Din 242: I want to be bashful.

I was disappointed that I didn't have time to meditate during the day yesterday, but at night, the weather gods sent a majestic monsoon downpour which, coupled with open windows, turned my room into a rainforest. I didn't even have to try to meditate then -- it just happened, and I must have fallen asleep very late and very peaceful.

This peace flew away in the morning when Nanaji's computer decided to reject every single download/upgrade I had installed during my time here. Our new meager goal was that I at least re-install Skype before leaving, no matter how long it took. Thankfully, after one nerve-wracking hour, the job was miraculously done. Nanaji was very amused by the histrionics of stressed Ratna, and asked if I wanted to be an actress. Too late for that. :)

We finally said farewell to Nanaji and hopped in the Inova which would convey us to New Delhi. I am especially happy with how much time I got to spend with my grandparents on this trip, and how well I now feel they know me -- and vice versa.

Nani and I enjoyed an eventful journey to India's capital. We started by noshing on Dominoes spicy chicken pizza and McDonald's new "shake-shake" fries (try them!). Then, I meditated for an hour. But mostly, we just made funny faces in response to the behavior of our insane driver -- who yelled happily away on his phone for most of the ride, but mumbled responses to us whenever we asked him anything. Very peculiar.

After reaching Surinder Auntie's house safely, I read a few pages in The Power of Now and Ars Amatoria and then slept like a log for two hours. Once awake, I demanded some retail therapy, and prepared to unleash my arbitrarily discriminating taste on Promenade Mall nearby (i.e. not buy anything).

Specifically, I was in search of pants -- one pair orange, the other lavender -- to fulfill the requests of two close (odd) friends. I found myself out of luck; we consumed a Cinnabon and returned home.

Once my computer figured out how to connect to the internet, I talked to a very pixelated Laura and started planning our next (inshallah) crazy gap year adventure.

I've had enough of cereals and serials, and I'm ready for lights out!


Song of the day: http://youtu.be/g5sucb2mTAk

Din 241: All's well that ends well.

After I had read my Tolle for this morning, Nani and I went to Mehr's house to see her again before my departure. There, we learned that there was a photo of her in today's newspaper! She won 2nd place at yesterday's "create-a-look" competition at 612 Ivy League, a local children's clothing brand. Click here to read about her fashion skills! For the next few hours, we drank piƱa coladas, washed our hands with paper soap, and rummaged through Mehr's exciting clip collection!

We then enjoyed her grandmother's sumptuous cooking over a lunch of every Indian dish I can name. I also took a minute to snap a photograph of my own, of this well-rounded fashionista in her natural habitat.

We returned home stuffed and I caught a nap before Deepu came over. She regaled me with amusing stories from her high school days while I shared with her my observations on India from this trip.

As Deepu was about to leave, Bimla Auntie arrived, with her two kids in tow. I chatted with Akhil (13) and Mahima (10) about school, home, and cricket as Auntie worked on some mending. I was happy to finally meet them!

I've been putting the finishing touches on my packing since then, including affixing photographs to letters that the students of Gyaan Ghar recently wrote to their pen pals at The Newton School.

I thoroughly enjoyed my last dinner with Nanaji on this trip, sharing embarrassing stories from college interviews and the like. Now I'm off to weigh my bags!

Din 240: "There's an endearing way to be obnoxious."

Today was the definition of a spa day.

In the morning, I dyed my hair with henna (again) to really seal the auburn deal. I then read The Power of Now and downloaded 37 songs/lectures to be transferred onto Nani's and Nanaji's mp3 players. As I was doing this (and becoming short of breath all the while), Manju Auntie arrived to begin my real spa sesh.

I basically underwent every beauty treatment under the sun, because I will have neither time nor inclination (nor cash!) for them in the States. Auntie commented that girls preparing to be married are usually the ones who do what I did today. After a good four hours with an "endearingly annoying" Ratna, she finally got to go home!

I spent the next few hours rummaging through photo albums from Mama's college days and scanning these pictures to send to my beautiful mother.

After grumbling a greeting to Priya on Skype, I sat for my hour of meditation. We then had dinner and started my packing. This means that I watched, agape in astonishment, as Nani started laying clothes in my suitcase with her trademark frighteningly meticulous precision.

