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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

August 2006 Update from Steve

Receiving letters from missionaries keep me encouraged. Here is the latest update from a friend named Steve. He is a missionary in India.


From: hoduexpress@----------
Sent: Thursday, August 17, 2006 9:37 AM
To: hoduexpress@----------
Subject: [hodduexpress] Monsoon Wedding & "Can You Drink this Cup?"

Friends,
First, I apologize for seldom having a dictionary or thesaurus
on hand when writing, and thus for sometimes making dumb mistakes.
With respect to my "deference" to K.P. Yo.han.an in my last letter,
quite the contrary, it should have been something more akin
"dissidence", i.e., I didn't agree w/ him at all. Don't know how I've
had that word wrong in my brain all this time – just got thinking
about it after the fact and was suspecting something was wrong.
Particularly considering the Indian propensity for flowery use
of the English language (esp. in print and in speeches - I'll send you
an example of it one of these days for a good laugh), it is certain
that there are many Indians whose command of vocabulary (if not
grammar) is much more extensive and correct than mine, though
sometimes it's so obscure that I have no idea what they're talking
about. I'll have to work on it ...(Work on what? - My vocabulary?
Or on emulating their inscrutability?? Or on deciphering it???
...I'll leave that one for you to figure out!).

Intercede / Thanks:
1. For Sunil & family (wife, two sons, and particularly niece Rajni) –
he's the one who invited me to the wedding in Dharamsala: that some
words I spoke will sink in, that they will have seen Him in me, that a
new perspective would ultimately be received by them, that our
relationship would continue. The 20y-o niece who lived next door was
very kind and sisterly towards me (there is an annual holiday here
which she involved me in, where in the morning the sisters tie some
sort of ornamental / beaded bracelet on the right wrist of their
brothers, and the brothers in exchange give them cold, hard cash, or
else gifts of fancy clothes, etc). She is to marry (by arrangement)
in February and is insisting I come for it – again in Dharamsala.
She's all of 4'7", pretty, smart, very bright-eyed, and very Hindu -
actually believes all the god-stories that even some here among the
reasonably devout consider to be plain "myth", even if based loosely
on some historic characters. It was her room that was given me to
stay in during my days in Dharamsala. In totality, its contents were:
a little "puja" temple-like house (made of cardboard, placed on a
shelf, and filled with a few images of gods); posters of two popular
Hindi film stars (one male, one female); some small Japanese paintings
on cloth medium; one or two little statuettes of intertwined (nude)
couples – common enough in the Hindu tradition that there's a specific
name for the type here - a few other trinkets on shelves, bed, a
couple chairs, and finally, a coffee table, on which was a
Hindi-language book I inquired about one evening but got no answer.
We had been discussing a few spiritual things, as I recall, from my
perspective, but this was an unrelated inquiry. The next day it
struck me that there was a dove on the cover. A New Covnt. Bbl.!!
She'd read at least parts of it. Her family is in the tailoring
business, and a foreign customer had gifted it to her. She said it
was a wonderful book. This is not an uncommon response, actually,
though few who say it would believe the book or its main Character to
be unique. I showed her a few key texts. Hope the few things that
she read / I said will lead her to consider its message more
seriously. She, along with Sunil & family had come back to Manali for
visiting and to seek some medical advice for their youngest son. I
had a little time with them here, and invited them for services –
Rajni showed considerable interest, but they didn't come. Sunil has
always seemed to take a "no comment" approach to anything of The Way I
might slip into a conversation. He's a unique person though, in his
culture – hardly drinks / smokes at all, for one. Wonder what goes on
in his mind. His wife is also a very nice lady. A great family. Son
Nikhil and other niece Kiren are also dear and in my thoughts.

