenbhai's wife was going to teach us how to make gajar halwa (a delightful dessert made out of carrots). Needless to say, Steve had to explain to Karsenbhai why we weren't able to come, a conversation that involved (from what I understand) an detailed conversation about the state of my bowels. 

Today, I revisited the LD for the first time since this illness and ran into Karesonbhai. The conversation went thus:

Me: Namaste Karsenbhai, have you seen Steve?
Karsenbhai: You did not feel well. Did you have the diarrhea?
Me: I had a fever and an upset stomach. I'm fine now.

Karsenbhai: Yes, but did you have the diarrhea?
Me: Oh, well, I didn't feel well for a few days, but I'm better now.
Karsenbhai: (a little more insistently) Did you have the diarrhea?
Me: (sighing, because I desperately hate discussing "these kinds of things" with friends and family let alone the crazytastic librarian at the LD) Yes, Karsenbhai, I had the diarrhea, but I'm better now. Do you know where Steve is?
Karsenbhai: Accha (good). It must have been the heat.

At which point, Karsenbhai turned back to the books he was preparing to shelve and summarily dismissed me. Now, normally I would chalk this type of conversation to Indian curiosity. And I've had this conversation before; however, earlier conversations of this type are more... discreet. There's usually a miming motion (an air rubbing of the tummy) and more colorful phrasing such as "loose bowels" or "soft stomach." Nobody outright names the ailment--it is, literally and figuratively, a dirty word.

However, Karsenbhai is crazy. As in bat poop crazy. The  man laughs at nothing in particular, and frequently. He makes jokes that even Indians don't find funny. He asks incredibly personal questions and, in turn, imparts incredibly personal information regarding him or his wife (the first time we were asked to his house to learn how to make gajar halwa, he canceled because it was his wife's "lady time"--which I know because he felt free to not only tell us this, but to explain why, during the "lady time," she could not be in the kitchen). I suspect this is because he inhabits the basement of the LD (where the library is located) and inhales moth-ball fumes with such frequency that it has affected his mental state.

That being said, his intense interest in the consistency of the matter expelled from my body has nothing to do with rudeness, lewdness, or crudeness. Rather, its how one bat poop crazy librarian shows his concern for a friend. Which, when you look at it like that (and I choose to look at it like that), its kinda sweet.

HA! OMG that so reminds me of some of the mothers of my friends (who obviously were of Indian descent) that i grew up with. Shaminda, do you need to poo? WHAT? Wait everyone, Shaminda needs to poo (actually i don't think it was Shaminda's mom who said that on our band trip now that i think about it... perhaps it was Pooja's? Meh, either way HILARIOUS. And horribly embarrassing for the kid in question.

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The land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty, of splendour and rags, of palaces and hovels, of famine and pestilence, of genii and giants and Alladin lamps, of tigers and elephants, the cobra and the jungle, the country of hundred nations and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million gods, cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great-grandmother of traditions, whose yesterday's bear date with the modering antiquities for the rest of nations-the one sole country under the sun that is endowed with an imperishable interest for alien prince and alien peasant, for lettered and ignorant, wise and fool, rich and poor, bond and free, the one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the world combined.
- Mark Twain

In India, I found a race of mortals living upon the Earth, but not adhering to it, inhabiting cities, but not being fixed to them, possessing everything, but possessed by nothing.
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If there is one place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India.
-Romain Rolland