September 11, 2011

A Rural Sunday at Gnanamani's

Away We Go! 
Joel, Mohan, and I departed around 8:30 to get to Gnanamani's. We are headed to her village which is about 2 hours travel away from MCC. She had invited the MSW department to her home for a house warming. So, after a bus ride for about an hour to get to a town outside of Chennai, we rode in an auto for about 20 minutes. We soon caught up to this motorist ahead of us. Guess who that is!?! Gnanamani! This girl is TOO cool. 

"Had your breakfast?"
"Had your breakfast?" is a common phrase we hear ever day here. Above, is the breakfast Gnanamani's family served us upon our arrival. (From left to right: Banana, Idlee, Rice something, curd something, sambar, and a glass of water.) Being able to eat breakfast demonstrates that you are more well off than most.

These are a few of my friends from the Masters of Social Work Department at Madras Christian College. G- had invited us all to come to her house warming day and we took a walk through some of her farmland.
(From left to right: Joel, Mohan, Michael, Gnanamani, Grace, Linda, and me)

Gnanamani can swim! 
While on our walk through the fields, we came upon Gnanamani's irrigation well that her family uses to pump water to their field. She knows how to SWIM! Most girls in India don't know how to swim, because of modesty issues that can occur from tight, wet clothes and it can be hard to get lessons. Gnanamani just jumped right in - kurta and all! 

Swimming, swimming...
We couldn't let Gnanamani have all the fun so I jumped in after her and then we were all in! Out of the whole bunch only 3 of us knew how to swim, but the others waded on the steps. It was SOOO refreshing! 

Teach me how to dive, Katie!
Since the well was so deep, I dived in a couple times! Poor Joel, attempted a dive and it ended in a belly flop. :/ Thank you Mom and Dad for time at the Beach and Pool and for those swim lessons oh so long ago! 

Chief Guest: Katie 
Somehow (because I'm American) I was the chief guest of the day. Oh, goodness, you have no idea how humbling that was - I am not worthy to be a Chief Guest for anything! I was asked to place the shawl, first, on this man before I received the shawl myself. I believe he was a local minister.

Receiving the Shawl
Then, this woman placed the shawl around me and a prayer was said over the house and family. At least, I think so. It was all in Tamil. Gnanamani's Uncle did explain that their village was started in the 1930's by American missionaries and an American has not visited their village in over 70 years. So, they viewed it as a very big deal that I would visit their village. How could I miss an opportunity to visit a rural village and Gnanamani's home!? Thanks girl! 

"Do you know how to climb a tree?"
Mohan asked me. "Of course I know how to climb a tree!" I exclaimed. Well, not this kind of tree it turns out. A boy from Gnanamani's village climbed this tree to toss down some coconuts for the MSW students and I to have. How impressive is that!?

Drinking FRESH Tender Coconut
So, I have had Tender Coconut before...but that was from a stall. This coconut had just been dropped seconds before from a tall, tall tree that a young boy climbed. This coconut was much tastier - plus NO STRAW. Joel just told me - "Put your lips around the opening. Drink and don't think about it!" Thanks, Joel.  Apparently, TC can stain your clothes...I didn't spill a drop on my clothes thankfully!

Eating FRESH Tender Coconut!
Once I finish drinking the water from my coconut a machete is used to cut it wide open down the middle, exposing an orb center with a coconut meat in it. I'm given a nifty coconut scooper to scoop with. Joel lends me a hand and shows me how it's done properly. Then I have a go!

Rural India
Can we just have a moment and marvel at beautiful, rural India? Ok. Thank you. It smelled like home - cow manure. I don't know why everyone at BC is so averse to this smell. I'm so weird, but I just love it and it doesn't bother me at all. It was such a nice smell after coming from air pollution, sewage, and trash. I breathed deep and marveled at the green. Oh, my heart.  

Mohan Commandeered my camera. Obviously.
At first, I thought Karthik was really quiet and sometimes we have a hard time understanding each other because of our accents - but I am so glad he was there today. I make faces in response to some situations and Karthik makes his own faces in response to mine and then we laugh together. Oh, thank you, Karthik! We were walking along to get coconuts and he asked where my other BCA friends were and I told him they were busy. His response was, 
"Clearly, I like you." 
Of course, I'm thrown off guard, but he finishes by saying, 
"Because you came today!"
They all have such good senses of humor. We all had such a wonderful time!  
(From left to right: Karthik, Jarthro, and Mohan)

Me and Gnanamani in front of her new home. 
Meet Gnanamani. She is a delightful girl who lives in my hall and is in the MSW department. She is a second year post grad. She is the ONLY girl from her village to pursue a post grad degree. Her parents were very adamant about their children getting proper schooling. She has spent a lot of time in hostels in Chennai going to school, because there aren't proper schools near her village. 
She and her family built this house with their own hands! I have seen her Monday mornings exhausted from spending a weekend at home working laboriously on their home. Somehow she manages it all and is the smartest student in our classes and gets the top marks of anyone. 

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