2. As per my earlier request, seems things back here have not "fallen
apart" during my recent extended absences (why should they?): The
girls again have been coming with me Sundays, and to my utter
surprise, so now also is another of their aunts (aged 17, actually
between the 15&20 y-o sisters) by the name of Hira ("diamond"). In
general, she has been a bit of a "pill" some would say. A bit loud, a
bit disrespectful, quit school and says she'll commit suicide if they
try to force her to go back, and is not really doing anything else
with her life. But to my delight she's been in Sunday attendance
twice now. Her next older sister (there are six of them, incl. my
landlord's daughter-in-law, as well as the mother of the three boys I
tutor) had already been attending due to her work here on the campus
caring for one of the doctors' kids. Hira often "lived" at the house
I tutored at for a time, and I'd sit there with her and the others for
dinner after my sessions. A couple months ago, she had "appropriated"
a Hindi-language Praise & Wship tape I'd copied for the boys and kept
it for herself. So maybe there was a receptivity already in place
there. Anyway, four members of this family seem to be attending
regularly. Please do remember them when you come before the throne.

3. With the latter in mind, please do remember our ptr. here. He is
probably visionary, with a real desire to see the News and the Reign
filling this place. He's good at getting things started, coming up
with ideas, organizing, etc, it seems. He has a heart for counseling,
that from the Word – and I don't think his knowledge is lacking. We
are quite like-minded as well. But as a teacher, publicly, on
Sundays, he seems rather lacking much of the time. And I often wonder
whether in what he says there could be any possible connection, any
possible appeal that would reach the hearts of those who comes that
are NOT already in that Way. Much focus on the problems in our own
lives and faith and fellowship, and little to inspire towards that
faith, as I see it. I could often think the contrary. Granted, there
are problems in the Body here – but more exhortation and less
consideration of the cross, of grace, can never work for us, and can
never lead the lost. It too often seems a heaviness. He is very
happy to receive guest teachers, who often come, but they are a real
mixed-bag as well, too often making me cringe. I offered some Tenth
tapes (not that THAT's the only way to do it!) – he was interested,
but I have yet to retrieve them from another borrower. Please keep
this in mind. For me it is so crucial since I'm trying to bring
people there to hear that proclamation (Rom 10). My own ability to do
it is limited to my lifestyle, to providing pertinent music / videos,
etc, and a little spoken with some who understand English. Remember
this need.

My last treatise was recent and not shorter than usual, but I
wanted to describe for you the wedding I attended last week, while
it's still fresh in my mind. Dharamsala (seat of Dalai Lama and
Tibetan gov't-in-exile) is located further west in this state, about
ten hours' bus ride (but only 150 miles) from here, and again, is just
at the start of the high Himalayan ranges. Sunil (my landlord's
daughter-in-law's father's cook) is from that place, and his wife and
two small sons live there while he works here to earn money for their
sustenance.
I'd never been to a traditional Hindu wedding before, and had
wanted to see one. It occurred to me the day I left, however, that
I'd never asked my friend how long it would go on. And I don't mean
in hours. There are certain Indian sub-cultures (Jains, for example)
who party up for eight days. Well, this turned out to be a `measly'
four, with a few days thrown in on either end for hanging out, etc.
But being that this was a little different in setting and tradition
than the film "Monsoon Wedding" which some of you may have seen, I
thought I'd share the lowdown on the high points, which goes roughly
as follows (I generally exclude the more or less ongoing activities
like boozing):
Day One: This is the day when relatives of the respective
families arrive at the bride's / groom's homes for separate
gatherings. We pack probably 30 people into a pickup truck (five or
six sitting with legs dangling from the tailgate), and head off on a
three-hour drive to the groom's house, stopping along the way to pick
up various things, like the big drum and small drummer - and other
musicians later - who are somehow crammed in or hung on one way or the
other. Five of us men sit in the cab with a big five-gallon tin of
home-made rice brew spilling out all over the floor. Only myself and
the driver were sober when we started out, and thankfully we remained
so, neither of us touching the stuff. No open-bottle laws here (nor
any serious drunk-driving laws), and a two-liter bottle of the
cloudy-white stuff was freely poured along the way. We arrive at the
groom's family's house (he is my friend's wife's brother). A lovely
setting out in the countryside, with a 1-1/2 mile walk from the road
across fields and streams on a little dirt (mud) path to reach the
"homestead". Beautiful, and nothing of the messiness of civilization
to be bothered with out here. Can't hear a car or plane anywhere.
