Himalayan Heartache

by thetanvi

So far, I’ve written about a great deal of my trip but not all of it. 

First London: Then Bombay, visiting my paternal side fam: Gujarat, visiting my maternal side fam: Then flew to Delhi and drove to Haridwar to Rishikish to Dehradun and internship: From Dehradun took a train back and forth to Delhi for the Conference and then the course, which has also been covered thus far. 

From himalaya

 Where I’ve left off is right after the incredible inspiring seed saving course on the farm, I headed up into the Himalayan Mountains.  Carrie, whose research was so fascinating to me I offered to be a research assistant, planned to head into a remote village of Garwal, to interview traditional organic farmers.   Our ‘guide’ was only a couple months older than me, a student at the Engineering college right up the street from the Navdanya farm I lived on, right in Ramgarh.  Shravan’s reputation preceded him, he had visited the farm while I was in Dehli and my fellow volunteers had been impressed, gushing that he was good looking, fun, athletic, etc.  His adorable cousin worked on the farm , mostly in the kitchen, and though he didn’t speak much English he and I had formed a silly friendship. I found out that young immature Ganga had a wife back in the mountains at the village I was headed to.  Of course I wanted him to come along to see his family he was separated from, like many staff on the farm.  It was something that bothered me about the structure of this otherwise ideal organization.  Later I realized that this is how much of India worked… I had been fairly sheltered by my privileged background and family- it was difficult for me to get the chance to get to know or even communicate with those beyond the people I was introduced to with the societal pressures.  Traveling with fellow foreigners relieved me of those obligations to respect my family’s expectations and I got to befriend lovely villagers, farmers, service workers, and all kinds of people from all walks of life.  Since I wasn’t trying to blend or fit into the situation, I felt free to ask questions without feeling ignorant, and to learn without feeling rude or intrusive for my curiosity. 

  Carrie and I left very early in the morning, the day after the seed course ended, picking up Shravan along the way and arriving at the bus station.  Shravan knew everyone everywhere.  He was on top of his world, cocky, and laid back. Carrie had asked him to bring us with him as he visited his family high up in a remote mountain village for the holidy, Holi, and he had agreed. I was unsure of what our obligations were to him- most of our guides with my family had been considered employees.  I personally make a point of being as humble and genuine as possible, and treating each person as an equal; though with Indians I felt quite reserved and out of place.  At first it didn’t feel as though we were friends (though in a few long days we were to become much more), I bought him chai at the bus stand and offered him the snacks I had packed.  We made small talk, soon becoming comfortable with each other, as we were getting to know each other.  Carrie had bought an educational children’s book with the Hindi alphabet and characters in it.  We all took pills that pale blond classy Carrie offered us, vitamins so we wouldn’t fall sick.  Soon, as we hit the winding roads on the recklessly veering bus, nausea set in.  Shravan was bossily and pushily appeasing my request to be tutored in the basic Hindi alphabet, which I knew nothing of.  Carrie had the window seat, i was in the middle, and he was in the aisle of the bus bench which barely fit the three of us. Smushed together, no room for our arms at our sides, with our shawls draped over all of our bodies.  Only two hours into the twelve hour journey the vomiting began. 

 The vitamins we had took without breakfast, only some small snacks and chai were responding to our empty stomachs and the mountainous journey on the rickety bus was less than calming.  Carrie began projecting chai out the bus window, I began gagging in response. I tried to get the window in front of her open, and so did Shravan.  It didn’t work and I threw up on myself.  Even the native Shravan’s health didn’t last, and he went to the opposite side of the bus to puke out the door.  Other passengers gave a helping hand, it was not a uncommon  effect of the precarious journey. We were relieved that even Shravan got sick, though the journey was familiar to him, not just us embarrassingly soft Americans.  Rough and tough, knowing everything about it all, Shravan scoffed at our awe of the beautiful landscape and strenuous journey.  He knew everyone around and they all laughed with us at the ridiculous, disgusting situation.   He was impatient with my slowness at picking up and comprehending Hindi.  We joked, teased, and harassed each other, I was tired, shy, and reserved at first.  I was confused with our voyage and when I looked to him for explanation he mocked and misled me.  His jokes involved telling me random lies and laughing at me for buying them.  We arrived at his sister’s village, where he had attended school. Again, he knew everyone and as we walked through the lanes of the village surrounded with terraced peaks, everyone stopped him excitedly to catch up.  Bewildered, Carrie and I waited for him.

