I left for a week of travel on May 28th. I am still uncertain if the party that ensued upon this announcement was due to a lack of understanding that I would only be gone a short time, or a desire to enjoy the ice cream I brought. Either way, I was privy to a flood of dancing and singing and a steady stream of gifts. The evening began with my being grabbed by several girls and told to sit still while Aruna found the henna and began to adorn my hands. After the henna was completed to her satisfaction I was pulled into a chair in the back of the room. The kids performed several dances. Narsama choreographed several of the dances and one was a traditional dance of Karnataka. As the dance portion of the evening finished I was relocated to the center of the room and told to close my eyes. Ashwini handed me what appeared to be a picture frame. It was concealed by gold wrapping paper. She had drawn a portrait of me. I wanted desperately to hug her but my hands were seeping in henna. The girls wrote me letters and made me had crafted flowers and even broke out a massive stack of hand made earrings.
As I began to tear up at the sight of all of the gifts and kind words the girls began to yell, “No! No crying! No crying! If you cry it means that you will not miss us. Only if you leave with a smile on your face will we know that you won’t ever forget us.” That’s not me paraphrasing, they are sincerely that well spoken. My tears subsided at the humor of being scolded by an 8 year old and I began to pose for the dozens of pictures that followed my face (hopefully) unscathed by the salty tears.
I couldn’t sleep the whole night. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to leave. To further complicate the issue, I was sleeping next to a 7 year old who has taken to sleeping horizontally, rather that vertically, in a manner that resembled a starfish. Despite my anxiety and lack of sleep I woke up at 3 am, bathed, and left for the airport.
We traveled for one week: I saw Delhi, rode the metro, thought my third travel mate was lost in India, found my third travel mate 4 hours away, took a taxi to Agra at 4 am, gawked at the Taj, held several babies and took lots of photos, drove to Mathura to see Temples, spent too much money on clothes, drove 4 hours to Jaipur, almost threw up on the way, saw a massive fort, took pictures in front of the fort (part of which happened to be covered in glass and gold), went to the markets, spent too much money on gifts, rode an elephant at 12am through the streets of Jaipur, woke up early to drive back to Delhi, got stuck in an airport, arrived in Goa, ate, cooked, saw a beach, ate a pizza, got kicked out of a church, bought some books, ate some more, left at 1 am for Bangalore, saw a woman pee in a street, arrived to a friends apartment at 4am, slept, went to see the girls.
*The above paragraph is an accurate description of the last week of my life. Time, my friends, halts for no tourist