Family members and friends arrive throughout the afternoon. A band
(two trumpets, two more drums, a surprising clarinet) goes before us
and we wait, with them still playing, outside the ceremonial gate to
be invited in. The band's two horn players only seldom play
corresponding notes, though the same melody pretty much played for the
next two days, so I have to conclude it was a lack of sobriety rather
than a lack of ability - but I could be wrong! Inside the house that
evening, the groom is honored by various people, gifts are presented,
and to top it off, he is stripped to his shorts and while sitting on
the floor is lovingly smeared with "ghee" (clarified butter) and
turmeric paste by his sisters and other female family members. Ahem…
There are times when it is for very practical reasons that I thank
God for not being born Hindu. Various activities go on all night, in
fact, and the hardier persons do not sleep at all - according to
tradition, I believe.
Day Two: In the morning I have the unique first experience of having
a turban wound onto my head, as a number of the groom's male family
members are to wear. I suppose it must be eight feet or so of cloth.
It's a red print pattern. I like it, and everyone says I look good
in it. It's raining like mad, but I draw my camera bags in close,
open my umbrella and slip and slide the muddy mile to the road, where
two rented vehicles, a large bus and a huge open farm truck, sit
waiting to convey the 150 or so of us to the bride's family's house.
I'm in the bus thankfully, but all the bidi-smoking (bidis are little
Indian cigarettes, each wrapped in a single leaf) therein starts
giving me a headache. We arrive after what seems like an extremely
long ride – indeed, it takes four hours, though I doubt it is 40 miles
away. Now raining harder yet. Bride's family already mostly there,
and packing out a very small two-room house. But most cram in. I go
to a neighboring relative's place, but there's more bidi smoking
there, and besides that, a big nasty argument breaks out between
certain family members, one of whom apparently was dishonored by
having to ride in the farm truck. A worse headache is coming on. And
the turban is tight, too, so I remove it, and head up to the
sardine-box again. There is a big, brightly colored ornamental gate
set up for all to enter through, as well as another tinseled gate set
off to the side within the courtyard. I leave my umbrella outside and
squeeze in. Gifts are now being presented to the bride - who is very
modest, shy, and almost constantly veiled - by the groom's family:
gold jewelry, fancy clothing, etc. The room is then cleared of men
while the bride is adorned by the women of the family. Thereafter she
is led into the second room, where begins what probably what could be
described as the actual "marriage ceremony". Bride and groom are
seated beside one another. A Brahmin priest is seated across, who
reads the Sanskrit verses and performs the seemingly very complicated
and extensive rites. Wood is provided, and a not-too-tiny fire is lit
on the floor (I didn't know you could DO that in a house – but it was
a mud floor, after all!), around which, after pouring "ghee" and
throwing various leaves/flowers/shavings/spices/incense (not sure
actually) and/or other objects into, the bride and groom will walk
together seven times as per custom. A thread (red yarn) is tied
between the bride and groom. Long strings of various things (it
looked like garlic cloves – is that possible???) are tied around the
bride's wrists one by one. The priest keeps giving instructions, and
the people keep following them, sometimes with some confusion and
corresponding corrections. It goes on for a couple hours maybe. The
groom, with a coin as his tool, draws a line of brilliant red
vermillion powder in the bride's hair part. The women put a number of
toe rings on the bride's toes. And I guess, finally, with these
symbols in place, they are considered married. The bride begins
crying loudly (as per custom) and saying her goodbyes to father and
mother, the latter which she clings tightly to. She is pulled away by
her uncle (mother's brother), hoisted up over his shoulder, and
carried out, wailing, to the waiting car, which the groom has already
entered. It's still pouring.