From Photos_2010

How does he know everyone, I asked her? He’s something of a celebrity, having been on the National Cricket team and gone on to Engineering school, not to the mention his popularity must have been helped by his stunningly handsome face, his muscular lean energy, and his characteristic confident attitude. I was attracted to him and she knew it and teased us from the start.  He was oblivious to it, and took no interest in me at first.  We then  awkwardly imposed ourselves by visiting his gorgeous sister and her ADORABLE young children, lunching at her clearly impoverished houshold, and playing with the cute children… their uncle Shravan was obsessively attentive with them, his playful, teasing, harassing, attitude bullying them into following his instructions to fight with one another, each each other, and hit Carrie and I.  The two, a three year old girl nicknamed Shannu, and  her one year old brother- his real name- Happy!.  Happy was not very happy, but quiet, sleepy and unresponsive, and the cutest little baby. Up in the mountains everyone was incredibly good looking, healthy, fit, and fair skinned.  I pulled Shannu out of her tired, shy state by scooping her up into my arms and spinning wildly as she shrieked and giggled.  My family’s pet name for me, Tannu went along with Shannu’s name as sweetly as our matching teal tops and wide eyes. After successfully winning her over, we were inseparable clearly infatuated with one another, and the watching neighbors began to regard me as an approachable and friendly stranger.  We all came to the agreement that I would take the three year old girl home with me and she would teach me Hindi and she would teach me English.  Carrie was still recovering as the nausea hit her the worst.  I shared cookies with the young ones, pulling them out of the package and handing them to the family and their neighbors and tried to decipher the Hindi baby talk which was much easier than intellectual discussions I was accustomed to.  Happy imitated my actions, pulling out cookies and handing them out, it was so endearing and adorable but of course he got reprimanded.  Spankings, threats, and aggression were clearly widespread among the family, cheered on by mischievous Shravan.  I was drawn to him, his personality was clearly similar to the way mine had been for the past couple years.

Shannu & Happy getting into trouble thanks to Uncle Shravan egging them on

I had determined to stop being self conscious and reserved a couple years ago, around the time I joined Students for Environmental Awareness and met Brandon, my junior year of college (2008?) after Jeff had pulled me out of my reclusive state and inspired me to just go after whatever I want, like he did.  Comparing my teenage years to my childhood, I figured being childish was the way to be the most genuine and happy and content.  So I was impulsive, spontaneous, energetic, outgoing, loud, in your face, and ridiculous.  At first it was great.  Yet before, I had been careful to only do things to make others happy, and to build and protect relationships.  After breaking out of my shell I poked fun at the people I was around, I said whatever was on my mind, and said silly things that I just came up with that I didn’t expect anyone to believe.  It’s a habit I’m trying to overcome with self-awareness and conscious discipline for remaining positive, supportive, loving and compassionate. For a long time I’ve wished to be more positive and joyful but now I feel much better equipped to achieve those goals with my spiritual and ethical awareness.

 So we departed from Shravan’s school town, the town his sister lives in, in a shared taxi. We joined strangers and waited in the unmarked van in the center of town and more and more locals piled in.  We stopped and let someone off in the middle of the forested wilderness of the mountains.  Another guy decided to ride on the roof with the luggage.  I was confused, and worked up the nerve to try Shravan for an explanation.  He knew a few of them, friends, neighbors, acquaintances. Others were strangers just headed in the same direction. At the next town we transferred into another van, acquired more traveling companions and went on our way.  By the time we finally arrived in Shravan’s village we were way high amongst the mountain peaks, with high waterfalls, deep valleys, rushing rivers, looming trees, and rustic wooden hand built homes.  Construction was done together by the male villagers.  The boys played pickup games of cricket, both boys and girls played football (American translation: soccer) in the stone plaza in front of the village’s temple.  The women labored in the rocky terraced fields, weeding, harvesting, and planting the main crops of rai (mustard), wheat, and shag (greens/veggies). 

