I am posting this picture of myself above cutting grass to remind me of my former heroic strength.
Dear reader thanks for following me on this trip. How to package all the impressions that arise in a culture shock like this?
Especially when your bowels emit water, you've got your period and you can't walk.
Possibly it started after one of my trips to cut grass when I rested as usual in the shade with these women chatting on their way home. I was offered water from a cut off plastic container that looked as if the buffalo might be using it too. Previously I'd refused but now, perhaps feeling that 'nothing can touch me' type of feeling, I drank.
The toilet is in the centre of the courtyard where the sounds of dreadful watery farts ring out publicly. I actually like squatting loos, and not having loo roll is environmentally friendly but what do you do when the water pipe is broken and it hasn't rained for days? You dread going to the loo, you carry with you the old washing up water. You use toilet paper but old Nanny shouts aloud so all can hear, who has put paper in the toilet! Not allowed!
Finally you have to fetch the water from the ravine. It's steep, the path destroyed by the violent flooding which killed thousands earlier this year higher up the Himalaya. Then you carry the water uphill on your head. Or if you're lucky like me you have a daughter who can do it for you. Its womens work. I went down to carry washing as all our clothes were getting stinky. Yes despite, despite all that how lovely it was to sit on the rock and paddle and watch the huge black and blue butterflies size of small birds. The kind girls helping us.
These are the kinds of houses in the village. Made from deodar trees they took from the river where the British were floating them down in the timber trade 100 years back.
You might be wondering, why does she call it legend hunting? Is she looking for stories at all? Yes, yes I promise I have. On the one hand the way of life is such a story and is also the context in which their tales can be understood.
So we ask and ask, and usually they say no they don’t have any stories. Standard stuff, here as in the north of Norway. The presence of a professional storyteller and an anthropologist would put anyone off.
So the first place we went serious legend hunting was the old old ‘Nannie’ up the hill. Yes nanny is the Hindi word for grandmother. Possibly the most international word I know; nan, gran, nanny, nanna, anne.
There she was surrounded by a bevy of women and girls of assorted ages. And she told me soon enough that Heid was more of a daughter to her than to me now. Villagers don’t mince words. Several times I’ve told them I like their house and they just say, fine, you take it I’ll have yours.
So we said, Do you know any stories? No, I’m not an educated woman.
Ok I said, I’ll tell you one. I’d prepared something else but on the spur of the moment I told one eye, two eyes and three eyes. Just something about the hard work, herding the goat, the magical tree.
Oh, this was the most touching moment! Old Nannie, pretty blind. How her face lit up.
I was telling, Heid retelling in Hindi, her granddaughter in Bahari (the local language). In her lined face a pure joy of recognition of travel into the realm of Fairy tale. As if she were in her childhood again.
And then came her story. A shape shifter story of a girl who married a frog. And when he took off his skin, he shone like the sun. Nanny didn’t mention if he was a man. But when the girl finally burnt his frog skin efficiently he left, never never to return. Because he was of the Gods and lived in the sky.
Oh I like those endings when they wake you up. We’re so used to the happy wedding ending but it’s not always like that in real life, when you meet up with a God and try and own him or her.