Now on this wailing, I must say that this is a tradition –
indeed, even if no emotion at all were truly felt, it would be
disrespecting one's parents to suggest that leaving their home for
good was not a difficult and emotional thing to do. In India, the
actual fact or truth of a matter is not really what matters – only the
appearance of it, and of fulfilling one's "duty" (in this case, honor
of parents) in life. Yet while these outbursts may be specified for
such a purpose and are surely often faked, they could also seem
justified in other aspects of the girl's situation (/ "plight"?). She
has just been bound to a man she doesn't know (and so many are such
`dogs', as I will describe below); She is in a sense "property" which
has just been "sold" via her dowry – her husband and new family may
have little other interest in her, though she also is becoming
"servant" to a new mother (in-law), who can just as likely be cruel as
kind. Indeed, her connections to and responsibilities within her own
family – among those who have nurtured her all these years, are over.
I was talking with Rajni the other morning after she'd showed me a
photo of her fiancée, and asked, hopefully, if he was a good guy, a
nice guy (he had visited their home more than once). She replied, "I
don't know – you talk to him and tell me" (does she trust my opinion
more than her parents' – or is it that his character wasn't even a
consideration for them?). On the ride over here two days before,
several (which means most) of the men were drunk, some more than
others. One of them was behaving especially obnoxiously, and you
could see how devoid of joy his wife was. There was anger and
indignance, even, at a point – but of course there's nothing she can
do about this. He is, officially, her "god," and this life is her
"karma", even. So… considering the possibilities, why wouldn't a new
bride weep, even genuinely sometimes?
Well, I come out of the ceremony and my umbrella is gone (These
get stolen a lot in this region, and thievery of shoes and anything
else that can be picked up is common at weddings and other events
here). The umbrella was my second this year, and in fact, Sunil,
having left his leaning against the wall beside his seat, also had his
stolen a half hour later, from right under my nose. He got up after
finishing dinner (I was still eating), went to wash his hands, and
when he came back it had vanished – and I was sitting there like a
dummy. We got sympathy from some, but for a number of the youths the
response was laughter – unfortunately not the first time in India that
I've seen this reaction to another's loss to theft). Luckily I had a
couple plastic bags to cover the camera bags in, and I was taken in
under another's umbrella. Anyway, it was now time for the new husband
and wife and all the rest of his family along with several select
representatives of her own, to head to the groom's family's house. It
was dark by the time we arrived, and my head was really pounding by
now after the return-trip bidis and loud drumming from the drummer
boy, who'd decided to situate himself in the bus so that his
instrument was about a foot from my left ear (he was an excellent
player, but knew only one volume level - maximum). And then we
started the long slippery trek up to the homestead. But despite my
own woes, I was thinking what a strangely surreal and funny (for us,
if not for her) first trip to her new home this would be for the
bride. She was still dressed in all her finery and heels, and the
effort to negotiate the long dark muddy, and unfamiliar trail (nobody
had thought to bring a flashlight, of course), completely swampy after
a full day of hard rain, was not a small one, and perhaps could be
considered an extreme "initiation" rite of sorts, though quite
unintentional. She had help from various of the women, and, preceded
by the band, finally approached the ceremonial gate at the house,
slipping and sliding the whole way, and in a final pathetic comedy
(which was I'm sure the culmination of a torturous trek for her)
slipped, lunged, and very nearly fell down face-first just after
finally entering it. Narrowly rescued, she came up on the porch
finally, where she honored the groom's mother (by touching her feet),
who stood in the doorway to ceremonially receive her into their home
(with a burning oil lamp waved in circles, etc) - in fact into the
very room which had been prepared for her and her new husband to live
in. Not that they'd have any time alone just yet, though! Still much
gift-giving and tradition to be fulfilled that night. The groom spent
it upstairs with the men, and the bride downstairs with the women.
