I am not sure how many words I will be able to write but there is so much to report!
Let’s see.. two days ago I spent 13+ hours between a bus and car traveling from Jindal U in Haryana to Agra in Uttar Pradesh, then back.. THEN down to Delhi to check in to where I am now. I must have gotten in around 12:30AM. I was up 22 hours before falling asleep and doing a day yesterday of errands. I needed to pick some basic local clothes, a receipt book, exchange money, take money out from a bank, etc. The gal I hired for the day is a journalist so we sat and talked story ideas and contacts which was great too. I find that every single time I get to have one on one with an Indian woman I learn a great deal about the culture at large and specifically in reference to gender equality. I don’t have it in me tonight to write about that but I can tell you the conversations thus far have been harrowing. I had such a conversation tonight with two very smart progressive Indian women both of which work in social work.. Between spending time with the ACUNS (Academic Council on the United Nations System) at Jindal and each and every person on the ground doing work my head is full already of more information I can digest.
Fast forward to today. My second day in Delhi and I got to go to the Make Love Not Scars headquarters. It was quite the journey getting there as I wrote the transport company to change the time to which they didn’t respond.. then when I happened to call the desk for TP they let me know my driver had been waiting for me for an hour. I hustled out and found that he had not been forwarded the new address I was going to and although he says he speaks English he speaks not a lick. It took quite a bit to get where I was going and I ended up in an alleyway like street looking for two black doors to walk up stairs to find the location. Needless to say I suspect, I stuck out. It didn’t escape me that it was the last thing I have been advised to do but what can you do when you are with a driver who speaks no English, doesn’t understand what you are doing and you can’t find the address? You have to walk it! Moving on, once inside I got to meet some lovely women, acid attack survivors and workers alike. I was really taken with the positive uplifting energy in the centre. I get the distinct impression there is hope and a lot of it that resides in those walls. I will find out tomorrow when I go back to do my first interview. Today was more of a look see (both for me and the women).
I was able to take some behind the scenes pics of my now friend Ria, Sheroe and founder of Make Love Not Scars. Puma is featuring her for an inspirational women series and they came to shoot. I literally served as her stand in and have to admit it was fun for me to hear her directed in a print shoot the way I am when I work in NYC. Now laugh like you heard something really funny… It needs to look more relaxed.. etc. We had a lot of fun with it. I believe I reside somewhere on her snapchat at least once but I don’t use the app just yet so couldn’t be sure :).
After the shoot Ria and I took a drive to her grandparent’s house where they have a prayer room to pray/worship the Gods. It is a gorgeous room with beautiful marble floors. I could just sit in it all day. Ria’s grandfather asked me to give him 10 minutes of undivided attention so he could tell me about Hinduism and the Gods. I gratefully said yes. He instructed me in prayer position and for about a half hour went through each God, explaining their virtues and meaning. It sounded very much like he was speaking to the tenants of Buddhism.. I was more familiar with the concepts than I would have thought. At the end there were some ritualistic bits (thus the photo above) and we were done.
After THIS.. we went to dinner at Ria’s friend’s house, a friend just back from Singapore who is about to start up again at Make Love Not Scars. We debated INDIA’S DAUGHTER (I hope to have time to write about this discussion in the future), discussed Trump (yes, he is being talked about even in India), patriarchal societies, India and gender inequality, what can be done, what people are ready for (and not ready for). All in all some pretty severe stuff to the fragile Western mind and heart but integral in beginning to grasp what is going on here and how to best serve with this project.
Not spell checking as too tired so if there are any mistakes.. forgive!! I will edit this tomorrow..