For dessert, my stomach was finally sound enough to manage heaven's own Amul vanilla ice cream -- this is what I will miss most when I leave India in a few days!

Din 239: Everything starts looking like what you're looking for.

I was able to eat today! I started my day with a banana (yuck) and some Power of Now before getting the world's best massage from the world's best masseuse.

Nani then haunted the tailor with a grumpy Ratna in tow, nagging him about the final details of my latest dress. I was happy when we got out of there and headed to a stall selling bangles. Turns out sparkles are the cure for stomach infections! I learned that I have not outgrown my childhood craze of chuddiyan, as made evident by the fact that while most people buy these bracelets by the dozen, I asked Nani to get me entire industrial packs full. Greedy granddaughter.

I didn't buy quite all of these . . .

At home, I mustered the strength to model some of the saris stitched for me at Nilibar (to check the fitting) before collapsing for a nap (and attempted meditation session).

After my hours and hours of napping, Nani and I returned to the tailor to pick up my again altered lehnga. Back home, I wrote a dedication on the first page of my grandfather's new copy of The Power of Now -- thank you for heeding my recommendation, Nanaji! We then had a lengthy discussion about spirituality and well-being.

After my first dinner in days (congratulations are in order!), I compiled some photographs of clotheslines from around the world into a virtual album which you can view by clicking here.

Then, I took Nanaji to his ancestral village in Pakistan -- via Google Earth! We visited the temple, his home, and the neighborhood school.

Since then, I've just been catching up on blog posts I was too sick to write, and continuing to neglect my packing . . .

Din 238: It's embarrassing that I was embarrassed.

I dragged myself out of bed this morning, stomach bug and all, and started limping up and down the stairs to Gyaan Ghar to leave some last surprises in the classroom for my students before departing.

Sensible Dilip finally told me, "if you're sick, you should probably stop running around," and I tried to have some breakfast before packing my bags and preparing to leave. Dadi and I got in the car around 11:30 and were in Mohali by 1. There, we visited Gurnam Singh Uncle, Dadi's cousin brother and Papa's favorite Mamaji by far. We had a lovely time chatting with him over soft drinks, lunch, and tea, and we could tell we made his day. He certainly made ours! I have promised to bring the rest of the family with me next time, and I will!

We arrived at Chandigarh in the early afternoon, and surprised Nani and Nanaji, who thought I was coming tomorrow! We snuck up to the gate and opened it without a creak, then tiptoed to the front door and were about to enter when the Demon Dog gave us away with his hysterical yelping. To be expected.

Nevertheless, my grandparents were very happy with the surprise, and we enjoyed (or, they enjoyed) dinner before cozily settling in to watch the video recording of our recent Variety Show at Gyaan Ghar. They especially liked the Radha-Krishan dance by Shivani and Divya!

They wish they could have been there, and Nanaji at least has promised to be in attendance next year. After giving them a quick idea of all the acts, I popped out the disc for them to keep and hurriedly huddled into bed.

Din 237: I was drowning in joie de vivre.

I shuffled out of bed with my newly acquired upset stomach this morning and prepared for an interview with the Times of India. Journalist Nidhi Singhi arrived at Gyaan Ghar soon thereafter and spent an hour with Dadi and me, asking about our concept, our current programs, and our future plans. (I was being served sickie food all the while.) I think the interview went well, and I look forward to seeing the piece when it is published.

As I started to sneak back to my room for a nap, Sodi Auntie and Rajbir Uncle came over to visit! We sat in the lobby and watched the video recording of our 3rd annual Gyaan Ghar Variety Show and Awards Ceremony. It has come out well!

As the recording was ending, students started to trickle in. We finished up the letters to our Newton School pen pals as a photographer from the Times snapped shots.

I was doing my best not to get sick during class, and finally made it back to my room to rest for a few minutes before Sonal and Raina joined me at home to say goodbye! Our "farewell party" spread consisted of various types of khitchdi (more sickie food). Yum.

Sonal and I didn't even plan this!