Day Three: The bride and groom, newlyweds now I suppose, formally
"greet" all of the latter's family members. Monetary gifts are given
by them to the bride, and on a tiny hillside temple nearby, the couple
kneels before the door, and the "puja" (worship) ceremony is performed
before the idol.
Day Four: Bride and groom travel to bride's (family's) house, where
they will formally "greet" her family members, staying for a day or two.
Day Five: Bride and groom return to his family's house, where they
will now live. Members of her family are also supposed to come and be
formally received / greeted, but due to the aforementioned
disagreement / affront re: having to ride in the farm truck, they call
and say they'll come at the end of the month! Remaining (closer)
family members of the groom's family generally just hang out, with the
plan of a temple visit in the morning, and a return to Dharamsala
afterward. I don't know when the bride and groom were finally able to
spend time (or a night) together alone, but I must say that in
comparison to every time up to now that I'd observed them, they now
seemed extremely at ease with each other, even publicly playful and
"touchy"– quite unusual in most Indian cultures. And the new wife
seemed to quite contentedly jump right into her new responsibilities
as one of the women of the house, helping with some light cooking,
cleaning, comforting wailing kids, whatever.
I should add that this was an arranged marriage. It was not
the case that either knew the other well beforehand, if at all. As
they say, you learn to love. And looking back on the whole thing, the
many scheduled visits of the couple to respective families, etc, and
all the running around and greeting each person, and spending time
alone with the men or women of the new families, etc, etc, actually
seemed a beautiful and beneficial thing - something that in healthy
families, at least, would certainly seem to create a sense of security
and place and acceptance that would otherwise be unattainable for a
young couple who'd hardly met each other before. What better way to
get to know somebody a bit than to spend 24 hours a day with them in
the presence of their closest friends and family members of all types?
The other option - to just jump into bed with a stranger - would seem
more akin to prostitution. What on EARTH would they talk about on
that first night? So anyway, the new couple, finally having finished
the primary rounds, at least, seemed very comfortable and happy.
That evening was a wonderful time of singing and dance in one
of the downstairs rooms. Sunil's wife played the drum (an oblong,
two-ended type) skillfully, and one by one people (including me) were
yanked up to perform alone before everyone, to the amusement and
delight of all. Sadly, it is so often the case that when people there
(as here) are drunk and slobbering and singing badly and stupidly
slurring, they turn to you and grab your arm and say, "This is our
culture (and you're not drinking – so have some more wine!)". But
this is only an excuse, a sorry one. There ARE beautiful and purer
traditions to enjoy, and this hearty singing and dancing was one of
them.
Day Six (or was it Seven?): Hang out. Plans to go to temple (very
famous, with a constant flow of buses / trucks full of pilgrims headed
up to it from the faraway Punjab plains) are cancelled due to rain.
It clears up by late morning, but by then everyone's given up on the
idea and is back in "hang out" mode. So we hang out, plan to do the
temple tomorrow AM and to head back to Dharamsala afterwards.
Day Seven (Eight?): Decide not to go to the temple after all – too
crowded, and my friends have small kids. So we eat breakfast and head
back, by bus.

The marriage was held in a place some distance from Dharamsala
– the district is called Kangra, and of course they speak a different
language there. Very, very pretty the few times it cleared up. I
like to walk, and once was led by some of the women and girls of the
house to what was perhaps the area's main attraction - a place where a
small stream of surprisingly warm water crosses broadly across a stone
slab in the field, with a shallow pool suitable for wading and
foot-splashing, before entering a deep gorge via three small
waterfalls, with the stream continuing its course maybe 30-35 feet
below. The walls were solid vertical rock, carpeted in places with
bright green moss, and a massive flat-bottomed boulder had somehow
ended up spanning the distance overhead, forming something of a roof.
A canopy of vines shaded a fairly large and deep pool below. It all
looked rather inviting, but appeared difficult to access. Later,
exploring, I walked upstream for some time from a spot further down,
and had a swim and bath there. Two days in a row, in fact. Perfect.
