Monday, 9 September 2013

The gods must turn the page to good luck

This was our first session with the Indian Association in Oldham, whose meeting place is a Hindu temple. A day full of incident and new learning and the beginnings of a fascinating development in our memory box project, Making Memories.

We were given a mini-tour of the temple and deities by Mukta, one of our kind-hearted hosts. We left our shoes at the door and entered the brightness, colour and sound of a different continent, a different sensibility. A beautifully uplifting room, welcoming and celebratory. We're both still reeling with the overload, with the newness (to us) of this very ancient tradition.

Our first workshop was really a talking shop, as we all discussed what this next phase of the project might be and what we all hoped for. Lois and I are still building our stock of ideas for memory boxes and this seemed a wonderful opportunity to bring in a rich vein of material.

Already the stories have started to come. I jotted down some reminiscence from one woman who described coming to northern England as a young girl during a snowy winter, completely baffled by both cold and language. She accidentally went AWOL with her sister on a bus to school, having got the bus number wrong - and arrived in the wrong place, with no idea of where the right one might be, or how to ask. It was a funny-sad story of the stranger in a strange land - just one of a thousand little struggles to fit in. It reminded me of my own struggles to find my way around China, using my sense of smell to get home via a series of familiar restaurants - but I was an adult, these were two little girls far from the familiar.

She described how tough life had been in her life in India, how she'd worked from 5 years old onwards. How her family prayed for a change for the better: "The gods must turn the page to good luck."

We were lucky enough to be invited to join the group for lunch and more memories unspooled. I've jotted down a few words in hindi in my notebook, but looking at them now they seem a tiny fragment of what we are stepping into. What's more, I've almost certainly jotted them down incorrectly, out of context. I put them here only as a token of how many other words, meanings, experiences we have yet to discover.

Methi Tepla - a spiced bread, a kind of chapati
Lapsai - a sweet puree
Supbi - a tray used for separating grain from husks
Baladia - original Indian home of the woman whose story is told above. The L in this anglicised version of the word actually more of a U and L combined, but untranslatable.

I would like to thank our hosts on a very happy and memorable day - particularly Krishna, Mukta, Vamil.

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