It was already way past my bedtime, but I had promised two more families that I would visit their homes before leaving Ludhiana. So it was off to Bhola Auntie's house to enjoy looking at snacks that I couldn't eat, and then to Anita Auntie's house, where I consumed a stomach tonic. I was falling over during both of these meetings, but having a lot of fun chattering away nonetheless, so I managed to survive.

I stumbled home (literally) in time for dinner, where I ate nothing. I sent the Times a few more anecdotes about our school before breathing a sigh of relief and heaving myself into bed.

Din 236: God knows what's up.

We woke at the crack of 6 this morning to prepare for today's pilgrimage. I read my pages in The Power of Now for the day before getting ready and sleepwalking to the car.

We arrived at the Golden Temple in Amritsar around 11, and it took us a full 2 hours to slink through the sweaty, sandwich-like stampede for spirituality.

After we had finally bowed before the holy book, we grabbed some parshaad and ran!

We had lunch at Sonny Taiaji's house, and asked Jassi Masi and Montu to meet us there. These next few hours catching up with family were super fun and full of laughs. I was especially happy to meet my brother and fill him in on this crazy year!

As Dadi rested over a second cup of tea, I hopped in the car to visit Gurdial Singh Uncle and his family. This was truly a treat! Auntie has known Mama since her college days, and felt like she was meeting Ritu today rather than Ratna. They were thrilled that I came, and I am especially happy that I made the trip. I have promised to bring the family along next time!

We left Amritsar at 6, and I meditated in the car before coming home and barely resisting the temptation to crash. My will power is melting steadily -- I'm off!

Din 235: Close enough.

This morning, Dadi and I visited Punjab College of Technical Education to seek advice from Harpreet Kang, the principal's wife, on how we can support the students of Gyaan Ghar as they start to think about higher studies. This meeting was very helpful in making us aware of a number of vocational training courses our students would be able to access free of cost, as well as the many ways to finance a college education at a school like PCTE. We also learned that Mrs. Kang's mother, whose name happens to be Mrs. Gill, was a student of Dadaji's!

Soon after reaching home, I met with an applicant for the new teaching position at our learning center. (She also studies at the school where Dadaji used to teach!) After interviewing Gunjan, I invited her to give the class a sample lesson. The students loved her!

For the rest of class, we worked on our responses to letters from The Newton School, started by Flint Hill's own Abraham family! Students were really excited to see the messages from their pen pals across the world, along with the photos enclosed. They worked hard on starting their replies.

While the class was working on this, I pulled students outside for individual pictures to be attached to their letters.

Just as I had come in from the heat and taken a shower, we received guests at home. I snatched ten minutes of rest/meditation before beginning preparations for this evening's Gyaan Ghar Executive Board meeting.

The paucity of attendance did not detract from the power of our productivity tonight. Dr. Anita Joshi, Dr. Gursaran Sidhu, Dadi, and I discussed in detail the issues facing our learning center at this time, and our plans as we move forward.

I apologize for the brevity of this post, but as a fairly famous writer once said, "brevity is the soul of wit." Happy birthday, Shakespeare!

Din 234: "You are your own medicine."

Happy Earth Day!

Gyaan Ghar students came over at 10 this morning for a celebration of our planet. We opened with a discussion on why our Earth is important -- which led to follow-up questions on the importance of planting trees, and the negative effects of pollution upon people, animals, and the planet itself.

Next, we addressed the "is one person enough to make a difference?" question and talked about how if each person -- from a young student to the owner of a huge factory -- were to clean up after herself, there would be no issue. But since this is not the case, we often have to help clean up other people's messes as well. I challenged each student to promise, starting now, to leave behind the mentality of "it's not my trash; why should I pick it up?" (which was clearly prevalent at our Awards Ceremony yesterday).

I then explained the "Design Your Own World" project we would be doing, and showed the students examples of such globes from the Rio exhibition where I got the idea. We went through all the photographs, noticing different details, and the range of designs in the collection -- and yet when I told the students to get started, they seemed a bit confused. They weren't sure exactly what to make. I got many questions like, "Didi, can I make a mountain and a river and some trees?" and a lot of confusion when I responded, "you can make whatever you want!" The concept of following one's imagination wherever it goes is really foreign to these kids, and most started whipping out their rulers and drawing geometric houses at first.