Lovely. Something like paradise, it would seem. And in the
distance, across the valley, Dharamsala can be seen, with those
immense Himalayan ranges just beyond, shooting up skyward in a solid
wall of blue-grey rock. Very inspiring. People always say to me,
"your country is rich, but we are very poor". I find it so offensive
and driveling, and moreover, when I gaze upon scenes like this, I
truly could believe that they're the richer. (But on this statement,
I always respond by 1) reminding them of the outrageous and even
ostentatious material wealth of so many of their countrymen, and 2) by
telling them that truly, riches are not contained in the pocket, but
in the heart).
Out in the country there, they had neither municipal water
supply (so-called "corporation" water here), nor a well of any kind.
Instead, water was drawn from a stone-slab springhouse beside the same
brook described above, and carried in pots on the head the five to ten
minute walk back to the house. You can imagine how many pots must've
been carried to sustain the cooking / cleaning / drinking needs of the
scores of people in a weeks' attendance. Whatever, the taste was pure
and sweet, and my digestive tract was none the worse for it.
Speaking of riches / poverty, my impression was that spiritually
that part of the state is even worse off than here. There IS,
thankfully, a 150 year-old ch. building in Dharamsala, now an active
body, but earlier closed for fully 40 years after the departure of the
British. A young South Indian seminary grad, a bachelor till now,
came in 1986 and has seen fruit - 15 local families now in the flock.
Upon his arrival there 20 years ago, the place was in shambles, all
sorts of plant growth inside and only a dog in residence, with no
local believers to fill it. He appealed to a fellow Malayalee (Indian
from the state of Kerala) military officer at the local base, asking
if he might have the help of seven or eight soldiers to help clean the
place up. The officer, a Hindu, graciously responded by sending a
Major and eighty men, who cleaned and scrubbed the whole place, top to
bottom, stone by stone, for a week, getting it into ship-shape in no
time!). But Kangra is further West of Dharamsala, where few
foreigners likely ever resided. I took an evening walk up through a
hilltop village, and upon sighting me, some older people responded as
though they'd seen a phantom, seeming ready to run for their doors. I
asked the young man at the house I stayed out there whether he knew
any believers among his classmates, etc, and he said no. No chcs,
etc, either, he said (there HAD been a Mssn. Hospital or health clinic
in the district capital, Kangra, even before the one here – the
original Manali staff being sent from that place, in fact - but the
effects seem slender today. There are some very popular temples in
the area, as I mentioned. I had to wonder in light of all this if
there was some broader purpose for my going to this wedding.
And I had to trust Him for it, too, since at points the whole
event was a trial. Especially the aspect of the culture that tries to
force everyone to drink to excess. I really offended a couple people
a couple times by refusing (either mid-day or after having already
partaken enough in the evenings). I finally said some firm words to
one drunk, a close relative seated beside me, who'd been pestering me
constantly for some time and who was beginning to make my arm sore
from grabbing it with his sandpapery hands, as he sought to draw close
to my face and impart whatever deep thoughts he might be ruminating
(not). Sunil's wife came over and scolded him and told him to sit on
the other side of the room. Well, that was more than he could take,
and so he violently threw his glass across the room and stormed out,
kicking it again on his way through the door. I heard him raving
upstairs thereafter for some time. Sheesh. Why exactly, Lord, did
you bring me here? Was it to offend people, to get them ticked-off at
me, to embarrass Sunil who'd brought me, and who in all honesty,
doesn't even know me that well? I was, just generally despising MALE
Indian culture at this point – as I'd written in my journal the
evening before, "They don't do much in their free time but booze,
smoke, spit, piss, gamble. Useless humans. I was told I'd have peace
and quiet over here this evening, but no – several guys [in the same
room where I was trying to sleep] are eating / "talking" (shouting)
with each other loudly, the apparent result of years of air horns and
ridiculously loud drums…[and] I can't stand these drunk guys who
insist on having me take their photo - why would I dream of wasting it
on them?" Not one of my better moments! Initially I'd had the
attitude, "Hey, if they're drunk then it's their problem – why should
I worry about offending a drunk? He is DRUNK after all, he's in the
wrong up front, and I can't feel bad about whatever comes out of that.