The town, Sankri/Saur was completely organic certified, through Shravan’s uncle, a Navdanya coordinator.  We stayed in his uncle’s home, recieving royal treatment and fed the food they grew by hand and prepared from scratch.  Their ten children ranged widely in age. the intricate carvings in the wood of their and their neighbors homes and barns, the steep stone paths, the way every single person knew one another, the community was self-sufficient and astoundingly hard working and skilled- out of necessity.  The breathtaking views and the Gandhian ideals of self-reliance made it everything I wanted it to be, the place I’d always dreamed of arriving at.  Immediately I yelled at Shravan for ever leaving his parents, grandparents, entire family and beautiful village to go to school for electrical engineering. We interviewed Shravan’s father who told him the same- farming, he said, was the only way to ensure you will be fed.  I agreed completely and loved his parents. His mom stared into my face and said that I looked like one of them. I took this as a great compliment, Shravan, his parents, and the whole village family were stunningly beautiful people.  I couldn’t get over how gorgeous and lovely everyone was. So graceful and kind, lush smooth hair, creamy shining skin, healthy and fit.  I didn’t even think I’d have a chance with him.  Within days Shravan had decided he was madly in love with me. 

He called and texted me constantly. I begged him not to, he begged me to respond. We both knew I would be leaving in a matter of days, I knew I couldn’t get involved or attached to him and resisted.  I knew I could never really relate or communicate with him.  My attraction to him and his desperation made it difficult to tell him that I didn’t want to be with him. He was devastated and I tried to explain that I liked him, but he had changed from that person I was interested in. He was an emotional wreck, clingy, needy, pathetic.  The laid back, easy going person I could jokingly flirt with was gone.  In his place was an intense and crazy person, and I made my feelings of discomfort and nervousness clear.  Aggression and impatience went from being mischievous and playful to controlling and demanding. 

In India, people don’t just date around.  They fall in love and spend their entire lives together.  Their is no social context for casual dating without  looming expectations for a future together. Perhaps in the privileged circles major cities, where people are extremely Western, but not in real India.  I was well aware of this, and this was part of the reason I hadn’t expressed or initiated anything with Shravan.  But somehow we ended up entangled in an outrageous drama nonetheless.  His concept of Bollywood Romance, and my reluctance to accept anyone into my heart, much less someone I knew for such a short while, collided and crashed.  As flattering and heartwarming is dramatic gestures of love were, they were uncalled for and contradictory.  I’m still not sure what made him figure that we were meant to be together, but after our first kiss, an epic mistake, I found out he’d never been involved with anyone before, baredly ever interested in anyone before.  Though even in the villages alcohol, cigarettes and even marijuana were readily available, he’d never touched a single one.  Once we were back in the valley, he wanted me to meet him, but secretly so that no one he knew would find out and judge him.  Trying to wiggle my way out of the awkward situation blew up in my face, as the very idea I didn’t want to see or talk to him drove him mad.  He was more sensitive than even me.  On the beginning bus ride down from the mountain he held my hand for the first time, I focused on staring out the window at the gorgeous view.  I tried not to grin, as much as I wanted to, the same guy I had been crushing on was into be and I began to hope that we could just enjoy each others company and affection without me causing any controversy.  Things quickly escalated in his mind and by the arrival in the valley it was clear I was in trouble. I was actually glad there were only a couple days before I left for Delhi.  He came with me to the Dehradun train station as I departed early in the morning, and crying handed me a note.  I felt guilty wondering how I had found myself in this mess and sighed.  I tried to joke and enjoy the time we spent together but he was too focused on winning my heart to even consider friendship. There was no getting through to him.  I kept trying to give him a chance, remembering my original crush, but his immaturity and aggression were far too frustrating and irritating. I only ever have been involved with sensitive, respectful American guys, and his behavior and attitude were simply unacceptable by my standards. 

Though since I had left Brandon I had felt lonely and hopeful that there was someone else I might encounter, I ended up missing him even more. He had never acted like this. Today is the days before I see Brandon.  I am not at peace with our current situation and I’m full of anxiety.  The one person I always felt most comfortable with is now someone I feel crazy nervous to have to face. I’m also nervous that the court thing won’t be resolved by noon, when I have a phone interview.  Do you think the judge would understand if I had to leave by noon in order to get this sweet job?  I hope I can maintain composure with being around him so that I don’t wreck another interview. My heart and mind don’t agree, they are in turmoil, the recipe for discontent says the Dalai Lama.

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