Sunday, July 4, 2010

India-Day 24

So, last week, after having my awesome experience with the villagers, I learned a little bit about what not to do in India. On Friday, we went to this huge spiritual sight in a city near Pune. This sight is the place where a Hindu monk back like a thousand years ago "left his body". Basically, I think that means he meditated until he died? I don't really know. But this man was really respected and there is a legend of him flying on some stone wall, similar to a magic carpet, I guess. Apparently he had faith to move that stone wall and so he did. Anyway, there is a gigantic spiritual town square. Outside, you leave your shoes. Then, you enter the gate. It was really hectic on the inside. Lines everywhere and people trying to lay themselves flat on their bellies everywhere. Really, it was quite the sight. So after going through this giant line, we went through a room where this monk's body was buried. We seriously only had like 5 seconds in there before we were being shoved out by guards and stuff. I felt bad, because there were people in there trying to pray and stuff, but as soon as they would kneel down, the guard would be pushing them along. It was crazy.
As we left, I got separated from the group. I didn't mind because it gave me time to look around and soak it all in. Suddenly, there was this little Indian girl right in front of me, trying to paint my forehead with the traditional Indian mark so she could make a few rupees. I tried to avoid it. I didn't want to get painted, but she was a persistent little girl. She literally stopped right in front of me. If I tried to move to the left, she would move with me. If I tried to move to the right, she would move with me. Before I knew it, she reached her arm up as high as she could and got me with her little brush. By then, I didn't mind. I allowed her to paint my head. As soon as she was finished, she held out her hand expecting payment. I looked through my wallet, but could find nothing smaller than a 100 rupee bill. Just so you get an idea of how much this is, I would be surprised if they make 100 rupees in 5 days of work. I was looking to pay her only about 5 rupees, but being that I didn't have anything else, I didn't mind giving her the 100 rupees. However, as soon as I took it out, her eyes got huge. I handed it to her and immediately, she ran over to her friends and told them what I can only imagine is "The tall white guy is rich!" The next hour was horrible. I finally met up with everyone, but I had two little kids attached at my hip. 3 of the guys had been to India before. They asked what I did, so I told them. They remarked how that was a bad idea, because now these kids will follow us everywhere. And they did. We walked all the way back to our car. Not only were they still following us, but they had increased in numbers. There were about 5 little kids following us asking for our money. I felt bad, because I wasn't going to give any more money out. It's not that I minded giving out money. They obviously could use it more than I do. However, the thought occurred to me that giving them money is not what they need. If I really wanted to help them, I needed to give them my time and energy. It was a stark contrast from the kids in the village. I didn't give them any money, but I spent time with them, shared laughs with them, and smiled with them. And I feel that I made more of an impact on their lives than if I had given them money. Realizing this, I allowed the kids to continue following us around. I tried to make them act more like kids, by challenging them to a game of tag. When I tried touch them and yell "TAG!" they had no idea what I was talking about. Trying to get them to understand, I tagged Tom and got him to play with me a little bit. Then, I proceeded to tagging them. And they played! For an instant, they forgot all about their job. They forgot all about poverty, money, and things that only adults should be thinking about. For one second, they were acting like 5 year-olds again. It was wonderful. We played tag for maybe only 30 seconds, and they were the best 30 seconds of that whole day. Watching them laugh and smile was awesome. Truly great. However, their reality dawned back upon them, and I think they realized that I wasn't going to give them any money. They continued asking my friends and I, but no one was willing to give anything, except candy. Even candy wasn't good enough for them. They only wanted money. I tried to get them to play with me again, but they weren't having it anymore. As we started to leave, one of the girls began to cry. She almost got me. I just wanted her to escape the reality she was in, have fun, and be a kid. But I can only assume what her life must be like. I obviously have no idea and no matter how hard I try to put myself in her shoes, I will never be able to. Maybe I should have given her money. Who knows? It's just a bummer wanting to help someone out, but not being able to.
Yesterday, I had my first Indian massage. Krishna and I have been wanting to get massages for the past couple weeks. Finally, Krishna found a place in the newspaper. Because no one was doing anything yesterday, we figured it would be the best time to go. So, we went down there. Aaron, myself, Krishna, and one of the Indian monks (for translation) all went together in 2 auto rikshas (Indian taxis) We show up to this super run-down, sketchy apartment building. It was way dark. Our Indian friend called them and asked them where they were located. They said on the second floor of that building, room number 205. We went up the old elevator with metal gates for the doors, like you'd see in an old movie. Finally we arrived on floor two and found room number 205. There was no sign signifying it was an actual massage parlor or anything. Just the numbers 2-0-5 above the door. We walk in to meet a man and a woman sitting at a desk giving us a look like "What do you want?" Our Indian friend figures out a few things and gets us basically all set up for a massage for only 600 rupees (about $13) I was the first to go into the back room, which is only marked off by curtains like you'd see in a hospital. I walk into the room and the woman who was sitting at the desk asks, "Which one?" while pointing to a bunch of women standing in front of me. I felt awkward like I was picking out a stripper. I just picked the one closest to me. She took me into another separated room and told me to change, but didn't give me a towel. Now, I have gotten a massage before. Usually, the way it works is I go into the room by myself with a towel. I get naked and lie down on the bed. Then the woman comes in. Here, she hung out in the room, didn't give me a towel, and I'm sitting there like "Are you serious?" But finally, I asked, "Towel? Towel?" She responded by going and grabbing me a towel, to which I was really appreciative. I stripped down and laid face-down on the table with the towel over me. She came in a few seconds later. The massage was mediocre, at best. She massaged with like dove lotion, but had no special deep-tissue techniques. I was pretty disappointed. The massage finished sooner than 45 minutes, but I had the longest massage out of Krishna, Aaron, and mine. Awkwardly, we met up in the "lobby", then we left and laughed at the awesome experience. It was great. Really fun stuff.

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