As far as I'd wandered in any other line of thought was in fuzzily
pondering (on account of elapsed time, not inebriation) Henri Nouwen's
(?) words in "Can You Drink this Cup?" where he noted something of the
important sentiments of trust, etc, conveyed in accepting to partake
of drink together with someone. But then it struck me. "WWJD" -
Okay, my apologies to all the uptight Reformed people out there. I
know it's commercialization. Sorry, really. But come on, what WOULD
He do? "The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, `A
wine-bibber and a glutton, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners.'"
Though the assessment was not quite accurate, it is clear that He was
obviously among such people with some regularity. He chose to perform
his first miracle at a wedding feast – one of those multi-day weddings
where people drank a lot and got drunk enough to not notice the poor
quality of wine usually served later on. And I had to stop and
wonder, "How did He deal with them?" I'm sure He'd have refused more
before the point of drunkenness, very firmly if need be. But what
would've been His attitude, His words, His tone of voice? I realized
that my own attitude has been one of condemnation and superiority:
"That's their problem, the no-good fellows" and nothing of, "hate the
sin and love the sinner". Who am I!? Why am I not just as they
are!??? I think I really failed in this, though I may have remained
"morally upright" in my sobriety and steadfast "principles". I was at
points despising the sinners, I'm afraid.
As an aside, the roles and concept of guest / host are very
different in India generally, and much of it is bound to the
worldview. For one thing, you are supposed to refuse everything hosts
offer, preferably at least twice, lest you seem greedy. So if you
want something and they offer it, you must say, "no". And "no" again.
On the other hand, the host is supposed to understand that his guests
indeed may want many things, and he is to continue to insist upon
their receiving them. So it feels, in practice, as though hosts want
you to do what THEY want you to do. "Only ONE, please, please"
cigarette (the fact that I don't smoke made no difference); "Only
ONE, please, please" peg of whiskey, though I refused to be drunk.
But of course they don't mean ONE at all, and they will say the same
thing as soon as you finish THAT "one". What's in a word??? And of
course, most people really DO want one more shot of whiskey! So
again, it is largely a display, a sham. You do your "duty" supposedly
as a character of restraint and moderation, and they do theirs as
overwhelmingly generous hosts. And since it would be hard to know
whether someone really wanted something or not, or really wanted to
offer it, a lot of time is spent in meaningless words ultimately. On
the other hand, they may even make demands of you: "Only ONE, please,
please" photo. So there can be a lot of doting and even "impositions"
on guests that in the West we're not used to, and it's hard sometimes.
None of our "help yourself"… or worse, "the beer's in the `fridge".
That's not to say they're not good hosts, though – you'll be treated
like royalty. I'm just trying to draw out some fundamental
differences in belief, actually, that undergird so much of what one
can observe in cultural differences, even in language and speech (I
mentioned the lack of distinct words for today/tomorrow – and indeed,
the Hindu concept of time is cyclical, not linear – and the word
"please" is seldom if ever used in a stratified culture where each
person knows his place and responsibility and what is expected of him,
and what he may expect of others, etc, etc).
Well, I'd tell you about the annual village "Mela" here, but
this is again long, and I'd rather spare you. Much is actually
similar to the wedding above. The boozing, the dancing, the song, the
visiting and eating at various homes, etc. With a visit from a local
"deity" with associated rites, of course, and, on the muddy
playground, fantastic volleyball matches, a little wrestling and
tug-of-war and something akin to "pin the tail on the donkey" that
I'll call, "smash the clay pot with the big stick". Hope you can
imagine.
That's All, Folks,
Steve

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