But when they saw their Didi pasting dried leaves to her globe, and dripping nail polish over them, I think they started to understand what I meant when I said they could do anything. It was then that the doors of creativity burst open and we got some great results.

Manav and Amandeep weren't afraid to work the sparkly nail polish.

The girls used some of Ratna Didi's decorations after her balloon popped!

Rishab, Shubham, and Shubam plastered their globe with environmental slogans. Go green!

Rahul, Vinay, Jasdeep, and Hardeep filled the world with flowers.

Miss Ritu got into the spirit, and made an Earth Day rangoli in the classroom!

The fun went on and on into the afternoon, and included an Earth Day photo shoot heavily staged by Manav, the future photographer and my bodyguard.

Students headed home around 3, after receiving the Earth Day goody bags so kindly donated by Mrs. Nita Jain -- thank you, Auntie!

I had lunch after this, and then, having survived the minor heart attack of thinking my laptop stolen, lay my weary self down to rest. I conked out for a good two hours before my evening hour of meditation. During my Vipassana session, I had the strangest craving for a mango milkshake. I struggled through the sitting and then mentioned this whim to Dadi, who had miraculously prepared one just minutes ago -- thank you, Grandmother!

After calling members of the Gyaan Ghar Executive Board to remind them of tomorrow's Annual Meeting, we headed to the park. Just as I finished my walk, it started to drizzle -- thank you, Mother Earth!

Over dinner, I chalked out my last four days in Ludhiana on this trip -- they are looking mighty tight!

Din 233: My heart can hear you!

Rome's birthday has treated me very well indeed!

The day of the annual Gyaan Ghar Variety Show is often one of my favorite days of the year, and today was no different. Students arrived at 7 in the morning to start rehearsing. We ran through each act again, we finalized outfits, and we practiced entrances and exits.

Children were all over the place -- in the classrooms, in the yard, in the park, all working hard to polish each piece. They had breakfast and lunch at our house, and returned to their homes in the afternoon to get washed, dressed, and rested for the show.

After they left, Ms. Ritu and I started fretting over the order of the acts! Because the Bhangra teacher would not be able to stay late enough for this lively Punjabi dance to be the last act of the show, there was lots of rearranging to do. I composed a chimerical "Master List" for myself, without which I was convinced the show could not go on, along with a cocktail of other documents. Let's not even get into technology woes and the infinite interfering cooks who almost spoiled the broth!

I forced myself to put everything away for lunch, a nap, and a meditation sitting -- but not before practicing my speech, which you can now read by clicking here.

Around 5, the students were back and final preparations were in full swing. After inspecting the arrangements for the evening and running a sound check, we asked the actors in our longest skit to practice one last time. It was after they had done this that Ratna and Dadi stepped inside to catch their respective breath and get dolled up.

The guests arrived at 7:00 post meridiem, Indian Standard Time (in other words, around 7:30 in the evening).

We started the program with a prayer . . .

 . . . followed by my welcome speech. 

(This may have been the only part of the program that went according to plan! Our order of acts had to be completely rearranged, due to my underestimation of the time it would take the girls to get made up. Typical Ratna.)

I do know, however, that we heard about respecting one's classmates . . .

 . . . and taking care of one's health.
 Students' voices rang out, "we will be successful!"


 . . . and, "never hurt anyone!"

Some kids dressed up as flowers and insects . . . 

 . . . while others played the roles of Lord Krishna and his wife Radha.

We enjoyed a dance form from the state of Punjab . . . 

. . . as well as one from Uttar Pradesh.

 Students even performed a play on the importance of literacy!

Dadi and I are happy that the show was a success . . . 

 . . . and the students are thrilled that all their hard work has paid off!

My head was in a tizzy all night, but audience members say the show couldn't have been better. Phew!

After mingling with the guests, debriefing with the students, and finally eating a bit of dinner, I came inside and got to work preparing my nails for Earth Day tomorrow. What is clearly less important, I also laid out a lesson plan and finalized my presentation on the activity we will be doing. It's 2am and the students will be here early tomorrow morning -- so long, farewell, Auf wiedersehen, good night!