Windy washing day.

Trip Start Jan 27, 2008
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Trip End Apr 06, 2009


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Flag of India  ,
Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I've been recuperating a bit today, sitting in the sun, eating what little I can, still making plenty of poo-pooja out of my hind end. At least no more fever nausea, or body aches. Still, I'm a bit weak and out of sorts. All day I've been afraid to venture too far from my old friend the toilet for fear of an emergency in hostile surroundings, but finally, this evening I've decided to give it a go. So I'm here, and will share a little description of what I observed today--it was an extremely windy day, so all the families were out doing the washing.
Oh, and in other news, by the way Dayalu has found himself a girl, and they are to "make marry!" This was top secret until yesterday, so I couldn't share for fear of a leak. Hey, you never know who reads these things.

Washing Day at the Ram complex. It's windy and sunny, a perfect combo for drying clothes, although the stronger gusts carry some things away to be chased by whomever is closest.
Washing begins with a wet-down in the washtub, aided by the stomp of bare feet, "wringing" by the use of a flat stone and cricket-bat type beater, another go in the tub with washing powder, and repeat process with clean water.
The still-dripping blankets are hung from the fence until only damp, then spread on rocks or shrubs, depending on size. The colorful clothes make a sort of rainbow on the drab pre-spring landscape, a flash of sun on the ground as a precursor of brighter days to come. The weaving looms click and clack, and the slamming of the corrugated steel roof upon itself when a big blast comes out of the upper valley punctuate the scene.
This wind has a bite to it, but less so than in the days before--the Indian himalaya does not relinquish its hold on winter's cold so easily--this is the control that the mountain has on the humans who decide to make their living in its shadow.
There are, as far as I can tell, sixteen members of the family in all: Mata-ji, Pita-ji, Dayalu and his sister and husband, also two older brothers with their wives. Sister has two children, and the brothers have five between them. They occupy up to 12 rooms of the building, though less rooms in the summer when half of the 13 rooms are converted to guest rooms for paying customers.
Everyone pitches in a bit here, a bit there, but Mata-ji seems to work the hardest of all. She is always busy, washing, cooking, even in her "idle" time spinning wool into thread by hand from which she weaves her shawls and blankets, also using a hand-operated loom of the old-fashioned type.
The weaving is fairly elaborate, the patterns not so dissimilar from the family tartans my Scottish forbears made in much the same way not so many years ago.
She aims a well-placed word or two at the right person, which gives them a nudge to keep going. Through all this she maintains a certain quiet pride and ready smile, the workload not being a 'load' at all, but a good purpose in life.
Her constant and steady effort shows in her progeny as well--there is not much tension in the household, nothing hidden, no subtle animosity between family members. Thanks to the distribution of labor among the number of people, no-one has to work back-breakingly hard except by choice, which is the case in Mata-ji.
She runs a tight ship here and is the undisputed head of household, the glue that binds this family together. One sidelong glance from her deep and experienced brown eyes, and you will surely finish your plate of food, take your dirty clothes out to be washed, make your bed, read your school lessons.
Dayalu's new "wife" (wedding is really just a formality here), has a similar commanding presence, still as yet undeveloped, but it can be plainly seen the possibility of who may take the reins when the time comes for Mata-ji to retire, if ever.
The cycle rolls on, as it has throughout time, a balance achieved without even trying, the most natural thing in the world.


Pictures coming soon. . .
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