Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Post -- Ranchi, Bihar, India 2-24-10

So, as I said, this is the cleanest, most organized, least wacky town we’ve been in yet... so looking forward to aimlessly wandering around enjoying a smaller, cleaner, easier-to-handle town than Kolkata... and then we get a call to tell us to return to the compound immediately because it’s dangerous to be out on the streets... that we’re going to get kidnapped and robbed or held for ransom.

Of course we ignore such nonsense (calm down, worryworts back home, it’s OK). I’ve been in Bihar (the most violent and dangerous state in India) and although they have some Maoist mafiosos (or Robin Hoods, depending on your perspective) out in the countrysides, they generally don’t come into cities to grab tourists (which are few and far between in Ranchi...really not worth the effort).

However, fear spreads through the Art Karavan participants. We are told we can’t leave the compound (for a week??!!)... we are told we have to sign a waiver of liability if we DO go out (no problem)... we are told we have to be in each night by 7 pm if we do go out so they can lock us in.

We had an opening gathering of politicians and sponsors of Art Karavan so I asked some of the local people if we really are in danger. Every one of them say absolutely not... the city is safe (just use common sense and take precautions you’d always take; there ARE bad apples in any place!)

I had a nice chat with a retired geologist from Shantinikiten (spelling) and told him we wanted to go to the Indian cinema to see “My Name is Khan” and he offered to take us today. Kata, Eric and I went with Babul to the fanciest theatre I’ve ever seen in India (plush, overstuffed armchairs...popcorn... clean). The movie takes place in the US and is about the Muslim hate-fest that rippled through the country after 9-11. The theme of the movie is, “My name’s Khan and I’m not a terrorist” (i.e., just because you’re a Muslim doesn’t mean you’re a terrorist... there are good Muslims and bad Muslims just like any other group of people). Of course, mixed in with this message were others: Hindu-Muslim marriage (the hero does one and is ostracized by his brother), issues involving the handicapped (the hero is autistic), a dash of Black poverty and suffering in America, and I’m sure a few more. But it was good.

Afterwards we went to Babul’s apartment (lovely place) and had tea and snacks and talked with his wife (a junior high teacher of Sociology and Political Science). Babul gave us all parting gifts (Eric-a notebook, Kata-a change purse, me-an owl piggy bank) of traditional leather work and design from Shantinikiten. So sweet!

Tonight we learned some traditional Indian dancing (if you think Country line-dancing is tough, try this!! You have to coordinate feet, hands, neck, head, and EYE movements! Never gonna happen to me in my lifetime!! But it was fun trying!), looked at some paintings and sculptures and had a couple performances by local art students.

The week is filling up fast.... may go to a tribal village a couple hours away and spend the night... Holi (the color festival where you throw dyes on each other) is on March 1st... we’re going to visit a local prison (cool!) and do some performances... some are doing workshops at schools and here at the compound.

OH! The most amazing news of all! When we checked in, I took a room next to the toilets that smelled like a nasty latrine... nobody else wanted it... they all rejected it before I took it. Well, last night, Kata discovered that behind a door that we thought went to the outside, was a big, beautiful BATHROOM!! complete with HOT WATER!!! (Before this discovery we had to walk outside to the line of common squat toilets and take our bucket baths there, too, with ICY cold water.) I am sooooo happy!! India really does take care of me.... I wish for something and it suddenly appears!

Omm Shanti!

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