The last night in the village they made a special meal. This big leaf is called Herbi and tastes a lot like sorrel. They wrap them up in a bundle with their home-grown home-milled maize, leave it to soak and then chop up the bundles and fry them and we had it with maize roti, which is crunchy and of course washed down with buffalo milk Lassi.
As I started eating it the mum and dad were kind of gazing intensely at me to see if I liked it and when I did they were just grinning with delight.
I'm a bit slow but now I've realized that there is a clear reason why they just sit there in this kind of situation and watch you eat. I mean they have been up since about 5 or 6 in the morning working really hard and now it's round 10 at night and I keep thinking how hungry they must be.
But its so embedded in the culture, this respect for us the visitors. My friend Vinay told me that the host doesn't eat so they can serve you with clean fingers. Because that way they are not eating themselves.
Next morning we were to catch the bus at 7:30 which is quite a walk away. By the way breakfast here is the same type of food as other meals so it was the same dish, delicious.
The mist was clearing. Here i stopped to take a last picture of these mountains. This walk I have done before, but then it was in the moonlight and the glow worms were out like living fairy lights in large numbers, glowing it up. However now, the early morning sun cutting through the mist, now I could see how steep it is, and we were carrying heavy packs and were stumbling along in a bit of a hurry. A bit late out what with saying goodbye.
I remember, as we were not too far from the bus stop thinking, “it’s important to walk with care.” The next thing I remember is falling. What a crunch. Normally if you fall the pain lasts a small while and then it’s gone but this just stayed. I told Heid to take the packs and try and stop the bus. I just couldnt seem to walk fast.
The bus didn’t come and I couldn’t work out what to do as the thought of walking back seemed insurmountable. But Heid remembered that the milk car goes in the right direction, so a nice schoolgirl carried my bag as I halted stabbingly to where it drives. Was it adrenalin, but sitting in that car squashed in was nice. At the bus stand a man from the village insisted on buying me a tiny white plastic cup of Cardamom chai. He told me “like for my own mother”, and it really hit the spot. I sat on the corner of the goldsmiths bench and drank it and watched the show. The show this morning, as so often these last weeks was my daughter. Rather tall (easy for us to achieve in India), elegant in tailored salois chemise suit, silver anklets and matching bangles and holding forth to one of the women in fluent Hindi while a crowd of delighted onlookers peruse the scene. She recently said that she hardly counts as a person being a woman. I think how wrong she is.
The village man gets us seats at the front. The terror i felt travelling up here is replaced with wonder. Perhaps through the weeks of life in the village, or through the fall.
After this we changed bus twice more, each time stabbing pain and disbelief at my utter lack of progress. And finally
This is where we are now. Massive contrast, the lap of luxury, no fires to light, western toilet, check the menu.
We asked for a doctor, but were told this was impossible, then as we decided on a trip to the local hospitals they said that the doctor was on his way, and we must on no account go to the hospital. But meanwhile one of the staff did offer to smuggle Heid out without the others seeing, but without the patient she decided to stay.
The doctor came, large red dot on his forehead, and a pot of brilliant blue liquid. Felt my leg and said its definately a sprain, bandaged it and poured the bright blue liquid over it emitting a powerful odor. It was very reassuring and he utterly refused to talk of payment even when Heid tried to press it into his pocket he walked out without a backward look. I think it’s also connected to respect for visitors but it’s so extonishing to us.
Afterwards we looked at the blue bottle. It’s called Mega Ciprit and says Flammable, not for medical use. Perhaps that should have alerted us but as it was we were happily ensconced in the hotel for some days, me hopping or crawling to the bathroom, eating delicious food and sweet lime sodas and enjoying one another’s company.