Monday, November 20, 2006

[10-19] Day of Silence

And the day became silent. The Manav Sadhna staff thought I was crazy with my gesturing trying to people (it wasn’t completely silent as in no gesturing or writing). Amod came by with rangolis and trying to teach someone how to make a rangoli without talking to them can be a little more difficult, but we managed and came out with a beautiful sarva dharma rangoli to mark the staff of Diwali (it was Dhan teras).

The card project kids could not believe that I had taken a vow of silence. Listening to their conversation was very interesting as they discussed how they couldn’t even stay silent for 5 minutes, let alone a day. Everyone kept asking why and I couldn’t really tell them. Some said it was for Jagatbhai’s birthday, others because it was Guruvaar or Thursday, only Ellie really knew.

As the morning progressed I realized how much I really needed to just get away. From the city, from people and go within so I contemplated going to Koba for a few days, but those plans fell through.

The only person who really understood what I was gesturing and could do so quickly was Ellie. Apparently, this knack of hers is called Elliepathy. Ellie and I embarked on a trip to get a phone charger and sweets. I got us on the right bus, but when we got on, we both realized that Ellie didn’t know exactly where we were going. We were quite the scene- a mute Indian, who did not look like a local, and a white American, who most would believe did not understand or speak Gujarati (which she does). She somehow figured out the destination through my charades (how do you communicate income tax?) and our adventure had begun.

At Gwalia, Ellie continued with her deciphering of my hand motions to communicate with the workers to find out how much different sweets were, how many pieces were in a kilogram, etc. Her knowledge of Gujarati went far. The journey continued at the mobile store and internet café. Somehow we even managed to have a conversation over pineapple juice.

After spending some quality time together, I headed back to the ashram and Ellie to Seva Café. I was on my own as a mute in the city. Getting a rickshaw/bus back was the most challenging part, as I didn’t know where the bus stop was or what bus to take. My basic Gujarati writing skills came in handy, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the assistance of a man who saw my confused face as I stood on the side of the street. He made sure the bus stopped and I got on okay before he waved good-bye and went on his way. Such a simple action, yet it went straight to the heart.

As I rode the bus home, I thought of how it would feel like to be a foreigner in the country. The confusion and the difficulties communicating, however, they, for the most part, at least know English and can speak. Even with language barriers, to travel the city they can speak the name of the place where they want to go. I was deprived of that ability also. I thought of Sameer and Ruchi’s 14 experiments, maybe its time to conduct some of my own. I think I’m going to travel the city alone and mute for a few hours at the least.

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