Thursday, March 14, 2013

Home Visits and Tangos

March 13, 2013

Well, the day started like any old day in Auroville, except we went for the onion tart instead of chocolates and banana pastries at the bakery. The two cups of chai are standard. There's no messing with that. Our plan was to film another home visit today where Nithya and Katherine were going to take us to another home to deliver a Prakti stove for testing.

Matt and I arrived at the Prakti office to find Katherine sitting outside working on her computer. We were locked out. Apparently 9am was too early for the team. The power was on, so we did have Internet access. This made it all better. We Facebooked and waited.

The rest of the team arrived and we headed in and sat through their quick morning meeting. Then, Katherine, Nithya, Matt and I headed off to a village close by. We drove up to the cement house and were greeted by two women. One was the gardener that we had seen near the Prakti office and the other was her very weathered mother-in-law who lived with them. She had three sons, but we only met the youngest one. He was about 7.

They brought us in and got right to work stoking up their cement-molded stove to prepare us all lunch. These women are such hard workers and chop and peel and boil all the ingredients so quickly. They went to a nearby tree that they refer to as the life tree and gathered a few branches off of it. This is the same tree that grows the "drumsticks" that we ate at lunch the day before. The drumsticks look like okra on the outside, but when boiled you can squish it into three sections lengthwise and then you eat out the middle much like you eat off the meat on an artichoke leaf.

The women set to work talking about stoves and stripping the leaves off the branches and gathering them to be put into the boiling vegetables. Meanwhile, one woman had gone and gathered flowers to put in our hair and found little tear-shaped, stick on pieces of fabric with tiny gold beads that they put between our eyebrows. They fought a little about whether or not mine was put on correctly, or maybe that I had no eyebrows, I'm not sure, they were speaking Tamil.

Matt had shot enough of the cooking by this point, so he headed out into the street to gather b-roll of the children who were playing. The children were very intrigued by Matt and they ran over to see what he was doing. He showed them playback on the camera and photos of them and they went nuts. They loved seeing themselves and they loved the camera. At one point Matt had a boy and a girl between him and the camera on his lap and one boy dangling over his shoulder all watching intently what was being captured. I really wish I had gotten a photo. It was way too cute for just a description.

A grown man approached us and decided that he wanted his photo taken. He had two drumstick plants and he sat down on the women's porch-slash-kitchen and posed with them out of his head like antennas. The women were very obviously annoyed with him, and Nithya leaned over and said that he "has the drink." Matt and I translated that as the town drunk. It's a dry city, so I'm not sure where he gets it. Probably the same place as we got our work-right-now-no-paperwork-no-passport SIM card.

We met the husband who had come home for lunch, and he was very sad. His brother was in the hospital after getting heart surgery and they now have to pay 150,000 rupees to get him out. He and his mother were very worried. It was hard to see and also difficult because we were there to sell them a stove.

Lunch was ready, so they laid out three banana leaves. One for me, one for Matt and one for Katherine. Nithya knew them, so she wasn't a guest. They say that guests are gods in India, and the custom is to treat them as such. They served us hot milk tea made with fresh milk from their cow with our lunch. They also brought out some pickled peppers and pickled mango for us to try. It was really, really spicy, but very flavorful.

I tried to finish my plate, since it's very rude not to, and when I looked away I got another pile of rice and curry. I did my duty and finished it off. It does help that the food is so delicious.

We said good-bye to our hosts and also the cute little kids outside and packed up the camera and took off. Matt and I headed back to the office to drop off the camera and then freshen up back at Youth Camp. It was too hot standing in the sun while we filmed the ladies in the shade, and Matt and I were drenched with sweat.

After a cold shower (there's no shot water at youth camp), we headed down to the visitors center to pick up water, then back to the Prakti office to use their Internet and dump and sort through all of our footage in a place that had power.

After finishing our post-production duties, Mouhsine invited us all over to his friend's house where he's staying for authentic Morroccan soup. The key ingredient, he said, was having a Morrocan cook it. Katherine met us at 6:30pm to take us over to the house. With three of us following at night with the lights and the dust, we got lost three times. At one point Matt and I followed another bike off the road to a sketchy place and quickly spun around to search for the rest of the team in our caravan.

We finally made it to the cement home in a nice part of Auroville to find a room full of people and a nose-full of delicious spices. Mouhsine was in full soup production, and they had made salad and cut melons and also bought samosas, a pastry-like pyramid stiffed with curry potatoes and vegetables. Everything tasted amazing and we met people from England, Peru, Columbia, and somewhere in South America that I can't remember.

After we ate, we headed over to the visitors center where there was a free tango show. Matt and I stayed for the first half, then, thinking it was over headed out. Apparently, there was a student dance portion and then open tango for the crowd to enjoy. I think Matt knew about this, but was afraid I'd make him dance. His favorite part of the whole thing was when the two stray dogs came in and walked through the crowd. One woman was very upset and made some weird sounds to shoo them away, but actually called them all to her. They surrounded her thinking she had food, and her flailing display was now more distracting from the performance than the sniffing dogs.

We made it back to Youth Camp in the dark, and called it a night.