Back to my morning routine – sort of. Today is Saturday and the second day of Pongal. Sophia left after dinner so we are down to four for a short time. A gentleman will arrive Monday to work on Ramsey and Kate’s project and another volunteer will arrive on the 20th from the UK I believe. There’s also a gentleman returning but I don’t have the full story and apparently he could just show up at any time. In a very casual count at dinner last night Ramsey decided we could have as many as eleven volunteers by late February. Interesting! I think ODAM is filling half the rentals in town! Tiruchuli seems more bustling than usual for the morning. Last night the streets had a carnival atmosphere with almost double the usual number of people on the streets. However, my body finally decided it was time to sleep so I came back to my room about 8:00 pm with the intention of resting and the going out but it wasn’t going to happen – went to bed by 9:00 and slept until 6:00 this morning with only short interruptions. I regret missing any of the excitement but the short sleep cycle finally caught up with me.
Yesterday’s post mentioned I may get to go to the nearby city of Arrapukati to take the sewing machines for repair. The guys got a truck and four ODAM staff including the driver accompanied Christa and me to the sewing machine repairman in the nearby city. There was just one seat inside the truck and they insisted I sit inside on the way over but I rode in the back on the way back and had an opportunity to take a video filmed from the roll bar of the truck which turned out better than anything I’ve filmed so far. It was dusk and got a bit dark for filming but if I can figure out time (and how), perhaps I can edit it small enough to get online. Now it’s almost 2 gigs in length and certainly not all is worthwhile. It is pretty jerky as every road bump is captured (and there were many). Entering the city we passed more interesting things but I don’t think film could ever capture it – you need the full panoramic view as things are going on al around and that’s what really gives the character. In fact, Christa has mentioned that she intends to record the sounds to enliven presentations she may give in the future and I believe she is right – the music blaring over the loudspeakers, the incessant honking, and the general animal and human sounds create a great deal of the flavor of this place. On the return drive riding the back of the truck with the wind in my face and driving through rural countryside but with such exotic differences, I felt truly blessed to be here. It felt like the ultimate adventure experience even though it was just a ride in a truck. I feel so fortunate to live this dream.
The visit to the repairman was interesting. He had been working on a woman’s sewing machine but when we arrived with our two he set aside hers and worked on ours. Hopefully this was more because ODAM had called ahead than because he had foreigners waiting. He worked on the machine heads and then his son (in his early thirties with some English, of which he was very proud) worked on the portion which hooked to the treadle as well as the pedal on one which was an issue. He informed us that the older machine was from 1998. Amazed me – these look like Singers made in the early part of the century, maybe up to 1940. The grime on them and inside as the repairman worked would also have led me to believe they were fifty years old. The younger repairman became rather irritated when we spoke about anything – as though we were questioning his ability. It happened a couple times so Christa and I became very cautious about how we talked about the work as it was progressing. At one point we were just trying to recall which of the machines had a certain problem and identified it by a missing rubber part and the repairman became very angry as though my pointing at that missing part was a criticism of his work. First time the language barrier has been such an issue and was surprising as he was so proud that he was trying to polish his English. We gathered quite a crowd of children and a few women as well stood outside the business when the stands were set up for testing and work. Young men on a moped even stopped and stared for a moment. I don’t think they get the same number of foreigners coming through.
This morning I awoke refreshed and decided to go for a walk to capture the special Pongal kolams before they get trampled. It was very pleasant walking out with people around but not the festival crowds. On the main street several women were finishing the kolams in front of their stores. I got a nice video of one completing hers and she seemed a bit self conscious at first but then returned to the task and after we spoke a moment and I could tell she was very pleased that I recognized her artistic ability. She had the color in a small bowl (some used paper cups) and pinched a small amount and could mark about a 4” line with each pinch. She had great control of the line thickness and I’m sure it takes a great deal of practice. A second video was two women still adding the color to their kolam. The typical designs are white and the colors cost twice as much as white. I’m not even sure how available they are throughout the year – the venders were marketing them heavily the past few days. I was also photographing kolams as I passed. No two are the same but I was trying to capture different styles and those which were exceptionally well made. However, I also photographed some which were simple and might be adopted to use for embroidery. Occasionally a child or two would come up fascinated that I would take pictures of these and would walk with me a short way showing me those before me – unofficial little tour guides. After walking the main street, I journeyed through a more residential area. Sometimes I’d head down small side streets that appeared to have nice kolams so I walked areas I haven’t passed before. At one point my husband called me so I was photographing while walking and talking with him. A large group of children took on the task of escorting me to the kolams so I would capture theirs. The entire small street became involved – I probably had an entourage of twenty children with twenty adults laughingly looking on. Made the conversation with Rusty virtually impossible but he could hear the hubbub so understood. I know the people think we foreigners are nuts but Christa already has a reputation for collecting fabric bits and talking to folks about trash and recycling so I guess I can be the “kolam lady”. When a woman was outside the home I would ask if she had made the kolam and they were always very proud that I’d take a photo. Sometimes a woman would have seen me photograph a neighbor’s so I’d feel some obligation to photograph hers even if I had several similar already. I believe they were very flattered to have a crazy foreigner interested - and I recognize that these are special ones created for the holiday so am sure they put more pride in them.
It is almost time for us to meet to go to the home of one of the ODAM staff who has invited us for breakfast so I will end this post now and elaborate on the Pongal adventures in the next.